« profile & posts archive

This author has written 619 posts for Larvatus Prodeo.

Return to: Homepage | Blog Index

65 responses to “Banning: what is it good for?”

  1. Con

    There’s a big difference between the efficacy of banning sale and banning advertising. If you ban the sale of a commodity, the ban increases transaction costs (because it’s harder to buy something illegal; you can’t just buy it at a shop), and adds a “risk premium” to the price to insure traders against the police and judicial system. The ban will drive trade underground (with associated socially harmful effects), but depending on demand elasticity and substitutability, it may or may not have a significant effect on actual consumption.

    Advertising is a totally different matter because, unlike trade, advertising really can’t be effectively carried out in secret.

  2. tssk

    The junk food and smoking packet bans will almost certainly be overturned by an Abbott government. More important is Kronic, which has some major issues for users with undiagnosed or dormant mental health issues. Maybe the government could concentrate on this as a bipartisan issue.

  3. Tim Macknay

    Kronic has already been banned in WA – I think it came into effect the Friday before last. Presumably it’s back to the real thing for most Kronic users.

  4. billie

    Interestingly European commentators believe that plain packaging of cigarettes will be implemented in Australia.

    I would like to see junk food advertising banned on TV. Australians eat way more processed food based on wheat products than other peoples and it shows in our avoidpoids. Processed food based on wheat products is far cheaper than “fresh fruit and vegetables” which are far fresher at the local markets than in the large supermarket chains.

    Is Kronic more damaging than marijuana? I can see why mine operations don’t want drunk and stoned operators on site but surely the problem lies with the sensitivity of the cannabis detection tests which record positive not only when under the influence but also detect whether any THC has been ingested in the past 3 to 6 months.

  5. Jacques Chester

    Presumably it’s back to the real thing for most Kronic users.

    Not quite. Major mining companies make drug testing a condition of employment in certain lines of work, with the goal of having sober workers on the site at all times. Not entirely unreasonable for the dangerous bits.

    Kronic apparently mimics the effects of cannabis but did not appear on the tests. It consequently became popular in certain camps.

    Rio, BHP, Woodside et al aren’t wowsers per se, but it’s a bad look when people die on the job.

  6. Occam's Blunt Razor

    tssk – I don’t beleive that a new Coalitiion Government would rollback plain packaging.

    I’d fully support a complete ban, but doubt they would have the political will to do so. It will happen one day – just not yet.

  7. Russell

    Another thing that should be banned.

  8. Occam's Blunt Razor

    @7 – I don’t actually have a problem with the name.

  9. Tim Macknay

    Not quite. Major mining companies make drug testing a condition of employment in certain lines of work, with the goal of having sober workers on the site at all times.

    Really? Goodness gracious me, I’d never have guessed they did such a thing.

  10. Fran Barlow

    I generally oppose banning things. before I call for a ban, I want to know that

    a) the practice targeted offends a legitimate interest of one or more persons
    b) banning the practice would measurably (not just notionally) alleviate a constraint on the legitimate interest
    c) banning is in practice capable of being conducted in a non-arbitrary way and is maintainable over time
    d) no other approach than banning would likely meet or exceed the net benefit contemplated in (b)
    e) the proposed ban does not in practice entail offending against some other compelling or legitimate interest

    As a general rule, my default position is to seek less swingeing alternatives to banning stuff, because in most cases, there are adequate alternatives.

    Banning smoking in confined spaces seems a reasonable thing, and it is hard to imagine how else one could in practice defend the interests of passive smokers. Banning people from smoking at any time seems unreasonable and likely wouldn’t pass c) and d)

    Phasing out live exports of cattle/sheep — (eventually banning) is warranted on a number of grounds (humanity, environmental, difficulties of ensuring dealing beyond our jurisdiction). Banning the industrial slaughter of cattle/sheep for meat probably fails c) and d).

  11. calyptorhynchus

    I’ve never understood what the problem with banning something is.

    If the costs to society of dealing with the consequences is greater than the costs of enforcing a ban and dealing with the consequences of the ban, then go for it.

  12. Russell

    Razor – do you mean you don’t approve of kids swilling down ‘energy drinks’ full of caffeine and other stimulants?

    But if they drink Cocaine, and get a little lift out of it, won’t they think “of course this is not the real stuff, that real cocaine must really give you a jolt!” And there’s a connection, a step, between the two. I just suspect it makes cocaine seem sort of everyday – that you can graduate from the kids version you buy at the deli after school, to the adult version later on. Sort of like the candy cigarettes they used to sell .

  13. Occam's Blunt Razor

    @10 – Russell – no, I don’t approve – my kids are 6 and 4 and have never had a fizzy drink. However, we live in a democracy that values free speech and personal freedom.

    If there is a health argument to limit the sales of these types of drinks then make it. I’ve had two of those types of drinks on my life – both times when I had a hangover that would kill a civilian, no sleep and needed to do something insteadof recover in my own private pain. As it was I didn’t actually notice any effect but that might have been because I improved from deaths door to shocking and didn’t notice.

    I don’t think the gateway argument is a strong one in this case. Recreational illegal drug use is very much a result of cultural circumstances and banning the use of the name cocaine is not going to change much. I prefer the Singapore/Indonesian approach to illegal drugs.

  14. xulon

    I wonder whether a certain other company that makes a fizzy drink in a red and white can whose name begins with the same four letters would be talking to their lawyers about protecting their trademark…

  15. Occam's Blunt Razor

    @14 – as much as it goes against my desire for less regulation, I would strongly support privacy legislation that would require organisations to be able to prove it was in the public interest to publish photographs of individuals. Everybody, including Celebrities and their families going about their daily business must have a right to privacy. I believe the French have some reasonably effective legislation but that still didn’t prevent Princess Di and her Beau buying the farm, did it.

  16. Russell

    “banning the use of the name cocaine is not going to change much” maybe, but I’d prefer not to have products marketed to kids that are playing some sort of game involving drugs. Banning it might serve as an example to other manufacturers not to bother going down that road, or do we want kids growing up in an environment saturated with drug-themed products and advertising.

    “I prefer the Singapore/Indonesian approach to illegal drugs.” Please just read the summary of this.

  17. Occam's Blunt Razor

    Sorry, I am not going to read the report. Yes, there are still drug users and smuggling in both. Yes, the “War on Drugs” is a) a stupid name, and b) still seeing shed loads of illegal drug manufacture, smuggling and use. But imagine how depraved a society would be if we just said free for all on any drugs you want.

    My family holidays in Singapore as a preferred destination (I hated Bali, twice). I am more than happy to leave Mrs Razor off shopping until all hours of the night in Singapore and catching their impressive MRT late at night. As much as I love Perth, I feel much safer in Singapore and that is because of their law enforcement policies, including their drug laws.

