The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 facilitated the creation of a drug-free America as a policy goal. A fundamental provision of that acts was the establishment of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to set priorities, implement a national strategy, and certify federal drug-control budgets. Other countries around the world, including Bulgaria, have similar policies. Based on what I have read in this week’s chapter of the textbook, my opinion is that governments do waste money on meaningless projects sometimes. As far as the government of Switzerland has achieved substantial positive results after adopting an alternative approach to the problem of heroin addiction, what are the rest of the countries around the world waiting for?
Another example of similar approach towards the problem with alcoholism is the legislation of the Dominican Republic. I went there on vacation a few years back and was surprised to find out that locals were allowed to drive even after alcohol consumption, regardless of the amounts, and the car accident rate was among the lowest in the world. What does that mean? Probably because when something is forbidden or out of reach, it seems more interesting.
Alcohol in Saudi Arabia for instance, is strictly forbidden. Yet, the country has the highest rates of alcohol abuse. Penalties for the import, manufacture, possession, and consumption of alcohol or illegal drugs in Saudi Arabia are severe. Still the country has considerably high numbers of alcohol and drug addicts. Alcoholism only accounts for approximately 6.25% of the total population. The statistics I have used only give a general indication as there is no official documentation on this issue. Having lived in the region for over 12 years however, has provided me with a clear picture of the situation. I have witnessed a Saudi national consuming 8 beers in a row in an airport lounge while the attendant was announcing his flight to Jeddah (city in SA). He was in such a hurry to finish them all, that he did not even wait for the initial gas that is released from the tin opening to go. Of course, this is just a single example, but similar individuals are not rarely met in the region.
Hawkins et al., of 1992, has also suggested an other, risk-focused approach to strategies for the prevention of adolescent alcohol and other drug problems, that have proved to be effective (Hawkins et al., 1992).The approach suggested that Governments should adopt measurements that require the identification of risk factors for drug abuse rather than spend budgets on controlling the abusers. Funds should be allocated to strategies for assessment, intervention and prevention rather than for creating and establishing institutions forbidding the substances (Riggin, 1993; Males et al., 1995).
If a comparison is made among the adverse effects of tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and heroin, it becomes clear that the ones causing the greatest rates of mortality are still legal. Tobacco only kills around 450 000 Americans per year, followed by alcohol with 100 000 per year (Pinel, 2008). Disregarding the high addictiveness to opiates, according to Pinel, their direct health hazards of chronic exposure are interestingly minimal (Pinel, 2008). Isn’t that a paradox in the legislation? In terms of death rates criterion marijuana, cocaine and heroin have less negative impacts than do tobacco and alcohol (Pinel, 2008). Even though it has been indicated that cannabis users are also high abusers of other substances like alcohol and tobacco (Degenhardt et al., 2001), the health hazards of marijuana use are based on little evidence, and THC has even been shown to have therapeutic effects (Pinel, 2008). Then, why don’t all governments consider making it absolutely legal just like it is in the Netherlands?
“If they really wanted to stop people from smoking pot, they should legalize medical marijuana. Under this country’s healthcare system, nobody would be able to get it”
– Marlon Edwards
Among the plant’s Cannabis sativa many cannabinoid compounds or cannabinols are a few isomers of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Cannabinol and cannabidiol are anticonvulsant, with cannabinol being only mildly psychoactive, and cannabidiol not psychoactive at all (Pinel, 2008; Brust, 2004).
Soon however, with the proposed new legislation in Europe regarding the privacy and confidentiality of personal health data, people will be threatened not to have adequate legislation at all. This law will probably interfere or even prevent certain studies and drug safety evaluation completely. There is a possibility that the proposed new legislation might also contribute to the exposure of massive populations to drug safety hazards from which they are at present protected at least on paper (Mann, 1994).
Having had the opportunity to redraft the legislation, I would probably support the policy makers in the Netherlands, who believe that if a problem has to proved to be unsolvable, it is better to try controlling it and reducing harm instead of continuing to enforce laws with mixed results. The introduction of heroin-assisted treatment, for instance, in 1998, is known for being able to improve the health and social situation of opiate-dependent patients.
Brust, J. C. (2004). Chapter 7 – Marijuana. Neurological Aspects of Substance Abuse, 225-258. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-7506-7313-6.50011-8
Degenhardt, L., Hall, W and Lynskey, M. (2001). The relationship between cannabis use and other substance use in general population. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 63, 3, 319-327. doi: 10.1016/S0376-8716(01)00130-2
Drug Policy of the Netherlands – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved from: http://www.theonion.com/articles/themedicalmarijuana-ban,14509/