Friday, March 1, 2013

Why the State Will Never Win the Drug War

There are several reasons why the State will never win the drug war, but one not often discussed is the Arndt-Schultz Law. It is a biological law that states, "Small doses stimulate, medium doses poison, large doses kill."

Probably the best-known examples of this law are vaccines. They are small doses that stimulate the body's immune system to defend against disease. A medium dose of the vaccine would poison, and a large dose would kill. The Arndt-Schultz Law is also the reason why homeopathy works: a very small dose (in homeopathy's case, vanishingly small) stimulates the body to heal itself.

As for illegal drugs, coca leaves would be considered a small dose, cocaine a medium dose, and crack a large dose. Or, opium would be a small dose, morphine a medium dose, and heroin a large dose. Each succeeding dose is more concentrated than the one before, and therefore "larger."

This applies to alcohol also: beer and wine are small doses, the liquors are medium, and the hard liquors are large doses, because each one is more concentrated and potent than the one before.

Apparently the same thing has happened to marijuana; growers have learned to breed the plants to greatly increase the THC content in them.

When this law is applied to the misnamed War on Drugs, what smugglers do makes a great deal of sense. It is, obviously, much easier to smuggle a small amount of heroin and crack than a large amount of opium and coca leaves. If you were a smuggler, what would you rather do -- try to sneak in a truck-load of opium or coca-leaves, or a tiny amount of heroin or crack? The tiny amount, obviously. It's smaller, easier to conceal, and worth just as much, if not more, money.

What the War on Drugs has done, then, is two things: it has made it easier to smuggle, and it has increased the potency of the drugs! Making drugs illegal has made them more powerful.

One of the problems with Americans is that we think there is a solution to every problem: some of us think we can eradicate the drug problem in this country. But as Thomas Sowell has pointed out, sometimes there are no solutions; there are just trade-offs.

There are, unfortunately, some people who are always going to use drugs. My experience with them is that their use isn't a criminal problem; it's a medical and oftentimes a spiritual problem (William James once commented the best cure for "dipsomania is religiomania"). I think Jesus' saying about the poor always being with us wasn't directed at people without much money. It was directed at those who are poor in character.

Since these kind of "poor" are always going to be with us, the question is: how do we reduce their numbers as much as possible?

The solution? Legalize drugs, and let drug users have access to opium and coca-leaves. Those who argue against legalization claim it will reduce the price and increase the potency of the drugs, and therefore increase addiction. My answer: how much more potent and cheap can illegal drugs get? As for availability, I have people on the street-corner trying to flag me down. More than once.

My experience with addicts is that they are self-medicating. I have known people who have used everything I have ever heard about. If they had legal access to less powerful drugs (such as coca leaves) many would choose the more mild, less dangerous, longer-lasting high than the horrendous up-and-down that crack brings. The same with heroin: many might choose the opium over the heroin. The people I know (the ones who are still alive) used the harder drugs because they didn't have access to anything softer. They told me this.

Under this scenario, drug smuggling would vanish overnight, and much of the crime associated with addicts attempting to get money for their habits. Addiction would go down, not up.

There were turf wars over booze during Prohibition, but not anymore. The same would apply to now-illegal drugs. I have never seen a shoot-out over Ripple or MD 20/20.

It is impossible to seal the borders. Even if the government strip-searched every person coming into the country, drugs would still get through, somehow. Not once in the history of the world has any government stopped drug use and drug smuggling.

As things stand right now, we are throwing billions at a problem we can't fix. The government might as will burn the money for all the good it does.

There would be some more added benefits if opium and coca leaves were legal, none of which have anything to do with Arndt-Schultz, but which have everything to do with self-responsibility and being treated like an adult.

Several years ago I injured my left shoulder, which put me in the emergency room. The doctor felt around on my shoulder and announced I had tendonitis. I was given a shot, some pain-killers, and told it would go away in a few weeks. The bill: $508 for half an hour. The doctor looked at my shoulder for less than five minutes. Why could I not have paid $50 for his five minutes and then gotten some opiates for $5 at the corner drugstore? Is it any wonder health costs are sky-rocketing, when everyone is considered too stupid to medicate themselves? What do they think? I'll smoke opium everyday and try to write a modern version of Kubla Khan?

The same thing happened a few years ago when I developed a kidney stone. I told the admitting nurse I had a intense dull ache in-between my hip and lower rib. Without blinking an eye she said, "You have a kidney stone. If you drink a lot of water it will pass."

Since I could not get hold of any pain-killers (in which case I would have gone home and drunk a few gallons of water), I instead ended up on a gurney in a hallway with pain-killer dripping into my arm through an IV. The cost for one-and-one-half hours: $2100. If I had walked out after the free diagnosis, and could have gotten some opiates, the cost would have been $5.

However, all of this is too simple and too smart, and the State, unfortunately, is neither.

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