  18. Paul

    The official Agatha Christie site bans the use of the original title of the book currently known as “And Then There Were None” because it uses n i g g e r s in the title. I hate that old books such as Agatha Christie and Hugh Lofting’s Doctor Doolittle are banned or edited. It whitewashes history and achieves nothing in the end, I feel. It will also backfire on the Left ultimately as most people’s only exposure to the past will be these sanatised versions and thus will make it harder for them to empathise with the attempts by minority groups to get compensation for past injustice .

  19. adrian

    What calyptorhynchus said. Anybody who thinks it’s OK for people to smoke outdoors hasn’t walked behind someone smoking or sat near someone in an outdoor restaurant or other venue.

    Smoking is about the clearest example of something that should be banned outright and be done with, unless the product is priced at a level which reflects the real costs to the health system of of those who inflict such damage on themselves.

  20. OldSkeptic

    Ah well, the banners come out. Everyone is against at least one thing (personally I’d like to ban stupidity) and banning seems so easy.

    In the end banning means using violence and jails. The group targeted (for their behaviour or what they consume) may not comply, then you have to use the state’s monopoly on violence and jail them, at great cost to the rest of society. Then the underground takes up the slack.

    Trouble is, carried to its logical conclusion everyone will end up in jail as we all do something that someone else doesn’t like.

    Banning appeals to the authoritarians within us and seems so simple, sadly history and current experience shows that it NEVER works.

    The ‘war on drugs’ is the poster child for this as it has been an unmitigated disaster in every dimension. Even to the point of credible evidence that it has corrupted the whole US (and probably many others) financial system.

    On another point, re Adrian, re smokers, smokers pay a lot more in tax than any direct measurable health costs (ratio is about 2:1, probably more) the costs often quoted are at best wrong, at worst just creative sophistry. Sadly the anti-smoking lobbies are just as culpable as the tobacco companies in pushing dodgy data.

    Just as the anti-drugs groups push very dodgy (to the point of fantasy) stuff to justify their ‘war’.

    For example, just on health grounds, you would ban paracetamol* long before you banned ecstasy. Then you have the oddity that if you tried selling speed to kids you would go to jail for a very long term. But you can legally give them it to ‘cure’ ADHD (or whatever mental health fad happens this week).

    *Actually on sheer health risk grounds you would ban this before heroin, coke, etc, in fact just about any illegal drug you can think of.

  21. Jess

    @Oldskeptic – smokers might pay more in tax, but I still have to breathe in their smoke when out in public. Surely that’s something that should be rectified, above and beyond the ‘direct costs to the health system’?

  22. Ootz

    Oh well then Jess, lets ban LOUD musik, cheep perfumes and ‘fresheners’, Fast Foods, smog and exhaust fumes as well as legal drugs such as alcohol (although I think they may tried that). Smoking substances is as old as humans, if an instance of it personally upsets you, then say something to its practitioner. He or she will in most cases consider your objection and take the appropriate measure if you life in a functioning culture.

  23. Ootz

    Lets ban obesity! I mean, have you ever been stuck in a plane seat next to an severaly obese person? According to ‘Suzuki’s Green Guide “Obesity cost the Australian community an estimated $21 billion in 2003”.

  24. sg

    OldSkeptic, heroin is not as harmless as paracetamol. It’s way easier to kill yourself by accident from heroin than paracetamol.

    And about banning…

    Trouble is, carried to its logical conclusion everyone will end up in jail as we all do something that someone else doesn’t like.

    Not only would that not be the logical conclusion, but it’s not a conclusion that anyone’s proposing. No one within spitting distance of the policy establishment in Australia is recommending banning alcohol, contact sports, or driving – the main causes of a large portion of Australia’s avoidable hospital admissions. In fact it’s likely that in the next few years contact sports will be expanded to enable women to compete in boxing, and the revised safety standards in junior play mean that contact sports are accessible to a wider range of people. Ditto safety standards in driving.

    You may fantasize that people are out to take away your fun, but they aren’t. They simply want to ban smoking and drunk driving.

    Oh and incidentally, Ootz, smoking is not “as old as humans.” And the idea that I can personally say something to the smoker is ridiculous. So I walk into a bar, there are 10 smokers and 10 non-smokers, and I then have to walk up to every single smoker in the bar and ask them to put their cigarette out? Sure that’s gonna work. And I bet they asked before they lit up in the first place, right?

  25. Ootz

    sg, I have to admit it was a very clumsy appeal to the collective LP intellect to reflect and possibly consider more effective cultured or civilised intervention. As surely you would admit that the law and order option has got its limits if solely relied on. My neighbours dog is addicted to Cane Toad juice obtained by carefully nibbling on them. The neighbour was considering banning such activity. However, the dog was quite responsible in its drug use and it calmed it down somewhat, that it is allowed the odd ‘hit’ in the right circumstances. Very considered of my neighbour I thought. Also the Swiss reapproach to the Green Fairy.
    Razor, they did try wholesale hanging around the time the English started to send boats over this way. If it is that what tickles your fancy, maybe you should live in the US or China.

  26. Chris

    I think that the eventual banning of smoking should be the eventual goal, but is just not practical at the moment. Better that taxes are slowly increased and areas where smoking permitted restricted (not anywhere near or in eating establishments would be a good start) until the smoking rate drops to the point where banning would be accepted. In general I don’t have a huge problem with people smoking as long as they ensure that their smoke doesn’t affect me – ie its their responsibility, not mine to make sure they keep the effect of their pollution to themselves.

    I’m a bit skeptical as to the efficacy of banning junk food adverts. And there is the problem of defining exactly what junk food is. Lots of expensive restaurant meals would have excessive calories as well – do you ban adverts for those too?

  27. Quoll

    Some don’t want to just stop drink driving I think. They want to and are prepared to undertake just about possible infraction of ordinary citizens life and rights, imprison others, on the basis of historically arbitrary and culturally biased beliefs.

    Millions of dollars of taxpayers money goes down the drain of schemes such as the drug dog detection units that the NSW ombudsman (2006) clearly outlined as an expensive an ineffective strategy for drug control. That clearly impinged on the rights and convenience of the majority of innocent members of the public that they came in contact with, or probably fostered a counterproductive response.

    Report Summary

    The power to use drug detection dogs to aid police officers in the detection of drug offences, particularly drug supply, was clarified and expanded by the Police Powers (Drug Detection Dogs) Act 2001 (‘the Drug Dogs Act’), which commenced on 22 February 2002. The Drug Dogs Act required the Ombudsman to monitor the use of drug detection dogs for a period of two years.Our review of the police use of drug detection dogs attracted unprecedented community interest, as evidenced by the number of telephone enquiries, complaints and submissions that we received. Our review found that despite the best efforts of police officers, the use of drug detection dogs has proven to be an ineffective tool for detecting drug dealers. Overwhelmingly, the use of drug detection dogs has led to public searches of individuals in which no drugs were found, or to the detection of (mostly young) adults in possession of very small amounts of cannabis for personal use.These findings have led us to question whether the Drug Dogs Act will ever provide a fair, efficacious and cost effective tool to target drug supply. Given this, we have recommended that the starting point, when considering this report, is to review whether the Drug Dogs Act should be retained at all.

    http://www.ombo.nsw.gov.au/show.asp?id=431

    Though all that was ignored of course (this is Aussie right?) as millions are poured annually into largely ineffective expensive exercises in police job creation (time wasting) and pretence for the public.
    That has been the long term strategy that has seen an explosion in global production and availability of illegal and pharmaceutical rip-off drugs. Given the vastness of possible simple organic compounds available to now create and investigate, the point where new discoveries will not be made is probably a very long way off.

