Who owns your body?

Who owns your mind?

Today, millions of Americans will consume an addictive stimulant. This drug can be found in some prescription medications. But most users aren't consuming it for medical reasons. They're consuming it because they like te high. Mostly. Some use it because they claim it helps them study. Some to stay up all night. Some use it to counteract certain viruses (although the preparation used for antiviral purposes is different from that used for recreational purposes, the chemical is the same.)

Overdoses can be lethal. [1] Withdrawal is usually painful, and sometimes accompanied by more severe symptoms. [2].

This drug is readily available. In some neighbourhoods, several dealers compete for the business on a single block. Most dealers offer other substances as well.

Billions of dollars are made from it, in countries all over the globe. [3]

A dose can be had for less than five dollars in every major American city. And in many schools. In many places, a dose can be had for less than two dollars.

Some distributors actively target younger consumers. [4]

And yet, despite its prevalence, despite the physical addiction it causes, there is surprisingly little crime associated with caffeine use.

Meanwhile, the US government spends billions of dollars a year attempting to control the use of some other psychoactive chemicals.

Every year hundreds of thousands of Americans are arrested for posession of marijuana. Most are using it recreationally; some are using it as an anti-nausea agent to suppress the side effects of chemotherapy and anti-retroviral drugs, or for other medical conditions. For some, it may make the difference between life and death.

While the authorities often proudly announce that they've siezed large quantities [6], somehow they have not succeeded in stopping heroin or cocaine from crossing into the US. Or even in significantly reducing availability.

They have been far more effective at reducing the amount of LSD available in the US[7] and protecting us from the menace of Internet-based bong sales[8].

Many drugs have both medical and recreational uses. In an effort to deter recreational use, the government spends your tax dollars encouraging medicines to be reformulated to make recreational use more difficult. Even if the cost of the change is to make the medicine less effective, or actually harmful to the taker.

Acetominophen (Paracetamol) is a popular painkiller. The active ingredient in Tylenol, it is cheap and plentiful. It's also hepatotoxic. Patients with liver conditions are advised to avoid it; there are also reports that it's dangerous if mixed with alcohol. A large overdose can be lethal, and treatment is ineffective by the time the symptoms of overdose are detectable.

The DEA discourages doctors from prescribing opiates unless they're mixed with acetominophen. As a result, hepatitis patients prescribed painkillers regularly wind up with pills that aren't good for them. The same goes for persons who are allergic to Tylenol.

To protect us from Drugs, the DEA pressures manufacturers of DXM-containing cough syrups to add other active ingredients. In quantities so large that they can kill an ill-informed recreational user.

The heavy-handed approach of government prohibition actually makes it harder for many users who do wish to reduce their drug intake to succeed in doing so.

The waste products of different drugs take different amounts of time to be eliminated by the body. For example, caines, opiates, and adrenaline analogues are metabolized quickly. Marijuana, on the other hand, is metabolized slowly. Mandatory drug tests can wind up encouraging the subject to use harder drugs instead of marijuana, because they're less likely to be detected.

Methadone is a synthetic opiate. By using a controlled dose of methadone, an opiate addict can stop the spiral of increasing doses that characterizes use of street opiates while still staving off withdrawal symptoms. Further, by gradually lowering the dose an addict can reduce dependency without suffering as much as they would by quitting cold turkey, and sometimes eliminate it entirely.

However, methadone maintenance programs are heavily regulated, and may make up their own 'regulations' at a whim as well. The BAART program in California requires that clients subject themselves to regular urinalysis. They have a simple way to ensure that the user does not provide a fake or altered urine sample: a window in the bathroom. Their staff can and will watch. Anecdotal evidence from a female patient indicates that wearing a skimpy halter top on a hot day is a risk factor that noticeably increases the probability that you will need to be watched to ensure you don't supply fake urine. If your urine test comes back positive for any of several substances, the program will not let you lower your methadone dose. Further, they have been known to automatically raise patients' dose if the test comes back positive for opiates.

Drug prohibition places a large burden on our medical system.

As users cannot reliably ascertain the composition and dosage of their chemicals, they wind up forced to guess. Overdoses can range from unpleasant to lethal, depending on the drug and the size of the overdose. Incompetent or malicious manufacture can introduce dangerous adulterants.

To discourage drug use, many jurisdictions restrict the availability of hypodermic needles. You need a prescription from your doctor to buy them. This leads to increased needle sharing, which increases the spread of disease. (Personal note: In my opinion, sharing needles is bloody idiotic. Unfortunately, there are a lot of idiots out there, and there's a lot of misleading information out there.). Diabetic? That's OK; every few months you have to pay for an extra appointment to write a "Yeah, he's still alive and still uses those sharp things" note.

