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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Drug Policy Double-Standards 

I've had it with the ostensibly health-related meddling that is drug policy. Not merely because there should be strong limits to how far you can interfere in the lives of other adults "for their own good", but also because of the sheer duplicitous-ness that overlooks, in particular, the effects of alcohol (and to a certain extent tobacco).

To wit: the death of one person alleged to be due to party pills (NZ) or magic mushrooms (NL) is front page news, generating much heat for the prohibitionist lobby. Alcohol-related deaths, despite being considerably more frequent (reflecting, in part, much greater use of alcohol), rarely make headlines. Tobacco-related deaths almost never.

To consider the Dutch case more fully, prohibition of fresh mushrooms is being urged primarily because of "the death of a 17-year-old French girl, who jumped from a building after eating psychedelic mushrooms while on a school visit. ... [Her] parents blamed their daughter's death in March on hallucinations brought on by the mushrooms, although the teenager had suffered from psychiatric problems in the past." A sad case, no doubt, but how many people jump/slip/fall in ways that injure or kill themselves every fucking week as a result of alcohol?

Turning to New Zealand: a Liquor Shop was granted a licence on condition it not sell the (still legal) party pills because some local wowsers asserted:
"There is mounting evidence which suggests that the consumption of party pills is detrimental to people's health and well-being," the pair said.

"There is a very real risk that party pills consumed with alcohol can make people very ill.

"The causal link between the consumption of party pills and death has not been discounted."
Well no fucking shit, but consider the primary purpose of a liquor store is to sell alcohol, where the "causal link" to ill-health is well fucking established.

The NZ Ministry of Health estimates "that alcohol-related conditions account for 3.1% of all male deaths and 1.41% of all female deaths in New Zealand" and adds that "[a]s well as directly causing deaths, alcohol-related health problems cause distress and disability, and result in a significant and costly use of health services."

Some statistics, even when taken with a grain of salt, make for interesting reading:

Drug-related deaths in NZ (all drugs, not just the "evil" ones):

Tobacco: In 1996, approximately 4700 deaths were attributed to tobacco smoking, accounting for 17 percent of all deaths.

Alcohol: There were 142 deaths in 1997 where the underlying cause of death was an alcohol-related condition. The age-standardised mortality rate due to alcohol-related conditions was 3.3 per 100,000 population.

Opiates: There were 156 deaths in the period 1990–96 [Ed: note longer time period] where opiate-related conditions or poisonings were the underlying cause of death.

Cannabis: There were seven deaths over the period 1990-96 where a cannabis-related condition such as drug abuse or dependence was the underlying cause of death

Hallucinogens: There were two deaths between 1990 and 1996 where a hallucinogen (in combination with other drugs) was the underlying cause of death.

You get the general idea.

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I think someone needs a blunt and a lie down :)
What a good idea. Thanks. You were talking about me, right?

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