    At least in NSW, there’s evidence to suggest that one of the biggest problems is possibly putting the wolf in charge of keeping the henhouse safe. With the ex-head of the NSW crime commission being in court over the planned importing of 100’s kg of pseudoephedrine on the side. Providing great powers to a certain fraction of the population, over others, as the cliche aludes corrupts perceptions and actions, no matter how grandiose and above it all they may see themselves personally.

    Same thing arose during prohibition I believe, the law ‘enforcement’ really need to keep the game going to some extent, and make a little on the side. In the US, and elsewhere historically, drug distribution or controlling availability has been applied as a economic or cultural strategy by government or police authorities.

    What would all the police really do if all trade in illicit drugs ended tomorrow?
    No more choppers to fly around the countryside (at $10,000’s/day), punters to stop, search and question at every festival or public gathering of more than three people?
    Stop making everyone with hayfever provide a statutory declaration that they’re really sick and not an illegal drug cook in order to get some relief with some pseudoephedrine?

    More recent objective testing and research actually found that drug/explosive detection dogs seemed far more keyed into subtle clues from there handlers in a detection scenario and gave numerous false positive responses to their handler. They were even less distracted from the real presence or not of a target substance by doggy distractions like a sausage they report.

    Explosive And Drug-Sniffing Dog Performance Is Affected by Their Handlers’ Beliefs

    ScienceDaily (Feb. 1, 2011) — Drug- and explosives-sniffing dog/handler teams’ performance is affected by human handlers’ beliefs, possibly in response to subtle, unintentional handler cues, a study by researchers at UC Davis has found.

    It’s all really an expensive farce that is used to justify police scrutiny and suspisicions of just about every member of the public potentially. Though appears likely to continue for the meantime, for all the wrong reasons.
    Extending the scope merely adds further layers of complexity for everyone to get their head around.

    Australians are one of the biggest consumers of drugs in the world, of all sorts. We seem to suffer ever more from the US affliction that demand really drives the trade and interest far more than push. With a generally pretty immature level of debate and polarised perspective across society I think.
    A wowser control freak and wuss, or the blithering drunk, smashed and stoned bogan, which side do you choose?

  28. Ootz

    sg, re smoking as old as humans, you should investigate ethnohistoric accounts of smoking various substances. Further, I understand that there is a ban on operating a mobile phone while driving a vehicle, why is it that it has not been enforced and meanwhile become a very common unsafe habit?

  29. sg

    Quoll, there are so many errors and straw men in that comment…

    for starters, how can you infer anything about the desire of “some” to “undertake just about possible infraction of ordinary citizens life and rights,” rather than just ban drunk driving, on the basis of the drug dog scheme? Hyperbole much? It’s not exactly a generalized attack on our rights to do anything we want, is it?

    And why do you insist on comparing Australia’s drug prohibition with America’s war on drugs? They’re completely different animals, with almost nothing in common. In case you hadn’t noticed, drug treatment options in Australia, along with welfare networks and prison-avoidance schemes, are widespread and effective. It’s precisely because of this that we can run an effective prohibition program against heroin, forcing drug dealers to move into much less dangerous substances like amphetamines.

    While you’re at it, why do you compare Australia’s modern anti-drugs programs with US prohibition of alcohol? They’re completely different substance abuse contexts, and completely different societies separated in time by nearly 100 years.

    Furthermore, the idea that Australia has a very corrupt police force in charge of the henhouse, as it were, is outdated. Australia introduced some of the best anti-corruption measures in the world in the late 90s, along with strong child protection laws and a large increase in funding for drug treatment and demand reduction. Police corruption is inevitable, and it inevitably occurs in criminal areas, because we pay police to interact with criminals. But it’s also manageable and unless you do away with the police entirely, it’s much wiser to design a robust system of anti-corruption measures than to pretend that police would be perfect people if it weren’t for the drugs.

    The reality is that in the 1990s Australia was facing an unprecedented wave of heroin deaths – 1000 in 1999, I think it was, and heroin was the third biggest killer of young people. The explosion in that epidemic was due to unrestrained drug dealing being aided and abetted by the police. After the police were reformed and serious money poured into the problem, the heroin market was significantly reduced in scale, and without turning the country into a police state – in fact quite the opposite, since anti-corruption measures were an integral part of the success of that program. Now we have 70% less young people dying of heroin overdose.

    That’s a huge benefit from banning a very bad substance.

    Ootz, you haven’t answered my question, just alluded to “cultured or civilized interventions.” I suggested one and it’s patently ridiculous. I should not have to do a round robin of a restaurant every time i walk in, asking politely for forbearance [note the spelling Fran!] just because a minority of people decide to take up a disgusting habit in public. Let them give up their “rights” rather than me have to wait on their pleasure.

  30. John D

    Banning can have undesirable consequences. For example, consequences of making most recreational drugs illegal may:
    1. Favour the production of more concentrated drugs.
    2. Favour the production of drugs that can be made discreetly – even if they are more dangerous than drugs with more easily detected production processes.
    3. Make it impossible for government’s to control quality.
    4. Bring both producers and users into the criminal system.
    5. Make fellow users reluctant to call for help if someone is overdosing.

    Control can be more effective. For example, Fitzroy crossing has had success in reducing alcohol related problems by controlling the max alcohol content of beer. (Banned strong beer.) Total bans have tended not to work because they make it worthwhile for booze smugglers to operate because they can demand high prices. Most people won’t pay a premium for strong beer big enough to justify smuggling if lower alcohol beer is available.

  31. Chris

    Ootz @ 29 – re mobile phones – I think the problem there was not banning it nor explaining the risks soon enough. People became used to the convenience of using their mobile phones while driving and now don’t want to give it up, especially since the probability of being caught is pretty low and the fines so low. The punishment for driving while using a mobile phone should be a lot closer to those for drink driving rather than speeding.

  32. wbb

    I’d ban tobacco sale for profit.

  33. sg

    John D, I don’t think 1, 2 or 5 happen in Australia due to the banning of heroin. Drug concentration depends primarily on the behavior of importers, who ship into the country whatever drugs they have. From an economic perspective prohibition essentially raises the cost – so why would they then produce more concentrated heroin, when there is a limit on the amount of the key raw material? In a market with no government standard of quality, they can dilute. This is exactly what we saw happen after the heroin shortage of 2001 – a massive reduction in strength.

