Former drug czar Barry McCaffrey says the darndest things. What is it about drug czars and former drug czars? They’re so used to making stuff up that it doesn’t even phase them anymore.
Here’s an article published in the Monterey County Herald on June 10 and re-printed in Therapeutics Daily (free registration required).
Drug addiction is a medical problem that should be treated as a chronic disease, according to experts gathered Friday at the Hyatt Regency Monterey for a national forum on drug and alcohol dependency.
OK so far, but McCaffrey hasn’t been quoted yet…
Illegal drug use in the United States “has by and large already been decriminalized,” said former U.S. drug czar and retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey. The problem, he said, isn’t that drugs are illegal, but that they cause mental, medical, legal and social problems.
There are a whole lot of people in jail, and who have been denied financial aid, and who have lost their families, (and even who are dead), who would be surprised to learn that drugs are essentially decriminalized. Perhaps Barry would be willing to give them a note to give to their arresting officer or judge.
And, you know, if drugs are causing legal problems, wouldn’t at least part of those legal problems have something to do with the fact that the drugs are illegal?
And finally, drugs can’t actually cause any of those problems. It’s possible that abusing drugs could lead to some of those problems. But not drugs themselves.
McCaffrey served as director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy in the Clinton administration and now teaches national security affairs at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
He and Barry W. Karlin, chairman and CEO of CRC Health Groups Inc., addressed the Western U.S. Summit for Clinical Excellence on Tuesday, which drew 250 health professionals — social workers, psychologists, addiction counselors, researchers and doctors — under the aegis of the Ben Franklin Institute of Scottsdale, Ariz.
And McCaffrey was the best they could do?
McCaffrey has recently returned from Afghanistan, where the new government has been waging an opium-eradication campaign.
Such work has been successful in other countries, he said. In the past five years, Pakistan and Thailand have essentially ended large-scale opium poppy farming, and Peru and Bolivia have halted coca farming, though “there is nothing more lucrative than growing coca or opium.” [emphasis added]
Peru and Bolivia have halted coca farming??? In whose reality? Numbers in this area are extremely unreliable (usually understated), but according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime most recent statistics, Bolivia had 27,700 hectares of coca in cultivation in 2004, while Peru had 50,300. Hardly halted.
And while I haven’t taken the time to look up the Pakistan and Thailand figures, as countries they are hardly analogous to Afghanistan.
Success demands a three-pronged approach, McCaffrey said: help from the government to establish legitimate crops by teaching farmers how to grow them, supplying them with seed, tools and other materials and building road networks to get them to market; eradicating illegal crops; and having a nation’s leadership publicly denounce drug cultivation as harmful to the country.
Yes. That’s what we tried in Colombia. Didn’t work.
In Afghanistan’s case, he said, opium use “is non-Islamic, not in accord with their traditions,” and its continued presence generates massive drug abuse, addiction, graft, violence and corruption.
The fact that it is illegal causes the problems. The fact that it is present is simply an unalterable function of supply and demand.
Afghanistan is now the world’s No. 1 heroin supplier, he said. Proceeds from drugs fund terrorist campaigns by al-Qaida and warlords, and destabilizes the democracy the U.S. hopes to see built there, he said.
Well, when you make it profitable by putting the control in the hands of criminals…
McCaffrey said he has been supportive of efforts to “create conditions of law and order” on the U.S.-Mexican border, but said that 95 percent of illegal immigrants who cross into the United States have nothing to do with crime or drugs.
Canada, he said, is one of the largest producers of marijuana, and the Netherlands is one of the top suppliers of mood-enhancing drugs such as Ecstasy.
Well, U.S. customs agents say that the amount of marijuana entering the U.S. through Canada “is dwarfed by that from Mexico.”
McCaffrey and Karlin said educating young people from middle school through high school is key.
A youth who can reach age 21 without abusing drugs or alcohol, Karlin said, stands a better than 90 percent chance of having no substance abuse problems as an adult.
Actually, the critical time is the younger years, and we could reduce abuse in younger children by legalizing and regulating drugs.
Drug and alcohol addiction can’t be cured with a few weeks of treatment at a detox center, he said.
It has to be treated “as a chronic condition, with long-term care, like diabetes, hypertension or asthma.”
And yes, it helps that you can get asthma treatment without getting thrown in jail.
McCaffrey said there have been victories in the war on drugs domestically.
In the past three years, U.S. “current use” — use of any drug within the past 30 days — has declined nationwide 11 percent, he said. During the past 20 years, drug abuse has fallen 50 percent, and crime and teenage pregnancy are in decline.
What??? Drug abuse has fallen 50 percent? Where? And teenage pregnancy decline is a drug war victory? Did McCaffrey actually believe those ads?
The nation faces a problem with rising use of methamphetamines, pharmaceutical painkillers and artificial opiates, “the new heroin,” McCaffrey said.
Ah yes. The new heroin, the new crack. The same old story.
Drugs and alcohol, he said, are involved in most cases where people are arrested and incarcerated for crimes, or hospitalized for traumatic injuries, and cost billions of dollars in lost productivity, health care, material loss and damage.
Did you know that police are involved in most cases where people are arrested and incarcerated for crimes? and that hospitals are involved in most traumatic injuries, and the drug czars cost us billions of dollars in lost productivity, health care, material loss and damage?
Go back to West Point, General.