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How do we get out of the political dark ages when it comes to the drug war?

There is so much good information available to us about drugs and drug policy if we’re willing to actually, you know, listen to it. But science and reality have been pretty much excluded from the public policy conversations when it comes to drugs, except for that “science” that supports the drug war regime.

The absurdity of this was brought home again to me with this article…

A Maryland Lawmaker Offers A Radical New Solution To The Heroin Crisis

That certainly sounded interesting. A radical new solution? Tell me more.

On Friday, he’ll announce the introduction of a sweeping set of bills that would upend the approach to the opioid epidemic, Morhaim, a Democrat, told HuffPost.

The approach is a radical one likely to scare off nearly all politicians and probably a majority of voters. So let’s back into his bills slowly.

Wow. So radical and new that even the article has to broach the idea cautiously. I can’t wait to find out… seven paragraphs later…

OK, ready to hear the idea?

The first option is to treat the addiction so that the person is no longer using heroin. For that, a variety of treatments need to be offered, depending on the user and the circumstances. The second option is to treat the social problem by giving the most difficult-to-treat addicts free heroin — or something very close to it — in a safe, controlled environment.

Really?

OK, don’t get me wrong. This is very good. And I applaud the lawmaker for bringing this forward.

But new? Radical? Not to anyone who has been paying attention. We’ve been talking about these ideas at Drug WarRant for many years. These are ideas that have been tried, tested, and proved – the science is there. They’ve just been excluded from political consideration.

It’s sad that in today’s world… in a major world power with amazing intellectual resources, we’re stuck in the drug policy equivalent of medieval barber surgeons, and that anyone who actually proposes scientifically proven reform is considered some kind of scary radical.

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18 comments to How do we get out of the political dark ages when it comes to the drug war?

  • jean valjean

    Well it is Huffpo Australia, the land that will probably be remembered as Custer’s Last Stand of the drug war.

  • Frank W.

    “when the last politician is strangled with the entrails of the last lobbyist”

  • Nice

    “Morhaim said he regularly hears the same thing from those he treats. “That’s a very real factor,” he said. “I refer to that many times in presentations. I call it the pyramid scheme of addiction — between the psychosocial pressures of living in a very difficult society and the desire we all have to change our consciousness to escape some of the stresses, and then you’ve got your friend trying to hook you to make their marginal money.”

    This is in part how the disease of heroin addiction can be transmitted from one person to another. In order to slow it down, Morhaim’s legislation aims to quarantine Patient Zero. There are two ways to do that, and Morhaim wants to do both.”

  • Meanwich Stinkburger

    …a major world power with amazing intellectual resources.
    Bwahahaha! Thanks I needed a good laugh.

  • Freeman

    Pete, we’ve come a long way, baby. It’s taken a long slogging crusade of truly exceptional people like you and the rest of the couchmates here, tirelessly rooting out and exposing bad science at every opportunity, to come this far. We’re not all the way out of the dark ages yet, but we know the rest of the way — just gotta keep on keepin’ on.

    And in that spirit, I would like to momentarily direct everyone’s attention to a BOTEC report that’s so bad that the WSLCB is being sued for relying on it.

    The board also relied on a flawed report by BOTEC Analysis, an independent contractor that was hired to determine how many more licenses the state should issue, in order to satisfy MMJ demand, the suit alleges. That led to an uneven distribution of licenses among municipalities, and is especially egregious because the board knew the BOTEC report was not reliable, according to the suit.

    BOTEC helping decide how many mmj licenses to issue? What could possibly go wrong?

    I think you guys are going to love the comment I left at my first link, but it will probably make a lot more sense after you’ve read the BOTEC report. (I know, sorry)

    Many thanks to darkcycle for linking to a critique of the BOTEC report by Dr. James MacRae earlier this week. A commenter at Dr. MacRae’s website linked to the article about the lawsuit, which is how I heard about it.

    Exposure. Word gets around. That’s how we spread enlightenment against the darkness. Thank you for providing such a reliable and effective platform in which to do so.

    • darkcycle

      Having looked at the BOTEC paper myself, I think your comment is spot on. Monte Carlo model is one of the few tools we have where you can put a set of numbers in and get a mathematical solution out. But as with any calculation, you put garbage in, you get garbage out.

