A Voice of Reason

A British drug warrior has come to the realization that drug abuse should be treated as a public health problem, not as a crime.

A former senior civil servant who was responsible for coordinating the government's anti-drugs policy now believes that legalisation would be less harmful than the current strategy. Julian Critchley, the former director of the Cabinet Office's anti-drugs unit, also said that his views were shared by the "overwhelming majority" of professionals in the field, including police officers, health workers and members of the government.

Critchley points out that "enforcement and supply-side interventions ... have no significant, lasting impact on the availability, affordability or use of drugs." His belief "that New Labour's policy on drugs was based on what was thought would play well with the Daily Mail readership, regardless of evidence of what worked," parallels the belief of American politicians that a "tough on drugs" attitude plays well with the voting public despite overwhelming evidence that the criminal justice approach has failed. When will our policy makers have the courage to learn the obvious truth that Critchley has embraced?

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    The public health aspects are very important. (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by JSN on Tue Aug 12, 2008 at 08:31:09 PM EST
    In many drug overdose situations the first responders are
    the police or fire department and they will attempt to take the subject to the ER for detoxification. If the subject refuses emergency treatment they probably will be arrested and turned over to the jail for supervision and detoxification. This is because the subject is a threat to their own safety.

    Many jails do not have the training and resources for detoxification and if the condition of the subject becomes serious they will take them to the ER. Sometimes the subject is assaultive or uncooperative they are returned to jail untreated (the chances of this happening are small but not zero). If the subject dies the public will  want to hold somebody responsible.

    Will decriminalization change this? My view is that it will because their friends will not be afraid to take them to the ER and that will get them treated faster and the presence of friends may help control them.

    There is a lot of middle ground (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by rooge04 on Tue Aug 12, 2008 at 09:18:03 PM EST
    between legalization and utter criminality. What would work best (a la Amsterdam) is a mixed approach where there is legalization of small amounts of recreational, less harmful drugs like marijuana while approaching the rest of the drug problem as a public health policy.  Making drugs legal would be an utter failure since there is no one there to pick up the pieces of what legalization of drugs would result in if there is no public health approach.

    Public health is the only way to go.  Methadone maintenance, needle exchanges, counseling.  Making our kids, our parents and our families criminals instead of people who need help just creates bigger problems.  I just feel that it will never change. The punitive paradigm of the drug problem in America is too deeply ingrained.


    Rooge, I beg to differ (5.00 / 0) (#5)
    by SeeEmDee on Wed Aug 13, 2008 at 07:14:15 AM EST
    Making drugs legal would be an utter failure since there is no one there to pick up the pieces of what legalization of drugs would result in if there is no public health approach.

    Rooge, prior to 1914, we didn't have the problems that we have today regarding presently illegal drugs...because they weren't, back then.

    All manner of drugs, many of them addictive, were sold openly, to all adult comers, and no one was dying in drive by shootings, muggings, etc. That is because the legality of those drugs also made them cheap to purchase. Drug addiction was well known, of course...but it was an issue handled between the addict/patient and his/her physician. By getting away from that, by inserting The State into the matter, we've created the mess we have today.

    But there's one more issue to be brought up, and that's the one of personal responsibility. Although some people back then became addicted courtesy of medical problems, many obviously went out and sought the 'experience' afforded by those drugs, and became addicted.

    But because the drugs were both cheap and legal, they were able to manage their addictions, instead of becoming a threat to the rest of society via theft and murder. Just as most people addicted to alcohol are able to do. The greatest threat anyone has from such unfortunates is in-your-face panhandling.

    If we are forced to return to such a situation where we can no longer afford drug prohibition as we were with alcohol Prohibition, the onus will once more be upon the average citizen to engage in 'self-regulation', as we expect of 'social drinkers'. Those who can't - or won't - would have to seek treatment, or face the same legal consequences those who can't or won't with alcohol.

    Let treatment centers be funded from the taxes collected on selling (presently, illegal) drugs, but no more public ones expended for the same purpose; we've drained the treasury the past few years, and we just can't do this anymore...

    Never (none / 0) (#3)
    by pluege on Wed Aug 13, 2008 at 06:13:30 AM EST
    When will our policy makers have the courage to learn the obvious truth that Critchley has embraced?

    never in the republican con-nut media controlled American society: reasoned, intelligent discussion is mocked and derided, ignorant bravado and blind generalizations of personal failure and inferiority of everyone not acting 'like a republican' rule America.

    A relatively simple answer (none / 0) (#4)
    by SeeEmDee on Wed Aug 13, 2008 at 06:41:35 AM EST
    When will our policy makers have the courage to learn the obvious truth that Critchley has embraced?

    When it becomes obvious that there's only so much money to throw at a problem that was artificially created a few generations back by short-sighted pols, culture warriors of both Left and Right (i.e. the national drug laws of this country were first formulated during the first two decades of the last century, commonly referred to as the 'Progressive Era', but the laws have been embraced by the Right wing as a whipping stick to be applied to the Left) and self-serving interests (bureaucrats, industrialists, etc.).

    As Victor Hugo put it long ago, "He who opens a school, closes a prison." As things get tighter, we will be faced with the inevitable choice: money for schools...or prisons.  

    If we don't use the increasingly scarce tax money needed to maintain schools, we'll have to use it later for the prisons. It's our choice, but one that's been forced upon us for having spent upwards of a trillion dollars on the DrugWar and its' ugly baby, the prison/industrial complex, and gotten little but misery for it...  

    Agree (none / 0) (#6)
    by Athena on Wed Aug 13, 2008 at 08:31:24 AM EST
    I'm late to comment, but I could not agree more - America does not realize what a sleeper issue this is - underlying the decay of the cities and the massive prison populations.  

    I lament the fact that serious discussion of this issue will never occur in this society.  It will just continue to spend more money on the wreckage of the drug wars.