There’s no question that the vast majority of drug-related deaths in North America are due to alcohol and not any other narcotic.
Out of all of the guys I grew up with, I can name several who died or even killed someone under the influence of alcohol, either through driving, or physical altercations which went wrong.
A guy I knew drove a car full of people home from a party one night. They drove through an intersection and killed a young woman who was on her way back from work.
Another kid I know slammed his truck into a man on a motorcycle on the road. He died.
A person close to me – who was struggling with alcoholism and depression – went out into his garage and shot himself with his dad’s rifle. He left a note in the kitchen telling his mom not to come out.
On the other hand, I know a few guys who have died from opiate abuse. However, the problem with opiates is that people die because of the unregulated nature of the narcotic due to prohibition and not so much the actual effect of the drug.
If they were regulated, users would know exactly how much they’re getting, and they wouldn’t have to play guessing games.
For example, take Aspirin. If everytime you went to consume an Aspirin, you had to guess if you were getting 5mg or 5000mg, it would become a lot more dangerous wouldn’t it? That’s right.
Because drugs are illicit, black market capitalists are the ones to construct the networks which ship the narcotics to the consumers.
And while many of these individuals are regular people, the truth is that those who monopolize the drug industry typically are gangs who resort to violence and other forms of warfare.
The drug laws have many unintended consequences, phenomena which are considered by the public to be intrinsic to the nature of drug consumption and dealing. However, most of them are because of prohibition.
The rise of Al Capone came during America’s prohibition period – which was an utter failure.
Before the government outlawed drinking alcohol, most people drank beer.
During prohibition, bootleggers began transporting harder alcohols like whiskey, rye, rum, vodka, and tequila because it was much easier to move around rather than beer which is more significant in quantity and therefore bulkier.
The same principle applies to marijuana, which is very difficult to move across borders because of its bulk and smell. It’s a lot easier to transport 10 kilograms of cocaine than it is to carry 10 kilograms of marijuana.
Traffickers often resort to packing substances together that have a higher potency rather than more substantial quantities, because people receive harsher sentences because of overall weight, rather than the strength of the drug.
After the government pulled the plug on prohibitory laws in the early 20th century, people began drinking less hard liquor and drank more beer instead. In Arthur Benavie’s book, Drugs, he says the hard liquor consumption declined by 2/3’s.
Human beings have craved psychoactive experiences which alter the perception of reality since the beginning of time. The desire for drugs – the energy – will always find its way back through.
The energy will sneak through other channels; people will come up with new and exciting drugs, and there’s no amount of prohibition that will ever stop it.
Trying to stop drug use is like trying to keep people from fucking each other. It’s just not going to happen no matter the law. You could sentence people to death, and they’ll still fuck each other.
Furthermore, where there’s a will, there’s a way. People are innovative and anytime the federal government outlaws a narcotic; there are always new ways chemists can manufacture a substance, so it doesn’t apply to the law as of yet.
For example, crack cocaine was an invention to turn powdered cocaine into a mass-produced product, even more so than cocaine. It made “mass-marketing of cocaine even more feasible.”
Additionally, the rise of methamphetamine was a reaction to the crackdown on cocaine and MDMA. Scholars and police officers described meth as a massive problem because so many people have labs in their homes which are prone to explosions and leaking hazardous gasses.
Cocaine also became more popular from the 1960’s until the 1980’s because the government began fiving out harsh sentences for the possession of amphetamines.
Inexperienced chemists create labs in unsafe places resulting in explosions, exposing fumes to kids, and toxic waste which they dump in rivers and fields, etc.
In the year of 1995, there were 800 meth-lab raids, but in 2002, there were 9,000. However, despite the police becoming better at finding the labs, more people are manufacturing the drug, so busting every single one of them is an impossible task which costs a lot of money.
The lure of tax-free profits is just too high. Take, for example, cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine. A brick of cocaine worth $500 in Colombia can sell for $400,000 on the streets of New York City. The profit margin is unbelievable, and there are always people willing to risk everything to get their hands on that cash.