      • Freeman

        Thank you dc. My aim was to use an easy to understand humorous illustration to shed light on complex procedural issues that cause most people’s eyes to glaze over reading the report. Tell me your eyes weren’t glazed by the time you got to the fourth Research Workflow chart alleging to document how they go about pulling work product out of their various orifices — I know mine sure were. A lot of folks who are in the business recognized problems with the report right away, but a lot of that is intuitive observation that their facts on the ground don’t match various figures reported, and there’s a lot of other layfolk out there who would be completely bamboozled by it. I want Joe Public on our side of the fight against propaganda, armed with informed dissent.

        GIGO indeed, of course a feature rather than a bug to those with an agenda to push that they’d rather not be too obvious about. Monte Carlo outputs are dependent on the validity of assumptions that go into it’s inputs, not only about the choice of data points to include in the model, but also how to weight the various inputs and realistically model the probability distribution of random terms. The choice of a triangular rather than Gaussian probability distribution is appropriate when the most likely outcome is well understood up-front, and the simulation’s output will respond accordingly to assumptions about the likelihood of the result modeled by the parameters describing the triangular shape, making it’s inappropriate use an obviously convenient attack vector available to researchers seeking to influence the output of the model. I note the prodigious use of triangular probability distribution modeling in the BOTEC report. One seemingly clear example of it’s misuse can be found in Figure 15 where Kilmer’s 2013 estimate is assumed to be the most likely result in a case where the uncertainty inherent in that estimate does not support such an assumption. This bunch likes to use the phrase “best available data”, but despite the subliminal impression it is designed to impart upon the reader, best available does not automatically mean there is a high degree of confidence, particularly in the social sciences.

        My favorite piece of nonsense from that report remains footnote 18, where they brag about the “added layer of complexity” involved in mis-estimating something in the most convoluted fashion imaginable which they could have easily measured in a much more straightforward and accurate way using publicly available information. Manipulate the outcome and get paid extra for it? Propagandist’s Paradise!

        • darkcycle

          First time through, I thought is was just sloppy treatment of bad numbers. But the more I look at it, the more it looks deliberately sloppy. Mark Twain had it right. Figures never lie, but liars figure. And yes. I admit…that was the point where I was dropping off. I didn’t get as far as looking at that fourth table critically until you brought it up and forced me to go back. Thanks for that. Not.

  • Servetus

    Perhaps calling the plan radical makes it appear as something new, sidestepping the stigma that ‘injection sites’ can engender in the public mind. I hope it works. Dr. Morhaim’s radical plan can’t be any worse than most standard addiction treatments.

    Every few months scientists learn something new about addiction. Addiction science is emerging as a complicated dynamic between nature’s wonder chemicals and individual human genetics. Cancer works in similar ways employing different physical or chemical agents. Both constitute disease categories. Yet, since the 60s, we have had a war on cancer (in Nixon-speak), but no war on addiction. A war on drug consumers was bestowed instead, Nixon-style.

    Declaring a war on addiction requires complicated solutions. None of the solutions need include treating addicts as medieval sinners requiring persecution by way of some prevalent but archaic tribal code or ritual. If heroin maintenance is as good as it gets for now, use it. A more focused research and development effort would be one keyed to what can be learned investigating the biochemistry of a mutated opioid receptor gene that allows its recipients to resist addictions. It’s my guess the research approach has a real chance of success, assuming someone follows up and does it.

  • Mr_Alex

    Just letting everybody know I may not be very active as my mum has been told by the local optomertrist that she has High Blood Pressure, Diabetes, OsteoArthtitis and Cataracts. The New Zealand Government has handed my mum a death sentence and as of tonight Vice Minister of Health Peter Dunne has refused any debate on his Twitter on removing Cannabis Oil from Class B on the Drug rating schedule to cultural medicine, the Maori and Chinese are fighting it big time to have it descheduled so the harsh penalties are gone.

    At least two positions have been submitted to Peter Dunne

    The Maori Position is that Cannabis Oil is Rongoroa aka Maori Medicine

    The Chinese Position is that Cannabis Oil was first used as a medicine in early Ming or Han Dynasty which the Modern Chinese still continue to make to this day.

