Search Words

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Legalization and Religious Bloggers

I came across the latest dialog between two bloggers, one Roman Catholic and the other Orthodox, and find it thoughtful enough to link it here.

When it comes to politics, I suppose I am more on the Libertarian side, though I don't toe a party line and have plenty in common with both the Right and the Left.  That does not mean I'm a 'Moderate' in the classical American sense, which usually means falling for the most emotionally-powerful message of the day.  I do have hard and fast standards, the problem is that no one party embraces them all.

In other parts of the world, I suppose I would be called a 'dissident.'  All I know is that people that can't be 'classified' under the socially-accepted labels usually get executed right off the bat to preserve the clear battle lines the manipulators require.  Oh, well.

On the topic of drug laws, I lean more towards strict enforcement.  On the other hand, I think we are overly complicating the process.  

First, I think that the courts and government need to be out of the treatment business altogether.  Why?  Courts are for laws, not counseling services.  If you link punishment for law-breaking with treatment, addicts have a very hard time understanding when they are playing the system versus when they are playing their treatment, and so both get played.

Treatment is scary. So is losing your freedom and going to jail.  Many addicts, when facing 'court-ordered treatment,' take all of their legal angst and vest their treatment program with it, then invariably bomb out.  That's why the 'anonymous' has always worked in 12 Step programs... so how can you be anonymous when the court is reviewing your treatment?

It makes the judges and commissioners and P.O.s feel like they are 'making a difference,' the problem is that most of it is just for show.  They feel better, but the success rates for the defendants are abysmal.

Forced treatment does not work.  In fact, bombing out of treatment repeatedly prolongs the bottoming out process.  Old School AA used to 'hand-pick' its members.  They had a high success rate.  Now it is 5% because the rooms are full of court-card-carrying motor-vehicle violators.  This is not really helping people: addiction rates are sky-rocketing.

The courts and judges need to enforce the law and get out of trying to 'heal' offenders.  When offenders get tired of the system, they will get their own treatment and succeed.  Until then, they will take their same ambivalence towards civil law and apply it to treatment.  I saw it with my own eyes.  It is not working, and the flow of drugs into the US bears witness.

Second, I think we need to look much harder at how we prescribe pain medications, and I think every pain prescription should involve a 'taper-off' kit.  Having had two major surgeries in recent years, I got a chance to 'reconnect' with physical dependency and the rigors of a home-detox.  Not fun.  There are a lot of people who are 'exposure addicts' that have such a radical experience of the new pharmacology that they are pretty much sitting ducks for addiction.

Their lives don't have to be over-the-top messes for these drugs to give them a super-high that they naturally want to repeat.  Sorry for the comparison, but it is a lot like sex: once you've had it (in a normal, voluntary sense), it is hard not to want it more.  The same is true of most experiences of alcohol.  The problem is when you try heroin and have that same desire for a repeat.  Your life may not be a mess at the time you try it, but it will be in short order.

Third, you have to treat drug enforcement like a war.  It is.  Drug trafficking is not petty crime, but a multi-billion-dollar-budgeted armed conflict.  So, you treat it that way: you declare war, then you fight.  You don't make arrests, but you do have POW camps and you keep the enemy prisoners inside until the war is over.  Trust me, if you can invade Iraq and Afghanistan without a war declaration, you can declare war on the drug cartels.  Because, if those were not wars, then the definition of war is pretty fluid and you can stretch it to suit non-governmental entities.

That means you seal the border and shoot first.  After all, when you let the enemy in, your people are dying.  The cartels are not a business in the sense that they are trying to help humanity by making a better product.  They are making money and think the end users deserve death.  They sell it out of hate.  Just listen to the interviews with high-level drug suppliers.

This is where my deep-seated distrust of government comes in, because I think that corruption has taken hold of the highest levels of our government and that some people do have a vested financial interest in maintaining a 'war on drugs' that is not a win-or-die proposition.  It is.  So, you either surrender and let your enemies kill your people or you fight.

Think about it: why does the Taliban traffic in heroin... because they love the West?  How about the North Koreans making meth?  Drugs have been a powerful social weapon, and they have been largely effective.

How?  Look at how drugs sterilize people that would otherwise raise happy and productive families.  Look at how addiction costs us billions of dollars each year that could otherwise improve our world.  Addiction treatment is necessary and helpful, but it is not 'progressive' in the sense that it move society forward.  Instead, it is a cure for a disease, which means its overall success is to bring society back to the centerline from the destructive, downward path addiction takes us.