Anytime there is a rise in the price of heroin and cocaine; there is a significant increase in property crime as well. The reason for this is that addicts become desperate and need to get their fix, so they’re more likely to rob people’s homes for goods.
A person may say, “Well, that’s exactly why drugs need to be illegal. People become addicts, and they do desperate shit to get their fix.”
However, harm reduction strategies have proven to be far more helpful. For example, if a clinic is allowed to prescribe the appropriate amount of methadone to an addict, they can keep their clients safe.
A prescribed amount will ensure they 1) won’t overdose, 2) won’t resort to property crime (stealing from people, robbing houses, mugging strangers, pretty much anything to get money), 3) won’t sell sex on the streets for money.
One of the most intriguing cases involved Dr. John Marks, a doctor who began a drug-offering program for addicts in 1982 in the United Kingdom.
At the time, he wanted to prescribe narcotics to addicts to prove to everybody how dangerous it is to give drugs to people but found the results of the experiment to be so beneficial, that he became a drug-maintenance advocate.
Physicians working on this program were allowed to give oral versions of the addicts’ drug of choice, whether it be cocaine, heroin, or crack cocaine for free.
Drug users would come to the clinic to pick up whatever they wanted and were encouraged to get themselves into a rehabilitation clinic to get their addiction under control.
Under controlled conditions, the test subjects were allowed to ingest the drugs right there while listening to the advice given by the doctors.
As a result of the test, there was a 94% reduction in property crime in the surrounding area, patients were physically healthy and had jobs, and the result of the test garnered attention all over the country including internationally.
However, they decided to close down the program in 1995, and Dr. Marks claimed that he suffered pressure from the US government due to the popularity of the 60 Minutes program which discussed his trials at length.
Eventually, the city of Liverpool created a new program which was more in line with the USA’s drug-control policies. Following the collapse of the program, everything went back to normal, and several of the patients died, including Julia Scott who was featured on the 60 Minutes program.
There are many reasons for the death of drug users under prohibitory laws. The most significant is the violence between gangs who can’t resort to the police or the judicial system to resolve disputes.
And like mentioned before, nobody knows what they’re getting because dealers are determined to hide their identity rather than develop the reputation of a particular brand.
In other words, because drugs aren’t regulated and are illicit, no one ever knows that they’re getting because nobody can create a reputation for quality.
Additionally, there are no warnings on small baggies of cocaine that alcohol use and cocaine can potentially be fatal when taken together, but not as likely on their own.
People are ignorant of the potentially lethal combinations. However, unlike things like caffeine – red bull for example – has product information on the side which says “don’t take more than two a day.”
Similar measures could be taken for illicit drugs if the exact quantity and quality of the drug are known.
It’s common for black market drugs to be contaminated with other substances or even bacterial or viral contamination, leading to things like malaria, tetanus, hepatitis, and pulmonary infections.
However, if these same substances were regulated by an institution of some type, the dangers could be limited.
Some countries such as Canada and Holland have incorporated harm-reduction strategies to avoid the spread of disease. Vancouver, for example, has a safe-injection site where users can get free needles.
It doesn’t curb the use of heroin, but it stops people from spreading HIV/AIDS and other potentially fatal illnesses. People die less because of it.
According to the CDC, sharing needles and other drug paraphernalia is the cause for 20% of HIV/AIDS transmissions and almost all instances of Hepatitis C. If people used clean needles, this wouldn’t be a problem.
Many states in the United States have drug paraphernalia laws whereby a person who is caught with a syringe, even a clean one, can go to jail.
Being a responsible user with clean syringes can land your ass in jail.
I’ve never really had huge problems due to drug abuse. Out of all the narcotics, I’ve tried, alcohol has done the most damage.
It’s the one that got me into trouble with the government, it’s the one that’s gotten me into fights, and it’s the one that’s ruined my relationships, friendships, and the list goes on and on.
