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His Own Private Prohibition, Imposed on the World

There are a lot of pathetic, selfish reasons to want the continuation of the destruction caused by prohibition — protecting drug war jobs, for example — but one of the worst is the celebrity drug addict who sees prohibition as his own personal intervention service.

I haven’t read the full article, but Robert Downey, Jr. (who I consider to be an occasionally brilliant actor) is interviewed in this month’s Rolling Stone.

During an introspective day on the beach where Kirn and Downey play word association (and coin the term “vaginal parfait”), the actor opens up about his opposition to drug legalization… […]

“All those years of snorting coke, and then I accidentally get involved in heroin after smoking crack for the first time. It finally tied my shoelaces together. Smoking dope and smoking coke, you are rendered defenseless. The only way out of that hopeful state is intervention.”

And in the Daily News

The bad boy actor admits he felt the safest he’s ever been when behind bars.

“When the door clicks shut, then you are safe,” says the veteran actor, who spent a good amount of time between 1996 and 2001 in prison for drug use and possession. “There is nothing aside from a rogue correctional officer that can do you harm if you have the right cellie. You are actually in the safest place on Earth. Safe from the intruders.”

For Downey, those intruders were his addictions…

Isn’t that nice.

All the dead people in Mexico, the recipients of prison rape, the overdose victims from unregulated drugs, the families torn apart by racist drug laws, all those who could handle their drugs but were made to pay anyway — I’m sure they’re all just pleased as punch that their lives were sacrificed in order to provide Robert Downey, Jr. with a celebrity intervention and safe house service.

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27 comments to His Own Private Prohibition, Imposed on the World

  • Just me

    Brilliant actor at times yes. Hes also not stupid in the ways of hollywood. Hes got his career back on track, making millions after his prison stay and fall from grace. Hes not about to speak out against prohibition now and throw that all away. Its just sad that he sees his own lack of will power , his own failings as a good reason for contiuting this murderous policy. Not eveyone needs or wants this state sponsered ‘intervention’.

    I will how ever go see Iron man II , even though he lacks of vision.

  • Shap

    Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Great film. Robert Downey Jr., fucking idiot. He may be the only person to ever refer to anywhere in prison as the safest place on earth. Oh yea and my understanding is that drugs are just as available in prison as they are in the outside world. All addicts should be stricken from entering the debate over drug legalization. I’ve said this before, its like people who overload themselves with credit card debt telling the rest of us that credit cards are dangerous and should be prohibited because they are too stupid/irresponsible to control themselves. And I’m sure Robert Downey Jr.’s prison stay was not exactly your average Joe’s prison stay either. He was probably completely segregated due to his celebrity status, which makes his commentary on this subject all the more irrelevant.

  • Cliff

    Robert Downey Jr.

    If you don’t have anything intelligent to add to the legalization debate, please go back to counting your money.

    Thanks in Advance,

    The Public

  • malcolmkyle

    We will always have adults like Robert Downey who are too immature to responsibly deal with tobacco alcohol, heroin amphetamines, cocaine, various prescription drugs and even food. Our answer to them should always be: “Get a Nanny, and stop turning the government into one for the rest of us!”

    Nobody wants to see an end to prohibition because they want to use drugs. They wish to see proper legalized regulation because they are witnessing, on a daily basis, the dangers and futility of prohibition. ‘Legalized Regulation’ won’t be the complete answer to all our drug problems, but it’ll greatly ameliorate the crime and violence on our streets, and only then can we provide effective education and treatment.

  • Carlyle Moulton

    For a long time something has been puzzling me. Why isn’t Robert Downey Junior serving a third strike felony sentence of 25 years to life.

    Oh of course, he is rich and white so he gets access to the drug treatment and sentence diversion schemes that are not available to the vast numbers among the Negro underclass who get the full criminal justice treatment.

