George Will: Drug Prohibition Is an Awful Flop. We Like It.

In a new column, George Will concedes that seeking altered states of consciousness is "natural," that the distinctions drawn by our drugs laws are not based on the relative hazards posed by these substances, that efforts to suppress the supply of drugs are futile, and that prohibition causes "rampant criminality," "disrespect for law," and "mayhem in Mexico," among other bad consequences. But he worries that legalization would lead to a big increase in drug addiction and the problems associated with it:

Suppose cocaine or heroin were legalized and marketed as cigarettes and alcohol are. And suppose the level of addiction were to replicate the 7 percent of adults suffering from alcohol abuse or dependency. That would be a public health disaster. As the late James Q. Wilson said, nicotine shortens life, cocaine debases it....

Legalization would mean drugs of reliable quality would be conveniently available from clean stores for customers not risking the stigma of breaking the law in furtive transactions with unsavory people. So there is no reason to think today’s levels of addiction are anywhere near the levels that would be reached under legalization.

Since Will begins the column by implicitly conceding that alcohol is morally indistinguishable from illegal drugs, it is disappointing that he leans on Wilson's comment about nicotine vs. cocaine, which is frequently cited by prohibitionists even though it is essentially meaningless. Sometimes cocaine debases life; more often (judgng from, among other things, the government's own survey data), cocaine enhances life, in the sense that it provides pleasure without causing serious problems. It is telling that Wilson picked nicotine for his comparison, since he never could have gotten away with a similarly glib claim about alcohol. Does alcohol debase life? Again, sometimes yes, but typically no. This observation tells us nothing about the proper legal status of either drug.

Contrary to Will's assertion, there are several reasons to believe that the sum total of drug addiction problems would not be much bigger, and might be smaller, if prohibition were repealed:

1) There is a ceiling to the demand for intoxication, and people may use one drug instead of another, rather than in addition to it. To the extent that newly legal marijuana replaces alcohol, for example, people will be less apt to harm themselves or others. The health risks associated with marijuana are in many ways less serious than the health risks associated with alcohol, and there is evidence that the substitution of marijuana for alcohol reduces traffic fatalities.

2) It seems likely that the people most prone to addiction are the ones who are least deterred by the barriers that prohibition erects. Assuming that's true, the addiction rate for a given drug may well be lower after legalization. There still might be an increase in the total number of addicts, but not as big an increase as you would expect based on current rates.

3) The problems associated with addiction are exacerbated by prohibition, which drives prices up, makes drug quality and purity unpredictable, spreads disease by encouraging needle sharing, impedes information about harm reduction, stigmatizes users, entangles them in the criminal justice system, and exposes them to the risk of black-market violence. For all these reasons, a legal addiction is less of a problem than an illegal one. When Will says "legalization would mean drugs of reliable quality would be conveniently available from clean stores for customers not risking the stigma of breaking the law in furtive transactions with unsavory people," he seems to think that's a bad thing. It's not.

It is important to separate addiction—a hard-to-break attachment—from its consequences. Will and Wilson both assert that nicotine kills smokers, for example, when in fact it is smoke that kills smokers. Nicotine itself is safe enough that the FDA has approved it, in various forms, as a substitute for cigarettes. Nonpharmaceutical alternatives such as snus and electronic cigarettes also are much less hazardous, for the same reason: People can consume them without inhaling combustion products. A pack-a-day cigarette smoker who switches to nicotine gum or e-cigarettes may still be addicted to nicotine, but this addiction is now a much smaller problem. Likewise, people can use pharmaceutical-quality opiates for many years without suffering serious health problems, provided they follow sanitary injection practices and do not mix depressants. In addition to eliminating the drug hazards created by prohibition, legalization would enable manufacturers to compete based on safety, offering products that minimize risk while delivering the effects customers want.

Will's addiction concerns seem to be focused on cocaine and heroin. But marijuana is far and away the most popular illegal drug, and the one that is most likely to win widespread acceptance in a legal market. When he was challenged to demonstrate his limited-government principles by supporting marijuana legalization during a televised debate last December, Will said, "I need to know more about whether it's a gateway to other drugs." (He could start here.) Will clearly has been reading up on the subject since then, and one of the sources he cites is UCLA criminologist Mark Kleiman, who favors legalizing marijuana (albeit under a ration-card system). Does Will agree with Kleiman? He promises that "a subsequent column will suggest a more economic approach to the 'natural' problem of drugs," so maybe we'll find out.

One thing that frustrates me about Will's argument is that, like most conservatives (including conservative critics of the war on drugs), he takes a purely utilitarian approach, giving no consideration to the fundamental injustice of using violence to stop people from doing things that might harm them. During that December debate, Will said, "When does X trump personal liberty? Almost never....I don't want to make safety parallel with, equal to, let alone trump personal liberty." If so, why does he let safety trump liberty when it comes to drugs?

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  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    If so, why does he let safety trump liberty when it comes to drugs?

    Because drugs are icky and Will is a nostalgia freak for the Way Things Used To Be

  • Zeb||

    Didn't drugs used to be legal? Someone should tell him that.

  • AuH2O||

    I wish I could just toddle off to the local apothecary and pick up some laudum.

  • Enough About Palin||

    It would make Friday nights a lot more fun.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    People like George Will and Mark Levine demonstrate the effectiveness of propagandizing children.

    Both are proponents of personal liberty. Ridicule the idea of trading liberty for safety. Want a smaller less intrusive government.

