Mean For Addicts?
An Investigation Into
A Workable Definition of "Addiction"
Drug prohibition has become a standard for the past few decades throughout all Western nations. Its advocates have argued that drug abuse has led to an extraordinary amount of human suffering, and to remove it from society is to increase the happiness of all. Addicts are dependent upon their substance, living simply to have a drug that lets them escape the pressures of reality. At least, this is the reasoning of those who believe in drug prohibition. They forget, though, that outlawing an activity is not equivalent to stopping an activity. With drug prohibition, thousands of police operations, and billions spent on anti-drug propaganda, one and a half million people were arrested for drugs in the US in 2008. [*1] Simply making laws against an activity has not ended it.
When using the phrase "addict," I need to clarify. This is not simply someone who uses drugs habitually, even if it is everyday or every hour; we certainly do not attribute this phrase to people who drink coffee everyday, even though they are technically addicted to caffeine. In defining the so-called "drug addict," I take the approach of psychology. A person who is an "addict" is someone who engages in any habitual activity that they cannot stop and is also destructive to their well-being, happiness, and mental health.
Every person has a habitual, unstoppable habit of eating food, but this contributes to our health, and therefore, someone in this category is not an addict. On the other hand, someone who has the habit of refusing to eat, such as Bulimia or Anorexia, may be considered an addict because of their habitual, unhealthy activities. Similarly, if it is an addiction to refuse food, there are also unhealthy addictions to drug-free living: some individuals go from refusing coffee and alcohol, to rejecting aspirin and rubbing alcohol, to rejecting even sugars and simple carbohydrates. In defining the "addict," then, I have described them as a person whose has a habitual, unhealthy activity, whether it involves drugs or not.
Then, in describing the "drug addict," the picture becomes somewhat more clear. Popular use of the phrase is applied to anyone who uses illegal drugs, whether or not this activity is healthy, beneficial, or worsens their quality of life. Naturally, the definition of psychology, which is based on improving the well-being of the patient, has a completely different definition. And here, we may very well see the problem: the law treats every human being the same, but psychology knows that there are no two identical persons.
The Drug Addict in Regards to the Law
So, then, what is the drug addict? It is someone who uses drugs as a means of escape from reality, and whose use of drugs intensifies the problems that they are trying to escape. Any existence outside of the high is miserable and hellish, so that this becomes the prime object of achieving happiness. For such a person, to be without the drug is like being in a torturous prison; from this, it is easy to see why such an individual would engage in criminal or risky behavior, since the threat of drug withdrawal is as painful as the threat of imprisonment. The drug addiction, which has made itself a warden over the drug addict, has its own laws and prisons imposed over the individual. These carry much worse penalties than the laws of governments, that the individual will always listen to the laws of their addiction than the laws of their legislature.
It almost seems that vicious laws, in making the reality of the individual more oppressive, contribute to the reasons of using drugs. This can be seen in China, where decades of extreme violence against drug users has done very little to curb the activity. Today, possession or trafficking of Marijuana in China can carry the penalty of death. [*2] An article in Time Magazine, published 1937, describes earlier attempts to curb drug use...
The Effect of the Law on Drug Addicts
If society is undesirable to the point where people prefer addiction and escape to living, then the law is incapable of making any change. Outright legalization does not effect the conditions of drug use and addiction, but instead, it introduces very negative elements into the life of the drug addict. Since drug use is cannot be carried out in the open nor within the law, there are many more things that can thrive with it. The law may assert that it is the individual who breaks the law, and therefore, they are the ones who choose to become a criminal. But this is strictly using the definition of "criminal" as someone who breaks the law. If you are to take the definition of "criminal" to mean someone who engages in anti-social and activity harmful to the community, then it is the other way around -- the law makes the criminal.
The drug addict, in breaking the laws, must fear persecution by the state. This means that if they witness a crime, whether it is as serious as murder or as small as petty theft, they will more likely be quiet. Why inform the police? This means introducing someone who can arrest you for drug use into your life. Even if they witness rape, drug addicts may refuse to call the police, knowing full well that they would receive more time in prison for drug possession than the rapist.