Since the 1980s, the transnationalists (those who work in places like the UN and international NGOs) have been talking about 'overpopulation' and population growth.  Drugs have become a tool in curbing population growth in the developed world, which is why you see a plunge in Western fertility along with the increased abuse of chemicals and behavioral addictions.

I believe Legalization is something that is partly encouraged by those seeking a decrease in world population because drug abuse keeps us compliant, as does our entertainment culture and its degrading messages (think about the recent displays of she-who-will-not-be-named, as well as plenty of other pop culture figures).  There are plenty of culture warriors who have taken on those topics, so I won't regurgitate their arguments.

Can you make an argument about the religious necessity to fight the war on drugs?  Maybe, and maybe not.  I think you can and should make an argument for our moral duty and Gospel calling to help the walking wounded from the drug wars, something virtually all of the churches have dodged.  

That's because really getting into the problem of addiction would mean, for the vast majority of Christian denominations in the US, a major shift in theology.  This is why they happily host a 'Christian 12 Step Group' on Wednesdays nights, but don't touch the topic at all as a regular message.  After all, you don't want people stepping on Luther's declaration that confession and penances are unchristian, do you?

The Orthodox community here in the US still hasn't gotten to the point that it identifies with American culture (wearing a suit or putting 'American' in your title), and so addiction treatment and counseling are not seen as a necessary component in serving our neighbor.  Right now, we're just interested in the well-heeled amateur theologian and the clean-cut middle-class convert types that are way more generous than the stingy immigrants trying to replicate a religious Potemkin village on a shoe-string budget.  But, times are changing and this reality is already self-immolating in many parishes and communities as we evolve into a domestic church.

People are beginning to wake up to the fact that we have lots of suffering people right here and right now, and a lot of them are victims of the drug-and-entertainment industry.  Even those who have never had a drug problem are beginning to see how pop culture is laying the groundwork for dysfunction and addiction.

Legalizing drugs is not going to help.  It will increase the likelihood of exposure, which in turn leads to addiction.  Yes, there are plenty of underlying causes and pre-existing conditions necessary for addiction to take hold, but it is way easier to treat those before addiction takes the person down a dark path.

Let's not all the cancer of drugs to get to Stage Four before we do something about it.


  1. Thank you for your link to Vivificat!

    Your remarks, though complex, are very thoughtful.


  2. Dear Theo,

    You are welcome. Once Ad Orientem ( is back and running, I will be very interested to see you two continue this discussion. It is important to see both sides of the debate, because even the legalization folks make some very important observations.

  3. "Legalizing drugs is not going to help. It will increase the likelihood of exposure, which in turn leads to addiction."

    That is a blanket ideological statement, not supported by evidence. Switzerland (among other countries) has instituted a harm-reduction program for heroin use, which has had good effects. Below are excerpts from a study done by the University of Florida in 2004:

    If you read this study carefully, you will see that legalization is not a panacea. There is still a drug problem in Switzerland. As long as humans exist, you will always have addiction problems. Prohibition does not work, neither does our current Drug War.

    On the other hand, Switzerland's program does seem to be effective in breaking up some of the social networks that lead to a proliferation of drug use. Also, drug related crime has decreased substantially.

    In Switzerland's case, decriminalization does not mean "letting people do anything they please." What it means, is abandoning approaches that make people feel "righteous" but which either do not work or make the problem worse, and substituting programs that actually put a dent in the problem. Notice that I said, "put a dent," not "solve." There are no "solutions," short of eliminating the human species entirely.

    Why is it intolerable, damnable heresy to examine the programs of other countries, and study what is effective and what is not?

    As for shooting people at the border, and all the rest of what you propose, I can only say this. Good God, man! Haven't we got a bloodthirsty enough government as it is? Cops in America already shoot 100 year old WW II veterans just for the fun of it. What is the matter with Americans? Why do they think that piles of corpses are the answer to all social ills? Where did this worse-than-pagan cult of "regeneration by violence" come from? Is this a "bleed through" from the Aztec and other American Indian cultures we conquered? Is it a result of Puritan Calvinism, with its doctrine of total depravity and double predestination, which justifies and celebrates the objectification and the obliteration of the "reprobate"? As it is, I consider the Roman gladiatorial games to be less distant from the Gospel than America's current declaration of eternal war upon its own citizens, and upon all of mankind.

    Having spent the last 14 years abroad, I can tell you that Americans now look to me like a feral band of bloodthirsty psychopaths, bent on killing everyone in the world they can, before they finally turn on each other. No other country on Earth has Sandy Hook style shootings every few months. None. Not China, not Russia, nor even the Balkans. No, not even Norway, where this happened only once, and not every two or three months.