Several dual-use drugs require a prescription, and some require that the pharmacist phone the doctor to confirm. If the doctor is unavailable (say, perhaps he's in surgery?), no painkillers for you.

The time that doctors and pharmacists are forced to spend playing parent to people who not only can take care of themselves, but actively don't want all this nannying is time that they could instead spend studying new developments in the field. Or seeing more patients. Or relaxing.

To support drug prohibition, research that finds therapeutic uses for illegal drug use is often downplayed. And the harm of illegal drug use is often exaggerated. On the one hand, this can lead to inferior medical care when a potentially-effective treatment is overlooked. And on the other hand, the exaggerated horror stories (for example, a US propaganda campaign which claimed a brainscan of a patient in a coma was that of an Ecstasy user) can give the impression that *anything* negative about the drug that a user wishes to take is a lie.

Part of freedom is the ability to make one's own decisions. Even the important ones. ESPECIALLY the important ones - you may let your employer decide whether or not coming to work dressed in paper towels and wire mesh is acceptable, but you're not going to let your employer decide whom you may marry. (Unless, of course, you're proposing to marry your boss. Or your job.)

It's not my business to decide whether or not you may smoke tobacco or drink alcohol. It's not my business to decide whether or not you may smoke marijuana, snort amphetamines, inject cocaine, or stick opiates up your ass, any more than it's my business to decide what organs you may (or must) pierce or whether you can wear plaid lace panties.

And even if you don't care whether you're free to do drugs or not, other freedoms wind up eroded in the process of trying to prevent drug use.

To deter drug use, freedom of speech is being weakened. The information on this page could be considered 'instructional information on illegal activities'. As a result, I could lose my LiveJournal account for posting it. Politicians often propose curtailments on freedom of speech if said freedom might encourage someone to use drugs, or even help them use said drugs more safely. While these curtailments keep getting ruled unconstitutional, authoritarian factions in Congress keep bringing them back.

Drug use is a consensual activity. So is drug sale. Reducing either effectively requires reducing our privacy. Random searches are part of the drug-prohibition program; so are roadblocks wherein every passerby is searched. And nobody seems to think a warrant is required for either. Employers are encouraged to divine amongst your urine for Forbidden Substances. Power companies search your usage records for suspicious patterns. Aerial searches are used to detect potential marijuana grows outdoors; infrared scanners are used to peer through our walls to see if we've got suspicious heat sources.

To ensure that suspects don't have time to hide or destroy their drugs, searches have become much more brutal. Are you suspected of posessing drugs? Do you have a flush toilet? In some states, if the answer to both is "yes", that means you'll find out about the search warrant when your door is broken down at midnight.

Prosecuting the drug war has required eliminating our right to defend ourselves. If an armed man dressed in black bursts in your window and starts ransacking your belongings, how can you tell if he's a policeman on a drug raid or a serial killer who wants to do a spot of robbery on the side? Shoot the policeman, and you can get the electric chair as a cop killer. Shoot the serial killer, and you may live to see tomorrow.

This, of course, assumes that you're permitted to posess a firearm by the time you have to make the decision. Prohibition-related violence was, after all, the impetus for both the machine-gun ban and the assault weapon ban.

Incentive programs intended to encourage people to assist the government in its drug war create conflicts of interest.

In some jurisdictions, the informant responsible for starting an investigation is rewarded with a percentage of property seized. Financial incentives for convictions encourage planting of evidence, and can lead to prosecutions where the goal is to Get The Stuff rather than to Stop The Crime.

Property can be tried in a procedure called "Civil asset forfeiture". Intended to permit the removal of assets from mobsters too powerful to convict, civil asset forfeiture has proven quite effective. One doesn't need to convict the *person* of wrongdoing, just the *object*. And one must post court costs as bond to defend one's property, so if the object isn't worth a thousand-dollar gamble, the government gets it.

The legitimacy of elections is being distorted both by and for drug prohibition.

Voters in several states have approved use of marijuana for medical purposes. The reaction from Washington has been to forbid it and announce that they will prosecute anyone who prescribes it to their patients.

In 1998, Washington, D.C. passed the Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative. The response from Congress was to decree that the bill was not to take effect and to forbid any use of District funds for to enact any regulation that would reduce penalties for posession, use, or distribution of schedule I controlled substances and cannabis derivatives. [5].

Felony disenfrachisement has resulted in a disturbingly large number of people having the right to vote taken away from them.


1: "Caffeine drinks need dangers spelt out", Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

2: "Caffeine beverages - to drink or not" - Ibrahim B. Syed; "Caffeine Addiction", Kerri Jones.

3, 4: "German Coffee Shops Gaining Ground", Manfred Körner.

5: US Public Law 108-199 (originally the FY 2004 appropriations bill).


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