For decades, the war on drugs has raged its way across the world, taking a particularly strong hold in America. With politicians from Reagan to Biden fathering policies that have incarcerated millions and killed many more, the world is beginning to see the disastrous effects of drug prohibition. For one thing, it actually can increase deaths from drug overdoses; when Portugal decriminalized all drugs, their addiction and overdose rates plummeted. But another drug, ketamine, offers solutions to the opioid crisis and many other medical problems.
By Ian Brzeski | United States
For many people, morality is relatively subjective. To some, sex before marriage is a sin, and to others, it is perfectly reasonable. Some people love taking drugs, and others are appalled by them. People of all kinds differ in their values on these issues and on many others such as access to guns, homosexuality, and prostitution. Whether or not committing a particular act falls under someone’s values, everyone should realize that committing victimless “crimes” should not be punished by the state.
What are Victimless Crimes?
In essence, a victimless crime is a “crime” under the law where there is no identifiable victim. It is performed when no other person or party is involved in the action taking place beside the perpetrator or consenting adults. Consuming drugs is a prime example of a victimless crime. The only party that person would potentially be harming in that act alone would be himself. He or she willingly chose to engage in this act; thus, there is no victim. The same goes for that person when they engage in obtaining the drugs through consensual means. These means include joining into a contract with his “dealer.” The two adults here both agree on terms in this exchange. The dealer provides the drugs, and the consumer provides a means of exchange for his desired goods, presumably money.
Freedom of Choice
Locking people up like caged animals for committing victimless, nonviolent crime is complete nonsense. It does not matter what a person’s morality says about drugs. One could think that they are awful and downright immoral, but that does not change the fact people can do as they please as long as no other person is harmed or brought into unwanted affairs. Those people, out of their own free will, chose to engage in that exchange and then go on with their lives as they please. Nobody was hurt, and everything was purely consensual. Fundamentally, it is not that much different than going out and buying groceries.
If you do not like drugs, don’t do them. Nobody forces you to take them, and if somebody does force you, then that is a crime in itself as it takes away your freedom to make those decisions for yourself. Just as people want the freedom to decide to say no to drugs, others should also have the freedom to take drugs without fear of being imprisoned by the state. It is inconceivable to think that drug abusers belong in a prison cell. Drug abusers need help, not prison time.
While incredible amounts of funding have gone towards decreasing drug use, the drug addiction rate is the same as it was about 40-50 years ago. Instead of spending over a trillion dollars in incarcerating these people, spending should be focused on helping these addicts. Portugal decided to do this about 17 years ago, decriminalizing all drug use and focused their spending on rehabilitation for drug users. At one point, about 1% of Portugal’s population were drug abusers, and now that number has been halved.
The same decriminalization practices should be used for prostitution, pornography, owning guns, and any other victimless crime. If you do not like any of these things, then don’t partake in them- it’s as simple as that. Not to mention that decriminalizing and accepting all of these would make them safer. No more back alley pimps who abuse and drug their prostitutes to make a quick buck. No more sketchy and untrusting drug dealers who may lace their products. No more massive cartels as the majority of their products would be legally imported in the country; thus, losing the majority of their funding. Everything listed here would run as a legitimate business which would then promote competition, naturally making these businesses safer. Interdiction on all of these things is no different from the prohibition of alcohol, and we all know how well that went.
Legalization in Amsterdam
I recently went to Amsterdam where marijuana, certain psychedelic drugs, and prostitution are all legal. The prostitution is all kept in one sector of the city, known as the Red Light District. The Red Light District was bustling with people and seemed as if it were just another business center. These businesses are basically “forced” to care for the health of their laborers as they would have an incentive to because it would be horrible for business if one of their workers had some disease such as an STD. One could find drugs anywhere, but nobody is forcing others to take them. If you want to smoke a blunt, then you can, and if you do not want to, then you do not have to.
The overall cleanliness of the city was surprising. One would think that by allowing drug use and prostitution, the city would be pretty dirty, but that is not true in the slightest. Homeless people and garbage on the streets were not to be found, at least from my experience. Amsterdam has experimented with decriminalizing some of these victimless crimes, and it seems to be going pretty well for them.
