Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

 

An Old Dog learns a New Trick

I've changed a long held position of mine.

For a very long time, I've accepted the libertarian view that what a person chooses to put into their own body is their decision, not mine, and that as long as they bore the consequences of their choices, and didn't burden the rest of us, then it was none of my business.

In short, I favored the legalization of drugs. Tax 'em, regulate 'em, and use the revenue generated to take care of the small proportion of addicts who couldn't handle themselves. I figured, like most libertarians, that legalizing drugs would get rid of the criminal element, and that regulating them would even out the supply, reducing the chances of death by overdose or from contaminates.

I held this position even as I watched my father drink himself into an early grave. After all, he had been a successful business man, and he was never a burden on the state or anybody else, so how he chose to live his life was entirely his choice.

Right?

I don't think so anymore.

I've come to the realization that addiction and choice are mutually exclusive concepts. An addict no longer has the ability to choose rationally, neither when they are high/drunk, nor when they are sober and seeking their next fix. Their entire existence becomes reduced to the next score or the next drink. An addict may be able to function after a fashion, and may be able to accommodate their addiction somewhat, but all it takes is a short delay between highs to completely erase that semblance of rationality.

When people are incapable of making rational decision, whether through accident or illness, we no longer hold them accountable for their actions, and rightly so. However, we dismiss entirely the idea that an addict is impaired, and seek to hold them entirely accountable for their actions. The argument is that since they made the original decision to drink/toke/shoot up then they bear all the consequences of that decision, including the consequences of subsequent decision made while impaired.

Do we really want to set up an expectation where one bad decision, potentially made as a minor, can lead to a lifetime of consequences? It becomes even harder to justify this stand when we take into account the cyclic nature of addiction.

I can't do that anymore. I can't in good conscience hold people accountable for decisions they make when they are by all reasonable standards incapable of making rational decisions.

So what does that mean in a practical sense? How can I hold people accountable for the choices they make when one of those choices, by definition, robs them of the ability to make sound decisions?

Well, I'm working on it. There aren't any easy answers, but it seems to me the first place to start is to stop the easy flow of drugs, particularly to our kids. Of course, saying it is the easy part. Doing it, not so easy.

Of course, thanks to federal drug policy over the last couple of decades, we have a pretty good idea of what not to do, so at least we have a place to start.

Just say no? No.

Midnight basketball? Nope.

DARE? Not so much.

Each of these programs mean well, and are very effective at keeping the kids who wouldn't try drugs anyway from trying drugs. We need a way to reach the kids most at risk, and those kids are not the ones who immediately spring to mind. It's not an inner city problem; it's everywhere. Drugs are prevalent in every high school in East Tennessee. The mix varies, but you cam get just about anything you want in any school in the county.

So much for school resource officers.

Don't get me wrong, they're doing the best they can, but the simple truth is that so far, just about everything tried has been an abject failure.

As far as I can see, the common factor to all the approaches is that they've been from the top down, relying on centralized administration of an inflexible zero tolerance policy. In keeping with my libertarian approach, I'm leaning towards a more grass roots effort. not so much a war on drugs as a Civil Defense force. Made up of parent volunteers, and community members, each school would police itself. If you ask around, it isn't any secret who the dealers are, where the meth labs are, or where to go to buy whatever you need. The problem is that a centralized law enforcement approach is reactive rather then being proactive.

I don't have a lot of details yet, and if you have ideas, by all means, talk about them in the comments. One person isn't going to fix this. It's going to take dozens of committed parents at each school to make a difference.

In the next few weeks, I hope to bring you some statistics regarding drug use in our schools.

In parallel to keeping drugs out of school, we need to interrupt the supply as well. Despite the laws passed making it nearly impossible for me to buy cold medicine that actually works, Tennessee still leads the nation in meth labs. Go Vols, right? We need an effective strategy. Again, I don't know what that will look like yet, but I do know what an ineffective strategy looks like. If insanity consists of doing the same thing repeatedly while expecting different results, then the men in white coats should have come to take our drug enforcement policies away a decade ago.