    The same applies with speed. As far as I understand it, the speed being used today in Australia is very different to that which was available in the 70s, primarily because precursor ingredients are no longer available. And I’m not sure that there’s evidence speed purity has gone up in the last 10 years, with the clampdown on precursors.

    I don’t think there has ever been much evidence that the amphetamine, ecstacy, cocaine and heroin markets are linked. We know cocaine and heroin were linked, but cocaine is of limited importance in Australia and the linkage is not so simple as substitution – the cocaine injecting market grew along with the heroin market, and substitution didn’t happen when the former collapsed. Amphetamine and ecstasy are essentially unrelated to heroin. So there is not much substitution for more discrete products going on.

    As for users not being willing to call ambulances – this was a problem in the 80s but it was solved by ending “ambulance chasing” and educating users. If a user doesn’t call an ambulance for an overdosing friend it’s because they’re being stupid or selfish, not because they’re scared of the police.

  34. OldSkeptic

    I think the discussion proved my overall point, everyone (with a few honourable exceptions) wants to ban some groups/behaviours that they don’t like but are not particularly harmful in any way (translated; get the State to use violence against another group).

    There is little logic behind the desires, except a sadly common human desire to get everyone else to behave like your (obviously perfect) self. In the end far, far too many people are armchair totalitarians and/or love Schadenfreude. Except when it impacts them of course, then they scream for their right to be left alone. Hypocrisy is sadly also universal.

    Where it is the consumption of some sort of recreational drug, banning is always an abject failure. The only thing that works is harm minimisation.

    As I said, I’d like to ban human stupidity, sadly Einstein proved this impossible: “there are 2 things that are infinite, the universe and stupidity … and I’m not sure about the first one”.

    One thing that always cracks me up is those that call for banning smoking outdoors, while being quite happy to breath in all the vehicle, industrial, etc fumes. Ever looked down on Melbourne during one of those wonderful smoggy autumn days (sometimes you can barely see the City from the Westgate bridge)? Quick hint, it’ s not caused by smokers.

    Oh, as quick data point, paracetamol kills a lot of people every year. I add this to emphasise the irrationality of just about every ‘debate’ made on these topics (translated: idiots screaming sophistry at each other).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paracetamol

    “While generally safe for use at recommended doses (1,000 mg per single dose and up to 4,000 mg per day for adults, up to 2,000 mg per day if drinking alcohol),[6] acute overdoses of paracetamol can cause potentially fatal liver damage and, in rare individuals, a normal dose can do the same; the risk is heightened by alcohol consumption. Paracetamol toxicity is the foremost cause of acute liver failure in the Western world, and accounts for most drug overdoses in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.[7][8][9][10]”

    “Paracetamol overdose results in more calls to poison control centers in the US than overdose of any other pharmacological substance.[42]”

  35. sg

    OldSkeptic, if this is the case:

    Paracetamol toxicity is the foremost cause of acute liver failure in the Western world, and accounts for most drug overdoses in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

    Then presumably you think the risk of overdose can be reduced by decriminalization, provision of the drug in fixed levels of purity, and central regulation of quality through government surveillance of paracetamol manufacture and provision?

    Oh, but that’s already happening. Yet paracetamol overdoses are common, and occasionally result in liver failure or death. Indeed, health authorities are now running campaigns to educate people on how much to give their children.

    It’s as if the legal status of the drug were unrelated to the risk of overdose, isn’t it?

  36. sg

    I don’t know how many times this has to be said, but

    Where it is the consumption of some sort of recreational drug, banning is always an abject failure. The only thing that works is harm minimisation.

    is not true. Banning heroin has worked very well in Australia, because it happened in conjunction with harm minimisation and because the police actually work effectively in Australia to prevent heroin importation and dealing.

    I really wish people would stop subscribing to the American model for a drug “debate,” in which everything is cast in terms of prohibition vs. harm reduction. Drug policy in the rest of the world is just not that simple.

  37. John D

    sg @34: The example I was thinking of for 1 was cannabis, where much stronger and more dangerous versions have replaced the original, less dangerous versions. The bulk of cannabis is a strong incentive to move to stronger versions or replacement with other, more potent drugs. My understanding is that heroin is imported in a concentrated form and diluted before sale on the streets. The changes in the degree of dilution in response to supply you mention increases the risk of overdose.
    Your comments re the response to reductions in the supply of precursor chemicals suggests that banning did drive drug production in a particular, not necessarily safer, direction. This was the sort of thing I had in mind for 2. Can’t quite see why any of this would support quality improvement.
    My son has done research on heroin overdoses and other drug related matters both here and the states. His comment to me after one of the heroin droughts was that heroin users in Perth were using amphetamines as a substitute.
    5 was based on problems in the US. I have not heard any suggestion that there is still a problem here.

  38. sg

    John D,

    The example I was thinking of for 1 was cannabis, where much stronger and more dangerous versions have replaced the original, less dangerous versions

    These versions have come out in amongst other places Adelaide, where there is very little prohibition-related incentive to experiment. The claim that these “stronger” versions are more “dangerous” is very dubious anyway, since cannabis is (in terms of its non-cancer related properties) pretty harmless, and claims about the dangers of cannabis are usualy over-stated, often by people who want to wind back the decriminalization regimes in place now.

    In reality the development of these drugs represents capitalism at work, and if you think it wouldn’t happen under a legalized drug use framework you’re dreaming.

    Banning precursor chemicals certainly leads to new forms of drug, but the new ones are, as far as I can tell, no worse or better than the older ones. Most of the veterans of the 60s and 70s will tell you that modern speed is a waste of effort, it’s not very powerful or interesting, and that means the original prohibition has achieved its goal; I don’t think you could say that modern amphetamines are a significant health problem, either, so there’s nothing bad going on there. Whether or not the “dangers” of amphetamine use warrant its continuing prohibition is a more interesting question than whether modern forms represent a more dangerous drug than older ones.

    Regarding heroin substitution, my memory of the available data is that there was limited evidence of substitution in Sydney, maybe one or two months where possession arrests went up immediately after the drought; this may have been as much because of police being able to diversify their drug control efforts as it was because of drug substitution. If it was real substitution, there’s no evidence of a long-term change and this is consistent with our knowledge of these drug markets. Heroin users don’t satisfy their needs with amphetamines, and amphetamine users in general aren’t interested in heroin. Drug substitution is always something to worry about (it happened in Vietnam when soldiers couldn’t get access to alcohol) but it’s not guaranteed to happen and it’s not always a bad thing. There is no evidence in mortality or morbidity data to suggest that any substitution of amphetamines for heroin after the heroin shortage was a bad thing in public health terms, and any bad effects of cocaine substitution were very short-lived.

