Just over a month ago I attended a debate (at Bristol Festival of Ideas) between Howard Marks, the man who at one point was the world’s most prolific cannabis dealer – importing hundreds of tons of cannabis in to the UK, the US and mainland Europe, and Peter Hitchens, the Mail on Sunday’s columnist …Twitter, Facebook, Google+, RSS, or join the mailing list.
Alcohol is the fourth most dangerous drug after heroin, crack and crystal meth and the second most damaging to society, according to a study published today in the British Medical Journal (PDF). It is the largest ever study of its kind. This follows Prof. Nutt’s controversial lancet paper which in 2010 rated alcohol as the most dangerous drug to society.
This latest study is a pretty weighty verdict, the study used responses from 292 individuals sourced from responders from the membership list of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland as well as a range of addiction professionals. The parameters used were:
(a) physical harm caused by acute, chronic and parenteral use.
(b) psychological harm; physical harm and intensity of pleasure linked to dependence.
(c) social harm from intoxication; other social harms and associated healthcare costs.
It’s worth noting that the study only assessed the drugs listed and doesn’t address research chemicals that are increasingly moving from the grey market to the black market as a result of recent government bans. The authors make a damning indictment of the recent bans of research chemicals, citing evidence that the mephedrone ban has done nothing to affect use and “may only act to drive up the price”. The authors do not mention that a ban has a range of knock on effects inherent to black market supply such as effects on purity, the “gateway” effect of having to visit an illegal dealer and the societal implications of criminalising the user. Only today, London police have issued a blanket drug warning after one person has died and two remain hospitalised after taking a white powder that still has not been identified. The authors state that drug use should be treated as a medical issue and “should be separated from the criminal justices system and associated penalties”.
Taylor M, Mackay K, Murphy J, McIntosh A, McIntosh C, Anderson S, & Welch K (2012). Quantifying the RR of harm to self and others from substance misuse: results from a survey of clinical experts across Scotland. BMJ open, 2 (4) PMID: 22833648(PDF)
Two reports have been published today, both describing in exquisite detail the havoc reaped by the war on drugs. The first, by the multi-national anti-drug-war organisation Count The Costs, preempts the official UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s 2012 World Drug Report that is currently due for release and attempts to calculate the full costs of the war on drugs, as opposed to the official version which focuses on the cost of enforecement. The unofficial “Count The Costs” report is supported by a list of NGO’s as long as your arm, I have pasted the press release below.
The second report is by the Global Commission on Drugs (a collection of former government drug tsars, former world leaders and experts) and outlines the catastrophic direct effect of the drug war on the HIV pandemic. Watch the full one and a half hour press conference below.
Scroll down to read both reports in full.
Count the Costs Press Release:
Alternative World Drug Report exposes destructive nature of $100 billion a year global war on drugsPosted on: 26/6/2012
Author: George Murkin
A new report, launched to coincide with publication of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s 2012 World Drug Report, exposes the failure of governments and the UN to assess the extraordinary costs of pursuing a global war on drugs, and calls for UN member states to meaningfully count these costs and explore all the alternatives
After 50 years of the current enforcement-led international drug control system, the war on drugs is coming under unparalleled scrutiny. Its goal was to create a “drug-free world”. Instead, despite more than a trillion dollars spent fighting the war, according to the UNODC, illegal drugs are used by an estimated 270 million people and organised crime profits from a trade with an estimated turnover of over $330 billion a year – the world’s largest illegal commodity market.
In its 2008 World Drug Report, theUNODC acknowledged that choosing an enforcement based approach was having a range of negative “unintended consequences”, including: the creation of a vast criminal market, displacement of the illegal drugs trade to new areas, diversion of funding from health, and the stigmatisation of users.
It is unacceptable that neither the UN or its member governments have meaningfully assessed these unintended consequences to establish whether they outweigh the intended consequences of the current global drug control system, and that they are not documented in the UNODC’s flagship annual World Drug Report.
This groundbreaking Alternative World Drug Report fills this gap in government and UN evaluations by detailing the full range of negative impacts resulting from choosing an enforcement-led approach:
- Wasting billions and undermining economies
- Harming international development and security, and fuellingconflict
- Threatening public health, spreading disease and causing death
- Undermining human rights
- Promoting stigma and discrimination
- Creating crime and enriching criminals
- Causing deforestation and pollution
The report also describes the other options for controlling drugs, including health led approaches and legal state regulation and control. It ends with a call on UN member states to count the costs of the war on drugs, and properly explore all alternatives that might deliver better outcomes.
Count the Costs spokesperson Martin Powell said:
“This powerful report exposes the skewed and incomplete nature ofUNODC’s annual World Drug Report by telling the other half of the story, laying out the unsustainable costs of pursuing an enforcement-led approach to the drug problem.