    And yet, both they both do a 180 if word drugs is mentioned.

    That's some powerful, deeply entrenched fear.

  • Evil Otto||

    Disclaimer: I oppose the WoD in all its forms.

    However, it's pretty disingenuous to equate alcohol to cocaine too. Cocaine addiction is much quicker to develop than alcoholism.

  • John||

    I don't see that at all. I know a lot more old drunks than I do coke heads.

  • Evil Otto||

    I bet you also know a lot more non-alcoholic alcohol users than non-addict cocaine users.

    Alcohol is the traditional social drug in European-American culture. Of course addiction to it is going to be more common since it is more commonly used.

  • John||

    I know a ton of people who used coke recreationally when they were young and don't now. I would put the number well over ten. Not a single coke fiend in the bunch. I would say the percentage of users to addicts among coke users I have known is if anything lower than the drinkers I have known.

  • Evil Otto||

    Ten isn't a ton. Well, literally it probably is close assuming an average weight of 200 lbs, but that's not what you mean.

  • Enough About Palin||

    "Ten isn't a ton"

    If they each weighed 200 pounds it is.

  • Evil Otto||

    Wow, that's original, EAP.

  • Enough About Palin||

    No, I'm certain someone came up with the idea of basic math a long time ago.

  • Evil Otto||

    Apparently the basic idea of reading comprehension was lost along the way.

  • Brandon||

    Also, the 7 percent number for alcoholics is a load of crap.

  • Zeb||

    Yeah, some definitions of alcoholism are pretty bunk. There are people who will claim you are an alcoholic if you average 3 beers a day.

  • strat||

    These days, official diagnoses are all about whether it affects one's work, relationships, or other activities of life. Counting is passé.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Yep.

  • KDN||

    My experience is in line with John's. I know exactly one coke fiend but a slew of people that use (or have used) coke as often as I drink (i.e. weekends only).

  • Mr Whipple||

    I don't see that at all. I know a lot more old drunks than I do coke heads.

    Especially, former coke heads that switched to alcohol because it is legal. They are still just as fucked up, except now, as long as they don't drive, it is "socially acceptable".

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Spurious claim Tulpa. I'd venture to say that a cocaine addict and an alcohol addict are pretty much addicts from the first try.

  • ||

    Really? Do you know from personal experience?

  • Evil Otto||

    You know, just because you're an individualist doesn't mean you have to be a solipsist.

  • ||

    Solipsism is a sin in Satanism and, since all Libertarians are Satanists, we all now know that Epi is going to Double-Hell. Good job, Epi.

  • AuH2O||

    But, because hell is negative, and two negative make a positive, is Double-Hell secretly awesome?

  • ||

    ...

    Shit, you might have a point. Maybe it's time I engaged in some counter-productive pride and continued bothering someone in open territory after they asked that I stop.

  • Pi Guy||

    I'm having me a Double-Hell is secretly awesome T-shirt printed up on CafePress this weekend!

  • ||

    Metaphysical, methodological, or epistemological?

  • Evil Otto||

    The fourth one.

  • R C Dean||

    My impression is that some people are, for lack of a better term, natural addicts.

    They will be addicted to something. Alcohol. Cocaine. WoW. Something.

    People who aren't prone to addiction won't get addicted to anything, even if they give it a go.

  • John||

    Most people who go through rehap just end up addicted to something else. It is the compulsive behavior that is the problem, not the drugs.

  • Zeb||

    I agree completely. Some people can even do things like opiates to the point of having withdrawals when they stop, but once they are through that, it is no problem for them. Others can quit again and again and still never seem to be able to shake it. This is why I like to distinguish addiction from physical dependence. Addiction seems to have way more to do with predisposition/personality than the actual drugs one does.

  • Evil Otto||

    Depends on how you define addiction. If you define it as continual usage of the stimulus when there is a desire not to use it those people wouldn't count. But that's hard to determine, so I think the physical dependency definition is better to use (and I'm fairly skeptical there's much daylight between them).

  • Zeb||

    I've watched several people deal with pretty serious opiate addiction (and dabbled a bit myself, enough to know that I need to avoid it) and at least with drugs like that that cause real physical dependence, I think it is a very important distinction. As I said, lots, probably most, opiate addicts go completely through the withdrawal from the drugs frequently, either in an attempt to quit, or because their tolerance is getting too high and the habit too expensive. Even though they physical symptoms are gone in a week or so, I wouldn't say they are not still addicts until they have stopped for a good while and gotten their shit together.

    And on the other side of things, I don't think that it is appropriate to call people on long term opioid therapy for chronic pain are addicts (necessarily). Or if they are, we need a new word for the junky kind of addict.

  • Evil Otto||

    I hate to sound semantic, but this is an inherently semantic subject...it depends on what purpose we want the word to serve. If it is used to diagnose a medical condition for treatment there's no reason to distinguish between "legitimate" users and junkies. If it's used to communicate moral opprobrium that's a different story.

    Of course, the prohibitionists do like to equivocate between the two senses.

  • Zeb||

    I agree that it is very much semantic. We are using the same word in different ways. I think addiction is the psychological phenomenon. You can be addicted to your iPhone or sex or whatever. It is about the compulsive pleasure seeking. Other people use that word to refer to the physical dependence such as happens with opiates and some other classes of drugs. But whatever you want to call it, I think that there is a meaningful distinction to be made.
    The old lady who my wife works for who takes oxycodone everyday because her doctor tells her to and who doesn't quite get why she feels crappy when she decides not to take it is never an addict in my book. But if that's how you define the word, I can't argue with you.