  39. OldSkeptic

    sg, precisely my point. Thanks for agreeing with me that this model, for a very, very toxic drug, works reasonably well, therefore it should be applied to the other drugs as well, shouldn’t it?

    But you still don’t get it with heroin (a relatively safe drug) so you are being inconsistent:
    “Banning heroin has worked very well in Australia, because it happened in conjunction with harm minimisation”.
    Not sure what harm minimisation you’re talking about, the only thing we have every done sensibly was the introduction of needle exchanges, introduced (against virulent opposition) when AIDS reared its ugly head.

    Now real harm minimisation was the pre-Thatcher UK scheme. Prescribed heroin. No drug cartels, no associated criminality, minimal health effects, etc, etc.
    Here in Oz? Prisons still full of heroin (and other of course) drug users, from memory the single biggest cause of females in prison. Large criminal empires (and gobs of money = corruption), health effects, far higher rates of petty crime, and all the others. Oz is no poster child for ‘advanced’ harm minimisation. And if you honestly think that there is no drug related corruption in the police, customs, airports, ports, etc, then you are being a bit naive.

    “and because the police actually work effectively in Australia to prevent heroin importation and dealing”.
    They don’t, plenty on the streets and available everywhere in Oz. The drug busts that you hear about are probably only catching 1% of what comes in or is made here.

  40. sg

    So now you’re saying that the model, with paracetamol, which previously you said “kills a lot of people every year” now “works well.” Do you know how many people are killed? Do you know the death rate? For example, in Scotland from 1994 to 2000 it was 17.9 per million, 16.6% of all poisoning deaths. If people can’t avoid overdose death using paracetamol, which is considered to be one of the safest drugs on the market and which cannot be used to get high, how do you think they are going to avoid heroin overdose if they can buy it over the counter legally?

    The death rate due to heroin in 2004 was 31.3 per million, and that is 70% lower than the death rate in 1999 (roughly). This is the drug you consider to be “relatively safe”? And note that per million is of the young adult population, not the tiny number of people actually using the drug. IDUs die at something like 30 times the rate of their non-drug using peers. And you want to make this drug more accessible?

    You then go on to misrepresent harm minimization, with the classic “Not sure what harm minimisation you’re talking about”. I’m talking about methadone maintenance treatment programs, buprenorphine treatment programs, drug courts and prison diversion programs, expanded places in detoxification and residential rehabilitation, outreach and drug treatment referral, the Sydney Medically Supervised Injecting Centre, abolition of ambulance chasing, laws to prevent discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS, improved access to counselling and social welfare support for injecting drug users, decriminialization of sex work, police training regarding substance abuse as a health rather than moral problem, campaigns to educate IDUs about overdose (as well as to research the epidemiology of the problem), availability of HAART for people living with HIV/AIDS, improved child protection laws to prevent the exploitation of vulnerable street-based youth, and better coordination of mental health and substance abuse treatment systems. Also methadone maintenance treatment in prisons, reforms of the prison health service to better serve prisoners, and better management of the transition from prison to the community.

    Did I miss anything? And do you notice how those harm minimization programs are focused on heroin abuse as a significant mental health problem in need of treatment, rather than a cute little lifestyle choice that we should all not bother interfering with? This is because injecting drug users die at a very very high rate, because it’s impossible to use heroin safely no matter how well managed it is. And not only do they die at a high rate, but they’re at high risk of infection with HIV and Hepatitis C (endemic amongst IDU populations in Australia). Blood borne virus infection is not going to go away if you legalize heroin.

    And for the record, methadone has been shown to be a more effective treatment for heroin addiction than heroin prescribing, except in a small minority of recidivist users. The Liverpool program was not the panacaea some people would like to believe it was.

  41. jusme

    I think it’s in our dna to experiment, have fun and push boundaries. Bring on the drugs and through familiarity and practise we can perfect them, maybe one day produce a substance with NIL adverse affects. This can’t happen while we only allow the monopolies of alcohol and tobacco to stifle competition and progress.
    I even think we should encourage performance enhancing drugs in athletes, even have a seperate olympics if we must, not unlike the disabled olympics. Who WOULDN’T want to see someone run 100m in 4s?

  42. OldSkeptic

    My point is about logic. Using the heroin/paracetamol as 2 polar examples.

    We have P, very dangerous, easy to overdose on , quite possible long term affects, responsible for many deaths per year (one packet will kill you), there is no real antidote to an overdose. It is also an unnecessary drug, since there are many alternatives.

    Heroin, developed as a safer and more effective to morphine. In its pure form, very safe with few long term effects (very similar to natural endorphines), good antidote for overdoses. It’s reputation as a killer comes from its illegality, being cut with other chemicals, high cost causing poor lifestyles, infections from shared needles, violence related to the criminality, etc.
    When it was legal in the UK (I knew a guy who was a registered addict) it cost nothing, people took it and held down jobs, had normal (ish) lives, etc.

    Now if I was a Martian, arriving on the Earth and told about these 2 drugs, which one would I would control very tightly.

    As for all those programs you talk about, they are awfully expensive, one of them, methadone, is actually worse than heroin in terms of side affects.

    Me, I’d legalise it under prescriptions and make P prescription only as well. I’d add all the others as well, amphetamines prescription, ecstasy and hash I’d regulate like booze, since it is even safer, no prescription.

    Cheap and simple eh? Logical too. At the very least it would empty the prisons.

  43. sg

    oldskeptic, paracetamol is easy to overdose on and legal. Do you get the problem here? If drug A is easy to overdose on when legal, why do you think overdoses due to drug B will be reduced by making it legal? You can’t argue for decriminalization to prevent heroin overdose death in the same sentence that you argue a legal drug is easy to overdose on. You do get this, right?

    This sentence here:

    It’s reputation as a killer comes from its illegality, being cut with other chemicals, high cost causing poor lifestyles, infections from shared needles, violence related to the criminality, etc.

    is completely wrong. Heroin does not kill you because it was “cut with other chemicals” or caused “poor lifestyles.” In its pure form heroin is not “very safe.” It kills people, because it’s an extremely potent central nervous system depressant. If you take too much heroin you will die.

    Next you bring out the even worse canard,

    methadone, is actually worse than heroin in terms of side affects

    Which would be what? Methadone has been shown consistently around the world to reduce rates of injecting, reduce needle sharing, reduce crime, and reduce death rates by a huge factor. People on methadone can hold down jobs, get their children back, return to normal relations with their family, and hold down a relationship. So what are the “side effects” of methadone that are worse than dying? And which of the programs I talk about are expensive, and why is this a problem? Do you actually know anything about the cost effectiveness of MMT? Would you prefer that heroin were legal but no medical or psychological support provided to addicts?

    And do you think that needle sharing will just disappear when heroin becomes legal?

    And if you think prescription painkillers are the solution, and people only abuse these things because they’re illegal, can you explain America’s increasing death toll due to prescription drug abuse?