    Both have been ignored by the New Zealand Government mainly the Ministry of Health.

    If any of the DrugWarRant commenters want to add me on FB:

    https://www.facebook.com/alex.h.kuen

  • Duncan20903

    .
    .

    Wow. I thought that they weren’t ever going to figure it out. I think I’m going into shock.

    Just FYI Delegate Morhaim was the primary champion of Maryland’s current medicinal cannabis patient protection law. That’s both the worthless 2013 and the amended 2015 versions. (The parts that made it worthless were the “ideas” of and foisted into the law by his fellow lawmakers.) While it took him years and years to get it codified he really did just keep plugging along until it happened. At least among the Members of the Maryland Legislature he’s certainly the best one to have a chance of getting it through IMO. The fact that he’s an M.D. with a very impressive C.V. certainly isn’t going hurt his chances of getting the sensible past the guardians of stupidity.

  • Duncan20903

    .
    .
    This is a re-run:

    Of course if we prefer to benefit society in the long term we should lobby for a war on peace if we keep in mind just how easily government screws up it’s objectives. Just look what they’ve accomplished in the effort to make the world “drug” free.

    Now that’s just plain silly. But if we’re to have hope for the end of the war on (some) drugs we need something to keep the prohibitionist parasites and their sycophants from getting into real mischief.

    When I consider that the sycophants of prohibition are just none too bright and are very easily confused, I can only come up with one solution: the war on bugs. Since bugs rhymes with drugs and has the same number of syllables that will make for a more orderly facilitation of the transition by not confusing the sycophants any more than is humanly possible to avoid.

    The prohibitionist parasites will not lose any job security since this is yet another futile “war”. There’s actually a darn good possibility it will increase their potential for employment because there are so many damn bugs. Also, bugs don’t vote, picket, have any Constitutionally protected rights, or know how to petition the government for redress of grievances. The only potential problem here may be family loyalty or professional courtesy since so darn many bugs are also parasites.

    Mandatory disclosure of personal interest: I may or may not support the proposal as a result of my genuine, deep seated hatred of insects. But unless I’m grossly mistaken nobody really likes bugs except for forensic nerds on CSI.

  • Matt

    “But science and reality have been pretty much excluded from the public policy conversations when it comes to drugs…” You said it Pete. The sad fact is that you refused to discuss the science and reality about “heroin overdose” as a thread. And then you go and write this. I don’t understand. You obviously had a reason, but ultimately, if people like you refuse to give science and reality a forum then what hope is there? There is nothing positive regards opiate users in the offerings of this politician, it is just more of the same: continuing the paternalistic double-standard (opiate users should be “assisted” with the goal of not using their drug of choice) in order to feed the “recovery” industry with government money. Secondly, there is basically only one drug opiate users want, Morphine. Heroin is just the currently widely available path to morphine. To allude to a drug “…something very close to it” is obviously some sort of cynical scam in the making. The same way methadone is a patronising, cynical scam.

    • Geez, Matt. Really? Are you going to keep on beating this dead horse? Do you even have a clue how blogs work? This is my blog. I write what I want to write about. It is not my job to write what you want me to write about. If you want that, get your own fucking blog. You say that I haven’t given your views a forum, and yet, I keep allowing you to post. I have given you plenty of opportunity to share your views, but I’m not sure about the efficacy of your technique of trying to get people to listen to you by yelling at them.

    • darkcycle

      …and, I’ll add once again that those topics have had ample discussion, not just once, but several times over the last several years. It is a waste of the regular reader of this blog’s time to repeat them. You sound like my drunk uncle at Thanksgiving, yelling about how Ronnie Reagan was the best president we ever had. For the fifteenth time.
      Everyone here supports harm reduction. We are all for safe injection sites. We all pretty much agree that drug substitution therapy should be available, but not forced. People ought to be allowed access to their drug of choice safely. Not everyone here buys into your assertion that overdose of heroin doesn’t happen. Everyone here knows Santon Peele’s work, and he occasionally posts on the Couch as well.
      In short, we have had this discussion. Why don’t you try taking those arguments to people who haven’t heard them before or to policy makers? Don’t ya think it’s time to leave us alone?