Posts Tagged ‘Drugs’

On the Responsible use of Psychoactive Drugs

Brought to you from the excellent people at Erowid, this:

Fundamentals of Responsible Psychoactive Use

* Investigate the health risks and dangers of the specific psychoactive and of the class of drugs to which it belongs.

* Learn about interactions with other recreational drugs, medications, supplements, and activities.
* Review individual health concerns, predispositions, and family health history.

* Choose a source or product carefully to help ensure correct identification and purity
(avoid materials with an unknown source or of unknown quality).

* Know whether the drug is likely to reduce the ability to drive, operate equipment, or pay attention to necessary tasks.

* Take oneself “off duty” from responsibilities that might be interfered with (job, child care, etc.), and arrange for someone else to be “on duty” for such responsibilities.

* Anticipate reasonably foreseeable risks to oneself and others and employ safeguards to minimize those risks.

* Choose an appropriate occasion and location for use.

* Select and measure dosages carefully.

* Begin with a low dose until individual reactions are known and thereafter use the minimum dose necessary to achieve the desired effects: lower doses are safer doses.

* Reflect on and adjust use to minimize physical and mental health problems.

* Note changes in health over time that may be related to use.

* Modify use if it interferes with work or personal goals.

* Check in with peers and family and accept feedback about one’s use.

* Track reactions to specific drugs and dosages in order to avoid repeating mistakes.

* Seek treatment if needed.

* Decide not to use when the time isn’t right, the material is suspect, or the situation is otherwise problematic.

More, here at Cato Unbound

More from Critchley on UK Drugs Policy

Further to my earlier post on this, Julian Critchley has written a brief article at Counterpunch.

And he talks a lot of sense:

Eight years ago, I left my civil service job as director of the UK Anti-Drug Co-Ordination Unit. I went partly because I was sick of having to implement policies that I knew, and my political masters knew, were unsupported by evidence. Yesterday, after a surreal flurry of media requests referring to a blog I wrote that questioned the wisdom of the UK’s drug policies, I found myself in the thick of the debate again, and I was sorry to discover that the terms hadn’t changed a bit.

I was being interviewed on the BBC World Service, and after I tried to explain why I believe that drugs should be decriminalised, the person representing the other side of the argument pointed out that drugs are terrible, that they destroy lives. Now, I am a deeply boring, undruggy person myself, and I think the world would be a better place without drugs. But I think that we must live in the world as it is, and not as we want it to be. And so my answer was, yes, I know that drugs are terrible. I’m not saying that drugs should be decriminalised because it would be fun if we could all get stoned with impunity. I’m saying that we’ve tried minimising harm through a draconian legal policy. It is now clear that enforcement and supply-side interventions are largely pointless. They haven’t worked. There is evidence that this works.

On Gordon Brown’s mentalist policy of reclassifying cannabis from C to B:

Unfortunately, evidence is still not a major component in our policy. Take cannabis. When I was in the Anti-Drug Unit, the moves towards making it a class C drug began, and I hoped that our position on drugs was finally moving in a rational direction. But then Gordon Brown ignored his scientific advisers to make it a class B again. It was a decision that pandered to the instincts of the tabloids, and it made no sense whatsoever.

Yes, and just about everyone said so at the time. A ridiculously ill-thought out policy with not one iota of real peer-reviewed Science saying that the risks outweighed the benefits.

The case [for legalisation] is overwhelming. But I fear that policy will not catch up with the facts any time soon. It would take a mature society to accept that some individuals may hurt, or even kill themselves, as a result of a policy change, even if the evidence suggested that fewer people died or were harmed as a result. It would take a brave government to face down the tabloid fury in the face of anecdotes about middle-class children who bought drugs legally and came to grief, and this is not a brave government.

I think what was truly depressing about my time in the civil service was that the professionals I met from every sector held the same view: the illegality of drugs causes far more problems for society and the individual than it solves. Yet publicly, all those people were forced to repeat the mantra that the Government would be “tough on drugs”, even though they all knew that the policy was causing harm.