The ‘war on drugs’ is a policy choice. There are other options that, at the very least, should be debated and explored using the best possible evidence. For the sake of their citizens, UN member states have a duty to make sure that now happens.”
Carel Edwards, Former Head of the European Commission’s Anti-Drug Coordinating Unit said:
“This important report comes at a crucial time in the campaign for drug policy reform, with countries in Latin America no longer willing to blindly support a war on drugs that has cost them so dearly. The evidence brought together in this report is a serious indictment of the current regime, and supporters of this initiative are right to call upon heads of UN member states to count the costs of the war on drugs, even if that reveals failure, and to explore alternative options. Only then will we have the evidence to make informed judgements about how best to deal with one of the most pressing concerns of our time.”
Global Commission on Drugs Press Release:
Count The Costs (2012). The Alternative World Drug Report (Public Report) [PDF]
The Global Commission on Drug Policy (2012). The War on Drugs and HIV/AIDS: How the Criminalization of Drug Use Fuels the Global Pandemic (Public Report) [PDF]Follow Simon on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, RSS, or join the mailing list.
Update: Post mortem has confirmed that the Miami cannibal was not high on bath salts, LSD or synthetic cannabinoids.
The USA yesterday booted a host of previously unregulated drugs in to the “schedule 1” bracket. The move appears to be a knee-jerk reaction to recent events such as the “bath salt zombie attack”, believed by the police (apparently based upon nothing but pure guesswork) to be related to “bath salts”, the name euphemistically given to unscheduled drugs when it is not clear from the packaging what chemical(s) a drug contains. If you think that sounded confused, you’d be right – in classic McCarthyist style, a whole host of drugs have been banned despite there having been no research in to their effects whatsoever.
The newly classified schedule 1 drugs are as follows, effective October 1st 2012:
‘(i) 5-(1,1-dimethylheptyl)-2-[(1R,3S)-3-hydroxycyclohexyl]-phenol (CP-47,497);
‘(ii) 5-(1,1-dimethyloctyl)-2-[(1R,3S)-3-hydroxycyclohexyl]-phenol (cannabicyclohexanol or CP-47,497 C8-homolog);
1-pentyl-3-(1-naphthoyl)indole (JWH-018 and AM678);
1-pentyl-3-[(4-methoxy)-benzoyl]indole (SR-19 and RCS-4);
1-cyclohexylethyl-3-(2-methoxyphenylacetyl)indole (SR-18 and RCS-8); and
It’s not surprising to see MDPV on the list, as MDPV is a primary culprit in many drugs marketed in the US as “bath salts”. MDPV, often likened to PCP, is a drug known for a range of thoroughly unpleasant side-effects. Some of the other drugs on the list are somewhat more surprising however. It is particularly bizarre to see the 2C* family described as “new” drugs by the US DEA, the 2C* family was of course first synthesised by Alexander Shulgin over three decades ago and has been known for its unusual blend of psychedelic and aphrodisiac qualities ever since. Like many psychedelics, the 2c* family is also known for its relatively low-risk toxicity profile (it is highly active at doses on the miligram range while relatively high doses have been reported with few ill effects). The US DEA have cited only one instance of overdose through improper use of 2c-E as justification for the ban of the entire 2c* family.
Paradoxically, the newly listed Schedule 1 drugs are to be defined as having:
“A high potential for abuse.. no medical use in treatment in the United States; and lack an accepted safety for use of the drug”
This is an ironic definition considering that not only is there a complete lack of human research for most of the drugs listed above, but now that these drugs are scheduled it is near impossible for US scientists, like UK scientists before them, to study these drugs to determine whether there could ever be a medical use for any of the drugs. It doesn’t take a genius to see how this vicious cycle could end badly. We will likely witness the chemicals above rapidly dumped on the underground market, to risk being mislabelled and sold as cutting agents. There is now little incentive for pharmaceutical companies to investigate relations of the drugs as they are now likely controlled under analogue legislation. Furthermore, there is now every incentive for underground drugs manufacturers to develop new drugs, with new unknown risks and contraindications, to be unleashed on the next generation of guinea pigs – and the self-defeating logic of the drug war once again prevails.Follow Simon on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, RSS, or join the mailing list.
A letter from Prof. David Nutt, former leading scientific advisor on drugs to the UK government, sacked for providing unbiased evidence based advice on drugs.
The wise advice above is in response to a controversial report (note a report – not a scientific study) by the British Lung Foundation. The UKCIA have further torn apart the Independent and BBC’s coverage of the report by demonstrating the flagrant errors in the “reefer madness” reporting.
Update 11/06/2012: Prof. Nutt has published a thorough debunking of the report on his blog.
British Lung Foundation (2012). The impact of cannabis on your lungs British Lung Foundation Reports (PDF)Follow Simon on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, RSS, or join the mailing list.
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