DRCNet Reponse to the
Drug Enforcement Administration
Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization
|Many legalization advocates are fond of comparing the use of alcohol with the use of drugs, yet draw faulty conclusions from the comparison.||The first thing that should be pointed out is that the DEA doesn't think that alcohol is a drug -- although it clearly is.|
|People often consume small amounts of wine or beer as a beverage and do not necessarily drink to the point of mental impairment. This is not true of drug use, where the whole point of use is intoxication.||The point of use of alcohol is intoxication, just as it is
for the illegal drugs. Even small amounts of alcohol will relax a person or change their
mood. This is intoxication, it is just a mild intoxication. If you don't want the
intoxication, there is very little reason to drink alcoholic wine or beer instead of their
Most users of most drugs want a relatively mild intoxication from their drug of choice. That is one of the main reasons that wine and beer outsell the harder beverages, and why most illegal drug use is the use of marijuana.
This argument is a distortion in itself because it lumps all illicit drugs together, as if they had the same capacity to addict. Clearly, there are major differences between drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and marijuana, and Dr. Rosenthal is irresponsible not to point them out.
Dr. Rosenthal's figures could not possibly be true, based on the DEA's own evidence shown above in their chart showing the supposed drop in drug use. The DEA's own figures shows the number of regular drug users is far higher than the number of addicts and always has been. By the DEA's own figures at least 85 percent are not addicted, and at least 70 percent are gainfully employed.
|A more accurate analogy would be to compare drug use to drunkenness.||Again, the DEA apparently doesn't think alcohol is a drug.
The DEA clearly distorts the issue when they attempt to compare moderate use of one drug with extreme use of another. This is a common theme in the arguments for prohibition. See Themes in Chemical Prohibition, Theme #4
|Yet even that analogy is weak, because drugs are far more addictive than alcohol, and have no cultural or social value.||Dr. Jack E. Henningfield of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and Dr.
Neal L. Benowitz of the University of California at San Francisco ranked six psychoactive
substances on five criteria.
Their ratings are shown below:
Substance Withdrawal Reinforcement Tolerance Dependence Intoxication Nicotine 3 4 2 1 5 Heroin 2 2 1 2 2 Cocaine 4 1 4 3 3 Alcohol 1 3 3 4 1 Caffeine 5 6 5 5 6 Marijuana 6 5 6 6 4
Substance Withdrawal Reinforcement Tolerance Dependence Intoxication Nicotine 3* 4 4 1 6 Heroin 2 2 2 2 2 Cocaine 3* 1 1 3 3 Alcohol 1 3 4 4 1 Caffeine 4 5 3 5 5 Marijuana 5 6 5 6 4
|Yet even that analogy is weak, because drugs are far more addictive than alcohol, and have no cultural or social value.||Most of the drugs have some social or cultural value, just like alcohol. See, for example, the many references under the Psychedelic Library and the Historical References.|
|Dr. Mitchell Rosenthal points out, for example, that only 10 percent of drinkers become alcoholics, while up to 75 percent of regular illicit drug users become addicted.||Dr. Rosenthal's figures could not possibly be true, based on the DEA's own evidence shown above in their chart showing the supposed drop in drug use. The DEA's own figures shows the number of regular drug users is far higher than the number of addicts and always has been. By the DEA's own figures at least 85 percent are not addicted, and at least 70 percent are gainfully employed.|
|Proponents of legalization note--correctly--that alcohol kills many more Americans than do illegal drugs and currently exact social and financial costs that are higher as well.||By any standard of measurement, the toll exacted by alcohol is perhaps twenty times the toll from illegal drugs. Even the DEA does not contend that legalization would increase drug abuse by a factor of twenty.|
|Advocates point out that many people do not use alcohol, and argue that many Americans may also choose to forego drugs.||They choose to forego drugs right now. There is no reason to believe that large numbers of people would suddenly want to spend their lives stoned if drugs were suddenly made legal. Most people just don't like to live their lives that way, any more than they want to spend all day drunk.|
|Like treatment programs available for alcohol addicted people, treatment for drug addicts should be more widely available, they say.||This is obviously true.|
|The experts assembled at the Anti-Legalization Forum pointed to already overburdened health care and social systems that are unable to address all the problems associated with alcohol use. Legalized drugs would compound these problems, the group said, adding immeasurably to the burdens on the criminal, health and social service systems.||They don't provide any research to back up their opinions.
The major calamities that they are predicting didn't happen even when drugs were
completely unregulated. See, for example, 19th
Century America - A Dope Fiend's Paradise, and the first dozen chapters of the Consumers Union Report on Licit and Illicit
They admit that alcohol creates more problems than illegal drugs. They also admit that prohibiting alcohol would not be the best approach to the alcohol problem.
|Alcohol use in this country has taken a tremendous physical toll on Americans, not to mention the social problems that have resulted from its use.||There is no doubt about that. The problems of alcohol are many times larger than the problems of the illegal drugs, and always have been. If the DEA really thought that prohibition would solve these problems then they should support alcohol prohibition.|
|Legalization proponents would have us multiply our problems by creating a new class of drug-addicted Americans.||We already have a class of drug-addicted Americans. Proponents of reform want to deal with those problems in a more effective manner.|
|Again, how much are we willing to tolerate?||How many people are we going to throw in prison?|
|To pay for?||We are going to pay for the problems of drug use, one way or another. The question is whether we want to follow a policy that is tremendously expensive, or a policy that is more cost-effective.|
|Look at the problems that alcohol abuse has wrought. In the 1920s those advocating the repeal of Prohibition argued that crime and other social ills would be alleviated if alcohol were legal. Has that happened?||Many social ills were alleviated with the repeal of
Prohibition. Most Americans agree that we are better off without alcohol Prohibition. Even
the DEA does not suggest that we should bring it back.
We think the evidence is pretty conclusive that we are better off without alcohol prohibition. For one thing, it is the only occasion in history in which Americans have repealed an amendment to the constitution. For additional information see:
|We now have approximately 11 million alcoholics or problem drinkers in this country whose behavior has contributed to lost productivity in the workplace, fetal defects, traffic fatalities, domestic violence and other crime. If drugs were made legal, the numbers and the problems would swell.||If people want to abuse drugs, they can do it now. Most people do not abuse drugs simply because they don't want to live with the problems of drug abuse. That won't change.|
|The simple fact is that if drugs are made legal, more people will use drugs. There will be higher health and social costs; there will be more crime.||There is no evidence of this, and the DEA didn't present any here.|
|Some facts which help to confirm the observations of the forum participants may be used in debates:|
||This is a good argument against alcohol. It doesn't say much about the illegal drugs. Alcohol is the drug with the biggest relationship to crime problems, and always has been.|
||This is another good argument against alcohol, but doesn't say anything about the illegal drugs.|
||This isn't surprising at all. It is just a reflection of the fact that people who abuse one drug are likely to abuse other drugs.|
||This is another good argument against alcohol, but says nothing about illegal drugs.|
||The DEA provides no source for this data. Despite this statistic, the DEA is not recommending that we bring back alcohol Prohibition to solve the problem.|
||Despite this statistic, the DEA is not recommending that we bring back alcohol Prohibition to solve the problem.|
||Then why doesn't he recommend that we bring back alcohol Prohibition as a way of solving that problem?|
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