Monday, December 01, 2008

Rare commonsense about recreational drugs

At the same time 68% of Swiss voters supported their prescribed heroin  program, Lisa Pryor published a thoughtful view in the SMH about why alcohol is legal and ecstasy isn't.

She reports on a drug conference which looked at personalities in terms of strong engines and weak brakes (or vice versa). Confidence, outgoing personality, goal-setting and reward-seeking make for a "strong engine" and are qualities we try to instill into young people. Research shows that "strong engine" types are also those who use ecstasy to enhance the good things in life, as opposed to "weak engine/strong brake" types who are more likely to choose drugs which provide an escape from bad times -- like alcohol, valium [and heroin]. 

Prior says ecstasy should be legal and ways should also be found to minimise drug use in teenagers who are still developing their prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain that controls inhibition or its opposite -- in other words, the brakes.

Ideally, people should have strong engines and strong brakes.

Pryor challenges the 'normative' view that people who drink are OK and those who take ecstasy (MDMA) are 'screwy', a widespread misconception that underpins prohibition.

PS: A Swiss mother who opposed heroin prescription said she would rather her four children were dead than on prescription heroin. Now that's screwy!

PPS (22/12/08) A "bad batch" of GHB (also known as fantasy or liquid ecstasy) hospitalised 12 and overdosed another 30 at a Melbourne rave party, reports The Age.
GHB is the drug that killed Dianne Brimble on THAT cruise. No prizes for guessing that this blog sees this latest incident as another failure of prohibition -- first because the drug was so freely available despite the law, and secondly because this sort of waste of people and resources would be  far less likely if people could get reliable, good quality ecstasy MDMA at their local Chemist. Why would you take illegal and dangerous GHB when safe, legal ecstasy is available? The effects are similar, I am told. Meanwhile the prohibitionists rant about MDMA as if it was just as dangerous as GHB, so kids are put at risk through misinformation. GHB is dangerous and MDMA isn't but the truth is apparently "the wrong message", so lies prevail.


Fitzroyalty said...

As a historian I see the current drug hypocrisy as a complete joke. Those drugs found in Europe from pre-history, such as alcohol, are legal in modern western society. The drugs found in products adopted during the renaissance (chocolate, tobacco, tea) remain legal in modern western society regardless of their exotic foreign (to the western mind) origins.

It’s the drugs originating from hostile foreign places (China, South America) during times of moral panic, economic uncertainty and political conflict (nineteenth century America and the Victorian era British empire) such as opium and cocaine that are currently illegal in the west.

Terry Wright said...

The question is, will Australia finally commit to their own trial?
And if so, will it go the way of Germany, Spain and probably Canada where the results are spectacular but the government is too gutless to make it permanent?

Anonymous said...

What a bore this blog is. All about graffiti, drugs , booze and sex.

Yep - sounds pretty kings Cross to me.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous - it's actually about wowserism which is extremely boring - not to mention extremely ugly.

Anonymous said...

SMH 7 December

Amsterdam to close many brothels, marijuana cafes

Amsterdam has unveiled plans to shutter up to half of its famed brothels and marijuana cafes as part of a major clean-up of its ancient city centre.

The city says it wants to drive organised crime out of the neighbourhood, and is targeting businesses that "generate criminality," including prostitution, gambling parlours, "smart shops" that sell herbal treatments, head shops and "coffee shops" where marijuana is sold openly.

"By reduction and zoning of these kinds of functions, we will be able to manage better and tackle the criminal infrastructure," the city said in a statement.

It said it would also reduce a number of business it sees as related to the "decay" of the centre, including peep shows, sex shows, sex shops, mini supermarkets, massage parlours and souvenir shops.

The city said there were too many of these and it believes some are used for money-laundering by drug dealers and the human traffickers who supply many of the city's prostitutes.

Under the plan announced on Saturday, Amsterdam will spend 30 million ($59.8 million) to 40 million euros ($79.7 million) to bring hotels, restaurants, cultural organisations and boutiques to the centre. It will also build new underground parking areas for cars and bikes and may use some of the vacated buildings to ease a housing shortage.

Amsterdam already had plans to close many brothels and said last month it might close some coffee shops throughout the city, but the plans announced on Saturday go much further.

The city said it would offer retraining to prostitutes and coffee shop employees who will lose their jobs as a result of the plan.

Prostitution, which has spread into several areas of the centre, will be allowed only in two areas - notably De Wallen ("The Walls"), a web of streets and alleys around the city's medieval retaining dam walls. The area has been a centre of prostitution since before the city's golden shipping age in the 1600s.

Prostitution was legalised in the Netherlands in 2000, formalising a long-standing tolerance policy.

Marijuana is technically illegal in the Netherlands, but prosecutors won't press charges for possession of small amounts and the coffee shops are able to sell it openly.

The Editor said...

Yes, the conservatives have gained control in Amsterdam and are imposing their moral panic on everyone else. Prediction: prohibitive restrictions on what people enjoy doing will INCREASE the criminal element as it always does. Income from tourism will dive. The relocations will seriously damage the businesses involved.
Under the present relatively tolerant system, rates of cannabis use, heroin use and incarceration are around half that of the tough-on-drugs US.
It is a tragedy of top-down imposed ideas that look good on a map at the expense of functioning networks that have evolved organically. Jane Jacobs will be rolling in her grave. Vale Amsterdam.

Charles said...

I came across this site by reading Michael's opinion piece from City News. I find it refreshing that the paper would choose to put his column beside Mr Andrew Woodhouse, which has the most shocking opinion about drugs. His last commentary regarding prohibition on drugs sounds like something a right wing zealot would advocate.

The problem with 'banning' drugs, even if one's intention is to prevent the ill-effects of some of these drugs is to have the opposite effect.

The only way to counter them is to legalise drugs and adopt harm prevention strategies.