  • Evil Otto||

    Yes, we're just disagreeing about a definition which is not a big deal.

    My concern is that the word has such a negative connotation from its association with truly bad situations of physical dependency that I'd prefer it not be applied to benign habits or pleasurable pursuits like sex or video games or Mozart.

  • Zeb||

    Well, I guess I'd say that it becomes addiction when some pleasurable activity becomes more of a compulsion than purely pleasure, or when it starts to negatively affect other aspects of one's life. I certainly see your point.

  • Pi Guy||

    It only has the negative connotation it has because many people, as you've so thoroughly demonstrated, are apparently not in a good position to pass judgment on the matter of drug use.

    I'm not sure if/what/when you've used but your fear is palpable. Is it b/c your family/school/community/church demonized it? Or maybe you stayed up all night one time in high school mainlining Cheetos, Twinkies, and 2-liter bottles of Mtn Dew while flipping back and forth b/w Pink Floyd's "The Wall" and "Reefer Madness" on late-night cable, and you're brain is permanently wired so that when you hear coke, you see this.

    At any rate, can you imagine taking your car to a mechanic who doesn't know how to drive? I think that that's the sort of feeling you're generating here...

  • juris imprudent||

    If it's used to communicate moral opprobrium that's a different story.

    Would you like a suggestion on what to do with your moral opprobrium? Hint: unlike people who are overly fond of expressing their own, I won't coerce you into doing as I see fit.

  • fried wylie||

    I don't think that it is appropriate to call people on long term opioid therapy for chronic pain are addicts

    Addicted to Not-Being-In-Pain maybe.

  • Zeb||

    "Cocaine addiction is much quicker to develop than alcoholism."

    I'm not sure how true that is. There are an awful lot of people out there who do coke for a while and just decide to stop, either because it is boring, or too expensive, or it is part of an unhealthy lifestyle or they just got new friends.
    But this is one of those things that is really hard to judge when one of the substances is illegal. One things about users of illegal substances is that you usually only hear about the ones who get in trouble. The guy who does some coke on the weekend every now and then doesn't show up on the news.

  • Rick O'Shay||

    From personal experience I find it very hard to believe cocain is addicting. Haha. You can use cocain heavily for short or long periods of time and simply stop whenever you want. Really not that big a deal.

  • Zeb||

    I feel the same way about that particular drug. Though other people seem to have quite different experiences.

  • Pi Guy||

    See? You're doing it right there.

    It's not disingenuous at all. The "Addiction X is so much worse that Addction Y" mantra is essentially a way of saying "I don't find Y personally icky."

    That's all you're doing. "I think alcohol's fine b/c I drink. But, you know, them coke heads on the corner..."

  • John||

    Will seems incapable of understanding that people eventually do learn. Not everyone is a degenerate with no impulse control. Millions and millions of people have tried cocaine and not become addicts. Some of that was because it was illegal. But a lot of it was because because people grew up and didn't want to use it anymore.

    Without question, if drugs were legal, a few people who are not now would end up being addicts and destroy their lives. But it defies credulity to claim that the harm created by this increase could even approach the harm created by criminality.

    Will is basically arguing that we need to lock up millions of people and create huge criminal gangs and spend billions of dollars to prevent a few people from becoming addicts.

  • ||

    Not everyone is a degenerate with no impulse control

    Well there goes the raison d'etre for both political parties.

  • R C Dean||

    Without question, if drugs were legal, a few people who are not now would end up being addicts and destroy their lives.

    I don't think that's clear at all, unless you are talking about a very, very (very) small handful of people who are (a) prone to addiction, but (b) have somehow managed to avoid addiction to alcohol, cigarettes, or prescription drugs, but (c) would nonetheless become addicted to newly legalized drugs.

    So we're probably talking, what, a few dozen?

  • John||

    There is 300 million people in this country. It would be more than a few dozen. There are lots of people out there who are compulsive and lack impulse control. Some of them are deter by the law enough to turn their compulsions to drink or gambling or video games or whatever. It is a good bet if drugs were legal some of those people would turn to drugs. It would be a lot more than a dozen. But no where near enough to justify the drug war.

  • Masturbatin' Pete||

    Don't know what the numbers would be, but I'm leaning towards John here. There are some people who are addicted to tobacco but not booze, booze but not gambling, gambling but not shopping, shopping but not pr0n, pr0n but not vidya, etc. There's a group of people out there who have tried one or two of the common addictive substances and didn't get hooked... and then they get on painkillers and can't get off. I have to think that there are a substantial number of people who would destroy their lives with coke or heroin but haven't yet simply because they don't want to take those risks.

  • John||

    And they don't have access to it. If you are a respectable middle class person, you really don't have access to drugs. I don't have a clue how to get a hold of coke or any hard drugs. I could probably get some pot if I really tired. But even that would involve a few phone calls. A lot different than going to CVS. So no doubt there are at least a few people out there who would get addicted that are not now. But again, so what?

  • Randian||

    Geeze John, you're a lawyer. Call your managing partner :)

  • Masturbatin' Pete||

    I don't have a clue how to get a hold of coke or any hard drugs. I could probably get some pot if I really tired.

    Whomever you would get your pot from knows a guy...

  • Gerholdt||

    And that's what makes MJ a "gateway drug", which it wouldn't be if you got it legally from a licensed merchant.

