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Blasphemy: College Reporter Quotes Us in Defense of the HEA Drug Provision

Ordinarily a lame anti-drug editorial in a college paper would escape our attention. Not this time. Nicki Croly of The State Hornet in Sacramento uses statistics from our website in defense of the HEA drug provision:

Some people would argue that this law makes it even harder for minorities to get a college education. This argument is invalid because according to www.stopthedrugwar.com, there are no statistics indicating that African-Americans use drugs at a higher rate.

Croly’s interpretation of this statistic is just plain wrong. It’s true that drug use among African-Americans is equal on average to that of Whites. But arrests, convictions, and punishments such as the denial of financial aid for college are imposed upon people of color at alarmingly disproportionate rates.

Furthermore, I highly doubt that our site mentions drug use rates among African-American without also noting the disparity with regards to arrests, convictions, and sentencing. For example, here’s a statement from our HEA talking points page:

Minorities are disproportionately affected by the HEA drug provision. While African Americans make up 13% of the population and 13% of drug users, they account for 55% of all drug convictions. The disparate racial impact of drug law enforcement will inevitably spread into the realm of higher education via this law. Accordingly, minority groups have far higher percentages of their members who are ineligible for federal
financial aid than whites. Currently, more African American men are in prison than in college.

So yes, the HEA drug provision absolutely hurts minorities more than anyone else. But that’s just one of a whole host of problems created by this counterproductive law. Here’s ten more:

  1. College education is proven to reduce drug use. Therefore, forcing students out of college obviously and undeniably increases drug use overall.
  2. The HEA drug provision only affects good students. If you’re getting bad grades you can’t get aid anyway.
  3. Students arrested for drugs get punished in court. It’s not like they’re getting away with anything.
  4. Many students misunderstand the rules and give up on college even though they’re actually eligible. Their lives are changed forever.
  5. Taking away opportunities from students sends a message that we don't want them to succeed in life. All students must be encouraged, not pushed down.
  6. Regaining eligibility by completing rehab is often impossible because it’s more expensive than school. Nor does getting busted for drugs necessarily mean that you need rehab.
  7. Most HEA victims were busted for small time marijuana possession. Casual marijuana use has nothing to do with success in college. Trust me.
  8. The HEA drug provision fails to address the most significant drug problem on college campuses: alcohol.
  9. The HEA drug provision only targets low-income students. These are the very people the HEA is supposed to help.
  10. Judges already have the authority to revoke financial aid. If a judge meets the student in court and doesn’t want to revoke aid, we should respect that decision.

The HEA drug provision causes drug abuse by driving students away from school and towards drugs. If you support the HEA drug provision, you support drug abuse.
Location: 
United States

County Judge Delays Drug Treatment Law Change

Location: 
Oakland, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
Oakland Tribune
URL: 
http://www.insidebayarea.com/oaklandtribune/localnews/ci_4342271

A Question for Dr. Volkow

Drug warriors don’t answer phone calls or emails from the likes of us, so the only way to ask them questions is to show up when they’re speaking publicly and hope to get called on during Q&A. Sitting in the moderator’s line of sight helps, as does not looking like a balls-to-the-wall hippie drug-legalizer (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

And so this past Friday I attended the “African American Brain Trust on Eliminating Racial Disparities in Substance Abuse Policies” sponsored by the National African American Drug Policy Coalition, for the dual purposes of developing contacts for an unrelated project, and hopefully to get some answers from NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow who would be presenting. NAADPC assembled an impressive list of speakers, and though the event was neutral in tone, it’s probably safe to say that if NAADPC replaced ONDCP, there'd be less to blog about. The audience consisted primarily of criminal justice and medical professionals, but the full anti-prohibitionist viewpoint was represented by ubiquitous reformers Kymone Freeman and Howard Wooldridge of LEAP. True to form, both asked about legalization, which prompted squirmy but less-than-dismissive responses from panels of distinguished judges, prosecutors, and law-enforcement professionals.

A neutral, non-politicized discussion of the drug problem inevitably favors the compassionate activist over the status quo, but the final word of the day from Dr. Nora Volkow provided a startling reality check. Dr. Volkow’s power-point presentation titled “Using Science and Medicine to Effectively Treat Drug Addiction” conjured a distopian future in which “addicts” are administered government drugs by force in order to prevent them from enjoying the drugs they take voluntarily. But she didn’t phrase it that way.

Dr. Volkow argues that prolonged drug use alters the brain in ways that reduce the user’s control over drug-taking itself, thereby necessitating compulsory treatment in order to help the user regain the ability to make his/her own decisions. Addiction is a disease, yes, but drugs themselves cause the disease over time, according to Dr. Volkow. By this logic, intervention appears justified at any stage.