    If drug laws were wrecking the lives of rich white people at the same rate as they are those of poor blacks, they would last about 5 minutes. Their most important characteristic is biased enforcement. When you make normal human behaviour like taking mind altering substances illegal you give rise to far more crimes than can be detected prosecuted and punished. In such situations it is easy to bias enforcement to concentrate on disliked minorities sparing the main stream much attention. Thus the drug laws act as a slow holocaust against African Americans as more and more of them spend their productive years in prison. It is not as effective a method of ethnic cleansing as that used by the Nazis but over a long period of say 400 years it will do the job.

    We need to advocate removing the soft options of private drug treatment from rich whites, and recognize that drug use is as much evidence of intractable bad character in a rich white man as in the case of a poor black. The Robert Downey juniors of the world should get the same long sentences and be banned from the soft option of private drug treatment just as if they were poor blacks.

  • Nick z

    Taking this “prohibitionist” position was probly an absolute condition of his penance from sin. There’s probly even a legal point on his new Hollywood contract which could cost him everything if he ever talks any other way than the way the DEA/ONDCP wants him to about drugs. Hell, it may even be required of him to say these things now and then just to keep his new life and avoid future big-brother DEA intervention.

    In any case, I hate him for it. Either he is a moron, or he is on a DEA leash.

  • paul

    Carlyle Moulton,

    You are bang on. I take a dim view of all the bogus claims of racism out there, but there is no doubt about a racist undercurrent to the drug laws. This is the real thing, and I think it motivates quite a few people who vote for tough on crime laws and the drug laws.

  • ezrydn

    I think Nick has the closer perspective. With Downey being high-profile, it would be reasonable to expect that the powers that be add some sort of “muzzle” to his release conditions. As I remember, they tried to pull that on Tommy Chong and he wouldn’t go along with it.

    With me, it’s taken Downey out of the “money” column and placed him in the “download” column. No more profits from this end.

  • kaptinemo

    It’s always amazed me how the origins of the drug laws were so blatantly, deliberately racist, yet so few ‘people of color’ are willing to speak out against them.

    It doesn’t take that much research to reveal that racism, especially in the Information Age (when so much has been compiled and made available by so many diligent researchers). The progenitors of the drug laws themselves, products of their time, felt no need to resort to ‘dog whistles’ or ‘code’ as modern day racists do. They made it quite plain how they felt…particularly about ‘degenerate races’.

    So, here we are today, saddled with the last of the Jim Crow laws…and the people who those laws hurt the most are in many cases the most vociferous defenders of those laws. Wife-beaters should have it so good…

  • Maria

    “I accidentally get involved in heroin”

    Thanks, for today’s “Wtf moment” I don’t think I’ll top that all day. Did he fall on a needle, stab himself and the force of almighty gravity shoved the plunger deep? Oops?

    The lack of responsibility, the lack of being able to accept the blame for not only your actions but the changes brought about by those actions is staggering. The sheer inability for him to see that, yes Robert, you have just said idiotic things. Wow.

    I get it, it’s part of his penance to say drugs are bad, sure, go ahead, tell the world drugs destroyed your life and you got out of it with the resources available to you. It’s a story many can relate to. I’m not questioning his feelings and harrowing experiences.

    But to fly the banner of what is essentially a cheerleader speech for our Nanny Police State is unconscionable.

  • “Smoking dope and smoking coke, you are rendered defenseless. The only way out of that hopeful state is intervention.”

    Typical “voodoo pharmacology” as Jacob Sullum calls it. Some years ago it would’ve been called “The Devil made me do it”.

    In fact, the factually wrong part is that most people do fine without intervention. Most quit on their own, even heroin addicts. This tale has been told many times by “treatment professionals”, and it’s a clear case of availability bias. They see only those forced into treatment or those volunteering for it and thus reason that intervention is necessary, but they discount the many cases of “spontaneous recovery”, because that data is simply not available to them unless they pick up a book or read a scientific articles on the subject.

