Drug Use:Mankind has been using various substances to alter his conscious for countless centuries, with the first recorded use of drugs dating back to 5000 B.
C., Sumerians using opium had named the substance “HUL”, which means joy or rejoicing, there is evidence of alcohol being produced in Egypt in 3500 B.C. and the earliest recorded medicinal use of marijuana dates from 2737 B.C. China. However only the 19th century did man manage to extract the active substances from the multitude of plants and mushrooms that he consumed for his ethereal experiences, and so began the age of opium.
The unregulated sale of morphine, cocaine, heroin and various other consciousness expanding substances were sold over the counter and prescribed by doctors. From the age of the Greeks to the 19th century doctors regarded opium as the cure for everything stretching from the common cold to measles to bronchitis to arthritis to poor eyesight to aching muscles to infections and a host of other problems that cannot even be imagined by the modern mind.There are approximately 4000 different plants that we know of that yield psychoactive substances and at least 60 of them have been in constant use in some part of the world throughout history . For an immense part of human history, similar to the human experience with tobacco, the adverse effects of most of these substances was not known. Many hallucinogenic drugs were used in rituals by cultures all over the world, while some cultures even consumed drugs as a part of their religion, case in point being the Sufi’s in turkey. Opium, as has already been stated, was prescribed by doctors all over the world for a significant majority of maladies.
In addition it served one of the most basic forms of trade in Asia for centuries.The detrimental effects of drug use were discovered gradually, with addiction spreading from the opium dens of the east. The law against drug abuse in the US was established in San Francisco, California, in1875, when opium was termed to drain the character and morals of young men and men and anyone in contact with it, opium dens were banned. It took modern medicine many more years to determine the complete effects of various drugs and many studies are still underway, experts even today prescribe marijuana for various diseases, such as glaucoma, in the US. Since the history of drug use has been shrouded in so much mystery we are unable to piece together the full power of these substances, as it is undeniable that at different times in human history different drugs have become widespread in society and played a key role in social upheaval and change.
The effects of drug use must be analyzed in context with the historical and socio-cultural aspects of its occurrence.However, while we do not possess a complete knowledge over drugs we do know most of their basic properties and we stand at a unique place in time where we must define, with our knowledge of the effects of drug use and our need in this day and age for personal freedom, a line that divides drug use from drug abuse. Substance abuse was once defined as the chronic or habitual usage of an illicit substance to alter ones body or mind. However the modern world has created a blend of greys that have nullified this black and white definition. With many psychoactive substances available as over the counter medicines, for example cough medicines and nasal sprays, and a wide host of body enhancing steroids available, along with newfound knowledge of psychological addiction as being mutually exclusive from physical addiction we must suitably modernize the definition.
In today’s world substance abuse may be defined as the continual use of a psychoactive substance, licit or illicit, despite detrimental effects to the user and society, both as physical and psychological effects.Physical addiction is pertaining to the development of a tolerance for the substance, continually having to increase the dosage to achieve the desired effect and experiencing withdrawal symptoms when dosage is not received. Psychological addiction is the user’s constant craving for the substance in order to experience a feeling of well being, eventually the user must consume a large amount of substance just to feel normal.However many substances must be looked at in context to socio-cultural values amongst which they are used. While the stimulant Caffeine, which is known to be physically addictive, is present in tea and coffee, it has been consumed by a significant majority of the world for centuries, and this is not regarded as substance abuse. Till not very long ago tobacco was regarded as harmless whereas today its detrimental effects are loudly displayed on every packet of cigarettes.Despite billions of dollars spent on creating awareness amongst the people of the world about the dangers of drug abuse and addiction, the black market for illicit drugs continues to be a multi billion dollar a year industry that stretches across the globe.
Some countries have harsher penalties for possession of these “illicit” substances, such as Saudi Arabia where the penalty for possession of drugs is beheading, while others have government sanctioned coffee houses where one can buy and consume quality controlled cannabis, such as the Netherlands. The question that this paper asks is which stratagem has proven most effective against drug abuse, to outlaw it as a taboo of society, ot to legalize it and regulate it. Hard Drugs and Soft Drugs:There is a medically distinct line in between hard drugs and soft drugs, however the social perception of these terms, and of the social perception of various drugs of choice has created a wide spectrum of drug laws all over the world, with some countries banning hard drugs but legalizing soft drugs, and others banning soft drugs but legalizing certain hard drugs.Hard drugs are those substances which are physically very addictive, are easy to overdose on and pose serious health risks and withdrawal symptoms upon abstinence.
Opiates such as heroin and morphine fall in this category, along with nicotine and alcohol.Soft drugs are those substances which are not very addictive or not at all addictive, and are very difficult if at all possible to overdose on. They produce no significant physical manifestation during use and the user experiences no withdrawal upon stopping use.