With time running short, I was fortunate to be one of three people chosen to ask questions. Mine came out something like this:

I hope that by looking at drug addiction as a disease, society will become less inclined to stigmatize people with drug problems. But there’s a flipside in that most people who use drugs are doing just fine. I know that most people in treatment for marijuana were coerced into it by the criminal justice system, for example. As your research progresses, will you still acknowledge that most drug users don’t fit into the addiction model you just described?

Dr. Volkow was answering before I was done asking, and her answer was clever. She admitted that many drug users don’t experience negative consequences. “We’ve always acknowledged that” she said, as if I was kind of stupid for asking. “But it’s important to realize,” she went on, “that even experimentation with drugs can have dire consequences.”

It’s pathetic that after a forty-five minute presentation on addiction science, she would resort to such an unscientific generalization. Yes, experimentation can have consequences, but as Jack Herer once said, “nobody’s ever died from marijuana that wasn’t shot by a cop.” Too often, the consequences of drug use take the form of government persecution justified by junk science from prohibitionists masquerading as public health experts.

Dr. Nora Volkow says we shouldn’t stigmatize drug-users, but then she goes around diagnosing them with a brain-rotting disease that most of them don’t actually have.

Location: 
United States

Canadian Federal Government Demands More Research on Safe Injection Site, But Won't Pay For It

The Canadian federal government -- relatively hostile to harm reduction measures like safe injection sites since the Conservative Party took power in the last elections -- will not fund further research for Vancouver's InSite safe injection site, Health Ministry spokesman Eric Waddell told the Drug War Chronicle this afternoon. That was news to the site's operator, the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, whose spokesperson Viviana Zonacco said she had not been informed of that aspect of the ministry's decision.

The Health Ministry had funded research on the injection site's efficacy for the past three years to the tune of $500,000 a year. The ministry extended the site's exemption from the country's drug laws for only year instead of three years last Friday—the dead news day before the three-day weekend in Canada—saying that it required further research on how well it worked. But after demanding more research, the Health Ministry doesn't want to pay for it. Go figger.

I learned about this as I was researching an article I will write about the decision for this week's Chronicle. Check it out on Friday.

Location: 
Vancouver, BC
Canada

UK Drug Deaths on the Rise, Despite Government Pledge

Location: 
United Kingdom
Publication/Source: 
The Independent
URL: 
http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/this_britain/article1222808.ece

Asia: China Begins Debate on First Comprehensive Drug Law

Although China has long waged war on drug users and traffickers, it has never had statutes aimed specifically at the drug trade and dealing with drug users. That is about to change. Chinese lawmakers Tuesday began debating a new bill that would expand police powers to crack down on the cross-border drug trade and set standards for drug treatment, the Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported.

http://stopthedrugwar.com/files/chinaposter.jpg
Chinese anti-drug poster
"It is important to introduce such a law as China is now facing a grave situation in drug control," the agency quoted Zhang Xinfeng, vice minister of public security, as telling the standing committee of China's parliament. Drugs from Afghanistan and the Golden Triangle are "pouring" into China and "posing a grave threat to China's drug control efforts," Zhang added.

Chinese authorities estimate the country has more than 1.1 million drug users, including 700,000 heroin addicts. In addition to heroin and opium, authorities report problems with methamphetamine and ecstasy use.

The drug trafficking portion of the proposed bill would expand police powers. According to Xinhua, "The bill will also authorize police to search people and their luggage for illegal drugs at key public places such as train stations, long-distance bus stations and border crossings."

Police would also be granted the power to force suspected drug users to submit blood or urine samples -- a practice so far limited to primitive places like South Dakota -- and owners of bars and nightclubs would have to post anti-drug propaganda on their premises.

But while the proposed bill takes a tough line on trafficking, it strikes a softer tone when it comes to drug users and addicts. It includes provisions that would bar treatment centers from physically punishing or verbally humiliating addicts and demands they pay addicts for work they do. The bill also provides for people ordered into treatment to receive it in their communities rather than forcing them into treatment centers. Treatment center admissions would be limited to injection drug users, people who refuse community help, or people who live in communities without treatment resources.

"Drug takers are law violators, but they are also patients and victims. Punishment is needed, but education and assistance are more important," Zhang said.

Psychedelics Could Treat Addiction, Says Vancouver Official

Location: 
Vancouver, BC
Canada
Publication/Source: 
The Tyee
URL: 
http://thetyee.ca/News/2006/08/09/Psychedelics/

Mayor Seeks Drug Maintenance for Drug Addicts

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
Vancouver Sun
URL: 
http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/story.html?id=bf184ac0-01c2-4251-8c46-24cbb64be30f

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