    To state that prison is safe or drug free is also an outright untruth. I bet he’d be playing a different tune had he gotten a sentence of 20-50 years in prison that Carlyle hints at. But of course he got off light and had the right cell mate. His celebrity and money buffer certainly ensured that.

  • Lee

    Yes RDJ is an idiot that cannot handle his drugs. He used his money and fame to make his stay in prison better (which I do not blame him for one bit).

    But from the snippet on the web (I have the mag at home which I have not read yet) it is not clear that he supports STATE intervention. It is just that he supports intervention. Which for some people (weak character?) is the only way to keep them off drugs once they have started down that path.

    I’m sure now he has someone solely employed to keep drugs away from him.

  • Just me

    I’m sure now he has someone solely employed to keep drugs away from him

    Isnt that what LE and WODS is for? Oh ya that isnt working so well….

  • Stephen Young

    Won’t someone please think of the overindulged elite?

  • Maria

    “I’m sure now he has someone solely employed to keep drugs away from him.”

    Ooo, spot on, that’s the kicker isn’t it. People forget the apparatus that surrounds someone at that level of renown. Especially now that he’s back to being a money maker and box office success. You can bet there’s People out there to keep him on the right path.

    I do like him as an actor but I won’t be coming to him for advice on the drug war. He isn’t clear on the distinction between intervention and the system (the state, the feds) and he should at least be responsible for his words since he is talking to the masses that make up the bulk of the public. A public who frankly lives in a completely different system than he does. He really does have People keeping him clean and on track, but you see, we down here don’t get to have private People making sure we get the right “cellies”.

    So.. we must rely on the system to protect us as well. But it’s a different system. Intervention is important for those that it helps. It’s lifeline for those it helps. It is the most important thing ever, for those that it helps. And I wish he’d make it clear that he’s extolling intervention in cases such as his, NOT the system “knowing best”.

    In his words, it’s the system that is there to prevent us from coming in contact with drugs, to know what’s best for us, to keep us clean and safe and make us feel like we’re back in mamas womb. We are in fact just helpless babes in this land of Oz and if it wasn’t for the system we’d all die flaming uncontrolled deaths. (*cough* Ok, slight exaggeration, but ya’ll get the gist.)

  • Nic

    Shap, I think it’s wrong to say that all addicts should be stricken from the debate. Addicts are some of the most marginalized and hardest hit by the crimes of prohibition, if anything we need to bring a human face to that tragedy…I know plenty of addicts who have been working within the area of harm reduction and advocating for themselves and others. Most addicts are not RDJ…so it’s wrong to say that we shouldn’t listen to them or bring them into the debate.

    However, despite being in the minority, I think these people, RDJ and others, can be very dangerous. I do think there is a phenomenon which I think (I read on the Agitator) that Balko called “tyranny of the ex-addict”…to relay a quick story, I was on facebook the other day, and i was looking for support groups for those who suffer for chronic pain (i’ve got neuropathic & nerve damage problems that cause me chronic debilitating pain, and if it were not for pain medication I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning)…anyways…I came across this site being run by “ex-addicts their friends & families” that was spreading all this misinformation about drug addiction specifically prescription pain medication. To paraphrase part of the info section “anyone who uses them (pain medication) will become addicted and die”…sentiments also expressed on the page were that “anyone taking these meds are obviously faking their illnesses in order to get drugs” and that users “should be locked away, even throw away the key, anything, in order to separate themselves from their addiction” and “any doctor who prescribed these drugs should be arrested and thrown in jail” and that “pain medications needs to be banned…(write your congress people)” Well, I wrote the guy running the site politely telling him to do some scientific research because the information on his page was incorrect (I even gave him a few sources). I pointed out that pain patients have a very low rate of ever becoming addicted (.02%, same as the general population)…and that people with cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, etc. don’t “fake it” in order to get pain medication, that there is a long process of vetting that goes on a pain clinics, that makes it impossible to “fake it”.” I also told him the medication was very safe when taken as prescribed, is non toxic and causes WAY FEWER deaths each year then other OTC products like tylenol for example. He wrote me back cursing me out and then accusing me that I wanted to spread “addiction and death all over the place” (he then repeated all of the same misinformation stated on his site yet again and how i was wrong and that i was “faking my own illness just to get drugs”) and that he was going to write to the admins of the facebook and have me banned for promoting drug abuse…and that I can take my “drug addicted junkie self off of his F—ing site”

    Yeah. Just. Wow.