Victimless crimes are not real crimes. People should not be punished for doing things that do not harm others or their property, and we must put an end to decades of government control over people’s choice of how they treat their bodies.
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By Indri Schaelicke | United States
A common talking point in many political debates is the extreme prices of many medical drugs. Left wingers like to blame “greedy capitalism” for the high prices, and advocate for some sort of government program that will increase the size of government in an attempt to cap drug prices. In reality, capitalism is the tool that must be used to bring medical drug prices back down to affordable levels.
The truth is, the US is not a true capitalist free market. Rather, it operates under a system of crony capitalism. Crony capitalism is a system in which representatives agree to give benefits to certain corporations in exchange for campaign contributions. These benefits may take the form of purchases by the government, limiting the corporation’s competition in the market through regulation, and creating loopholes in regulation or taxation. These benefits are paid for using taxpayer money, while the representatives receive financial backing for their campaigns or votes in their next election. Bureaucratic agencies like the FDA create regulations and policies which further cronyism.
A major source of cronyism exists in the FDA’s requirements of extensive research and testing to be done on products it approves to be sold. These studies cost thousands of dollars to companies, which must be covered by increasing the prices of the drugs sold. However, Congress has created “Priority Review Vouchers”, which reviews certain drugs at an expedited pace. These vouchers are incredibly valuable, because the development process for drugs takes many years.
The vouchers can be sold to corporations at a high prices due to their scarcity and the incredible benefit of having the review process sped up. If a company had their new drug approved before any others, they will have no competition in the marketplace for several years and are free to raise their price as high as they like. The FDA has the power to create monopolies, a power that no agency or branch of government should have.
So what’s the solution? Open up the markets. Competition is what drives prices down to affordable levels, and there is no competition in a crony capitalist system. Before the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, the U.S. federal government had control over airline fares, routes and market entry of new airlines. This severely limited the competition in the marketplace to just a few airlines, but soon after the Act was signed, several new ones entered the market. Without the Civil Aeronautics Board to protect them from competition, airlines were forced to set their prices through supply and demand, with competition lowering the equilibrium price of airfare. By deregulating the airfare markets and preventing special interests from lobbying an airline regulatory agency, airfare has become cheaper for consumers.
The same must happen with the way that the market for medical drugs is regulated. The FDA must be abolished, and competition in the market will flourish. Prices will drop due to the influx of competition and life saving drugs will become more affordable to consumers.
A concern of supporters of the FDA is that without it, unsafe and potentially dangerous drugs could slip into the market. However, this can be refuted on the basis that no business has an incentive to create a harmful drug. If harm is done to a consumer, they can sue the business and claim compensation for the damages.
The abolition of the FDA would unleash the power of markets to create and develop new, revolutionary drugs at affordable prices. An effect similar to those seen after the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 would be seen, and bring an end to the crony capitalism enabled by the FDA.
By Mason Mohon | United States
That guy who made iPhones? Yeah, he was a good for nothing druggy who would go trip like a degenerate in the woods on psychedelic drugs with his friends.
That’s probably how you’re going to conceive of Steve Jobs when I tell you that he tripped on acid a lot in college. If that is your conception, though, your conceptions may very well be wrong, and you may have a prejudice against anything characterized by the word drug like the old south had a prejudice against those characterized by the word “negro.” Open up a little bit, and let your conceptions be shaken, because it may very well be the case that nearly every modern silicon valley innovation may be coming from the depths of drug-induced flows.
The Rolling Stone reported back in 2015 that lots of people in San Francisco are hacking the world by hacking themselves; they’re microdosing LSD, psilocybin, and other psychedelics. Microdosing is the practice of taking a very small amount of a psychoactive drug such to boost performance, decrease stress, and increase creativity. Typically, it will be about 10 micrograms of LSD or half a gram of psilocybin mushrooms.
The reports come from all over the world, but Fadiman says there’s a steady, consistent stream originating in the San Francisco area. The typical profile there is an “übersmart twentysomething” curious to see whether microdosing will help him or her work through technical problems and become more innovative. “It’s an extremely healthy alternative to Adderall,” says Fadiman, referring to a drug popular with programmers.