  • ||

    ---"If you are a respectable middle class person, you really don't have access to drugs"---

    Excuse me? I am "respectable" middle class, and I can get pretty much whatever I want, whenever I want.

  • Evil Otto||

    Your mudder must be proud.

  • John||

    You are the exception or maybe you are not quite as respectable as you think you are.

  • Enough About Palin||

    Am I the exception to, John?

  • Enough About Palin||

    add an o

  • ||

    Really? Can you hook a brother up? Because I'm not even a respectable middle-class person (more like a scruffy disheveled middle-class person)and for the life of me I can't get ahold of anything more often than a couple of times a year no matter how hard I try.

  • R C Dean||

    I have to think that there are a substantial number of people who would destroy their lives with coke or heroin but haven't yet simply because they don't want to take those risks.

    I dunno. I think anyone who is prone to destroying their life with substance abuse has probably already hooked up to alcohol, painkillers, or an illegal drug.

  • John||

    Maybe so. Some of the people who would be addicted to coke or opiates are probably addicted to booze now. So I would imagine the number of alcoholics would go down.

  • Evil Otto||

    And what do you base this claim on?

  • R C Dean||

    Extrapolation and speculation based on personal experience.

    Which is more than what Will has.

  • Evil Otto||

    I know a ton of women who have had wild one night stands with Will. The bow tie veils a hardcore partier.

  • juris imprudent||

    a ton of women

    That could be a whole lot of slender hotties, or half a dozen cows.

  • Enough About Palin||

    "I have to think that there are a substantial number of people who would destroy their lives with coke or heroin but haven't yet simply because they don't want to take those risks."

    Fucking liberty, how does it work?

  • Masturbatin' Pete||

    It's not anti-liberty to conclude that if heroin were legalized, more people would get hooked on heroin. That's just reality. Rates of alcohol-related illnesses went down during Prohibition. Pointing that out doesn't mean that anyone wants to reinstate that failed policy.

  • Evil Otto||

    A lot of people around these parts equate recognition of something as bad with desire to ban that thing. I tried to sidestep that issue with my disclaimer but they dragged it back in!

  • juris imprudent||

    Probably because the majority of people outside this site immediately associate "bad" with need to ban.

  • fried wylie||

    Rates of alcohol-related illnesses went down during Prohibition.

    I'm genuinely surprised that methanol poisoning didn't at least keep those rates stable.

  • Robert||

    Liver diseases declined during national liquor prohibition because that was the time the B vitamins were discovered. Those liver diseases didn't bounce back to their previous levels after repeal, did they?

  • VG Zaytsev||

    They trending up for 35 years after the end of prohibition. But never reached pre prohibition levlels.

    Also, the drop in deaths from chirrosis dropped more in the 10 years preceding prohibition than during prohibition.

    http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/Resou.....irmrt1.htm

  • Jerryskids||

    One of the worst arguments re: drug legalization is denying that it would increase the number of drug users. Are you really saying that decreasing the cost of a product would not increase the demand for that product? I think they teach that somewhere in the first 3 minutes of ECO 101. It defies logic to think that some of these additional users would not become addicts.

    But - as has been pointed out before on these very pages - the alleged costs of drug use almost always are gross, not net. If I buy a couple bumps for my own enjoyment, obviously the gross cost of drugs has gone up. But once I actually enjoy them, the net cost has dropped.

    Why? Simply because my enjoyment was worth more than what I paid. If this were not so, I would not have made the transaction. That is true of every voluntary exchange - both parties get the better end of the bargain.

    It is the one cost factor the drug warriors never take into account - the value of the increase in pleasure. When you add that into the equation, the WoD costs far more than most people think it does.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    Are you really saying that decreasing the cost of a product would not increase the demand for that product? I think they teach that somewhere in the first 3 minutes of ECO 101. It defies logic to think that some of these additional users would not become addicts.

    That's true, but overstated.

    The demand for drugs is highly inelastic which is why restricted supply leads to stratospheric prices. Increasing supply will result in fewer new users because restricted supply has not led to dramatically lower consumption.

  • fried wylie||

    Some of them are deter by the law enough to turn their compulsions to drink or gambling or video games or whatever.

    then they fail criterion (b) in RC's test.

  • Evil Otto||

    You're assuming the illegal drugs all have the same addiction-generating potency as alcohol and cigarettes.

  • John||

    And that sounds like a pretty good assumption. To assume otherwise is to assume that drugs have some kind of magic power to turn otherwise normal people into fiends. And the fact that millions of people have used drugs and not become addicts renders that statement ridiculous.

  • Evil Otto||

    These drugs have very different mechanisms of action. Assuming that they would be that they all have the same risk of addiction is magical thinking.

    You'd be daft to say that marijuana is as addictive as alcohol, for instance.

  • John||

    I think you are daft to judge the risk of addiction by the substance. It is the person who gets addicted.

  • Evil Otto||

    I guess we shouldn't differentiate between the toxicity of cyanide and peanut butter either, since it depends on the person whether they will cause death.

  • juris imprudent||

    There are people for whom a mg of peanut product is as deadly as a mg of cyanide.

    Let me know when you develop an objective scale of addictiveness. I'll come to your Nobel Prize in medicine award.

  • Randian||

    Not buying that one, John. My observations bear out that some substances are more addictive than others, especially opiates.