A very important example of a soft drug, especially with context to the laws of the Netherlands, is cannabis; other examples are LSD and mescaline. The difference between legalization and decriminalization:While on first glance the terms legalization and decriminalization may seem to be synonyms, a vast chasm exists between the actual meaning and implications of both terms.Decriminalization, as the name suggests, decriminalizes the individual who is in possession of the drug, i.
e. any person found to be in the possession of a drug, below a legally prescribed limit, will not be regarded as a felon or a criminal. Also the punishment for drug possession, under a certain amount, is limited to a citation and a minimal fine. Decriminalization, however, still maintains the felony status of cultivating, distributing and trafficking drugs, and individuals partaking in these activities are viewed as criminals.Legalization on the other hand may have a number of different permutations, starting from the libertarian approach of free market distribution of all drugs, to the availability of only “soft” drugs, to the availability of drugs in the same manner as tobacco and alcohol, licensed, taxed and regulated. A wide spectrum of supporters exist for the legalization approach to the drug problem, however a majority are in favor of its distribution as a controlled substance, regulated by the public health facilities, rather than the creation of an over the counter free market of drugs.
Both concepts would lead to widely different societies, and the pros and cons of each are being heatedly discussed worldwide. Decriminalization has been embraced by some US states and Canada, while a form of legalization of soft drugs is present in the Netherlands. Both concepts have widely different effects which are far reaching and as yet we are only beginning to completely understand the phenomena.One thing, however, which both concepts provide, is an immense amount of revenue which is saved for the state in the form of finance and resources which are expended on enforcing laws against drugs, as well as an appreciable decrease in drug related crime, which is a natural by product of both concepts.Why soft drugs shouldn’t be legalized:Soft drugs, such as marijuana, are regarded as “gateway” drugs, as they lead to harder substances. Most hard drug users start out their addiction with soft drugs. Legalization of soft drugs would make them openly available and hence expose an immense number of individuals to the crippling gateway of hard drugs. The gateway drug theory is one that is widely accepted all over the world and has been proven by many surveys.
In addition to this, open availability of the substance would naturally lead to an increased amount of the public having access to it and hence experimenting with it and therefore a lot more people would be using the drug as a gateway.Why soft drugs should be legalized:Drug abuse is an undeniable part of human nature. From the most modern of the first world countries to the most poverty stricken of the third world nations. The immense number of users all over the world, along with the multi-billion dollar industry that supports these users, is testament to mankind’s need for drugs. Science has proven some soft drugs, such as marijuana and hashish, to have detrimental effects which are lower than those induced by tobacco and alcohol.
It is hence only logical for soft drugs such as cannabis to be legalized and made available in the same manner as tobacco and alcohol, i.e. regulated, taxed and subject to law. It would not only result in a large amount of revenue for the state in the form of taxes, it would save money and resources which would otherwise be spent on drug prohibition and also regulate drug use related crimes by preventing underage sale, use in public places and driving while intoxicated.Another widely accepted argument for the legalization for soft drugs is that they have been proven to be at a par with substances such as tobacco and alcohol with regards to intoxication and addiction. As both alcohol and tobacco are openly available, albeit with some restrictions, it is argued that soft drugs should be provided, regulated and taxed by the government. This would allow regulation of the dosages provided to users, elimination of health threatening impurities, regulation of prices and hence a reduction in the crimes committed to create revenue for drugs, and of course the immense influx of finance and resources which would be freed up from the drug prohibition effort.Compare with USA and AmsterdamThe views that the US and Dutch governments hold on drug use are very different from one another and they produce very different results.
The US views drug use or sale as a felony and has deemed it punishable as such, whereas the Dutch regard drug use as a public health issue and tackle it with a policy of “Prevention, Information and Education”. Both are at absolutely opposite ends of the spectrum and provide a perfect historical precedent for studying the results of the application of both theories of controlling drug use, i.e. embracing it and creating freedom and responsibility amongst the people versus prohibiting it and spending millions trying to stamp out the inevitable black market.The US has long since regarded drug use, possession and trafficking as a crime and has been engaged in a “War on Drugs” for many decades. The Drug Enforcement Agency is an exceptionally well funded part of the US law enforcement team and significant finances and resources are allocated to it.
Drug possession, hard or soft, marijuana or cocaine, is a crime in the US punishable by incarceration or a large fine or both. Drug use has been deemed taboo in the US for decades, and many social stigma have been attached to it, mainly in the form of racial slurs against the negro community.The Dutch government, on the other hand, is of the opinion that a distinction may be made between hard drugs and soft drugs. Possession of soft drugs, such as cannabis products, for individual consumption is allowed, and over the years limited movement of retail trade has led to the creation of coffee shops selling cannabis. Penalties for drug trafficking or possession of hard drugs, such as heroin or cocaine, are still strict and special measures are employed to prevent cross border drug trafficking. A policy of “prevention, information and education” is adhered to by the Dutch.Both these policies create a widely different effect and the immense difference in their effects can be judged from a mere glance at the following statistics.
