Drug War

The Missing Parts of the Drug Czar's Whitney Houston "teachable moment"

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Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske blathered about the "teachable moment" inherent in the death of pop star Whitney Houston. The Drug Policy Alliance's Meghan Ralston writing at Alternet thinks our czar dropped the ball:

Gil Kerlikowske, speaking with CBS News about Houston's untimely death, referred to it as a "teachable moment." Ah, the "teachable moment" message. I knew it would surface eventually. It always gets trotted out when someone famous dies of a drug overdose…. 

But he misses an enormous opportunity by failing to specify what Americans can teach or learn from Houston's alleged overdose.

He could have talked about the importance of providing basic information about how to prevent, recognize and respond to an overdose at places like high schools, colleges, drug treatment facilities and homeless shelters. He could have said that people should never mix alcohol with sedatives because it can significantly increase the possibility of an accidental, or even fatal, overdose.

He could have taught us how to recognize warning signs of an overdose in progress, like lips and nail beds turning blue, or very slow or labored breath. He could have explained that the chances of surviving an overdose, like those of surviving a heart attack, depend greatly on how fast one receives medical assistance. And he could havementioned  that states like New York, Illinois, New Mexico, Connecticut and Washington have recently passed "911 Good Samaritan" laws to encourage people to immediately call 911 without fear of arrest and prosecution for minor drug law violations.

At the very least, he could have said that – contrary to popular belief – it's not teenagers who die from drug overdose in the greatest numbers, but their parents. People in their 40s and 50s are more likely to die from an accidental drug overdose than adolescents. Parents are constantly being cautioned these days to "lock up your medicine cabinets," as a way to reduce the likelihood of potentially dangerous drugs getting into young hands. But do parents themselves realize their own risks if they improperly use those same drugs? 

But all of that would have required admitting that lots of people can and do use, or even in his own mind "abuse," these drugs safely, and that's never something the Drug Czar wants to teach. 

Reason's Jacob Sullum did make such points and much, much more in his classic book Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use.

Nick Gillespie from the other day on how the drug war likely made it harder for Ms. Houston to seek help, if she thought she needed any.

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  1. Can we appoint a Drug Czar that, you know, actually knows a thing or two about drugs?

    I nominate Snoop Dogg.

    1. I can’t wait for the gin and juice PSAs.

      1. I would ban mixing gin and juice. Philistines!

        1. I would endorse militarized, no-knock, dog-shooting raids for anyone suspected of mixing gin and juice.

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  2. Um, drugs are BAD, mmkay?

  3. Ah, the “teachable moment” message. I knew it would surface eventually. It always gets trotted out when someone famous dies of a drug overdose….

    I’ve used “teachable moments” as teachable moments. I’ve told my daughters that anytime someone talks about a “teachable moment” or that something is “for the children” be especially on guard for appeals to emotion rather than reason.

    1. And your appeal today is…? /kidding

    2. I don’t want to have children for plenty of reasons. However, being able to tell them things like this are reasons I would reconsider.

  4. How could she have possibly died of a drug overdose if drugs are illegal????

    1. Good point. Must have been “natural causes”.

    2. Well technically, they were legal prescription drugs. Also, drowning.

  5. The only thing I learned from Whitney Houston is that covering Dolly Parton songs is good business.

    1. Our bidness is killin’ NATsees, and brother, bidness is a BOOMIN’!

    2. And doing a very poor job of covering. Dolly sang that song (and of course, wrote it). Whitney, from the little I have heard (turn it off right away), YELLS it. Yelling is not singing. Please inform the seemingly endless number of female “singers”.

      1. I never realized that that terrible cover puked out by Whitney was that beautiful song by Dolly until she died!

      2. What Rac said. Dolly not only has a great voice, she knows how to sing. Whitney never had a clue how to sing or use her voice. She screamed it. And it sounded like my cat before she pukes up a furball.

  6. Also, I continue to struggle with this sentence, despite reading it approximately 10-11 times:

    But all of that would have been admitting that lots of people can and do use or even in his own mind “abuse” these drugs safely, and that’s never something they want to teach.

    My inner Editor says, “Awkward – rewrite.”

    1. But all the warnings would have been admitting people can, will or “abuse” these drugs safely but this is the lesson that they choose not to teach.

      1. The factualism of teaching the warnings of drug abuse is that the narrative includes the diremption of use: drugs will kill some through their addictive properties but others may find their use to be a source of pleasure, and relief.

  7. What’s Ol’ Gil gotta do to sell you this car? Aw geez, it’s on fire again.

    Fucking loser.

  8. lets wait for the autopsy results. she coulda had an brain aneurysm caused by too much processed sugar for all we know.

    1. This. And let it also come out that her drug use had prevented the aneurysm from surfacing her entire life.

  9. Or it might have simply taught us that determined self-destructive behavior is, well, destructive.

  10. If only the message taken away from the “teachable moment” were THERE ARE NO DEPTHS TO WHICH PEOPLE LIKE GIL KERLIKOWSKE WILL NOT STOOP TO PROMOTE THEIR OWN AUTHORITY AND POWER.

