Drugs, Inc.

by Jason Alan

According to The New England Journal of Medicine, about 4 million U.S. patients receive long-acting or extended-release opioids each year. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) reported that opioids caused 11,499 deaths in 2007.

In the United States, one of the legal opium producers is Johnson and Johnson. That’s right. The same company that makes baby oil and the No More Tears children’s shampoo. Apparently, they don’t extend the no more tears promise to when one of their parents dies of an overdose due to one of these government sponsored drugs.

Also according to the CDC, there are approximately 80,000 deaths attributable to excessive alcohol use each year in the United States.

Need I mention Anheuser-Busch or the other companies that make billions of dollars each year from alcohol sales? All sanctioned by whom? That’s right, the United States government. One of the biggest, if not the biggest, drug dealers in the world.

Another CDC statistic? “More deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined.”

Must I reiterate that ‘illegal drug use’ is in the above sentence? That includes cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, LSD, MDMA, DMT, and Salvia (although still legal in some states), along with many others.

Need I mention the billions of dollars that R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris rake in each year? Again, 100% legally. Oh, the tax revenue orgasms the U.S. government has from that. Piles and piles of money, especially in a state like New York, where a pack of smokes can easily cost 14 dollars, most of that price being taxes.

Even if these facts were exaggerated, just these three; opioids, alcohol and tobacco, are responsible for more deaths than all other drugs.

So, what does all of this tell you? Well, if you’re uninformed, it might tell you that all of these legal drugs need to be illegal. But obviously, that would not be wise. Prohibition simply does not work. Conversely, legalizing all drugs wouldn’t work either.

We need to start being more responsible when discussing the complicated issue of drugs. But many people are not. They let their preconceived notions get in the way of the facts. For example, if I were to make a case for the legalization of cocaine, the mind block goes up automatically. No. No. Cocaine is bad, mkay. People can die from it, mkay. If we were all children, then breaking it down in such simple terms might actually work. But we aren’t children, so let’s stop discussing policies as if we were.

Take the aforementioned cocaine, for example. If you do some research in medical journals and other credible sources, you will find that there are thousands of deaths attributed to cocaine use. But there is a but. Several of them, actually. The deaths include traffic fatalities and other accidents and in many cases, cocaine was not the only drug found. It seems that a lot of people who like to do coke also like to drink while they’re doing it. Imagine that. So that brings down the overdose deaths from cocaine by itself way down.

If you really break it down and analyze drugs as a whole, you will find that the natural drugs are actually less harmful overall than the synthetic drugs. You will also find that the vast majority of deaths from ALL drugs are because of abuse. It may sound like I am being contradictory because tobacco and alcohol are natural, right? Well, sort of. Alcohol doesn’t really just occur in nature. You have to make it. And in America, tobacco companies load up the cigarettes with extra chemicals that are there just to keep the users addicted. Those chemicals are literally there for that purpose and that purpose only. With both of these drugs, unless there is some type of allergy, people have to abuse them to have health problems or and/or die from them. If a person only has one beer and one cigarette a day, the likelihood of them having health problems because of their alcohol and tobacco use drops to almost zero. They have to abuse them to get the negative effects, like drinking a twelve pack at a time or smoking a pack a day.

The government needs to crack down on the tobacco companies adding things to the product, but at least you can look into what is in the cigarettes. Conversely, there are millions of people doing coke who have absolutely no idea what else has been put into it.

A few things become obvious when you look under the hood a bit. People want drugs. Not just a few people, but a whole hell of a lot of people. If the drugs are illegal, people still get them and die from abusing them. If the drugs are legal, they can be regulated and taxed, and the discussions about them are more out in the open. Thus, less people die, less of the money goes to criminals and more of it goes to education, healthcare and treatment for not only those who develop addictions to them, but for everyone else as well. Also, less people are being locked up for having the drugs, and that saves the taxpayers even more money.

Also, when the drugs are legalized, there is more of a paper trail on the people that are doing the business. This part of the whole drug trade isn’t talked about enough. The drug lords or cartels or whatever you want to call them are making most of the money (along with the government, who seize the money and use it for themselves), and so they spend their lives dodging the cops. The more time you spend avoiding the cops, the better you get at it and the more other, dangerous crimes you can get away with easily. Like killing people and taking their shipment of illegal drugs. If the drugs are legal, the paper trail makes it easier to find the thieves and/or killers.

The bottom line is that drugs are not just as simple as saying that they are bad, and they should be illegal. We can’t just say they should all be legal, either. It’s a complicated issue, and no matter what we do, people are going to abuse drugs. The smart thing to do is to recognize that whether we like it or not, people are going to use drugs and a percentage will abuse them, and they will die from them. We can’t just sweep it under the rug. It’s a cold hard fact. I’ll say it again just so you get it. People are going to take drugs. Process that in your head, then take that information and find the best way possible to lessen both the health risks and deaths.

If you lift the veil of preconceived notions and look at the facts, it becomes clear that slapping adults’ hands and telling them ‘no, that’s bad’ and locking them up just does not work. We need a better way.

How about this? We get the facts out of the way and throw out a few analogies. These examples will mainly address just one similarity. The danger aspect. Arguments for drug prohibition often times underline this. Drugs can be dangerous. Yes, agreed. Fair enough.

People like to jump out of perfectly good airplanes. I’m not kidding you. The engines are still running, no damage, and they stay up in the air, but people still want to jump out of them. Sometimes they even die. What do we do? We have two basic choices. We can make parachutes illegal, or we can tax them and regulate the safety of them.

Speaking of airplanes, sometimes they crash. Many times, one crash kills dozens or even hundreds of people. Do we outlaw airplanes or do we tax and regulate the industry, which makes the planes safer?

What about sports like football and boxing? People sometimes die, and they get hurt ALL THE TIME. Imagine kind of uproar would there be if we locked up just one NFL team. Well, people are getting hurt. They should be locked up, right? Or do we live in the real world where adults accept that certain activities and behaviors involve risks?

As I have been writing this, I have realized something. I have basically said that it’s a complicated issue, and can’t be broken down simply. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ll try to break it down as simply as possible.

Prohibition: more people get locked up. Not only do taxpayers pay for it, but also, the prisoners can’t work, so they are also not paying taxes. While incarcerated, they learn how to be better criminals.

Decriminalization: drugs are safer, more people have jobs, less congestion of jails and prisons, cops can concentrate more on violent crime and theft, those who abuse get educated and treated and those who use responsibly (the majority) can enjoy.

Is that fucking simple enough?

I think the major problem is the thought on either side that there is an absolute solution. There isn’t. Like it or not, people are going to use drugs and people are going to abuse drugs. There is just absolutely no way to either stop it or make it all 100% safe. We don’t need a solution, we need a better way to handle it.