The Booze Crisis

I like this:

The connection, such as it is, between the Friday night alcopopper, the man with a lunchtime thirst, and the knuckling-down-for-the-long-haul alcoholic is to do with the hard-to-define relationship between habit and dependency.

This is a relationship that, it seems to me, is only minimally – if at all – the product of licensing laws, or the price of alcohol, or television advertisements. At one end of it is culture and, at the other, it is about chemistry.

Policing these lies a little outside the remit of the state, and a long way outside its competence.


Hmm. Perhaps this policy of putting boys on drugs simply because they\’re boys, you know, short attention spans, fidgety and so on, might not have been all that wise?

Drugs given to thousands of hyperactive children have no long-term benefits and could in fact be stunting their development, a major study has said.

The study of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) found that, while powerful drugs such as Ritalin and Concerta resulted in short-term behavioural improvements, after three years those benefits had disappeared.

Children who took the drugs for the full three years were also found to have stunted growth, according to the Multimodal Treatment Study of Children with ADHD (MTA).

The MTA has followed 600 children in the United States with ADHD since the 1990s and has just published its latest findings. Prof William Pelham, co-author, from the University of Buffalo, said: "They weren\’t growing as much as other kids both in terms of their height and their weight.

"There were no beneficial effects – none. In the short run medication will help the child behave better, in the long run it won\’t.

"That information should be made very clear to parents."

I\’m unsure of the situation in the UK but certainly in the US it has been true that it\’s not actually the parents who insist upon the dosing of the children. The schools can and do at times. Happened to the child of a friend of ours. If he\’s not on the drugs he can\’t come to school.

Shock Horror!

A major drugs scandal hit tennis last night when Martina Hingis admitted that she had tested positive for cocaine during this summer\’s Wimbledon Championships. But the Swiss, a winner of five grand slam titles and the youngest world No 1 in history when she was 16, maintained her innocence, claiming she had never used the recreational drug.

Really? Rich young woman said to have taken cocaine and denies having done so? Bit of a shocker, innit?

Legalise Drugs Now!

Another sign of the silliness of the current regulatory regime for drugs:

Spending of hundreds of millions of pounds on drugs treatment programmes has failed to improve the success rate of addicts coming off heroin and cocaine, according to a report.

The budget of the National Treatment Agency (NTA) has increased from £253 million in 2004-05 to £384 million last year, it said. But the number who emerge from programmes drug-free is still small.

Last year, 5,829 users were cured of their addiction, compared with 5,759 three years ago.

Given that pharmaceutically pure heroin costs less than the price of a prescription for a day\’s worth, we could provide those 6,000 or so addicts with their supply for £10 million or so a year.

Sam Leith on Drugs

There\’s echoes here, phrases that I seem to have used in the past:

At the same time, there are strong moral arguments for their legalisation. Our whole social and economic set-up is based on the idea of the right to private property, and at the very base of that – at the very plughole of our legal system and the fountainhead of our freedoms, in the form of habeas corpus – is the ownership of your own body, and the right to do with it as you damn well choose.

But then of course it\’s not echoes of me, it\’s what anyone who was even aware of Mill would say about the subject. The argument that if we alone legalised drugs we\’d become the crack-den of Europe has merit though, something I hadn\’t thought about.

One very large problem about this though is that we\’re signed up to a UN treaty that insists we cannot legalise drugs.

Giddens on Addiction

Scary stuff here:

Why is compulsive behaviour so common in modern society? It seems to be linked to lifestyle choice. We are freer now than 40 years ago to decide how to live our lives. Greater autonomy means the chance of more freedom. The other side of that freedom, however, is the risk of addiction. The rise of eating disorders coincided with the advent of supermarket development in the 1960s. Food became available without regard to season and in great variety, even to those with few resources.

The logical conclusion to that argument is that in order to beat addiction we should reduce freedom.

Perhaps a reminder that there\’s no worse addiction than the one to power over other people\’s lives.

Drugs, Drugs, Drugs!

The Government\’s consultation on drugs is coming to an end. If you haven\’t already told them what you think then do so here.

Of course, this bloke doesn\’t go far enough. All drugs should be legal.

It\’s your body, your\’s to ruin or not as you wish. So go tell the Statists that.

Defending Iain Duncan Smith

Never really thought I\’d write that. Still. The Devil:

Erm, cannabis is illegal in Holland? Really?

I don\’t think so, sunshine.


Cannabis remains a controlled substance in the Netherlands and both possession and production for personal use are still misdemeanors, punishable by fine. Coffee shops are also illegal according to the statutes.

However, a policy of non-enforcement has led to a situation where reliance upon non-enforcement has become common, and because of this the courts have ruled against the government when individual cases were prosecuted.

This is because the Dutch Ministry of Justice applies a gedoogbeleid (policy of tolerance or allowance policy) with regard to soft drugs: an official set of guidelines telling public prosecutors under which circumstances offenders should not be prosecuted. This is a more official version of the common practice in other countries, in which law enforcement sets priorities as to which offenses are important enough to spend limited resources on.

Yes, illegal, but not enforced very much. Rather like the British attitude to burglary. Prefer it the other way around of course, here.


Insanity Abounds


Last week the city announced it was closing down a third of its infamous brothels, and in April, its "coffee shops" were forced to choose between serving alcohol or dealing in officially-tolerated marijuana. Most chose the weed, but from next summer the Dutch will ban smoking in all public outlets. How exactly this will affect the wacky baccy trade is unclear, but things will never be the same again in one of the world\’s most progressive and tolerant cities.

Banning the smoking of tobacco in a place that exists for the smoking of cannabis.


Jack Straw: We Made a Mistake

Well, yes you did Jackie Laddie:

The Justice Minister, Jack Straw, became the most senior Labour minister last night to speak out against the decriminalisation of cannabis.

He told Channel Four News that he was against downgrading it to a class C drug.

"I was always against it, let me say, I can disclose this now, reducing the categorisation of cannabis from B to C, I thought that was an error," he said.

The only sensible or moral thing anyone could do with this, as with other drugs, is some form of controlled legalization. There\’s that moral point, which is that the only justification for limiting a person\’s freedom is to limit harm to others: harm to him is not such a justification. Sensible comes in because the harms that are caused by drugs are, if not solely caused by their illegality, most certainly amplified by it. But  Jack says he wants to put cannabis back up to a Class B drug, with a possible 5 year jail sentence for possession. Why?

"Why I want to upgrade cannabis and make it more a drug that people worry about is that we don\’t want to send out a message – just like with alcohol – to teenagers that we accept these things."

It\’s certainly an interesting message to send to teenagers: we\’re blithering idiots with no concept of freedom or liberty and we\’ll make law according to ill found prejudice, not any cost benefit analysis nor attention to facts.

As I\’ve pointed out earlier, the recorded rise in psychosis from the stronger versions of cannabis (and there\’s a great deal of doubt about whether this figure is well founded, but it is the one everyone is using) is some 450 cases a year. Depending upon who you believe there are some 2-8 million regular cannabis users in the country. So upgrading to Class B is in effect threatening 20 million man years of jail time to prevent 450 cases a year of psychosis. It is to laugh.