Social IndicatorComparison YearUSANetherlandsLifetime prevalence of marijuana use (ages 12+)200136.9%117.0% 2Past month prevalence of marijuana use (ages 12+)20015.4% 13.
0% 2Lifetime prevalence of heroin use (ages 12+)20011.4% 10.4% 2Incarceration Rate per 100,000 population2002701 3100 4Per capita spending on criminal justice system (in Euros)1998€379 5€223 5Homicide rate per 100,000 populationAvg.1999-20015.56 61.
51 6As is clear from these statistics, there is a markedly lower number of drug users in the Netherlands in comparison to the US. In addition to this the number of hard drug addicts in the Netherlands is lower than the US, in addition to which drug related crime is a virtual non-entity, while in the US the drug trade is an immense, untaxed and unregulated $500 billion dollars a year, not the mention the millions spent on the law enforcement agencies to try and regulate the problem. Jeremy Bentham, suppose, gets back to life again and if he is asked about his stand on the issue of legalization of marijuana. He would go for a statistical analysis probably in which he would figure out whether more people are against it or speaks for it. If he found more people on the “for” side he would definitely go for a YES towards the question mark of legalization of the drugs.
If many people were found against it, he would, he too would be against it. He might also say that in the areas where there are more marijuana addicts it should be legal in those areas while in areas where there are lesser marijuana addicts it should be banned. His position would be perfectly according to his doctrine of utilitarianism. According to this theory something that gives pleasure to more people and pain to lesser people is a pleasure and legal. While if something gives pain to more people and pleasure to less people it’s a pain and should be illegal. I will not agree with his stand on this issue. This simple principal of utilitarianism is very controversial.
It is like saying that even if something is bad (like declared in the religion by GOD) but if people like it, it should be legalized. Similarly, if something is good but people don’t like it (just because they are lazy to do it) it should be banned and declared bad. If his doctrine is adopted then more and more illegal ethical behaviors would find their way into the legal books and the distinction between the good and bad would vanish. Legalizing marijuana would be like letting people kill themselves. At the present even if somebody takes it for pleasure at least he knows that he isn’t doing a good thing and he wouldn’t want his children to do it and would help it not to spread. But if it is legalized then it wouldn’t make a negative image to be addicted to marijuana in the peoples’ mind and hence chances would be higher that more and more people would be addicted to it. Conclusion:The argument of legalization or decriminalization has been argued over many times in as many years.
When the argument is approached on paper, with principles held in the forefront of ones mind, prohibition does seem to be the right course of action considering human nature to be what it is. However, it is not on paper and in theory that this argument must be decided but in practical implementation and the US and the Netherlands provide a perfect comparison for a study into the effects of taking either approach to the drug problem, with one making the activity illegal and punishable by law, and the other making it a public health issue and to be treated as such. However, after analysis of the data present on drug addiction, drug related crimes and drug trafficking for both the countries it is clear to see that it is the Dutch approach that is working out better.
Hence, logically, we come to the conclusion that legalization of soft drugs, under strict government taxation and regulation, is the answer to the drug problem.References:: US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, National Household Survey on Drug Abuse: Volume I. Summary of National Findings (Washington, DC: HHS, August 2002), p. 109, Table H.1.: Trimbos Institute, “Report to the EMCDDA by the Reitox National Focal Point, The Netherlands Drug Situation 2002” (Lisboa, Portugal: European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, Nov.
2002), p. 28, Table 2.1.: Walmsley, Roy, “World Prison Population List (fifth edition) (London, England: Research, Development and Statistics Directorate of the Home Office), Dec. 2003, p. 3, Table 2.
: Walmsley, Roy, “World Prison Population List (fifth edition) (London, England: Research, Development and Statistics Directorate of the Home Office), Dec. 2003, p. 5, Table 4.: van Dijk, Frans & Jaap de Waard, “Legal infrastructure of the Netherlands in international perspective: Crime control” (Netherlands: Ministry of Justice, June 2000), p. 9, Table S.
13.: Barclay, Gordon, Cynthia Tavares, Sally Kenny, Arsalaan Siddique & Emma Wilby, “International comparisons of criminal justice statistics 2001,” Issue 12/03 (London, England: Home Office Research, Development & Statistics Directorate, October 2003), p. 10, Table 1.1.: Malcom, Andrew, The Pursuit of Intoxication (N.Y.
: Washington Square Press, 1972), p. 41.