  • John||

    Fair enough Randian. But Tulpa is pulling his claim that illegal drugs are more addictive that tobacco or alcohol firmly out of his ass. He has no evidence for that. He just assumes it because it is what he wants to be true.

  • Evil Otto||

    I'm totally against the WoD, so it certainly ain't wishful thinking.

    Notice I'm not talking about illegal drugs in general either. Marijuana is on average way below alcohol and nicotine on the addictivity scale. Some drugs that happen to be illegal are more addictive.

    Your claim is the one that requires evidence anyway. The drugs have very different mechanisms of action, it's implausible a priori that they would have the same likelihood of inducing addiction.

  • Randian||

    I don't know John, it seems to be an observation that requires little scientific evidence. Drugs are different, ergo they affect people differently. Seems commonsense to me.

  • Enough About Palin||

  • Evil Otto||

    The only one of those categories that relates to what we're talking about is "Reinforcement". The rest are concerned with what happens during addiction, not before. And Reinforcement is rated higher for heroin and cocaine than alcohol and nicotine.

    (of course, the study's methodology means it should be taken with a grain of non-addictive salt)

  • Enough About Palin||

    What I find interesting (and accurate from personal experience) is that the dependence on nicotine is the highest. Quitting cigarettes was a motherfucker. Nearly a two week hell. The other substances, not so much.

  • robc||

    Based on that chart and based on the being 4 months caffeine free right now, I dont want to know what its like to try to get off heroin or nicotine.

    I see why my Dad is having so much trouble not smoking (it became medically necessary last month).

    I would happily kill each and every one of you for a Coke.

  • Evil Otto||

    Is that the sugar or the caffeine though?

    Some guy burned off half his face last week in Pittsburgh smoking while he was on O2.

  • robc||

    Caffeine, in my case.

    I dont think my sugar intake has gone down. At least not much.

  • shamalam||

    interesting chart! thanks.

  • Zeb||

    I'd guess 10s of thousands, anyway. But so what? It's their problem.

    Plus, it's a lot less likely to destroy your life if it is cheap, clean and legal. Especially opiates.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    It is telling that Wilson picked nicotine for his comparison, since he never could have gotten away with a similarly glib claim about alcohol. Does alcohol debase life?

    Technically, if you were replacing nicotine with alcohol, you should be asking if alcohol shortens life.

    As I've said before, we've been pretty effectively brainwashed since childhood that recreational drug use in almost all forms is an intolerable assault on society. It's made worse in awareness education and popular culture by the conflation of drug use and the negative effects of drug prohibition. It's going to be very difficult to change minds on this, no matter how many facts you bring.

  • John||

    Alcohol, if abused, absolutely shortens life and shortens it every bit as much as cocaine. You need a liver just as much as you need a heart.

  • Evil Otto||

    So that means cholesterol shortens life as much as rat poison, since they both attack the arteries.

  • John||

    No dipshit. That is a stupid comment even for you. If you don't think alcohol destroys your liver just as quickly or probably quicker as cocaine destroys your heart, go talk to George Best or Richard Burton or Dylan Thomas any of the other famous drunks who never saw the back side of 60.

    You statement is weapons grade stupid. What the fuck is the matter with you?

  • Evil Otto||

    As opposed to the cocaine users who had heart attacks in their 20s?

  • John||

    As opposed to people in their 20s who died of alcohol poisoning? Both drugs, unlike pot, are toxic and can kill you via overdose.

    And further, those heart attacks are nearly always the result of someone unknowingly taking really pure cocaine and accidentally overdosing. They are the result of prohibition. Blaming their deaths on cocaine is like blaming people who died from bad moonshine during prohibition on alcohol.

  • robc||

    However, abstinence from alcohol shortens life relative to moderate drinking.

  • Evil Otto||

    Causation, correlation, same thing.

  • robc||

    In this case, there is quite possibly a causation.

    I see know reason to assume that the body doesnt need a small amount of alcohol ingestion to operate at peak conditions.

    Heck, in the bible Paul tells Timothy to drink more wine for health reasons. And what kind of christian would I be* if I argued with that?

    *southern baptist. Which I am. And yet, Im still not arguing with it.

  • robc||

    Apparently the body needs a certain amount of radiation too.

    Small doses of radiation have been shown to be healthier also. Correlation or causation? It can be both.

  • Evil Otto||

    Causation implies correlation, so of course it can be both.

    And there are many kinds of radiation btw. Yes, we need UV in small doses to produce vitamin D. Gamma and beta radiation are not beneficial in any quantities though.

  • Metazoan||

    Oops, beat me to it.

  • robc||

    Gamma is what Im refering to.

    The health physics charts all assume that there is no benefit and start the damage vs exposure line at 0,0.

    But, the actual experiments show a slight dip in damage followed by an increase.

    Its almost like we evolved in a world with background radiation of 1-2 mSv per year.

  • Evil Otto||

    Uh, if the exposure vs. damage line doesn't start at 0,0, that means that zero exposure leads to positive damage. Which is counterintuitive (or less diplomatically, insane) so it needs a link.

  • robc||

    0.0 and increases linearly.

    Shorthand, my bad.

    The non-LNT model has the 0 damage point at a threshhold larger than 0 (and a nonlinear model between 0 and the threshhold)

  • robc||

    See lines B and D in the chart in the link below.

  • robc||

    It isnt insane. The "line" starts at T,0, between 0,0 and T,0 it is a curve not a line.

