Archive for Drugs

Deciphering the War on Drugs

Posted in Current Events with tags , , , , on October 13, 2010 by corecompany

I was in a hotel room in Canada recently. Mercifully, I found an old movie to watch amongst the bizarre Canadian programming. The movie was from 1972 and was adapted from a Joseph Wambaugh novel, “The New Centurions” starring George C. Scott as an LAPD police officer who develops his own brand of justice, which is a mixed bag, but he defends the rights of the immigrants and protects them from an exploitive slum lord.  The character argues that they do jobs nobody else is willing to do and they are humans seeking a better life for their children (what is a more American value than that?).  It struck me that the film was almost as old as I am and yet we have the same arguments today as we did then, it’s a forty-year argument, other than most marriages, who has a forty-year argument?

I have wondered about how the drug war is connected to the immigration problems we face. It must be, the border towns are bloodbaths, more people killed there than in Iraq (I swear, check it out). If we had a stable regulated drug trade would we have immigration problems? Yes. If we had a tax and regulate system of decriminalized free choice intoxicant would we have more secure boarders? Yes.

President Obama just signed a $600 million bill for border security. I am a huge Obama fan and am hesitant to be critical, but, is this  time to pander to the right?  Not to mention, I thought the Obama administration ended the “war” on drugs? They said they did, they said they wanted to change the language of it, move more toward the treatment and prevention. Did I miss the $600 million for treatment bill? Must have skipped CNN that day or maybe I was in Canada?

Am I crazy or is this thinly veiled funding for the war on drugs? Call it what you want, but I think if there are more people killed in an effort than the war on terror, it’s a war too. There is clear and present danger along the border of the US and Mexico and it’s not all housekeepers sneaking across, its drug traffic.

Lets enter Joe’s fantasy world and decriminalize Marijuana, tax it ( how a $40 billion industry doesn’t pay taxes I will never know), regulate it, sell it at 7-11. The violence along the border is greatly reduced, money is made instead of spent and we help the immigration problem. Oh, and some people get really high, giggle at comedy central and eat twinkies and chips.  How is this a choice? People shot and killed or people high, stupid, and complacent? I really don’t get it and I am fairly irritated with the President for not taking a bolder step with this. I am sure he will be really worried when he hears about how upset I am. I say it frequently. Humans like to get high, they like intoxication, no amount of money will change that.


Cameron Douglas – Making People Smile

Posted in Current Events, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2010 by corecompany

The Hollywood kid problem. I have often thought that children of famous people are like marriage or communism; better in theory than practice. I think my favorite part of the Cameron Douglas case is his numerous quotes about how he lives to entertain and make people smile. By that logic, selling Crystal meth out of the Gansevoort hotel fulfilled his dream.  I am sure that made many people happy, at least for their night of clubbing in the meatpacking district.

The Douglas family had been plagued by addictive disease. Eric the much lesser known brother of Michael died after years of smoking crack.  I don’t know the man but I’ll take a wild guess and say Michael Douglas is no stranger to booze, who knows. In other words, Cameron comes by it honestly. His rich and powerful family pleaded with the judge to cut Cameron a break, I guess the judge listened because he got five years for a “10 year minimum sentence”. That makes no sense at all. If the minimum sentence is 10 years how did he get 5? The Judge scolded Cameron’s parents, which they may or may not deserve.

So many issues jump out at me from this. Is he a Hollywood brat, the product of poor parenting, a narcissistic culture? Yes, I am quite sure he is a less than pleasant human. Is he a criminal? I guess, he did break the law. Can he be rehabilitated? It doesn’t seem likely. He is 31 years old and has been this way for a very long time. It is possible that spending 5 years in jail will give him the motivation to create sustainable change but it won’t teach him any lessons. More than likely, he will manipulate his parents and blame them for the way he turned out. They will cave in to their guilt and provide him with some stupid life where he is invested in blame and scapegoating, which, by the way, will NEVER support a person in recovery.

This is a very difficult problem. Does he deserve a prison term? He might. Let’s not pull any punches. My general rule of thumb is to side with the kid, dog, or addict but often addicts not only deserve the mess they create, it may in fact be the best way to help them. Certainly, if they are going to get better, they need to take responsibility for their actions, and be held accountable.

Who knows, maybe Cameron Douglas will speak when he has five years sober and begin it by saying “my bottom was when I was sentenced to prison”.

Alcohol vs. Drugs

Posted in Education with tags , , on February 21, 2010 by corecompany

In thinking about the drug war, I often wonder where we stand with alcohol. From my perspective, it seems to get a free pass. We hear about drugs, which we all know are terrible. Are they? Or is it that we don’t like the people who choose drugs over alcohol? Make no mistake, alcohol is a very dangerous substance and the truth is, it does more damage to society than anything else. Why is it that we treat it differently than other drugs? Marijuana is safer than alcohol and yet alcohol gets a free pass. It’s a strange aspect of the drug war and I started to wonder: what does alcohol cost society and who pays for it?