This just about sums up the nonsense involved here:

I recall a conversation I had with a Number 10 policy advisor about a series of announcements in which we were to emphasise the shift of resources to treatment and highlight successes in prevention and education. She asked me whether we couldn’t arrange for “a drugs bust in Brighton” at the same time, or “a boat speeding down the Thames to catch smugglers”. For that advisor, what worked mattered considerably less than what would play well in the right-wing press. The tragedy of our drugs policy is that it is dictated by tabloid irrationality, and not by evidence.

For fucks sake, people make decisions about risks in their real lives all the time. Drinking, smoking, not exercising – these are all things, that as adults, we are entitled (and should be supported) to make. The idea that I as an individual should not be able to decide what to imbibe, smoke or if I really want to go guns blazing, inject, is a nonsense. Legalise, Educate, Tax, Support. LETS do it now!. You can even have the slogan for free.

UK Drugs Policy

Julian Critchley, the former Director of the the cabinet office’s Anti-Drug Unit has said he believes that we should legalise drugs.  He also said that the “overwhelming majority” of professionals in  the field agree with him.  Unsuprisingly, Critchley admitted that the UK’s drug policy is aimed at the Daily Mail – which as you’ll see from the screeching tone of those articles is hardly in-step with contemporary thinking around these issues.

The UK Drugs Policy commission notes that for 2003/2004 (last available figures):

Latest figures (for 2003/04) estimate the size of the UK illicit drug market to be £5.3 billion and is considered to pose the single greatest organised crime threat to the UK.

About one-quarter of the total cost of delivering the drug strategy has been dedicated to reducing supply (£380 million in 2005/06).

Drug markets have proven to be extremely resilient. They are highly fluid and adapt to law enforcement interventions. (Emphasis Mine)

While the availability of controlled drugs is restricted by definition, it appears that additional enforcement efforts had had little adverse effect on the availability of illicit drugs in the UK.

The available evidence suggests that street-level drug law enforcement should focus on forging productive local partnerships and not rely solely on police crackdowns.

The authors were unable to locate any comprehensive published UK evidence of the relative effectiveness of different enforcement approaches. They were also not able to identify any published comparative cost-benefit or value-for-money analysis for different interventions within the UK.

Enforcement can have a significant and unintended negative impact on the nature and extent of harms associated with drugs and this should be recognised and minimised.

It is patently obvious to anyone remotely connected with the field or who has seen the misery of lives blighted by Heroin, Crime and Prostitution that the UK’s prohibition based policy is a complete failure, we are pouring money into a black hole.

Looking around the blogs for reaction on the story, I came across this comment on Anthony Campbell’s blog, the substance of which I can only find myself nodding in agreement with:

The prohibition of recreational drugs has provoked the biggest world wide explosion in organised crime since the prohibition of alcohol in the USA in the 1920’s

The majority of deaths are caused by consumers not knowing exactly what they are using.

Simply because they are banned they become a fashionable fad instead of a stupid way of showing off.

The proliferation caused by the dealers giving the kids free samples would disappear if there were no commercial incentive for them to do so.

The massive savings achieved would turn into a revenue earner if the various substances were moderately taxed.

Savings and taxes would more than finance a serious drug dependency unit to also cover tobacco and alcohol.

I have many more instances where society would benefit from this approach and would suggest that a serious study be made to weigh the benefits of this approach against the disadvantages.

I am sure the benefits outweigh the downside by a considerable margin financially, danger to society and even ethically.

The biggest obstacles are 1) The public kneejerk reaction to the proposal and 2)the political reluctance to take a stand on something which has been obvious to me for many years

Very sensible. We need a revolution to change this problem – but I fear it will be sometime yet before a Government of any colour finds the cojones to stand up and address this issue against the backdrop of wailing Daily Mail readers.