Alcohol is the only drug considered to be a direct cause for violence, contrary to the perception of other narcotics.
However, on the other hand, some people get too hard into cocaine, heroin, and opiates and ruin their lives.
However, the vast majority of these peoples’ drug problems are worsened by the government laws rather than improved.
I hung out with a friend of mine a few months ago who had a problem with methamphetamine, and for the longest time, police would catch and release him.
They would pick him up for a misdemeanor possession, never press charges to get a conviction, then he would be let go by the system, and picked up again at a later date.
The reason for this is that, in his own words, “Police have quota’s to fill, so they don’t care if you get the conviction or not. They just want to lay the charges against you, but it doesn’t matter if you’re convicted.”
It becomes a game of “catch-and-release.” The drug laws are ineffective and even deleterious. In the United States, it’s also worse.
Mandatory minimums, for example, have been called the most “tragic and cruel” sentences for people who don’t deserve it.
A first time offender, who police caught with more than 0.5g over an ounce will go to prison under felony charges, rather than if it was less than 28g, which would mean it’s merely a misdemeanor.
0.5g more can make the difference between you spending the rest of your life in prison or not. Putting people in jail has not been helpful at all.
The American government, on many occasions, assumed that they merely had to try a lot harder to curb the flow of drugs.
There have been massive drug programs to stop the flow of narcotics into the United States and Canada and almost everytime, the results have not been fruitful.
There was a task force in Atlanta around 20 years ago that gathered up almost every drug dealer within a block of the city. Officials collected approximately 80 people who were pushers, and after they had enough evidence on all of them, they sent every single person to jail.
At first, the streets were drug-free for about one month, but after four weeks, the roads were filled again with pushers. It doesn’t matter how many dealers the police put away; they always come back.
Often, when police arrest a high-level gang – who formerly controlled a particular location – they are quickly replaced by a rival group, but not after a violent turf war between competing parties.
It’s similar to what happened during the war in Iraq except on an on a less substantial level. After the US government went in and caught Saddam Hussein for the Iraqi to subsequently execute, the Sunni and Shia Muslims – who have been fighting for a long time – began fighting for control of the state, with militant groups such as ISIS and the Al-Qaida taking control of the country.
The same principle applies to the streets. After the top of the pyramid is removed, war breaks out between rival gangs who all want the top spot.
Furthermore, many sociologists and criminologists argue that the drug laws are “racist,” because particular drugs associated with ethnic groups are usually punished more severely than others.
However, I argue that, although black people and latino’s face higher incarceration rates, it doesn’t necessarily mean the laws were out to punish undesirable ethnic groups.
If you take, for example, MDMA, it has a harsh sentence similar to crack cocaine – the drug commonly associated with black people.
During Reagan’s administration in the 1980’s, the drug war began, and many pointed out that the crack cocaine laws were significantly more severe than those of powder cocaine, despite being the same substance, except cooked with baking powder and other chemicals.
However, It’s my opinion that government officials were ignorant, and assumed crack cocaine was just another incredibly harmful drug that harms communities, regardless of what ethnic groups smoke it or deal it.
If it were the case that the drug laws were born out of racism, then MDMA, which is more common among white people, would garner a lessers sentence, but that isn’t the case, considering they’re both schedule one drugs.
Either way, the laws surrounding drug use have had a catastrophic effect on the world.
I believe 100% that if the government decriminalized drugs, began regulating them, and offered more programs for addicts, the black community in the United States could be pulled out of destitution in no time at all.
But, at this point, it seems like the US government merely doubles down on efforts that prove time and time again to be futile.
A lot of it has to do with the public’s perception. People like to blame the government, but the truth is: the government and corporations merely cater to the interests of the masses. If more people became aware of the damage done by the Drug War, perhaps we could inspire politicians to make “drug regulation” as a part of their political platforms, rather than “drug criminalization.”