War on Drugs Farce Continues Unabated

In unsurprising news, the War on Drugs continues to be farcical disgrace. In the most recent example of ineptitude and futility, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has released a report about an unprecedented rise in the development of new psychoactive substances (NPS). They also admit that the new illicit substances can actually be more dangerous than the ones the US has been attempting to eradicate for decades.

The UNODC reports:

 “This is an alarming drug problem – but the drugs are legal. Sold openly, including via the internet, NPS, which have not been tested for safety, can be far more dangerous than traditional drugs. Street names, such as “spice”, “meow-meow” and “bath salts” mislead young people into believing that they are indulging in low-risk fun. Given the almost infinite scope to alter the chemical structure of NPS, new formulations are outpacing efforts to impose international control. While law enforcement lags behind, criminals have been quick to tap into this lucrative market. The adverse effects and addictive potential of most of these uncontrolled substances are at best poorly understood.”

The irony is that if drugs like marijuana, cocaine and opium were legal and regulated, these new designer drugs probably would never have been created. After all, why buy a substance that can imitate a pot high when you can just pick up some pot? Keeping these drugs illegal ensures a market for alternatives, regardless of how much more dangerous they may be.

The UNODC even admits that there is no way to control these new creations because of the sheer complexity of their chemical structures. However, this won’t stop governments from trying to eliminate these new drugs by using force, the only tool they know. Over 40 states have enacted bans on synthetic cannabinoids alone. This futile game of Whack-a-Drug-Mole goes on.

The War on Drugs exacerbates the problems of illicit substances because it artificially lowers the supply, but can do nothing about the demand. Oriana Zill and Lowell Bergman of PBS’ FRONTLINE “War on Drugs” special explain:

“What keeps the drug industry going is its huge profit margins. Producing drugs is a very cheap process. Like any commodities business the closer you are to the source the cheaper the product. Processed cocaine is available in Colombia for $1500 dollars per kilo and sold on the streets of America for as much as $66,000 a kilo (retail).  Heroin costs $2,600/kilo in Pakistan, but can be sold on the streets of America for $130,000/kilo (retail). And synthetics like  methamphetamine  are often even cheaper to manufacture costing approximately $300 to $500 per kilo to produce in clandestine labs in the US and abroad and sold on US streets for up to $60,000/kilo (retail).”

There is intense competition to sell such a profitable product. The real, underlying problem with illegal drugs isn’t that they are dangerous—alcohol and tobacco are plenty dangerous– it’s that disputes are solved with gang violence rather than corporate lawsuits. It’s not as if Gang A can call the police or file a legal complaint when Gang B does something unseemly. A legal judicial framework is necessary to eliminate the violence now associated with the drug trade. After all, the same brutality was seen during America’s failed experiment with Prohibition in the 1920s when rival mob bosses were fighting for control over hooch. Alcohol is once again legal: When was the last time Coors and Anheuser-Busch had a violent turf war?

Like Prohibition in the 20s, the immense profitability of illicit substances has lead to an explosion in crime. In Mexico alone, drug-related violence claimed the lives of an estimated 60,000 people since 2006. Especially hard hit are journalists who try to shed light on the activity of the cartels. Mexico is the fourth most dangerous country for reporters, ranking behind only Syria, Somalia, and Pakistan. Over 50 have died or disappeared in the past seven years. In 2012, the bodies of two mutilated corpses were found tied up and dangling from a pedestrian bridge in Nuevo Laredo. A sign above them threatens:

“This is going to happen to all of those posting funny things on the Internet. You better fucking pay attention. I’m about to get you.”

Whereas Samsung and Apple intimidate each other through legal action, drug cartels rely on more visceral tactics.

For all that drug war proponents get wrong about the evils of illicit substances, they have inadvertently stumbled onto a profound truth: Marijuana is indeed a gateway drug. However, rather than being an inevitable rung on the ladder to harder drugs, pot is instead almost universally a person’s first entryway into the black market. It teaches people how to find drug dealers and how to negotiate with them. It teaches them the rules of underground markets and how to avoid the police. It teaches and constantly reinforces a contempt for authority.

Some do use this information to seek out new highs, but nowhere near the amount that drug warriors would have one fear. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 12th-graders overwhelmingly prefer the softer stuff. The highest level of use in 2012 was alcohol, with 41.5% reporting that they had partaken in the past month. The second highest rate was marijuana with 22.9% having toked in the past 30 days. After that the usage rates nosedive: 1.1% for cocaine, .5% for methamphetamine, and .3% for heroin.

