Drug Legalization

Why Morphine Matters

It's the most significant chemical substance our species has ever encountered.

|

Richard J. Miller is a professor of pharmacology at Northwestern University and author of the new book Drugged: The Science and Culture Behind Psychotropic Drugs (Oxford University Press), in which he argues that morphine is the most significant chemical substance our species has ever encountered. In April, Miller told reason three reasons why he believes this is true:

  1. Medical value. Morphine is a drug isolated from the opium poppy and can be transformed into heroin using a simple chemical reaction. Opiate drugs like morphine and its derivatives, including oxycodone and codeine, are the best and most powerful drugs for treating pain, the most common complaint that we have in medicine. Surgery would be impossible without the use of drugs like morphine.
  2. Richard J. Miller
    Reason

    Economic impact. The economies of several Third World countries such as Afghanistan-the world's largest producer of illicit opium-and Burma are based on the production of opiates.

  3. Cultural influence. In the 19th century Romantic artists, writers, and composers used opium, the crude extract of the poppy, for recreational rather than medicinal purposes. Opium's effects directly influenced much of their work. One of the most notable examples comes from essayist Thomas De Quincey, author of Confessions of an English Opium-Eater and a key figure in the development of recreational drug taking in Europe and the United States.

NEXT: Brazil Prepares for World Cup by Seizing Homes, Chasing Vendors Away; Protesters Respond With a World Cup of Their Own

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Really? Morphine?

    I can think of a few more significant chemical substances:

    water
    oxygen
    deoxyribonucleic acid
    petroleum

    But, hey, morphine: awesome!

    1. Brian – Good point. I have yet to read the book, but I think/hope there is something being lost a bit in translation here. Replacing “encountered” with “synthesized” might provide more of an argument?

      1. Uh, penicillin?

    2. Far more significant are chlorine and urea.

      Clean water is now the norm globally due to the former

      The latter has pretty much eradicated famine due to crop failure. Modern famine is caused by gov’t policy

  2. Progressives: At a time when we have an obesity epidemic, let’s put a sales tax on gyms so that poor people are even less economically capable of exercising.

    These residents would pay a 6.5 percent D.C. income tax rate as opposed to the current rate of 8.5 percent. As the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute notes (based on tables provided by the D.C. Office of Revenue Analysis), the proposed income tax cut would save D.C. residents making between $50,000 and $75,000 about $400 per year. That’d be welcome news for most taxpayers in D.C., where mean per capita income in 2012 was about $45,000 and median household income was about $64,000.

    Let’s put a regressive sales tax on everyone, a tax that will mostly hit the poor, so that people in the upper middle class can save $400 a year. Progs care so much about poor people!

    Both Matthew Yglesias and Josh Barro have explained why expanding sales taxes to include services is a good, even critical deal for cities. A sales tax on gym memberships is no more a tax on fitness than a sales tax on books is a tax on knowledge. Yglesias notes how a “distortionary” sales tax that doesn’t include services creates “a tax subsidy to convert more things to services rather than goods than would otherwise be the case.”

    Yglesias logic: Not taxing something is the same as a subsidy.

    1. Shorter Matty Y: “derp”

    2. This is also brilliant:

      Dellavigna and Malmendier offer several explanations for why we keep paying for gym memberships even as we’re putting off ever making any use of them. Or, in economics terms, why consumers so consistently deviate from making the optimal contractual choice. The researchers offer several explanations: memberships make members feel “virtuous” whether they use them or not; sometimes it’s a giant hassle to cancel a membership; people plum forget about it.

      “In our view, the most parsimonious explanations are those allowing for overconfidence (naivit?),” the study reads. “Consumers overestimate, for example, their future self-control or their future efficiency in pursuing costly activities.” In other words, the right day for exercise is always tomorrow?and every other day after that going forward plus twice on weekends.

      What this means for fitness club owners is that raising monthly fees is unlikely to lead droves of members to cancel their memberships, since nothing will. “The entire gym, from soup to nuts, has been designed around getting suckers to sign up, and then getting them mildly, vaguely exercised every once in a long while, and then getting them out the door,” writes Daniel Duane.

      Okay…so you’re going to basically steal money from people for consuming a good they don’t actually ever use. And you think that’s a good thing.

      1. Every year the first week after New Year’s and the gym is full of people with new shoes, new workout togs and weight gloves that are shiny new.

        Two weeks later and it is the same group of people who are there every day.

        A buddy of mine who used to manage a gym told me that you try to have gym capacity for 30% of your memberships because that is about how many people actually come regularly.

        1. A buddy of mine who used to manage a gym told me that you try to have gym capacity for 30% of your memberships because that is about how many people actually come regularly.