    :)

  • robc||

    I guess I should correct that, if it has a starting point, it is a ray not a line.

    The math guy should have pointed that out.

  • robc||

    Radiation Hormesis

    It appears to be at the same state of controversy as it was 22 years ago when I was learning that stuff.

    The regulatory bodies all use LNT, which is easier anyway, so I dont blame them much.

  • Metazoan||

    What kind of radiation(citation please)? Do you mean UV, such as to generate vitamin D? Or do you mean even higher energy radiation?

  • Robert||

    You need blue light, not UV, to activate vit D.

  • Evil Otto||

    How odd that the body tries to eliminate it immediately upon consumption then!

  • robc||

    Which, alcohol or radiation?

    And it may not be the alcohol, per se, that is healthy, but the stuff that comes along for the ride. Especially in red wines and dark beers.

    I still give the alcohol credit. Its a weird evolutionary thing. The body's enjoyment of alcohol leads to it ingesting healthy bits.

  • Evil Otto||

    The healthy bits of red wine are also found in grape juice.

  • robc||

    And yet, the people who drink it instead of wine die slightly earlier.

  • robc||

    Ive seen some suggestions that stress plays a small part.

    And grape juice isnt a stress reliever.

    The fact is, study after study keeps showing the correlation. The exact causation (if their is one) is unknown. But that doesnt mean it doesnt exist.

  • juris imprudent||

    Not so fast and this (though it cautions against resveratrol hype does note that it is in red wine, not grape juice).

  • strat||

    Alcohol is a drug with a withdrawal syndrome that can be fatal. Opiate withdrawal may make someone wish they were dead, but alcohol can bring it about.

  • o3||

    the prohibitionists need to 'splain why *teh addiction apolcalypse* hasnt happened in the netherlands after 20+ years.

  • ||

    ---"And suppose the level of addiction were to replicate the 7 percent of adults suffering from alcohol abuse or dependency"---

    I suppose we could suppose any number that we want.

  • Arf?||

    When he was challenged to demonstrate his limited-government principles by supporting marijuana legalization during a televised debate last December, Will said, "I need to know more about whether it's a gateway to other drugs."

    Except... the question was about legalization. Does he not get how gateway drugs work?

    A gateway drug is one that desensitizes you to breaking the law to acquire it and introduces you to users and dealers. This makes you more likely to try harder drugs.

    Legalize the drug and it can't function as a gateway.

  • John||

    Will isn't known for having a lot of balls. It would take a lot of balls for a guy in his position to come out against the drug war no matter how obvious the position is. Since he has no balls and his biggest concern in life is being accepted by other journalists and other "top men", he stammers and tries to defend the indefensible.

  • juris imprudent||

    It would take a lot of balls for a guy in his position to come out against the drug war no matter how obvious the position is.

    I guess old man Buckley must've clanked when he walked.

  • John||

    he did. And Buckley was always a heretic.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    As the late James Q. Wilson said, nicotine shortens life, cocaine debases it..

    Your life is communal property. We will not allow you to squander it with such atrocious ideas as doing what you want with it.

    Legalization would mean drugs of reliable quality would be conveniently available from clean stores for customers not risking the stigma of breaking the law

    There's a little bit more than a "stigma" of breaking the law. Possession equals hard time in prison, not a scarlet "D" being sewn onto your clothes.

  • Jerryskids||

    To George Will's credit, he did not bring up the costs to society in terms of lost productivity as virtually every drug warrior does.

    When somebody claims that drug use "costs" society because users are not as productive as they might be, I want to jab them right in the eyeball with a dull, rusty icepick.

  • juris imprudent||

    because users are not as productive as they might be

    Maybe you should offer to polish their jackboots. Though most probably won't get it.

  • R C Dean||

    But he worries that legalization would lead to a big increase in drug addiction and the problems associated with it:

    A worry that is singularly unsupported by experience in nations that have decriminalized/legalized.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    American Exceptionalism!

    We are exceptional to all other nations because we are singularly weak to the temptations of drug and alcohol addiction!

    George Will told me so!

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    No shit, right? On one hand, we are the smartest, most innovative country in the world. Our bravery and personal strength has protected the World from tyranny for over 100 years.

    On the other hand, we are we so dumb we would eat spoiled meat if not for the USDA, we aren't innovative enough to develop new technology unless the DOE hands out loans. Our justly fear of terrorists means we must wage a war on terrorists, and the weak character of each American and our proclivity to addiction necessitates a war on drugs.

  • John||

    What Will is really saying here is that he has no case for the drug war beyond the fact that all of those damned nihilist dope smoking Libertarians don't support it. And that therefore just can't be a serious position.

  • AuH2O||

    Most of the opposition to pot seems to be driven by its association to hippies and the 60s. If pot were seen as the drug that business leaders and politicians enjoyed (currently, I don't mean admission of past use) it would be legal in a second.

  • John||

    Probably so. And hippies are certainly worth hating. Almost as worthy as hipsters. I have to admit, in one of my weaker moments you might be able to sell me on a national PBR and wool hat ban.

    It is a real shame hippies associated themselves with pot.

  • The Unknown Pundit||

    There are many on the Right that blame the 60's counter-culture Left for a whole host of things, including losing in Vietnam. They also see drug law reform as a Left issue too, so they support the WOD purely out of spite.

  • shamalam||

    I am a fan of George Will. He is a master at stringing together a bunch of words to arrive at a very convincing argument. This time he arrives at conventional wisdom, quite uninspiring.