Nobody seems to know what alcohol consumption costs. Consumption of alcohol is fine but alcohol abuse is a different matter. In a sense, alcohol is just another product that people buy. Of course people are in denial and not honest about their drinking and the impact of it on themselves, their work places, or their families. I don’t think there is any real way to know what alcohol costs in dollars to the US on an annual basis. NIDA doesn’t seem to know. The Marin institute, a think tank in California estimates the cost to be 175.9 billion dollars annually. Seems like a huge number. Some of the categories they were looking into were; additional health care costs, loss of productivity, damage to property. As a side note, imagine the additional cost if we were trying to arrest people for consuming it. Forget scholarly research and stats, I argue they are never accurate with any kind of questions about chemical use because, addicts lie. In any event, let’s say alcohol cost a shitload of money every year in many ways, ways we cannot even imagine. Who pays the tab? The consumers of the product don’t pay the price, not really (when do drunks ever pay the price?). Looking into this and not very deeply, I was shocked to find how minimal the taxes are. In New York, beer is taxed .14 per gallon, wine .30 per gallon, and distilled liquor $6.44 per gallon. Cigarettes are taxed $2.75 per pack.  A gallon of beer can do a lot of damage. Is .14 adequate?

Maybe one of the ways that we can finance treatment and continuing care options is by taxing alcohol in a real way. How about a .25 per drink tax in NYC bars? Who would this hurt? Bar owners? Not a chance. Who supports the low taxes on alcohol? Must be the alcohol lobby. In spite of our enmeshed relationship with alcohol, it is not a ‘needed” product. It’s not bread, milk, heating oil or gas. Have we become so fucked up by this substance that we just accept the damage it does to us? If cigarettes are taxed at 2.75 per pack, so should a bottle of wine, a 6 pack of beer or a bottle of liquor. Nobody likes taxes so I will take the heat: it can be called the “Schrank damage control/treatment option tax” and if you don’t like the tax, don’t buy the product. Take the money you will be saving and throw it into the hat at an AA meeting and shut the fuck up, you’ll thank me later.

D.A.R.E. Fails!

Posted in Drug Reform with tags , , on February 3, 2010 by corecompany

Who would dare to complain about D.A.R.E.? It’s an organization whose sole mission is to keep kids off drugs, what could be wrong with that? Absolutely nothing, except that they leave a few things out, minimize the problem, exclude people already impaired, shame children of alcoholics and perhaps worst of all, eclipse and consume potential because after all, we must be addressing the drug issue in schools, we have D.A.R.E.

The program itself is standard “Just say No!” fare. It does little to educate about the complexities of the problem, nor does it present it as a health issue. It presents it as a “choice”, don’t make the wrong choice and do drugs, play sports, dance, support your school!! All great ideas but really are we going to combat a complicated biological disease with dance? C’mon kids, dance those blues away! Dance that depression away! Dance your abusive parents away! Dance! Dance! Dance!! I am too old to be a graduate of the D.A.R.E. program but if it had been around when I was in school, I wonder what it would have done. There were individuals and systems letting me know that drinking was bad but it wasn’t doing anything for my internal world, my isolation and feelings of being disenfranchised but that keg party was working a fucking miracle.

The D.A.R.E. message is clear. Drugs are bad. Dumb people do drugs; lazy people do them as well. In other words “bad” folks get themselves involved with drugs. I am not sure what blameless holy virtuous people do, I assume they dance because the DARE website really promotes dance. Does the DARE program have happy feet? Why all the dancing? The message is shaming and shame never helps with drug issues. Additionally there is no mention made of disease, the AMA, treatment or recovery. Nowhere is the message: “not their fault but their responsibility’ delivered. Just don’t be bad, dance!

The advisory boards with the DARE program include: education (makes sense), Law enforcement (Oh, Jesus, not this again) and scientific. There seems to be something missing here. How about a doctor, people in recovery, social workers, family therapists, the kind of people who are on the front line of the drug culture in America. Shall we hear from them? It makes no sense to me – the greatest success of living drug free has been people in recovery. For some it’s 12 step participation, others find their own road. Somehow I would think that government agencies would want to hear from people who live drug free. Never do I see ‘recovery advisory board” in any of this and DARE is no exception.

