Addiction and the Rat Park experiments

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Legalise Drugs

Since our species discovered that eating, drinking or inhaling some substances provide a feeling of euphoria, a diminution of inhibitions, a stimulant or relief from pain, we have individually and collectively being doing just that. From the glass of wine to the pint, the cigarette to the joint and the long list of medicines, relieving and treating pain from the minor discomfort to the most severe.

Some drugs are illegal, but the demand for them is just as widespread, cannabis, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy tablets, the list is long and expanding. Huge money is made from their importation and sale to satisfy the market which ranges from the sprawling estates of deprivation to the fashionable houses of the bourgeois. The importation and distribution of drugs is a risky business and like any it requires greed and competition. Where normal legal business depends on contracts and courts to regulate their affairs, drug gangs operating as they do outside the law have to maintain their position and contracts with violence. The most ruthless rise to the top where  money and power concentrates. Once large sums of money are involved law enforcement is corruptible, very little of the drugs are intercepted or recovered.

For over a hundred years the ethos of the law has struggled with the complacency of the population, thousands have died in this pointless battle against the nature of our species. The war on drugs requires a huge expenditure on resources and finance and has totally failed. It is time to apply reason and change,  plenty of evidence exists to support a new direction. When prohibition on alcohol existed in the United States, gang warfare raged, speakeasies thrived, poisonous hooch was produced by the ton. Once legalised, the wars stopped, tax revenue to the state flowed, its sale to minors became easier to control and the quality of the alcohol was monitored.

A growing consensus of people now see the only sensible direction is to legalise the possession, use and distribution of all drugs. The reality of how that is done would be subject to discussion and evolution. Some categories, like cannabis, could be sold through regulated shops such as chemists, harder drugs through a self-financing state company. The drugs would be clean, free from destructive additives, carry health warnings, have selling age limits and be taxed. Intravenous drugs would be taken under supervision with clean equipment.

Such an approach would see the collapse of the drug gangs and an end to the associated warfare. It would take the addicts off the street and keep them in touch with state services who would provide counselling and care. The whole notion of addiction was challenged during the Vietnam war, tens of thousands of unfortunate US soldiers were sent to kill millions of people they had no grudge against and for reasons they did not understand. The Vietnamese resistance killed 57,000 of these young people in defence and to persuade them to leave. The stress amongst the US troops provoked drug use on a massive scale. It was predicted that when they returned home, the USA would be filled with drug addicts. It never happened, when the troops got home the majority left stress behind and stopped using. For some, residual stress and circumstances conspired to ensure continuing pain and drugs provided relief from that pain. An excellent explanation for the relationship between deprivation, pain and drug use comes from ‘The Rat Park Experiment’, see:

This post, arguing in favour of the legalisation of drugs, is far too brief to cover all the issues. A comprehensive book on the subject and essential reading for anyone concerned with solving the drug problem is: Chasing the Scream by Johann Hari, the first and last days of the war on drugs. The ongoing struggle to develop a sensible drugs policy can be followed at;

A complication to an international solution to the war on drugs arises when one asks the question ‘Cui Bono’ apart from the drug gangs – who else might benefit: Michael Hudson, in his book, Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the Global Economy,  found a strange money trail and a huge amount of money from crime going into Switzerland’s secret banking system. He discovered that under US State Department direction, banks had been established in the Caribbean for the purpose of attracting money into dollar holdings from drug dealers to offset Washington’s foreign military outflows of dollars. If dollars flowed out of the US, but demand did not rise to absorb the larger supply, the dollar’s exchange rate would fall, damaging US power. By providing offshore banks in which criminals could deposit illicit dollars, the US government supported the dollar’s exchange value.

Hudson discovered that the US balance of payments deficit, was entirely military in character. The US Treasury and State Department supported the Caribbean safe haven for illegal profits  to offset the negative impact on the US balance of payments of military operations abroad. When it came to the economics of the situation, he claims that neither trade flows nor direct investments were important in determining exchange rates. What was important were “errors and omissions,” which Hudson discovered was a euphemism for the hot, liquid money of drug dealers and government officials embezzling the export earnings of their countries. Such revelations might explain why moves to legalise drugs might bring opposition from a source, one had not bargained for.