          Fractional reserve physical fitness!

      2. “Consumers Lawmakers overestimate, for example, their future self-control or their future efficiency in pursuing costly activities.”

        FTFY 8-(

    3. Yglesias notes how a “distortionary” sales tax that doesn’t include services creates “a tax subsidy to convert more things to services rather than goods than would otherwise be the case.”

      Sigh.

      He tries so hard to sound like an economist, I’ll give him that. But Jesus Christ, dude.

    4. Yglesias logic: Not taxing something is the same as a subsidy.

      If you start from the premise that the state should have default ownership of everything and what the people possess they do so at the discretion of the government it’s not much of a stretch. He’s a collectivist. Stealing shit is what they do.

    5. That piece also has what is quite possibly the dumbest argument I have ever heard:

      When more and more Americans belong to gyms and more and more Americans aren’t fit, it’s hard to follow how taxing fitness services necessarily results in taxing fitness. But the prominent criticism that says that lower-income gym-goers will be adversely affected by higher costs for gym memberships is provably false, at least in this case. Lower-income D.C. residents would have more money to spend on services, including those gym memberships they’ll never use.

      First of all, the fact that more people go to gyms and more people are fat is not evidence that going to the gym doesn’t make you fit, moron. I see far more fat people in the general population than I see at the gym, and I see a far higher percentage of very fit people at the gym than I do in public. If people at the gym are more fit than people not at the gym, then it follows that people going to the gym increases fitness.

      Secondly, what the fuck is that nonsequitor about low-income D.C. residents? How would low income D.C. residents have more money? The gym tax is allegedly going to decrease taxes for people making between $50,000 and $75,000. Unless you’re a lunatic who thinks 50 grand a year equals poverty, poor people are not getting a penny from this tax. Meanwhile, the poor are going to have an even harder time going to gyms, which will increase the rate of obesity among low income Americans.

      1. If people at the gym are more fit than people not at the gym, then it follows that people going to the gym increases fitness.

        False.

        It could be that already fit people are more likely to go to the gym.

    6. Well, if a Progressive ever actually THOUGHT about how taxes get spent, he would have to admit that the act of collecting taxes is taking money from people who contribute to society, and pounding it down a rathole.

      And that thought would either make him a Libertarian or a suicide.

      1. Considering the track record. The broken bodies and wake of destruction … suicide would be justice.

    7. Why are people quoting Matty Sadbeard like he’s an authority on public policy, particularly monetary policy?

      Krugman, yeah, I get citing him. He’s full of shit, but at least he knows something about the field. Sadbeard has no formal training in economics nor has he ever worked in a related field, other than having a blog in which he pontificates on it.

      I really hate playing the credentialism game, but fuck me, Yglesias and fucking Barro? Those two moron couldn’t explain how to unfold a paper bag.

  3. Yglesias logic: Not taxing something is the same as a subsidy.

    Yglesias logic: Not taxing something is the same as a subsidy. If it’s taxed I can justify it to myself that I don’t have to go because I’d rather spend that money at In-and Out burger.

  4. I’ve said for a long time that we would have been better off just buying the entire opium crop in Afghanistan instead of stationing our armed forces there.

    Cheaper and safer.

    1. Cheaper and safer.

      No shit…..and a valuable, as the article details, commodity for both legitimate and illicit uses.

      Cheaper, safer and smarter!

      1. Cheaper, safer and smarter!

        When has that argument ever impressed someone from the government?

  5. Tell that to my wife when she’s screaming for butt-lube.

  6. its awesome,,, Start working at home with Google. It’s a great work at home opportunity. Just work for few hours. I earn up to $100 a day. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. http://www.Fox81.com

  7. Mdma

    1. Don’t give any of that stuff to libertarians – they’d have to give up all their negativity and start to understand what things are all about!

      NO……

      You can give them some opium, though.
      Me too….

      1. Don’t give any of that stuff to libertarians – they’d have to give up all their negativity and start to understand what things are all about!

        Nothing says positivity like stealing from people using proxy violence.

      2. Notice there’s even the statist assumption of the comment “Don’t give any of that stuff to libertarians” – the grammar betrays a mental default that there is some central party or central ‘opium authority’ being jokingly addressed, that is responsible for deciding what people can and cannot have.

        Funny too, to fall back on the cowardly hippie stance that simply taking a hard look at reality, or recognizing wrongs, is “negativity”. No, it’s not the people stealing or being liars that is “negativity”, it’s pulling your head out of the sand and acknowledging it and wanting to stop it that is “negative”. Sigh.

        1. Spoken like a person who has never taken a hit of good moly. Don’t worry… It probably won ‘t affect your position paper politics.

  8. University and author of the new book Drugged:

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.