    I think something must of happened to these people when they were being oppressed by the prohibitionists and interventionists that causes a switch to flip in their brains and go haywire.

    I don’t know what the answer is because these people don’t deal in logic and facts. In a way they are worse than prohibitionists because they easily get sympathy from the general population by saying “I’ve been there and done that, I was an addict, therefore I know the truth about these substances”…they may know their “truth” in that they can’t handle their drugs or take them responsibly…but they spread this information to unknowing people and make it seem like ABSOLUTE truth, applying it to everybody, when in fact THEY are the minute minority. Sadly, it’s these people and others who they wrap into their hysteria that I see are the most enthusiastic proponents of harsh prohibition policies…and many of these people would go even further, locking people up for life, killing dealers, imprisoning doctors who help sick people.

    I don’t know if it’s even worthwhile trying to refute these people because they are so irrational…But, does anyone have any ideas or experience with dealing with them, and how we can effectively expose their misinformation and lies to a general public who might be susceptible to believing these people???

  • kaptinemo

    “I don’t know if it’s even worthwhile trying to refute these people because they are so irrational…But, does anyone have any ideas or experience with dealing with them, and how we can effectively expose their misinformation and lies to a general public who might be susceptible to believing these people???”

    I’ve been saying for years that what needs to happen is a legal suit where a reformer’s reputation or credibility is impugned by a prohibitionist, and the reformer sues the prohibitionist for slander and/or libel.

    At that point, in order to prove the case against the prohib, the factual basis for drug prohibition itself would be investigated. In other words, drug prohibition itself would be put on trial.. Sworn testimony would be a matter of course…and did you notice just how cagey ol’ Gil got when Mr. Kucinich started asking some very pointed questions concerning his ‘facts’ when he was under oath? Gil got REAL careful in his responses, not the usual unchallenged hyperbole but very, very cautious answers.

    We need more of this, where the prohibs are placed under oath and have no wiggle room to lie, obfuscate and dissemble as they’ve been able to get away with in the past. There’s nothing like the threat of getting slapped with a perjury charge and facing some time in the GrayBar Hotel to keep inveterate liars honest. And that’s just what the prohibs have always been…liars.

  • Chuck

    Typical addict, shifting all of the blame on the drug. It is such an easy out to say the drug was too strong and that it took control. Yes, drugs have variable degrees of dependence and yes heroin will leave your body in a sickly state if you quit taking it, hell it may even kill you. But that is why addicts need medical help, real medical help, not the phony treatment the courts force people into and definitely not jail.

  • Carol

    It’s ironic that people who are looking back on their own life and feel they have mismanaged it in some way, are determined to now run your life. That kind of help is just scary.

    I’ll just run my own life thanks.

  • kaptinemo

    Infantilization. That’s the ultimate goal of prohibitions of any stripe. For the underlying premise is that, no matter how old you are, no matter what your life’s experiences, you are not and never can be trusted to determine the course of your own life without the ‘guidance’ of those who are your ‘betters’. Your superiors. Your…masters.