The cost of the program is unclear. DARE itself estimates anywhere from 438 million to 604 million. I guess that is the cost of running the program, paying for the officers who facilitate it etc. Also I think they have a dog mascot, maybe it’s a lion, one of those creepy American kabuki things. I’m sure those things don’t come cheap. What is the net result of DARE? I don’t know. I don’t know if it keeps anyone off drugs or not. What I think is it is a gross oversimplification of the problem, and the added value is not much. Additionally, I can’t imagine being a school aged child listening to how bad and dumb alcoholics are when they are holding a family secret. That must be torture. Unless of course they are deeply engaged in expressive dance.  Thank God DARE isn’t into hiking. I can’t tell you how many conferences I go to where people try to treat mental illness with hiking. Frankly, I hate hiking; I’m not crazy about bugs or dirt. I do however like the comfort of knowing I can order Chinese food at any moment which is why I live in New York but OK if DARE knows something I don’t, let them hike, dance, whatever it takes.  In any event, is this the best allocation of funds? Maybe, but it seems lopsided to me. The other thing I wonder about is the kids there will most likely agree with the basic concepts of the program but what about the tortured iconoclasts? Do they agree? Do they challenge the ideas? I don’t think we know because I think those kids are out smoking weed, missing the dance-a-thon.

My biggest issue with DARE is that it has become some kind of sacred cow in American culture. You see their t-shirts, their corporate partnerships, we all know their logo and their bumper sticker, often next to those obnoxious “my kid is a (whatever)’ sticker. DARE has become a fairly powerful lobby, rejecting any idea other than “just say no”, they are the Christian right of all those interested in drug policy. They oppose reform, damn to hell the idea of tax and regulate and shun discourse about the drug issue in America. I was not surprised that all regional directors are white and male with the exception of an Asian female. Lets see some black people on these boards, children who have grown up fatherless as a result of the drug war, overworked grandmas left to care for children of drug war casualties. Where is their voice?  As a side note, DARE was listed by the US surgeon generals office in the category of ‘ineffective programs” furthermore the government accountability office reported in 2003 that there are ‘no significant differences in illicit drug use  (this would exclude alcohol) between students who received DARE and students who did not.

While well meaning, DARE misses the mark, stifles progress, shames us children of alcoholics and the government calls it “ineffective”. Maybe it’s just incomplete. Maybe education needs to expand to families and schools about how to handle a substance misuse issue. Of course we would have to be honest and assume that all schools and communities have some range of substance misuse. I will chair the committee to design the curriculum, make the board of many people from many disciplines. My fee will be HUGE but no matter, we will partner with Perdu Pharma (makers of Oxycontin), I am sure they won’t mind my fee and giving me the keys to the jet, me and my board will be busy and we will need to travel. DARE? You have got to be fucking kidding.

NCAA Drug Policy Needs an Overhaul!

Posted in Education with tags , , , on June 24, 2009 by corecompany


NCAA drug testing policy

             There are few certainties when dealing with chemical misuse but one of them is that treatment works better than punishment. Part of the diagnostic criteria is that the individual is willing to use in spite of negative consequences (like punishment).

            In Section 4 (yes, that’s what it says) the NCAA drug policy states that if a student athlete (a questionable label in and of itself) tests positive for a street drug a second time they will lose all remaining eligibility. So in other words, “we will threaten and punish you” two things that almost never work with chemical abuse. Additionally, what is done with these “bad” kids who would use street drugs? Not much, I surmise. What University can claim a mental health professional as a member of the staff? Not one across campus in an over extended counseling office but one integrated into the daily lives of young people? None that I know.

            As an additional weirdness, only the rifle sports ban alcohol. That is good policy: “give a kid a gun; don’t let them get drunk”.  What the NCAA is saying is: go ahead and use the most damaging drug, the one that financially supports us.

            I agree that being drug free is a good idea for athletes; I think it’s a good idea for everyone, but why is a very dangerous psycho reactive drug (Etoh, demon alcohol) not banned with the rest of them? Additionally, why is there not a proactive plan to engage athletes before the damage is done? And why, oh why, is there not treatment for the young people who fall into a very easy trap?

            The NCAA is a very important system to have sensible, realistic policy. At some point in their lives many young people aspire to be accomplished athletes so a system like the NCAA is an important communicator whether they realize it or not or feel they have a responsibility to the issue is another question.

$486 Billion Dollars for Rehab?

Posted in Drug Reform with tags , , , on June 1, 2009 by corecompany


 In a storywritten by Erik Eckholm in the New York Times, government spending related to smoking and abuse of alcohol and other drugs hit  $486 billion, yes, with a B, billion. Most of the money seems to be spent on medical costs associated with overdoses, lung cancer, cirrhosis as well as law enforcement and our old friend, incarceration. A bit over 2% (awww, isn’t that a cute little percentage?) was spent on prevention, treatment, and addiction research. In other words 98% spent on futility, 2% spent on what works better.

            This insanity speaks for itself. Joe Califano, chairman of the National Center on Addiction and Substance abuse at Columbia University says “this is such a stunning misallocation of funds”. How is this rationalized? How could this be?  What’s known about addiction is very little, but what is known is that it costs huge amounts of money not to mention the emotional toll it takes on families.  What does this mean exactly? I am not sure since I have a limited understanding of  economics. I do however know that having worked in grimy clinics (MASH units in the War on Drugs) the resources are extremely limited, staff overworked and irritable, and kicking and swearing at the outdated copy machine was common place. Does the DEA have an old copier that never works? I suspect not.