  11. does anyone else misassociate Whitney with Waterworld b/c she sang the soundtrack for The Bodyguard?

    1. It’s just you.

    2. You’re a sick, sick dude. Seek help immediately.

    3. I thought she was in Robin Hood when I was a kid.

  12. She also taught us about the greatest love of all–the love of painkillers washed down with vodka.

  13. “People just explode. It happens all the time. Natural causes.”

    1. You know, Miller would make an excellent Drug Czar.

      “You know how everybody’s into weirdness right now?”

  14. There is nothing to learn from this. Nothing new and nothing interesting. I hate how people always have to pretend that things like this have anything to do with anything. It’s just some whit that happened to someone you don’t know.

    1. NJ is supposed to hang flags at half-mast for her, because she was from NJ, I guess, and sang some songs, and was famous, and died. I thought the half-mast honor was reserved for soldiers and civil servants who died honorably while doing their duty.

      I can’t think of a more ignominious way to go than drowning in a tub while drunk and sedated.

      1. I can’t think of a more ignominious way to go than drowning in a tub while drunk and sedated.

        Oh, yeah?

        1. STEVE SMITH CAN!

        2. You’ve got me there.

      2. I can’t think of a more ignominious way to go than drowning in a tub while drunk and sedated.

        How about dying in a senseless foreign war?

        1. I don’t know. The dishonor is not on the soldier who has died but the ones who sent him there for baseless reasons.

          1. Well I’m sure the brains behind Iraq and Afghanistan won’t be going to Sto’Vo’Kor. But I would hate for people to remember me for being blown up for being part of an occupying army.

      3. I can’t think of a more ignominious way to go than drowning in a tub while drunk and sedated.

        Oh, yeah?

      4. Hi there!

  15. Obviously the teachable lesson is “don’t take baths.” Duh.

  16. How, exactly, was the Drug War making it difficult for Whitney to get the help she needed? I’m having difficulty processing this. The woman had been in and out of rehab several times – she was getting help and didn’t pay it heed.

    1. It wasn’t, and you can’t process it because it’s nonsense.

      One of the things I find really annoying about the cosmotarians is that they can’t just argue that drugs should be legal and leave it at that, they have to take it even further and argue that doing drugs is “hip” and “cool”, which is nothing but a bunch of sad old sixties buncombe.

      As a result, whenever some dingbat in the entertainment industry kills herself with her excessive drug use, instead of just telling the truth and simply saying that the dingbat was a stupid idiot who killed herself, the cosmos then try to blame someone else for it.

      This really pisses me off, because people who truly believe in liberty and freedom are supposed to stand for personal and individual responsibility, not fall back on this “society is to blame” bullcrap.

      1. What Mike said. If Houston wasn’t smart enough or responsible enough to manage her pill habit, that is her problem not society’s or the government’s. No one made her take the stuff.

        1. Gillespie seems to think that the drug war made Whitney, and so many others like her, afraid to seek help because of the fear of prosecution for possession and use.

          I just don’t buy it – she’d been in rehab even recently, and no one had charged her with a crime. Perhaps in the immediate situation of her recent OD and drowning, someone was afraid to call the police or get help, but that could be due to any number of factors outside of the drug war: keeping up appearances, no scandals the night before the Grammy’s, others around her were to absorbed in other things to notice her lack of sobriety, or sheer immunity to something they had come to expect as normal behavior for Whitney. To lay this at the feet of the Drug War is disingenuous at best.

          1. Re: Cranberry,

            I just don’t buy it – she’d been in rehab even recently, and no one had charged her with a crime.

            That’s because entering rehab is not a crime, nor prima facie evidence of a crime.

            To lay this at the feet of the Drug War is disingenuous at best.

            You cannot know how Whitney would have acted otherwise if the fear of prosecution was not hanging over her head like a sword.

            1. OM, then neither can you know! Which means assigning blame is foolish and opportunistic, no matter who does it.

              1. Re: Rev. Blue Moon,

                OM, then neither can you know!

                No, but there’s one thing you and I know: She would probably not have to hide from the cops, and that would’ve made a big difference.

            2. If the police in Hollywood were serious about prescription meds and shutting down Dr. Feelgoods, there wouldn’t be an entertainment industry. Sorry, but you can’t lay her death at the feet of the drug war.

              1. Re: John,

                If the police in Hollywood were serious about prescription meds and shutting down Dr. Feelgoods, there wouldn’t be an entertainment industry.

                The fact that buying “prescription” drugs without a prescription is illegal changes the behavior of people, John, regardless of enforcement.