This has turned into more of a rant than a post, and I don't have any clear ending point in sight, mainly because I don't see an end to the problem yet. But I do know that we can't keep going the way we are; we're losing far too many good, talented people to addiction.

It has to stop.

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I tend to agree with you on what hasn't worked. Did you watch the Prohibition mini-series on PBS this week? I did and was struck by the parallels to the "war on drugs."

I don't know what the answer is. I do know that it can't be restricted to schools and young people and it isn't just illegal drugs that are the problem. Adults become addicted to prescription drugs after using them for legitimate reasons.

The ultimate solution is to somehow combat addiction and I'm not sure that can be done. I'm coming around to the idea that humans are wired to go for pleasure and some are wired to become addicted to it. Yes, some do quit, but they will battle the ghosts of it for the rest of their lives.

Just because there isn't an easy visible solution doesn't mean we shouldn't try to solve the problem. I think you are on the right track, but there are probably many different ways to approach this.
Posted by Opus  on  10/05  at  11:58 AM

Rich, I continue to appreciate your posts and your willingness to lead this conversation and keep it open.

Here, I'm troubled a bit by your comment that "when people are incapable of making rational decision... we no longer hold them accountable for their actions, and rightly so."

Maybe I don't fully understand your meaning, but as I read your post this statement struck me as incorrect - or at best, a matter of degree. We certainly hold drunk drivers responsible for their actions, however impaired they may be.

As I've followed this discussion, I've begun to wonder whether we all intend the same meaning in our use of the word "accountability." What is the difference between someone who is held accountable, and someone who is not? Who decides, and how is that decision carried out? When do we consider the account paid?

I guess what gets me started with these questions is that I see a distinction between the ideas of accountability and forgiveness. They're not unrelated in my mind, but they're certainly not the same thing. Accountability concerns consequences; forgiveness implies love and community. With respect to public policy and addiction, I can't imagine either of these points of emphasis functioning well in the absence of the other.
Posted by Luke  on  10/05  at  04:41 PM

"Do we really want to set up an expectation where one bad decision, potentially made as a minor, can lead to a lifetime of consequences? "

Yes. That's reality. Take off the guard from your power saw, lose a hand or finger for the rest of your life. Drive completely smashed lose your life or your legs, forever. Look to see if your gun is loaded by looking down the barrel, lose your life or much of your brain function forever. Become a drug addict and not quit and recover, then suffer for the rest of your life.

Actions have consequences. Bad choices have negative consequences. Cause and effect. That's how the world works.

"So what does that mean in a practical sense? How can I hold people accountable for the choices they make when one of those choices, by definition, robs them of the ability to make sound decisions?"

Easy - let them suffer and die.

"But I do know that we can't keep going the way we are; we're losing far too many good, talented people to addiction."

People use drugs for many reasons, but addiction is usually a result of avoiding pain. Pain is caused by many reasons, but the one thing that causes the most pain is the state interfering with people's lives. How about we let people be free and suffer the positive and negative consequences of their actions? Those who make bad choices will suffer, those who make good choices will thrive.

I've seen what addiction and foolish drug use does to my family. I learned my lesson from the mistakes of others. There is no reason or evidence that trying to prevent reality from being real will lead to positive outcomes.
Posted by A Critic  on  10/06  at  10:48 AM

"After all, he had been a successful business man, and he was never a burden on the state or anybody else, so how he chose to live his life was entirely his choice."

Self destruction sucks, but it sucks far less than others destroying you.

"I've come to the realization that addiction and choice are mutually exclusive concepts. "

BULL. Addiction is a choice to be irrational. Been there, done that. I didn't like it so I chose to be rational and quit. Others in the same boat don't like it but they choose to continue. Thus they suffer.

Sorry about your father, but it was his choice. Not yours, not the neighbors, not the states, not mine, but his.