    I think John nailed it above. George has his reputation as a top man to consider.

  • Jerryskids||

    I happen to think George Will is miles above most pundits in making rational, logical arguments. I am not so sure that he is so vainglorious as to consider his reputation much of a variable in his arguments.

    I suspect that Mr. Will is in fact as Victorian as he appears to be - he values social norms more highly than most people do simply because he recognizes that social norms have more value than many people recognize.

    Conformity to social norms is not a bad thing, per se. It's what stops you from being such an asshole that your neighbor wants to kill you, and vice versa.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    I suspect that Mr. Will is in fact as Victorian as he appears to be -

    You mean he thinks child prostitution should be legal?

  • Zeb||

    Fuck George Will, then. It's not worth one life or one person being imprisoned for a non-crime like possession or selling of drugs, even if it stopped half the country from becoming drug addicts.

  • johnl||

    Prohibitionists never think about the process of quitting. Smokers will often try a few times to quit. When they do, their fiends and family will support them and try to assist. When H users try to quit, they can't even tell their families.

  • ||

    During that December debate, Will said, "When does X trump personal liberty? Almost never....I don't want to make safety parallel with, equal to, let alone trump personal liberty." If so, why does he let safety trump liberty when it comes to drugs?

    bcuz drugz r bad mkay?

  • Colin||

    Why is this theoretical? What about real life? Portugal anyone?

  • Just Dropping By||

    Portugal is in Europe, so it doesn't count.

  • plu1959||

    Darn, if only the Founders had given us a system in which drug legalization could be tested in a political entity smaller than the entire nation! That could have made this whole issue so much simpler!

  • John||

    Yeah. That is a great point. Those damned dead white men are always letting us down.

  • Arf?||

    And, of course, they owned slaves.

  • Enough About Palin||

    And believed their wives were too stupid to vote.

  • The One||

    Dead White Males - how is anything they have ever written relevant to today? I think in my third term I'll mandate their writings be expunged from the written record. Reading does affect interstate commerce, doesn't it?

  • juris imprudent||

    Next band name: Dead Mite Whales

  • Randian||

    Angel Raich agrees with you. Unfortunately Scalia had other plans.

  • robc||

    Damn Scalia for turning a 5-4 vote into a 5-3 vote!

  • robc||

    5-4 into 6-3. Scalia made me typo.

  • Just Dropping By||

    [Scalia] Look, if you're going to punch the dirty fucking hippies, sometimes you've got to break a few constitutional eggs. [/Scalia]

  • purple_persuader||

    One of the problems in discussing the WOD, is that it is often discussed merely as a persona; liberty issue. Ok, true the government shouldn't be able to determine what people are or are not allowed to do to themselves, but in a free society there would be other checks on addiction.

    1) Insurance. In a free society while drugs may be cheaper by being in the open, insurers would charge higher rates for those using drugs, and likely there would be a combination of random and set tests.

    2) Employment. This too would likely be a deterrent, as many employers would want some kind of screening also. Really, if using drugs would affect an employees performance, or even cause harm to the business, say a forklift operator dumping a load at a construction site wouldn't employers want to insure they're getting full value, and protecting themselves liability wise?

  • John||

    All true. I suspect drug testing would become much more common if drugs were legal. And as a non drug user that sucks. I would end up being tested where I am not now.

  • juris imprudent||

    Yeah, just like how for years employers have discriminated against smokers - who actually do have lower productivity and have their smoke breaks written into union contracts.

  • Robert||

    No, I think drug testing would become much less common if they were legal. They would quickly lose their stigma and businesspeople would wonder what they were ever thinking when it came to testing people.

  • Pi Guy||

    5-4 into 6-3. Scalia made me typo.

    I'm curious to know if it's just me - or do people see it as just pass/fail? - but more and more I realize how important that one swing vote in a SCOTUS case has the effect of making the decision seem so much more Constitutional (not quite the right word, surely, which is why I've not yet quite gotten this thought out before now).

    2-to-1 pays a lot better than 5-to-4. Is it just me or does this matter?

    BTW: *snickered* at "Scalia made me typo."

  • The Unknown Pundit||

    ...he takes a purely utilitarian approach, giving no consideration to the fundamental injustice of using violence to stop people from doing things that might harm them.

    Sadly, a lot of people here and around the world seem to believe their moral bonafides are proven by how often they are willing to bring violence and coercion into situations where it didn't exist before, all in the name of public morality.

    Let's call the WOD what it really is, tyranny.

  • John||

    ^^This^^

    Even if you take it as a given that cocaine is always harmful and results in the user living a debased life, that doesn't justify using the police power to prevent him from doing so.

  • Evil Otto||

    That's kind of an insult to (and betrays a misunderstanding of) utilitarianism. Most utilitarians consider violence and restraint of choice to be of negative utility.

  • robc||

    Sure, but how much negative?

    You can convert any deontologist into a utilitarian if they can assign -infinity utils to any immoral acts.

  • robc||

    In other words,

    Fuck Utilitarianism!

    [first time under reg system]

    Also, Tulpa, it pisses me off that you are using my favorite video game bad guy as your new name.

  • Evil Otto||

    Sorry, Sinistar and Calypso were already taken.

  • robc||

    Something wrong with Tulpa?

  • Zeb||

    Did someone else appropriate the Tulpa handle?

  • Evil Otto||

    It was reserved for an old email account. My new (2 years) email account got "Tulpa2" which I refuse to settle for.