Exactly like Prohibition in the 1920s, current drug policy actively makes drug use more dangerous than it would be otherwise. For most high school students, it is dramatically easier to buy pot rather than alcohol for the blindingly simple reason that drug dealers don’t check for IDs. Another sinister aspect of prohibition is the lack of quality control. Pure coke or heroin can be cut with myriad substances in order to stretch the dealer’s supply and increase profits. Often these drugs are mixed with harmless products like baking soda, but not always. Dealers around the country have recently been cutting their heroin with fentanyl, a synthetic painkiller. The combination is extremely potent and often deadly. Since 2006, hundreds of deaths in Chicago alone have been attributed to this potentiality lethal combination.

By keeping business deals securely in the black market, drug prohibition ensures that users are at the whim of their providers. They certainly can’t call the cops if a dealer spikes his supply. Their only real recourse is to either shut their mouths or try to deal out some street justice, which only further exacerbates the problems of prohibition.

It’s time to end the damaging and pointless War on Drugs. While we’re at it, maybe we can end all wars against nouns. The War on Poverty and the War on Terror don’t seem to be terribly successful either, do they?

 

Sources:

http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/frontpage/2013/June/2013-world-drug-report-stability-in-use-of-traditional-drugs-alarming-rise-in-new-psychoactive-substances.html

http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/justice/synthetic-drug-threats.aspx

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/drugs/special/math.html

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/mexico-deadly-journalists-targeted-cartels-article-1.1334310

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-10681249

http://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/monitoring-future/trends-in-prevalence-various-drugs

http://www.buffalonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130607/CITYANDREGION/130609332/1002

Turmeric & Tumors: How The Spice Can Help

What do head, neck, skin and breast cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, upset stomachs, Alzheimer’s and melanoma have in common? In scientific studies, turmeric is either proving or showing solid results of kicking all of the above’s ass.

Turmeric is a spice of Asian origins and has a long history of being used as both food flavoring agent and medicine in the Indian subcontinent as well as China. The American Cancer Society confirms that curcumin (an active ingredient in turmeric) demonstrates some anti-cancer effects.

Several types of cancer cells are inhibited by curcumin in the laboratory, and curcumin slows the growth and spread of some cancers in some animal studies. Clinical trials are underway to find out if it can help humans as well.

Curcumin is being studied to find out whether it helps other diseases such as arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and stomach ulcers. It is also being studied to see whether it can help lower “bad cholesterol” and improve outcome in kidney transplants. A few early studies have been done in humans, but much more human research is still needed to find out if curcumin can be effective in these uses.

From the University of Maryland Medical Center, we learn that this same curcumin in turmeric is a powerful antioxidant.

Antioxidants scavenge molecules in the body known as free radicals, which damage cell membranes, tamper with DNA, and even cause cell death. Antioxidants can fight free radicals and may reduce or even help prevent some of the damage they cause.

In addition, curcumin lowers the levels of two enzymes in the body that cause inflammation. It also stops platelets from clumping together to form blood clots.

They go on to note a string of conditions for which turmeric may be of help, including stomach ulcers, heart disease, cancer, osteoarthritis and indigestion.

Related Article: The Power of Hemp Seeds: Behold Powerful Nutrition!

Several UCLA studies focus on turmeric and curcumin. The first was a 2005 study done by Marilene B. Wang, M.D. and showed that curcumin suppressed the growth of head and neck cancer in mice. Another study in 2010, again conducted on cells and then mice, found that

curcumin suppressed head and neck cancer growth by regulating cell cycling.

Drs. Wang and Eri Srivatsan, Ph.D. have both been studying curcumin and its cancer-fighting properties for over seven years.

Turmeric is also known as a potent anti-inflammatory agent. Dr. Randy J. Horwitz, Medical Director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine (Tucson), writes in his paper for the American Academy of Pain Management:

Turmeric is one of the most potent natural anti-inflammatories available

Referencing a University of Arizona study on rats, Horwitz concludes that

turmeric completely inhibited the onset of rheumatoid arthritis,

in the vermin.

Additionally, curcumin extracts in pill form have been shown to reduce the size of Alzheimer’s-associated brain plaque by 30% in just one week in clinical trials published in the Journal of Neurochemistry.

Related Article: Black Seed: From King Tut to Now

One week! This is just the tip of the iceberg. As more and more research is being done (and turmeric has been a very hot topic as of late), the health benefits of this amazing spice just keep increasing.

ProTip: it’s also great in omelettes.

 

Resources
American Cancer Society: Turmeric
University of Maryland Medical Center: Turmeric
Primary Compound of Turmeric Kicks Off Cancer-Killing Mechanisms in Human Saliva
The Amazing Health Benefits of Turmeric
Efficacy and mechanism of action of turmeric supplements in the treatment of experimental arthritis.
Discovered: Indian spice reduces Alzheimer’s symptoms by 30%