    Your baying for blood in this post is a reflection of this culture. You will deny what I have said, because you honestly don't see that. You don't see it, because you are steeped in it. To you, my statement will seem absurdly ridiculous. To me, it is absurdly obvious. You have been ponerized by America's psychopathic culture, far more than you know. If you could spend quality time overseas, I think you would see that.

    As for me, I don't favor a failed Drug War, neither do I favor laissez-faire "stoners' paradise" legalization. I favor policies which address the problem based on testable, empirical evidence, not upon schizoid, fanatical "True Believer" ideology (whether libertarian or Puritan). I favor policies which aim at public health, public safety and reduction of social harm. That is all government can do, anyway.

    Is that truly too much to ask?

    1. Well, this is interesting!

      Perhaps you are reacting to some things you think that I said, but I did not. I’m not calling for people to die. I am calling for consistency, and the way we get there is to stop yelling and start talking to one another in respectful tones.

      I’m glad you mentioned Switzerland, because it proves my point: harm reduction is going on in nations with a decreasing birthrate, and is a symptom of a larger problem itself.

      ‘Harm reduction’ is itself a schizophrenic approach that enables the behavior to continue by making it easier for the addict to remain untreated.

      I also don’t think you can necessarily make the direct connection between harm reduction and falling crime rates: California’s crime rates have been falling for years, with no harm reduction programs.

      We can agree that there are no easy solutions, and I certainly don’t think it is helpful for either side to insult the other. I do think there are valid points on the side of legalization. I’ve never said it was ‘damnable heresy’ to discuss the topic. However, I think that legalization causes more new problems than it solves, such as the overall problem of Europe sinking into a birthrate death-spiral:

      Yes, Europeans look askance at Americans, and we look askance at our neighbors to the South, who are dying in great numbers because we don’t recognize that there is indeed a war on our border largely caused by our own ‘mixed signals’: we have a war on drugs, but then selectively engage the battle.

      People are dying because of our ambivalence about drugs and ambivalence about enforcing laws. It is a tragedy, because we seem more interested in her-who-shall-not-be-named than about the real social problems we face.

      It isn’t any more bloodthirsty to say that people crossing the border illegally will be shot than it is to guard a prison with the same policy. If people know they will be shot at the border, then they won’t cross it. Guantanamo Bay has the world’s largest minefield and, not surprisingly, nobody dies there because nobody is dumb enough to try it. That’s what we should do, rather than letting thousands of illegal aliens be raped, murdered, and used as drug ‘burros’. It is more bloodthirsty of us to give people the idea that they have a chance to get across the border.

      I’m not baying for blood, my dear. I want it to stop. I am tired to reading about mass murders and kidnappings in Tijuana because of our appetite for drugs and our screwed up approach.

      Nowhere do I call for the hanging of street dealers. Nor am I interested in killing anyone at all. What I do think is that we are encouraging violence, because we are not willing to go entirely towards illegalization with enforcement or legalization with limits.

    2. Thanks for the clarification. I apologize for my hyperbole. This whole Syria business has made me very jumpy lately. I see the U.S., as a society, projecting its own severe psychological disorders upon the rest of the world, and using depleted uranium bombs to feel better about itself. I read that into your own post, and I am glad to see that I was mistaken.

      Your reply reminds me of something Dmitry Orlov recently said in a podcast. Speaking of stages of societal collapse, he points out that weak governments are far bloodier and more disorderly than defunct governments. When a government goes defunct, then you have rule by local warlord. It is very messy, but usually, people can come to some sort of living arrangement (i.e., tribute) with the local chieftain.

      A weak government, on the other hand, tries to make everything illegal, but cannot effectively enforce anything. Thus, it is forever beating back challenges to its own authority, and has to spill rivers of blood to show everyone "who is boss." Orlov thinks that, in a failing society, it is far more humane for a failing government to go defunct as quickly as possible, to minimize bloodshed.

      I think that is a useful way to look at the failed Drug War. The U.S. incarcerates more people, per capita and in absolute terms, than Stalin did at the height of the purges. Most inmates are there for low-level drug possession. The big fish seldom darken the doors of these prisons. State and local authorities cannot deal with this problem, and they get in the way of local communities, families, businesses and churches doing anything about it, either.

      To repeat, getting the State out of the sobriety business does not mean "stoners' paradise." Whether or not addicts go to prison over their habits, they will still face social and economic consequences for them, up to and including ostracism. As Orlov points out, political collapse does not usually imply social and cultural collapse. All societies regulate the morals of their members in some way, whether by law or by social custom. The Aleut village you recently mentioned is a good example of what I think would happen everywhere.

      Michael in Oceania (my Open ID is not working for some reason)