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[1] The common sense of the average person.

People determine whether they will or will not abuse a drug based on their attitude toward intoxication and addiction and not on the particular drug or any act of government. 

Those who argue that regulation would lead to an increase in the number of drug abusers have an obligation to tell us who these new abusers are in general terms. How does this theoretical group act toward drugs now ? There is simply no convincing explanation for why large numbers of people who now behave in a personally responsible manner toward drugs would suddenly stop being sensible because of some change in the law. 

Analysts agree that children are a critical, susceptible group. Statistically, very few people ever become addicted who have not had a significant drug abuse problem before the age of 21. 

Nonetheless, most teens make responsible choices: 

- Almost 35% of teens report that heroin is "easy to get." About 50% say the same of cocaine. (When any substantial portion of teens find a drug "easy to get," it is actually easy for all of them to get it; most are simply not interested enough in using it to find out how.) 

- Most of those have already tried marijuana. 

- Less than 1 in 30 has ever tried heroin and less than 1 in 1,000 is a  current daily heroin user. 

- Since so many have used marijuana, clearly the decision of millions of teens not to use heroin was not because of lack of availability nor price nor because they were afraid to  break the law. 

[2] The futility of the drug war. 

When asked, "Which drug is easiest to get ?" teens respond "marijuana" more than 3 times as often as "beer." 

-- from National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) survey, 2002. www.casacolumbia.org/publications1456/publications_show.htm?doc_id=119563

Dealers are replaced as easily as super market clerks. 

"Regular illegal drug users report they know between 6 and 27 sources of supply should one supplier be arrested." 

- from "Informing America's Policy on Illegal Drugs: What We Don't Know Keeps Hurting Us" (2001) by the National Research Council [NRC] 

[3] The saturation of the vulnerable. 

About 62% of our young have already tried an illegal drug by age 22. Most begin with legal drugs. 

See: 62% Use

In short, there's no one left among the 25% or so who are most vulnerable to drug dependence who has not already tried illegal drugs. In fact, only about 10% are heavily dependent on either legal or illegal drugs (not counting nicotine). Less than 2% are actually heavily dependent on illegal drugs and over half of those have a concurrent alcohol problem. 

" Indeed, although the age of onset of use of licit drugs (alcohol and nicotine) predicts later illicit drug use, it does not appear to predict persistent or heavy use of illicit drugs. " 

-- The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) report from IOM, 1999 

"New addicts would have to come from the ranks of controlled users [and they] believe their drug use would be unaffected by legalization. Is this a credible belief ? Absolutely. Because drugs are already widely available, controlled users could use more right now if they wanted to. In other words, they regulate their own behavior." 

- Michael S. Gazzaniga, Director for the Center of Neuroscience, U.C. Davis, 1995. 

"Among adults with Serious Mental Illness [SMI] in 2002, 23.2 percent (4.0 million) were dependent on or abused alcohol or illicit drugs, while the rate among adults without SMI was only 8.2 percent." 

-- Government's 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) 

"More often than not, drug dependence co-occurs with other psychiatric disorders. Most people with a diagnosis of drug dependence disorder also have a diagnosis of another psychiatric disorder (76% of men and 65% of women). The most frequent co-occurring disorder is alcohol abuse ... " 

-- The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) report from IOM, 1999 

[4] "Cross-elasticity" 

Despite the widespread use of illegal drugs, about 80% of addiction is to legal drugs, not counting tobacco. Prohibition may marginally influence the market share of various drugs 

- although fads may account for wider fluctuations - but protecting the market share of legal drugs is not likely to produce any less negative results from abuse. 

About 60% of illegal drug abusers also abuse alcohol. Even if all illegal drugs were to magically disappear, it would probably not make much, if any, difference in the number who abuse drugs. 

We can hardly expect those who crave drugs to chose lemonade over alcohol or other alternatives. And alcohol dependence is no better, and arguably worse, than dependence on illegal drugs. 

A twist: "A ban on alcohol is commonly cited as a reason for Pakistan's heroin problem. In 1979, as part of his so-called Islamization program, the military dictator Mohammad Zia ul-Haq declared drinking a 'heinous crime,' punishable by public flogging. For many, drugs became the substitute for drinks." 

- New York Times, April 20, 2000 

" ... the lack of decriminalization (of marijuana) might have encouraged greater use of drugs that are even more dangerous than marijuana." 

-- The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) report from IOM, 1999 

[5] The record with alcohol and tobacco. 

"If you read about the kind of drunkenness that existed in the late 1700s and early 1800s, you realize it was universal. You were either drunk or abstinent, there was no middle ground. As a result of developing rituals around its use, we contained that potential to a great extent. That's one way to successfully use a substance that's difficult to control. Another behavioral shift is happening now with cigarettes - the most addictive product known." 

-- Dr. Andrew Weil in Modern Maturity [ Jan-Feb 2000] 

Some abuse will always persist but we have cut tobacco use in half over the course of several decades with no prohibition or use of prisons. 

This is clearly superior to the lack of progress made against illegal drug abuse. Persuasive prevention through honest education, social norms and regulation has proved to be more effective than the coercion and educational scare tactics used now. The removal of so much perceived hypocrisy in a culture that uses so many drugs legitimately, would make drug education far more credible and effective. 

To a large extent, the ability to exercise control depends on the user getting reliable information about the dose and purity of the drug involved; this is not available for illegal drugs. 

[6] The historical record with drugs like heroin and cocaine when they were legal, cheap, widely used and readily available. 

Addiction rates were lower than today and moving downward when prohibition was imposed. Regular contact with health care professionals proved more effective at controlling addiction than regular contact with drug dealers. Alcohol was always the major problem drug.


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