I recently read of a man in NY who was killed riding a motorcycle without a helmet while protesting the helmet laws. Doctors said he would have lived with a helmet. I think the man was a hero fighting for his liberty. It is better to die andor suffer in freedom than it is to die andor suffer in tyranny. When you are free you can choose to change whenever you want. When you aren't free you can't choose.
Posted by A Critic  on  10/06  at  10:57 AM

Whether or not feeding an addiction is a free choice of a rational, mature mind is irrelevant when another person steps into the situation and commits criminal acts.

A woman who is addicted to alcohol gets raped while she is drunk. Were she sober, she might have had the wits about her to avoid the situation that made the rape possible. She made the rational choice to take that first drink, presumably knowing those many years ago that she might become an alcoholic and thus find herself in some less than safe situations because of this, even though she was but a child at the time.

So, by your reasoning, A Critic, the rapist should not be held criminally liable, right? She needs to live and learn from the consequences of her actions... That is what you are saying, yes?

Same woman, this time in a bar. She is drinking one drink after another until she is sloppy drunk, and the bartender just keeps serving her. She leaves, gets into her car and plows into another car, killing the other driver. The bartender is sued for serving an obviously intoxicated person and does not try to stop her from driving by calling a cab. But your stance is that if the bartender had refused to serve her drinks, it would be an infringement on her freedom to drink.

Our freedoms and rights to do as we wish come to a screeching halt the second we violate the rights and freedom of another person. A drunk has the right to sit by himself alone in the privacy of his home and get just as drunk as he wishes. He does NOT have the right to terrorize, abuse and cause permanent damage to his family or members of the public. A drug addict does not have the right to push his drugs into the hands of others - especially not if those drugs kill the recipient.

Nothing we do happens in a vacuum... Destroying families, relationships, bodies and lives is what addiction does. No one has the right to do that.
Posted by LissaKay  on  10/06  at  11:27 AM

"Let them suffer and die."

That is the Darwinian thing to do, but I believe that we are meant to transcend simple Darwinian behaviors. I embrace the ideas of justice, compassion, altruism, and mercy as qualities that elevate us above our animal natures.

That leads me to recognize when my fellow human being is suffering, and needs assistance. I can offer that support while still holding them accountable for their actions.

AS for your hero, the guy with no helmet, if instead of an accident, a pro-helmet activist had thrown a rock and hit min in the head, causing him to crash and die, would the activist be blameless since the rider should have been wearing his helmet?

Of course not. The activist took advantage of the rider, and therefor is accountable for his actions. In the same way, people who prey on addicts are accountable for their actions.
Posted by Rich Hailey  on  10/06  at  11:52 AM

Addiction is a disease of the brain with complex biopsychosocial elements. And it's a process.

Gabor Mate, MD (In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts) said: "The current set of public beliefs and institutional beliefs about substance abuse are impediments to the application of high quality successful intervention. The more we vilify substance abusers, the more it is impossible to put in place the kind of interventions that will help them".

I don't have any answers. I do know that our current policies regarding drug use and abuse is rooted way too much in ideology and politics, and not enough evidence-based science.
Posted by Marisa  on  10/06  at  03:30 PM

If every drug boss and cartel gun and mule dropped dead today, they would be replaced in a month. The market and money is too good. People want this stuff, and as corrosive as it can be, and as overblown as some of the anecdotal stories are, it's better to let them have it and cut off the money going to criminals. Let them buy it at CVC for goodness sakes. Quit sending money to criminals.
Posted by Robert  on  10/06  at  04:20 PM

Where it all falls down, unfortunately, is when so many things are addictive. Drugs? Ok. Alcohol? Tobacco? Sure. Pornography? Gambling? Reckless driving? Caffeine? Sugar? It's all addictive. It's the responsibility of parents and families to keep their children away from such things, which they can do based on their knowledge of their own children, and something government simply can't do. We need to facilitate a place where families and parents can exist and thrive, and keep government out of regulating what can and can't go in bodies.
Posted by ankle  on  10/06  at  04:31 PM

The government is not your mommy.
Posted by Timmeehh  on  10/06  at  04:54 PM

I don't see where anyone is suggesting that the solution lies with the government. I think we all agree that the efforts thus far have been a huge failure. So instead of beating on the libertarian anti-nannyism drum, how about some ideas on how to keep drug and alcohol abuse from decimating our children?