  44. paul walter

    Russell’s example takes the cake, by far.
    Pepped-up soft drinks is as insidious than other commodities mentioned because it is employing sophisticated advertising to a very young audience, on the basis that drugs are
    “cool”,
    isn’t that brilliant thinking?
    If you can put smokes into plain packaging, why cannot soft drinks containing drugs and sold to youth markets on that basis, in this case at least, be put into plain packaging.
    I think this ersatz pot just got banned here(Adelaide), also.
    As others have said, there is an awful lot of junk sold legally that causes no concern at all, for thepublic.
    Pot, on the other hand, has had an exciting chase through the minds and brains of westerners, smoker and non smoker alike, in its short history.
    So much fuss has been made over it that, like the St Kilda girl, it would remain notorious even it managed to walk on water or get itself crucified. And who does it kill, unlike heroin, grog, tobacco, and certain offerings from the “ethical” drugs industry, junkfoods and heaps of other things?

  45. John D

    sg: Illegality does contribute to heroin OD because the strength is variable. Variability makes it harder for the user to stay between the dose needed to give the desired result and the dose that leads to OD.
    Illegality also contributes to the high death rates of injecting drug users. This is because so much effort goes into chasing and paying for the illegal drug that nutrition, personal hygiene and general living conditions suffer.
    In my experience people started taking nicotine and alcohol because their mates offered them the drug and urged them to try it. I suspect the same is true for illegal drugs. This suggests that we need to keep drug users with drugs in their possession separate from potential recruits.
    In the case of heroin a logical way is to provide legal heroin to registered addicts for use at an injection center while increasing the punishment for being in possession outside of the injection center. This approach keeps potential recruits away from the drug, increases the risk of illegal supply while undercutting the price illegal suppliers can charge.
    At the moment we seem to be in the worst of possible positions re illegal drugs. We no longer have the will to pursue drug users while retaining the illegality that makes it hard to control the use of the drug. This middle position may help the short term minimization of harm. however, it makes it very hard to stop the recruiting.

  46. sg

    John D, if we offer prescription heroin while increasing the punishment for being in possession, we are essentially “banning” heroin. I have no issue with prescription heroin trials (unless they divert resources from methadone, which has been shown to be superior). But this thread is not about appropriate treatments for addiction to an illegal substance; it’s about banning.

    You say that “Illegality does contribute to heroin OD because the strength is variable.” But I am really, really dubious about the strength of this argument. Oldskeptic has pointed out that legally available paracetamol at known purities leads to OD; I have added the example of oxycodone in America. To this I can further add: alcohol.

    I don’t think there are many people in the LP hivemind who drink regularly for fun who could claim never to have experienced any of:
    – getting drunk faster than they expected
    – having a few drinks more than they intended
    – getting a worse hangover than they expected

    I think there are lots of people on here who couldn’t answer questions about how many standard drinks are in a particular size and type of drink; how many standard drinks are safe for men or women; how many standard drinks you can have per hour and be safe to drive.

    Most LPers probably couldn’t answer a question about which drugs are safe to drink with and which are not.

    These are all pretty standard items of information, and all alcoholic beverages come in strictly controlled strengths. Yet routinely people who use alcohol get drunker faster than expected, or more drunk than they intended, and are not clearly aware of the rules that can keep them safe.

    So why should I think eliminating fluctuations in purity will eliminate OD? Every drug is a risk of overdose, even one we have lots of experience with, like alcohol, or need to take excessive quantities of, like paracetamol. And even if, like paracetamol, there is no high and no inducement to excess.

    Mistakes with heroin are deadly and they can happen regardless of whether the drug is a known purity; legalization or decriminalization would be a public health disaster.

  47. sg

    Also John D:

    We no longer have the will to pursue drug users while retaining the illegality that makes it hard to control the use of the drug.

    Australian police do pursue drug users, and have a good record of controlling use of the drug. Heroin use is down and overdose rates are way down, because police have successfully disrupted supply and will continue to do so. Australian prohibition policy is both successful and relatively humane, and backed up by a strong harm reduction framework.

  48. Patrickb

    As far as I can tell banning the activity of an individual through legislative action usually fails to stop the sanctioned behaviour and just creates a raft of other problems. Controlling certain activities is warranted and relatively successful. Banning things like thalidomide or DDT is probably justified as they aren’t fit for purpose, quite a lot of industrial products that have been banned fall under this umbrella.
    All in all banning is an extreme solution and should only be undertaken after a lot evidence has been presented in support of the ban. This didn’t occur in the case of Kronic, in fact I’d only just heard of it and viola it was banned. Great work by the WA media and govt. on collecting the evidence, at this rate they’ll have cured cancer by Christmas.

  49. Fran Barlow

    and viola it was banned

    They banned violas? Perhaps it will lead to violence … oh dear … 😉

  50. Chris

    Patrickb – there is the problem of acting too slowly in that if it becomes very widely popular then banning it is less effective as there is already an high demand for it. And given that it was publicly reported that it is a very good marijuana substitute it would become very popular quickly while legal

  51. Jacques de Molay

    There is no evidence in mortality or morbidity data to suggest that any substitution of amphetamines for heroin after the heroin shortage was a bad thing in public health terms, and any bad effects of cocaine substitution were very short-lived.

    I just read recently in Russia some heroin addicts have taken to a new drug called “Krokodil”, it’s some sort of chemical concoction that in long term users rots their flesh to the point of exposing bone.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/krokodil-the-drug-that-eats-junkies-2300787.html

    From the article:

    Russia has more heroin users than any other country in the world – up to two million, according to unofficial estimates. For most, their lot is a life of crime, stints in prison, probable contraction of HIV and hepatitis C, and an early death. As efforts to stem the flow of Afghan heroin into Russia bring some limited success, and the street price of the drug goes up, for those addicts who can’t afford their next hit, an even more terrifying spectre has raised its head.

    Heroin addiction kills 30,000 people per year in Russia – a third of global deaths from the drug – but now there is the added problem of krokodil. Mr Ivanov recalled a recent visit to a drug-treatment centre in Western Siberia. “They told me that two years ago almost all their drug users used heroin,” said the drugs tsar. “Now, more than half of them are on desomorphine.”

    I won’t post it but I have seen a youtube link of a Krokodil addict sitting in a wheelchair with exposed leg bones minus flesh having his dead foot sawn off by a doctor and it stayed with me for days, really gruesome stuff.

  52. sg

    Jacques, I think that story is a beat-up, and I note that there is an article in pravda on the same topic. But searching the Drug Enforcement administration website turns up nothing, and all the articles seem to have the same basic text and title; there’s nothing in any harm reduction networks that I can see about this drug. My guess is that some credulous western reporter took up a pravda article and believed it.