This is undoubtedly the case, as we know of New Orleans police officer Pascal Marullo, who got loaded up on liquor at his courthouse, went on a drunk driving spree, and crashed his vehicle, killing a single mother. He was charged with murder -- until the district attorney found out he was a cop and the son of a judge. [*4] Similarly, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, after receiving millions from government funding, have refused to move from their uncompromising support of all police officers of the law -- including the use of courthouses as drinking taverns by driving police officers. [*5]
If someone had pointed out to a police officer the murder, with the smell of Marijuana on their breath, it's even likely they would receive more time in prison than the murderer they were testifying against. Clearly: it is the law and the state that gives incentive to anti-social, violent behavior, even if it does result in murder. Better to have a society full of state-enforced murderers than drug addicts, right?
And what if the drug addict knows that the smell of opium or heroin is around them? What if they know that alcohol is on their breath or that the smell of crack-cocaine has penetrated through their clothes? Then it will be almost certain that they'll face criminal charges for trying to alert the community to some miserable tragedy.
Laws prohibiting drug use, then, have the effect of encouraging drug use. It becomes profitable for the individual to withdraw from the community and society in general. With this, the individual feels less and less capable of coping with the reality that they are trying to escape. Sources of emotional or social support dwindle, leaving the person less able to live in sobriety. The new sources of support that they can trust are those associated with their drug dealer or with other users. And, like any other black market, it will become dominated by various and competing sectors of organized crime.
The drug addict, instead of having a community based on altruism, will find pimps, thieves, and dealers of illegal weapons; and where it does not deal with those elements, the drug addict may be side-by-side in the market with the clientele of these other parts of the underground market. This is not to say that all illicit drug markets resemble this structure, but it is definitely the typical structure for the heroin and cocaine markets.
Making an Addict into a Criminal
This leads to the next difficulty for the drug addict: association with organized, drug crime. The profits reaped by the drug dealer will be used like the profits of any Capitalist enterprise: increased production, increased distribution, increased marketing, etc., etc.. This means exploitation of workers and inhuman working conditions. Just as factories exposed workers to dangerous machinery and toxins, so do laboratories expose workers to dangerous chemicals and working conditions.
Similarly, there will be the periods of drought, famine, and winter, not caused by the elements, but caused by some rich investor seeing more profit by having more demand. Just as mass unemployment and famine has struck both the United States and Europe, driving ordinary people to murder just to live, this effect is similarly observed by the Capitalists of the underground drug market.
In underdeveloped nations, Cocaine lords will use lax laws about labor to employ children in brutal conditions. Similarly, Toyota does the exact same thing in Southeastern nations. There is not much difference in the mentality of a criminal Capitalist versus a law-abiding Capitalist; one executes those in debt, the other executes union leaders in underdeveloped nations.
In the legal drug market, pharmaceutical companies charge excessive profits, as high as 500,000%. [*6] Similarly, within the illegal drug market, one will find profits just as high. Though with the local dealer, in contrast to the owner of the poppy fields, the product will be sold for between 150% and 200% of the original cost. But, for the end user, the amount they spend on the drugs will be perhaps nearly 500,000% the cost of their original production.
Where does this money go to? It goes toward greater exploitation, oppression, and causes of human misery -- just like money spent in the "legal" Capitalist economy. Thus, the drug addict, like the McDonalds addict, must live through their addiction, and in doing so, they prop up some very powerful interests that are willing to dominate them.
Then, beyond its exploitation of workers and use of violence, the underground market, like its above-ground partner, abuses their consumers. For instance, in 2007, the health department of the British government released warning statements about Marijuana that had been contaminated with glass particles -- in order to make it appear as though it were high quality. [*7] If Marijuana had been legalized, the chance of this would be less likely; but in "protecting the people" from drugs, the laws have actually exposed them to more dangerous forms of drugs. Similarly, one can find coffee grinds in heroin tar, psuedofed and antihistamines in ecstasy, and baby powder in cocaine.
Prohibition Molds the Drug Addict More than Their Addiction
This is the attitude created by drug prohibition. It does not encourage positive behavior, but it creates reasons to engage in even worse behavior. It does not provide a situation for the drug user to minimize the misery that makes them want to escape life. It only cuts them off from possible support that might enable them to change. The drug user must be suspicious of seeking help publicly, from healthcare providers or friends, from family or community members. They do not have an option of openly confronting the reality that makes life unbearable; rather, they are crammed into prisons, with common murderers and rapists.
Drug prohibition does not create opportunities for people to challenge the situation that made them into addicts -- it does not allow them the freedom to begin choosing decisions that are better for themselves. It only makes it more difficult to change for those who are want something different.
*1. "A reality check on drug use," by George F. Will, Thursday, October 29, 2009, published by the Washington Post, WashingtonPost.com Link.