I believe the answers lie in the community...
Posted by LissaKay  on  10/06  at  05:18 PM

Interesting take, combating failed prohibition with prohibition? I tend to lean more towards things that work, such as the Portugal model. I think it was witty old Einstein that said "the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results", so in that sense I do not see how more prohibition can help the situation. Perhaps looking at models that are working and have worked such as Amsterdam and/or Portugal would be a great place to start, decriminalizing and getting people help, but the reality is prohibition of any kind will bring up prices and with those increases comes the violence. If you are interested in the Mexican border model then push for what you mentioned. You cannot regulate human behavior, been there, done that and failed miserably. When you involve law enforcement you get nothing but a for profit scam, when you involve schools then you get profiling and zero tolerance everything, when you remove the glamor you find in youth that they are not interested in the first place. Is this a cure all, certainly not, but anything is better than 43 billion a year to completely fail.
Posted by Blounttruth  on  10/07  at  12:07 AM

Agreed. The "war on drugs" - on-going since 1971, has been an utter failure. What it has done is make alot of folks wealthy--from drug cartels to the owners of private prisons. Ultimately it is a war on the addict.
Posted by Marisa  on  10/07  at  09:50 AM

"So, by your reasoning, A Critic, the rapist should not be held criminally liable, right? She needs to live and learn from the consequences of her actions... That is what you are saying, yes? "

No. The rapist is responsible for his actions. However, so is the woman. If you do something foolish, stupid, irrational, irresponsible, crazy, dumb, idiotic, etc - then you are accountable for the consequences. When a person is the victim of a crime due to their own error, then the criminal should be punished for their offense, but that crime is the victims punishment for their lack of defense.

If an alcoholic guy goes into a club and flashes a lot of cash and gets robbed when he leaves...it's his own damn fault. Robbers should still go to jail...but the incident is nature's way of saying "hey are you are making stupid mistakes that put you at risk".

"But your stance is that if the bartender had refused to serve her drinks, it would be an infringement on her freedom to drink. "

Bartenders run private businesses and maintain the right to refuse service. You don't have a right for service not to be refused.

"Our freedoms and rights to do as we wish come to a screeching halt the second we violate the rights and freedom of another person."

Self destruction doesn't violate the rights of others.

"Nothing we do happens in a vacuum... Destroying families, relationships, bodies and lives is what addiction does. No one has the right to do that. "

WRONG!!! You don't have the right to enslave others to your standards and personal preferences. You don't have the right to demand that others live their lives as YOU wish. You don't have the right to coerce others to obey you and your moral standards.

You aren't in charge. You aren't the king or queen. You don't own other people. You aren't their boss. You aren't their parent (or if you are, once they are an adult it's their choice).

You aren't the tyrant - and if you are, you have no right to be.

Lead by example - don't be an addict. Don't lead by example and be a nanny, busy body, do "good"er, or other petty tyrant.
Posted by A Critic  on  10/07  at  11:56 AM

"That is the Darwinian thing to do, but I believe that we are meant to transcend simple Darwinian behaviors. I embrace the ideas of justice, compassion, altruism, and mercy as qualities that elevate us above our animal natures."

It's the natural thing to do. Nature punishes the irrational, foolish, insane, stupid, and otherwise doomed behaviors.