  • robc||

    Apparently if you send them an email, they will correct it.

  • James Anderson Merritt||

    I agree. The WOD is tyranny in its own right, not to mention a key staging grounds and model for more tyranny in other areas (e.g., the War on Terror). Its very existence is anathema to a free nation. If drugs are a "disease," then they are the kind of disease that many of us can actually beat, or never "catch" in the first place. On the other hand, the WOD is a cancer that harms us all, worse every day, whether or not we or our associates and loved ones have ever partaken of illicit drugs. The WOD must go. Do not vote for any federal candidate who has not pledged to end it immediately.

  • Ice Nine||

    But most of all - fuck 'em. Let them do it and let them kill themselves if they will. Can't imagine the impact of self-culling the herd of its weaklings having anywhere near a greater impact on society than does the WOT and all if its terrible ramifications.

  • Zeb||

    Drugs don't ruin people's lives, people ruin their lives with drugs. A big problem with drugwar rhetoric is that it gives drugs some magical agency.

  • ||

    Maybe next time Arianna Huffington is on the same Sunday Morning panel with George, she can kick his ass?

  • Enough About Palin||

    I wouldn't want her tongue anywhere near my ass.

  • ||

    I guess Will is not invited to the Reason Cruise. At least not by Sullum. Maybe Welch and Will could just talk baseball

  • robc||

    Will can to the wrong conclusion when he was a part of the Blue Ribbon Committee for baseball too.

  • Gerholdt||

    I find that alcohol (used moderately except at my favorite restaurant's quarterly wine dinner) enhances my life, especially that which originated as vinifera. Mmmm - resveratrol.
    Proverbs 31:6 Give beer to those who are perishing, wine to those who are in anguish.

  • fried wylie||

    Yo, Proverbs, what about those of us that are just chillin'?

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Here ya go:

    Who scream? Who shriek? Who have strife? Who have anxiety? Who have wounds for nothing? Who have black eyes? Those who linger long over wine, those who engage in trials of blended wine. Look not on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the glass. It goes down smoothly; but in the end it bites like a serpent, or like a poisonous adder. Your eyes behold strange sights, and your heart utters disordered thoughts; You are like one now lying in the depths of the sea, now sprawled at the top of the mast. "They struck me, but it pained me not; They beat me, but I felt it not; When shall I awake to seek wine once again?"
    Prov 23:29-35 (NAB)

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    And just before this passage, it warns about harlots and adulteresses. I think the scripture here is alluding the concept of "beer goggles."

  • widget||

    I'll get around to reading the bible some. Eh, probably not.

    They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
    Love and desire and hate:
    I think they have no portion in us after
    We pass the gate.
    They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
    Out of a misty dream
    Our path emerges for a while, then closes
    Within a dream.

    Ernest Dowson

  • ||

    Why does all this even semi-pro War on Drugs reasoning also justify banning alcohol, cigarettes and Big Macs? Who the fuck cares whether it's good for you? You own yourself.

    It's entirely possible that everyone prone to addiction remains as likely to seek out drugs even post-illegalization, so we actually have the worst of all worlds: the same number of addicts + no treatment + police state.

  • juris imprudent||

    Dude, they're working on the rest as fast as they can. All that crazy owning-yourself talk is going to get you in trouble some day.

  • widget||

    Cigarettes and Big Macs rarely cause the user to engage in behavior that might harm others. I haven't met anyone (including myself) who has smoked pot that goes nuts and becomes a danger to others. I haven't met anyone (including myself) that doesn't go nuts and become a danger to others who uses coke. Most people are OK with coke the first few times they use it. After that, it's just a matter of time for the upside to get shorter and less intense and the paranoia on the down side to get longer and more intense. For some this happens in a few weeks, for others it takes years. There are no exceptions to this rule that I know of. Anyhows, I'm just saying, from personal experience, that not all drugs are the same wrt abhorrent behavior that will endanger others.

  • RobM||

    Is it any surprise you only know of those people who had significant negative reactions to use of cocaine (as opposed to those who did not have such noticeable reactions)?

  • RyanXXX||

    Most people who use coke don't go down that path. I know plenty of hot chicks at my college who like to partake when it is offered, none of them are fiends despite the fact they've been doing it since high school.

    The last two Presidents both did blow, for chrissakes

  • RyanXXX||

    Though I might actually count that as a point against it

  • widget||

    I know plenty of hot chicks at my college who like to partake when it is offered, none of them are fiends despite the fact they've been doing it since high school.

    Your talking about a 4 year time frame, at the most. Hot chicks in high school and hot chicks in college. Like I said, it takes years for coke to catch up with some users. It just about always happens and I won't back down from that.

  • RyanXXX||

    Somewhat ironically, the biggest health risks from coke come from when it is mixed with alcohol. Which, sadly, is also when it is most fun

  • claygooding||

    It seems that the prohibitionist have run out of ammunition from science based evidence of harm from marijuana and now we are being assaulted with "strawmen" built in the minds of paranoid individual's who happen to also hold some form of influence over (imagined or real)what they see as their crowds of followers.

    The real problem is that every prohibitionist I have investigated has had a vested interest in things remaining as they are,from stocks in corporate prisons too Federal grant monies for anti-drug organizations and even urine analysis stock investments,,all in place and guaranteed income as long as prohibition remains intact.

    Prohibitionist should be shunned even more than drug users.

  • شات عراقنا||

    thank you

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