    This is what I mean when I refer to the prohibs as ‘control freaks’. It’s not a minor deprecation, but a deadly insult, for such people have had within their ranks such ‘worthies’ as Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Mussolini, Tojo, etc. All had on one occasion or another commented in how their fellow human beings were, in their eyes, little more than herd animals in need of a stern shepherd to control them…when those intent upon establishing that control were themselves no less prone to having ‘feet of clay’ and amply demonstrated that…with historically horrific results. And today’s supporters of drug prohibition differ from them only in scale, for as Nietzsche put it:

    “But thus I counsel you, my friends: Mistrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful. They are people of a low sort and stock; the hangman and the bloodhound look out of their faces. Mistrust all who talk much of their justice! Verily, their souls lack more than honey. And when they call themselves the good and the just, do not forget that they would be pharisees, if only they had — power.”

    That’s them, right there.

  • Brucem

    If he likes using drugs and being locked up in prison so much, there is such an obvious solution to his sobriety/freedom problem.

  • denmark

    Reminds me of the meetings held in Colorado awhile back. Can’t remember the particular time or date, sorry.
    LEO’s brought into the pro cannabis hearings an ex heroin addict and had him state that marijuana indeed led him to use heroin. He looked uncomfortable in doing it too.

    No doubt this will be used by prohibitionists until the day we finally end this hideous war. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that it isn’t going to get easier, only harder. And from that I’ve decided to get more pissed-off and call each person out that continues to lie. It’s time consuming, maybe even dangerous, but it has to be done.

    By chance is there an email address for Downey? Or a fan site for him? Wouldn’t need to go back to the fan site to monitor, just go there and expose his lies.

    Nic, You put the “thought wave” out there to that guy. It’ll eat away at him eventually. Can’t fix stupid but we sure the heck can beat them into the ground just by exposing their lies with credible research.

  • Shap

    I just don’t see addicts being particularly helpful as spokespeople for our cause. Sorry to be callous but the destroyed lives of addicts are the most powerful arguments that prohibitionists put forth besides those dealing with children even though we all know that addicts’ stories would have been potentially less tragic under a regulated system. The addict prohibitionists are completely lost causes and the best argument against them is that the current system completely failed them. And that website you discussed is a disgraceful use of free speech. Wow is right.

  • Nick z

    Sounds like some ex-addicts are being put on the DEA/DARE honor-guard roll as a part of their probation, and they are being fed a script that is heavy on the Scare-em-Straight angle.

    I came across this site being run by “ex-addicts their friends & families” that was spreading all this misinformation about drug addiction specifically prescription pain medication.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if that site is paid for by actual government-funded prohibitionists.

  • jewel

    “I came across this site being run by “ex-addicts their friends & families” that was spreading all this misinformation about drug addiction specifically prescription pain medication.”

    It’s just a trade-off. ‘Sobriety’ and ‘prohibition’ is the drug of choice for these people now. Just like the lifetime AA’ers and those who ‘find religion’.
    Sad.

  • Hope

    That can certainly be true, Jewel. Transferring obsessions.

  • Voletear

    I think that branding the millions of addicts and recovering addicts as “typical” is not only a horrible reversion to prejudice but just plain wrong. There is no more a “typical” addict than there is a “typical” human, or cannabis user, for that matter. If you refer to specific abject behaviors you may have noticed of some, you are, rather, merely describing yet more harms visited upon us all by Prohibition.

    Addicts, former and current, can make excellent spokespersons for Reform and a number of them are doing just that. When an addict describes the horrors he has endured the story is a uniquely powerful indictment of the WOD. Who else to make the case for Heroin-Assisted Treatment vivid? Who else to tell of losing a loved-one to HepC while waiting for it to take themselves? Who else to tell of the folly of “abstinence-based treatment” under the myopic command of the State? Who else to tell of hot shots and midnight withdrawal and all the rest? These are evils of the Drug War and blame is properly ascribed to it. If we do nothing about such things we have accomplished nothing, even if every cannabis wish is granted.

    I, too, am appalled by RDJ’s comments but they don’t represent anything more than his own musings and the day will come when he retracts them – I think I can guarantee that. And when that day comes, he will find that prison ahead looks a lot less benign than prison behind.