"In the same way, people who prey on addicts are accountable for their actions. "

Of course, but such people are not nearly as much of a problem as the addicts or those who would "help" them by force.
Posted by A Critic  on  10/07  at  11:59 AM

"So instead of beating on the libertarian anti-nannyism drum, how about some ideas on how to keep drug and alcohol abuse from decimating our children? "

It's very simple - tell the truth! Most people will avoid creating problems for themselves if they have access to the means for doing so. Given the truth about the nature, effects, dose, consequences of drugs very few people will choose to hurt or destroy themselves with drugs. Some will and there's nothing we can do to stop them.
Posted by A Critic  on  10/07  at  12:02 PM

Wow. Angry much? Sorry to offend you, but I happen to believe in mercy and compassion for my fellow human beings, and that, as members of a civilized culture, we do bear some responsibility for each other. That is not being a tyrant by any means. It is loving and serving our fellow man.

As for your suggestions - leading by example and telling the truth. That is what we (society) have been doing. What has that gotten us? Nada. Again, doing the same thing over and over expecting different results ....

Point is, yes, we will have to take charge of the situation if we are ever to control it. Drug use does not affect only the users. Limiting the actions of individuals for the common good is something civilizations governed by the rule of law do.

If your drug use truly affected you and only you, then fine, do it. But it doesn't work that way. It DOES affect others and we have a right to say ENOUGH and take steps to end it.

Telling our kids to "Just say no" and how bad and evil drugs are, then crossing our fingers and hoping they listen is not an answer, and it has not worked.

So what will?
Posted by LissaKay  on  10/07  at  01:30 PM

My friend has a son in his early 20's. He is addicted to drugs. He claims he only uses marijuana, but she suspects otherwise. He has a back problem that has been surgically corrected twice. Both surgeries failed so he does have real pain from that. He lost his job because of the back problem and is on unemployment. He currently lives at home with his mom. She is ready to take the next step, whatever that is.

What should she do?
Posted by Opus  on  10/07  at  02:00 PM

"Sorry to offend you, but I happen to believe in mercy and compassion for my fellow human beings, and that, as members of a civilized culture, we do bear some responsibility for each other. That is not being a tyrant by any means. It is loving and serving our fellow man."

You can't be responsible for other people. You can't live their lives you can't make their decisions you can't move their limbs you can't think their thoughts you can't control their actions. You can try, but you can only make things worse by trying to be responsible for other people.

"As for your suggestions - leading by example and telling the truth. That is what we (society) have been doing. What has that gotten us? Nada. Again, doing the same thing over and over expecting different results .... "

BULL. Our society tells us that it's okay to drink alcohol (in large quantities frequently) but it's never okay to use marijuana in any quantity, and that it's okay to force feed kids huge quantities of speed (Adderall) and "poor man's coke" (Ritalin) but it's never okay for adults to use small quantities of the same substances. That's lying and leading by hypocrisy.

"Point is, yes, we will have to take charge of the situation if we are ever to control it. Drug use does not affect only the users. Limiting the actions of individuals for the common good is something civilizations governed by the rule of law do."

BULL. That's just the excuse people who lack the courage to be outright evil tell themselves. "Oh, we are doing this for the common good so it's okay that we lie and steal and cheat and murder and abuse and enslave our fellow man". BULL.

And no, drug use doesn't affect only the user. For example, a number of key software and hardware inventions and innovations in the computer industry were inspired by drug use and thus we are engaging in this dialogue as a result of the productivity of drug users.

"If your drug use truly affected you and only you, then fine, do it. But it doesn't work that way. It DOES affect others and we have a right to say ENOUGH and take steps to end it. "

You are an evil person advocating evil things. It is an evil act to claim control of another person's life, liberty, and property. You are just another small minded short sighted evil person who is willing and even eager to destroy other people's lives, liberty, and property because you don't give a damn about what's right or legal, only about usurping power over others in order to fulfill your delusion demands that they obey your irrational standards. You should be ashamed of yourself, but those who seek power over others and those who wish to be the rulers never have any remorse for the damage they inflict on others.