    These kinds of scares are pretty common in reporting on drugs – just the same as kronic, no doubt…

  53. Quoll

    Oh I wonder why I thought that sg would completely take over this thread to the point of dismissing and dominating everyone else contribution.

    You’re not my government or my boss sg, if you think you’re persistent ranting on this topic is going to waver me or many other opinions, you’re likely to be very dissapointed.

    Why bother even reading or engaging with someone so impossibly full of their own righteous opinion on it all?

  54. Jacques de Molay

    **Warning NSFW**

    People don’t watch this unless you have a very strong stomach.

    sg, check out this beat up:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Yfd_7jrnMk

  55. OldSkeptic

    Sg: Methadone is actually worse to withdraw from than heroin. It has far worse side affects, both in using and withdrawal.

    There are 3 methods of drug control:
    1: Banning and prison. We all know where that leads to. It doesn’t and never has worked. The impacts to individuals and society are horrendous.

    Australia follows this, as does most of the World.

    2: The ‘medical’ model. Some countries overlay banning with the ‘medical’ model. This is Australia’s strategy on top of lots of jails. It is premised on ‘curing’ the addiction. Total piffle and almost a total failure.
    It leads to absurdities like prescribing methadone instead of heroin. As stated (and backed up by all evidence) it is more dangerous and has far worse effects. But, and this is the ‘rational’ for it, it doesn’t give such a kick… so therefore it is ‘better’?
    The ‘medical’ model is fatally flawed because it sees all addictions as wrong and have to be ‘cured’, always with other ‘legal’ drugs (with big fat profits to big pharma companies of course), most usually worse than the the illegal drugs they are supposed to ‘cure’.
    Champix is the poster child for this approach. A far, far more dangerous drug than tobacco but it ‘cures’ (even if it kills you) nicotine addiction.

    But doctors and big pharma love it … though realistically it would be better to use leaches.

    The ‘medical’ model, naturally, has mission creep. Everything is an addiction now. Sex, exercise (stop that running sg), reading, coffee, internet, of course alcohol, etc, etc,etc sadly etc.
    All curable with a pill of course, which sadly have terrible side affects and are themselves addictive. But it is ok to give someone an additive drug if a doctor, pysch, etc says it is ok (amphetamines for 6 year olds are quite ok, so why are they illegal for 30 year olds I ask). The great tranquallisers, which don’t work and, for some at least, are terribly addictive (or make things far worse).

    You could argue the ‘medical’ model is just a corporate fight, between Big Pharma and Big Illegal drugs, with some cross fire towards tobacco and alcohol. Corporations fighting for market control.

    3: Harm minimisation: The old poster child was the UK, pre Thatcher.
    Harm minimisation is not about ‘curing’, actually it has 2 levels:

    a: Minimise harm to society. The first priority. If some people want to shorten their lives, so be it. Just keep untoward affects low, tax enough to pay for the inevitable medical costs, but low enough to ensure no illegal suppliers can operate.

    b: Minimise affect on the individuals, but a secondary priority to (a). Ensure (where appropriate) purity, not too high dosages, needles, etc, etc.

    Option 3 is the best by far. 1 & 2 don’t work and are incredibly expensive. Jail people and them give them (e.g) methadone … is it just me or does this not make any logical sense except to make gobs of money to some companies,

    Sure some people will shorten their lives but, as long as they don’t frighten the horses, so what? As long as the impacts on others is minimal.
    Just think of the cost savings: just one example, we could cut the prison population to (say) a quarter what they are now? At (say) $50,000 pa a pop that is a LOT of money saved. Plus reducing the single biggest source of corruption in police, customs, etc, etc. Heck, we might even get to have some freedoms as well.

    Gets my vote.

  56. FDB

    Any backyard-lab drug with corrosive impurities that destroy blood vessels will, if injected, destroy blood vessels. This is due to the corrosive impurities.

    Gangrene may result.

    This information may well have been provided in the youtube clip – to call my Russian rudimentary would be outrageous flattery – but all I saw in the clip was a dude with gangrene. To sheet home blame for missing legs to desomorphine is silly. It’s just another opiate.

  57. John D

    sg @47: When you start saying that variability has no effect on the risk of heroin OD you are talking …..! it is the amount taken that determines whether an individual will OD – variability is important. The other problem is that the OD amount for an individual stays relatively constant the amount required to get the buzz gets closer to the OD amount. So variability is more dangerous for these people.
    Old skeptic: I think the combination of tightly controlled legal supply to addicts combined with harsh treatment of those found with illegal possession my work by reducing the opportunities to recruit new drug takers. By tightly controlled I mean that the drug has to be taken at the place where the drug is distributed. anyone walking the streets with the drug in their pocket would be guilty.

  58. OldSkeptic

    John D.

    Why control it that tightly? you’re falling into the ‘medical model’/’crime and punishment’ trap again.

    Just give it to them (for a small, say income adjusted fee).

    Possession shouldn’t be a crime at all.

    The only laws (again using the logic of harm minimisation to others) should cover things like not spiking it to someone else, not giving to minors, etc. Simple basic things.

    Heck if they want to give it to someone else (and they are a consenting adult) then so what? But I’d make cutting it with something else and then giving it away a crime (easily covered by things like ‘grievous bodily harm’ and so on, no need for new legisalation).

    As for personal harm, well put in the support mechanisms for people to want to quit … and that’s all except for some nice big labels.

    Note many drugs are not very harmful or even that risky (compared to paracetamol).

    Tobacco, despite huge doses daily the impact takes 50+ years to show.
    Ditto alcohol, though the damage dosages are lower.
    Ecstasy, arguably one of the safest drugs around..
    Heroin. Risk of OD, but long term effects minimal. Don’t forget heroin was invented as a superior morphine, with less side effects. One advantage, you might OD but there is a quick treatment. Compare that to paracetamol, one packet and a horrible death with no treatments available.
    Amphetamines: must be very, very,very safe, since we give them to 6 year olds .. for life! Heck there are probably some LP readers here who have their kids on that stuff … and think it’s great.

    Forget the ‘crime and punishment’, forget the ‘medical model’. Neither work, have worked or ever will work. But these clowns inflict a lot of damage on society.

    Expensive drugs. Expensive prisons. Increases in crime. Unnecessary deaths. Unnecessary disease vectors. Ever greater losses of freedom. Corruption. The list is endless.

    The ‘crime and punishment’ lobby want, as do all lobby groups, want more. More money, more laws, more power.
    Sadly the ‘medical model’ groups (and their backers) want a piece of the action as well, promising everything, delivering nothing.

    All suffer from escalation creep and a complete inability to accept failure. Their motto is always: if that doesn’t work – do more of it.

    Watch for the ‘medical model’ turkeys stretching their muscles. After using sophistry and very, very dodgy ‘science’ in their endless war against tobacco, their sights are now on alcohol. Well at least cheap alcohol, woe betide anyone who tries to impact their consumption of what they like.