                Here’s a similar scenario for you: You have anti-sodomy laws in the books in some states. Do you really think that gays would be as flamboyant about their sexuality as gays in states where there are no such laws, even if the cops have not yet arrested anyone under such laws? Or do you think gays would still be more circumspect about ther sexuality in states with anti-sodomy laws, to the point of not trusting cops at all, even if cops have not arrested anyone yet?

                It’s the same with Drug laws, John: The fact that they’re there change the behavior of people to the point they may take more risks than they would usually prefer, also to the point of not trusting cops. It is possible Whitney would have taken many less pills if these were a) perfectly legal and b) easy to obtain, without the incentive to stock up. It would make Whitney less suspicious of the police.

                1. It is possible Whitney would have taken many less pills if these were a) perfectly legal and b) easy to obtain, without the incentive to stock up.

                  Possible but highly unlikely. My guess is the necessity of getting a prescription probably made her get fewer pills and meant she lived a longer before she overdosed.

                  The women was such an addict, she killed herself. That doesn’t argue for her having the self control to handle free access to such drugs. That doesn’t mean she shouldn’t have had just that. But if drugs were legal, the chances are she would have died before now.

            3. What fear of prosecution? Weren’t all the drugs in her hotel room prescription drugs, in little bottles from a pharmacy with the scrip on them?

      2. If she preferred pot to the legal, but more dangerous drugs she was taking, but take the dangerous stuff because it was legal, then i think you can legitimately blame the WOD.

        Otherwise I agree with you.

        1. s/take/took/

    2. Re: Cranberry,

      How, exactly, was the Drug War making it difficult for Whitney to get the help she needed?

      She could have used something less lethal and just as soothing. Like pot, for instance.

      Next question?

  17. The Drug Czar might have noticed that the WOD is a miserable failure, being as anyone can get drugs at any time if they’ve got the cash to pay for them.

    Nah, that’s just crazy talk, eh?

  18. O’Reilly used her death to specifically call out Ron Paul’s “lunacy” on the drug issue.
    Listening to him, my first thought was
    “Bill did a piss-poor job bringing up his kids and grandkids and is afraid
    they have no will power or moral fortitude to stay away from drugs.”

    1. With typical O’Reilly insight and accuracy, of course, because the only drugs around when she died were prescription drugs.

      1. I’m sure cars kill more people than drugs. So all of the candidates are lunatics for not opposing cars, right?

        Am I understanding him correctly?

    2. Re: romulus augustus,

      O’Reilly used her death to specifically call out Ron Paul’s “lunacy” on the drug issue.

      It’s difficult to know what is worse: If O’Reilly’s shameful use of a dead person’s memory to plug an attack against Paul, or his recent and shameful spin on child sexual abuse to attack Paul.

      1. Now that the Judge is gone, is there anyone at Fox other than Stossel capable of making a rational argument? O’Reilly is just one non-sequitur after another.

  19. And can we please cache the term “teachable moment”? Fuck you drug czar. The people are not children. And it is not your job to teach them anything.

    1. I’ve got a vat of hot tar and a bag of feathers for a teachable moment I’d like to give.

  20. But he misses an enormous opportunity by failing to specify what Americans can teach or learn from Houston’s alleged overdose.

    I would say the only enormous opportunity that he missed, was the opportunity to act like a decent human being by keeping his yap shut, rather than trying to stand on a dead woman’s corpse to preach his little sermon.

    1. Uh, it’s a bit rich for a member of this community to complain about someone else waving the bloody shirt, you know.

      1. Point taken, but at least when we wave a bloody shirt its because we’d like to see the cop who shed the blood thrown in jail.

        1. Still, though, if Kerlikowske thinks drugs are what killed her, and that failure to control drugs contributed to the use, then that is the same thing.

  21. http://www.wired.com/threatlev…..ody-scans/

    TSA singles out attractive blond for special attention at nude body scanners. Let me put on my surprised face.

    1. pics or ur lying john lol

    2. That’s impossible. Tulpa said this would never happen.

  22. I wonder if Kerlikowske would have the gall to make that “teachable moment” comment directly to Houston’s family? He would deserve a punch in the face if he did.

  23. You know, I learned something today. Maybe drug prohibition in of itself can’t prevent people with addiction from getting access to the drugs they crave. Maybe drug enforcement only exacerbates the problem, and that if we didn’t threaten addicts with jail time it would be easier to get them to seek help. Whitney Houston was a sad case, but if there is anything teachable in it it’s that there are more and more people with the same problems as her, only they don’t have the benefits of fame and money and are therefore most hurt by draconian drug policies pushed by bureaucrats like Kerlikowske.

  24. Ah, nobody knows yet what killed her. Aren’t some of you being as sanctimonious as you think the drug czar is being? All this drug overdose speculation is premature. I think the pills that were in the room were of the anti-anxiety variety. The most plausible scenario is that she took something that made herself drowsy (maybe mixed with booze) and she fell asleep in the tub and drowned. Had she been on a sofa, she would have just slept it off. This isn’t an overdose. If this is what happened it would merely be an accident from negligence.

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