"Telling our kids to "Just say no" and how bad and evil drugs are, then crossing our fingers and hoping they listen is not an answer, and it has not worked. "

Nah, really? Like I said, tell them the truth. Drugs are good and great and useful IF you use them wisely and intelligently, and they are bad and awful and counterproductive IF you use them foolishly and stupidly.

"So what will?"

The truth.
Posted by A Critic  on  10/07  at  02:19 PM

"My friend has a son in his early 20's. He is addicted to drugs. He claims he only uses marijuana, but she suspects otherwise. "

How do you know he's addicted to drugs then?

"She is ready to take the next step, whatever that is.

What should she do? "

The next step is to realize that he's an adult capable of making his own decisions and suffering the negative consequences or enjoying the positive consequences. She should support him. If he becomes a drug addict and he wants to quit, help him quit. If he merely uses for medical or recreational purposes, then leave him alone. If he wants to abuse drugs, then let him work and pay for them.
Posted by A Critic  on  10/07  at  02:22 PM

Personal attacks are not acceptable here, A Critic. Take it elsewhere.
Posted by LissaKay  on  10/07  at  02:24 PM

"Personal attacks are not acceptable here, A Critic. Take it elsewhere. "

So it's not okay to criticize others, but it is okay to advocate the seizure of life, liberty, and property? Gotcha.

Any bright ideas on how to prevent drug use for the "common good"? Prison doesn't work, re-education camps don't work, the death penalty doesn't work (Thailand tried it and it failed). So...whatcha gonna do? Frontal lobotomies? Hasn't been tried but I think it might work.

And if I'm a little miffed...sorry but the bodies and ruined lives are piling up around me.
Posted by A Critic  on  10/07  at  02:33 PM

<blockquote>The next step is to realize that he's an adult capable of making his own decisions and suffering the negative consequences or enjoying the positive consequences. She should support him. If he becomes a drug addict and he wants to quit, help him quit. If he merely uses for medical or recreational purposes, then leave him alone. If he wants to abuse drugs, then let him work and pay for them. </blockquote>

By your reasoning then, he is free to use drugs, in her home and as long as he is paying for them, Mom should shut up and leave him alone, right? Even if the way he pays for them is by selling drugs to other users? Bringing all kinds of people to her home to buy drugs ... she just has to sit there and put up with it.

No. If I was Mom, sonny boy would have a choice - quit abusing drugs or get out. MY home, MY rules in the ONE place I can be a tyrant.

THIS is exactly what I am talking about, son's "right" to use drugs stops at Mom's property line. Her rights and freedom to enjoy the safety and comfort of her home vs his right to use drugs? Not even a question. Hit the road, kid.

Same rules I had with my kids. MY home, NO drugs. No discussions.
Posted by LissaKay  on  10/07  at  02:34 PM

<blockquote>So it's not okay to criticize others, but it is okay to advocate the seizure of life, liberty, and property? Gotcha. </blockquote>

Criticize and debate ideas. That's fine. Calling people "evil" is not. That will get you banned. If you cannot discuss matters in a civilized manner, you can leave and not return.

Further, I am not advocating the seizure of life, liberty, and property, or to perpetrate any sort of evil upon anyone. You read far more into what I am saying here. In fact, you have misread much of what I and others have said. So we can agree to disagree - you are all for anarchy, got it. I believe we have a responsibility TO our fellow man, and should love and serve him, as we are commanded.
Posted by LissaKay  on  10/07  at  02:39 PM

"MY home, MY rules in the ONE place I can be a tyrant. "

It is not tyranny to create rules for ones domicile. It's tyranny to create rules for someone else's domicile.

However, while it is legal and a right to do so, if you banish your own son from your home because he uses marijuana because he has a severe back injury, you are a jerk.

"Same rules I had with my kids. MY home, NO drugs. No discussions. "

Did you prohibit all drugs including caffeine and alcohol, or did you prohibit only those drugs you don't use or personally approve of?

And if one of your kids got cancer and they were staying with you...would that mean no medical marijuana to help them survive the chemo?
Posted by A Critic  on  10/07  at  02:41 PM

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