    You couldn’t design a more useless, damaging, expensive, hypocritical, corrupt setup if you tried.

  59. sg

    Oldskeptic, this:

    Methadone is actually worse to withdraw from than heroin. It has far worse side affects, both in using and withdrawal.

    is just not true. Methadone has very few side effects, and leads to a massive reduction in overdose risk, crime rates and risk of blood borne virus infection. It is also better tolerated as a treatment than prescription heroin by most addicts. There’s also no evidence that it’s harder to give up, though this evidence is hard to gather because most addicts’ failed attempts to give up heroin aren’t recorded.

    The Australian approach to drug dependence was to use methadone first and heroin prescription for those who fail on methadone. This is the best treatment model currently available, but sadly Howard stopped it and left us with only methadone – but this still works best for most users.

    You also seem to think that the science in the war against tobacco is dodgy. I think you don’t know much about drug abuse or health issues generally, if you believe that.

    John D, I’m not saying that variability has no effect on risk. I’m arguing that even with drugs whose content is known and controlled (alcohol, paracetamol, some prescription morphine opiates) overdose is common and dangerous. If we legalize heroin and make it available as a recreational drug (or even a prescription drug without good reason and good monitoring) we will widen the pool of people at risk of overdose without necessarily reducing the risk of overdose (as shown by the behaviour of young men on alcohol). We also won’t reduce the risk of HIV infection.

    I’m not, however, opposed to prescription heroin as a treatment for drug addiction. But that’s a different issue to decriminalization or legalization as advocated by people like OldSkeptic.

  60. The Feral Abacus

    The Australian approach to drug dependence was to use methadone first and heroin prescription for those who fail on methadone.

    sg I don’t think that is correct. AFAIK the approach in South Australia has been methadone alone since at least the mid 1970s: my understanding is that prescription heroin was discontinued several decades ago. Further, the handful of heroin users of my acquaitance years ago were unanimously of the opinion that methadone had a number of unpleasant side effects. n = small, I know, but they were all thoughtful people and the consistency of their reports was striking.

  61. jules

    There’s also no evidence that it’s harder to give up, though this evidence is hard to gather because most addicts’ failed attempts to give up heroin aren’t recorded.

    Have you done either to compare sg?

    One thing every addict I’ve ever met has said is that heroin withdrawal is less unpleasant and quicker than methodone. Every one. Tho I’d agree with what you said about its risk mitigation, I’d guess prescription heroin would have a similar effect at similar rates.

    If we legalize heroin and make it available as a recreational drug (or even a prescription drug without good reason and good monitoring) we will widen the pool of people at risk of overdose without necessarily reducing the risk of overdose (as shown by the behaviour of young men on alcohol). We also won’t reduce the risk of HIV infection.

    If you encourage responsible heroin use and make anti OD drugs available with the heroin then that risk could be mitigated. And obviously the needle exchange program in Australia did nothing to lower the rate of HIV infection, cos all those junkies died of aids and infected their upper middle class girlfriends back in the late 80-s early 90s. Oh wait no they didn’t.

    Most people who go in for recreational drug use don’t use heroin cos its very boring and not much fun. Its not really conductive to dancing all night or bouncing round the house fucking for hours.

    Furthermore, variability has an influence on od rate. Obviously. It has too. If legal drugs have a high OD rate they’ll have an even higher OD rate if they become available in unregulated amounts of widely varying purity. Especially if there is a relationship between tolerance and overdosing.

    Heroins illegality makes it dangerous tho, cos its power over addicts means they will do anything and leaves them open to further abuse cos they have no effective real legal remedies. Not to mention the inflationary factor which leads to massive profits for criminals and creates many opportunities for corruption. It undermines the rule of law and can destroy a nation state – look at mexico. Here there was Nugan Hand Bank, remember that? How is that sort of opportunity for profit a good thing?

    I’m not an advocate of heroin use, its bad, but its made worse by the illegality. Look at mexico – would 40, 000 more people have ODed since that massive shit fight starte 5 years ago? Or died from cocaine related causes? Imagine if a heap of SAS troops decided “Fuck it. Lets desert and hire ourselvs out to Afghani drug dealers, then decided to go into business for themselves?”

    Thats basically what happened in Mexico – cos some drugs, including heroin, are illegal. If heroin were legalised money that basically ends up in the pockets of old school fascists and brutal scum around the world would stay in Australia, and we’d need to spend heaps less on law enforcement. Money we could spend on treatment programs for addicts and on associated mental health issues.

  62. OldSkeptic

    Well said Jules, every one I’ve talked has said the same. Plus all the literature agrees. Methodone is terrible. But the real reason it is given is because it doesn’t give the ‘high’ that heroin does.

    Under the ‘medical model’ this is a good thing, because under the ‘medical model’ ALL ‘addictions’ are bad and anything that gives you a thrill is BAD (and must be ‘cured’ by some expensive drug from big Pharma).

    Piffle of course, based on obsolete morality from some Protestant Churches or something. Note how the ‘medical model’ keeps finding new ‘addictions’, almost daily. And somehow they are all ‘bad’. Some of these are so absurd it is like a Monty Python sketch, like endorphin ‘addiction’ from exercise. The morality behind this seems to be “yes exercise because it is good for you … but don’t enjoy it’.

    And fundamentally these are all morality issues. The love of money (the worst addiction of all, (responsible for more deaths than everything else put together) is ok, but get a thrill from something else (especially of you are of the lower echelons of life) is BAD.

    The current anti-alcohol campaign is steeped in this (to the point of absurdity) a couple of bottles of Grange = good, a cask = bad. Really! That basically is what some campaigners have said. One said recently (paraphrase) “only derros drink that crap”. Like we can all afford the Grange?

    Plus, my cynicism knows no bounds on this, there are some real class issues here. The Aborigine who gets jailed for being drunk vs the ‘rich guy’ who gets done for cocaine .. you can all guess as to the outcomes.

    As for you sg, you have such lovely optimism, that everything done today is so perfect, Australia’s drug policy is perfect, we are the best in the World at this, and so on. I have to ask .. are you on something?

  63. harleymc

    There’s a proposal to ban facebook for under 18s in Australia. Given that there is currently no R18+ classification for games this would put facebook into the “refused classification” category.

    http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/facebook-could-become-adults-only-in-australia-20110722-1hrkg.html#poll

  64. sg

    Feral Abacus at 61: I was referring to the policy plan at the time of the proposed heroin prescription trial in Canberra. I think it was reasonably well-established internationally by then that heroin prescription is a less effective treatment for most heroin users, so the plan was to trial it only as a last line of treatment (after methadone failed).

    Heroin addicts will tell you that giving up methadone is harder than heroin, yes, but have they managed to give up the heroin permanently? No.

    And, incidentally, the two biggest overdose death risk periods are: immediately after release from prison, and immediately after an attempt at detox. Attempting to give up heroin is a very, very dangerous business.