Saturday, 24 May 2008

Everyday Examples of Drug Hysteria

If you don’t do drugs, you shouldn’t need to worry about drug policy. This is sadly not true. The effects are everywhere ... in simple news stories, in the military, in the hospital, on the street. But it’s not the result of druggies but the drug policies themselves. Most of our confrontations with drugs is due to a drug policy that drives users away from the medical world of clinics and hospitals into our everyday day lives.

The insatiable need of governments, moralists and the self righteous to demonise drugs and lock up users causes many acts of irrational behaviour which must be questioned. Before the "War on Drugs", the drug problem was a fraction of what it is today but drug hysteria is catchy and becoming more obvious. 

In just one weekend, I have found several examples of how current drug policies can effect us. I didn’t go searching for them, they were readily available as I skipped through the news. I just had to check some sources and this was what I found.

1/ More Spent on Fighting Drugs than Needed to Cover the Basics of Poverty

If the US spent just over half of what they spend on fighting illicit drugs, they could achieve universal access to basic social services in all developing countries. They currently spend about $69 billion dollars per year but if they used $40 billion of that, it would cover the important requirements below for developing countries.

Basic education for all ($6 bil.)

Water and sanitation for all ($9 bil.)

Reproductive health for all women ($12 bil.)

Basic health and nutrition ($13 bil.)

TOTAL: $40 bil.

source (part):

2/ Mexico Drug-Related Killings Soar

The "War on Drugs" has the US bullying their border countries to stem the flow of illicit drugs into the huge American market. The resulting murder & violence is mostly due to the very policy that the US try to enforce. These drugs would have no value except for their own prohibitionist approach which has created a market worth about 8% of world trade or $400 billion dollars. After nearly 40 years of the Zero Tolerance approach, the death toll is massive and drug use is 10 fold to what it once was.

The number of murders in Mexico linked to organised crime has jumped by almost 50% so far this year to 1,378, according to Mexico's attorney general. Eduardo Medina Mora also said more than 4,000 people have died since President Felipe Calderon took office 18 months ago, declaring war on the drug cartels. About 450 of those were police, soldiers, or prosecutors. It comes as police in northern Mexico found four severed heads in ice-chests outside a motorway convenience store.

Five bodies - some decapitated - were also discovered in a city on the border with the US state of Texas.

The government says the violence is a symptom of the drug gangs' desperation amid the nation-wide crackdown involving more than 20,000 soldiers and police. "Evidently when they are cornered and weakened, they have to respond with violence," Mr Medina Mora said in an interview on local radio. 


Still, last week's murder of Millan, one of the the highest-ranking police officials ever to be gunned down in Mexico, set a new benchmark in the Colombia-style drug carnage that continues to rage from Tijuana to Cancun. Mexico has already logged almost 1,200 drug-related killings this year — putting it well on track to break last year's record of almost 2,500 — as an increasingly chaotic array of drug gangs fight one another for trafficking turf, and against any officials who dare to confront them.


3/ Medical Uses of Cannabis

The NSW government wants to trial a cannabis based drug, Sativex and a quick check found that this beneficial medication was previously rejected by John Howard. Howard’s personal, misinformed views stopped a perfectly safe and effective treatment from helping thousands. A drug that helps sufferers of cancer, AIDS, MS etc. should be welcomed but it took a change of government for it to become a possibility. By the way, it is not smoked but administered via an oral spray.

After politicians in the Australian Capital Territory voted to allow doctors to determine when cannabis was appropriate for their patients, intense lobbying by the federal government resulted in the legislation being overturned.


4/ Noll Admits to Drug and Booze Addiction

This was the headline splashed across the News Ltd websites. The media’s role in spreading sensationalist drug hysteria is just common place now. Not one article did mention that Shannon Noll had any sort of continuing drug problem or was ever addicted to any drug ... because he wasn't. Including the word ‘addiction’ in the headline is disgraceful and misleading.

5/ Human Rights

Drug Free Australia (DFA) are promoting that people should sign a petition that supports the Zero Tolerance policy of the UN. Not happy with Harm Minimisation saving lives in Australia, they want more dead addicts in Australia and worldwide. I checked out the Berkley report to see what they had to say about the UN’s stance on human rights for drug users. Of course if the DFA support something, it’s bound to involve massive human rights violations for the sake of ‘family values’. Not surprisingly, one board member of DFA, Brian Watters is also a member of the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board (INCB).

In relation to UN programmes, as a result of control by the main donor states, spending on drug control by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the secretariat that carries out the substantive work of the UN on drug control, is heavily weighted towards simple enforcement of drug control treaties, with little, if any, operational attention to the human rights dimensions of states’ enforcement of these treaties or of their domestic drug legislation.  Moreover, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), the monitoring body for the UN drug control conventions, has stated explicitly that it will not discuss human rights. 

Despite the primacy of human rights obligations under the UN Charter, the approach of the UN system and the international community to addressing the tensions between drug control and human rights remains marked by an ambiguity that is inexcusable in the face of the egregious human rights abuses perpetrated in the course of enforcing drug prohibition. 

-Berkley Report: The Need for a Human Rights-Based Approach to International Drug Policy

6/ Army Losing More Soldiers Through Drugs than War

With drug testing becoming more common, some are now questioning what the real differences will be to the pre-testing days. Has recreational drug use really been a problem to sports competition or police and military personnel? Is the extension of testing into people’s personal lives really necessary if it doesn’t effect their performance or ability to perform their duties? What price do we pay for knowing this extra information?

THE British army is losing the equivalent of nearly a battalion to illegal drug use every year, research shows.

Research from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a defence think tank, showed the losses were greater than the total number of fatalities and serious injuries resulting from Britain's involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

An article in RUSI's journal showed an increase in positive test results for illegal substances, through the defence ministry's compulsory testing (CDT) program, from 517 cases in 2003 to 769 last year - almost a battalion's worth.


1 comment:

Damian said...

Some pretty amazing stats there, mate, regarding the relative costs of the war on drugs and tackling global poverty. Certainly puts the Millenium Development Goals - which many nations will be unable to meet - into perspective.