Ken, the fake name for the real 25-year-old Stanford graduate working a tech startup, is just one profile for this growing innovation trend. Wired profiled Lily (another fake name) who will take a small amount of magic mushroom with her morning tea. They had the following description of microdosing:
In small amounts, say, a tenth of a full dose, users don’t experience a consciousness-altering “trip”, but instead report improvements in concentration and problem solving, as well as a reduction in anxiety.
Ok, cool, so these young people are taking drugs, great, but these internet companies just have a few profiles – that doesn’t say anything about the broader topic of the effectiveness and safety of improving labor through the use of drugs.
Where’s The Science?
We cannot base any conclusions off of a few internet profiles. We need to stick to the well studied and credible scientific data to know whether or not what they are doing is a good idea. We should break down the data and look at the actual aspects of whether or not this is safe of effective.
Obviously, drugs are illegal. In the 70’s, then-President Nixon declared the war on drugs, causing various substances to be listed as schedule one. Today ’s most popular psychedelics are on that list. Because of this, it has been incredibly difficult to study the effects of microdosing, but it has been done.
Jim Fadiman is the world’s leading researcher on the effects of psychedelics on general productivity. Right now, he is working with hundreds of people who microdose every four days and keep a journal of the effects.
In keeping with the received wisdom, those taking LSD microdoses reported a remarkable increase in feelings of determination, alertness, and energy, as well as a strong decrease in feelings of depression. Interestingly, however, Fadiman noted that microdosing LSD didn’t seem to work out as well for those who entered the study on the basis of anxiety alone—microdosing LSD actually seemed to increase their anxiety. However, those participants who cited anxiety and depression, rather than just anxiety, noted an overall increase in their feelings of mental wellbeing.
Of course, we cannot rely solely on data entirely based on self-report research. Luckily, Fadiman has been at this for a while. All the way back in 1966, the government funded his psychedelic problem-solving experiment. People from various fields were brought in to take tests and work to solve a problem in their field, which could range from mathematics and architecture. The results are in, it would boost concentration, creativity, and limit anxiety.
The only real criticism it has received is that the mescaline (another psychedelic) used in the experiment was used in conjunction with methamphetamine. Regardless, the effects of LSD have remained undisputed.
Clearly, it produces the desired results. The programmers and artists aren’t stuck with a placebo productivity spurt, but at what cost. How safe is microdosing?
Our knowledge of the downsides of LSD as a whole is limited. What we do know is that those who have pre-existing mental ailments such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are at risk for HPPD, a disorder that can cause “flashbacks,” and a mixture of LSD with drugs like marijuana or alcohol can create what is known as a “bad trip.”
Adding even more mud to the murk is sites like Drug Free World, which I have personally termed “Source Free Information” because of the lack of any citations on the entire site. They publish sensational articles and scary videos, arguing that there are loads of adverse health effects. Doing this helps nobody, for it becomes harder to know what the facts really are.
The Government’s Role
The state has not been much help when it comes to finding out what is going on here. Before the seventies, LSD was being studied quite a bit, but once the war on drugs came along it has become incredibly difficult for scientists in the United States to research this.
There are two scenarios facing those that are microdosing today. The first is that what they are doing is dangerous and that the costs outweigh the benefits. The other, though, is that they are truly onto something and they have hacked life.
If it is true that these people are in danger and we do not know it, then the government is not helping one bit by keeping it illegal. As long as psychedelics are illegal, research into the harmful effects cannot be done, and the people using microdoses are at more risk day after day.
If, as a matter of fact, the San Franciscans are truly onto a real scientific breakthrough, the argument has set itself out as to why these substances should be legalized. A safe, productivity increasing drug has the penalty of the law behind it. If this is the case, there is no good reason as to why these substances should remain illegal.
Either way, the state needs to get out of the way. The way that we schedule drugs in the U.S. has caused LSD, marijuana, and heroin to all be listed as equally “evil,” which has lead to another, and maybe even worse, problem.
I would put down money that the person reading this article is a drug addict, because 54% of American adults drink coffee every single day, the active substance of which is caffeine. The jury is settled on this, caffeine is a drug. It has withdrawal symptoms, a potential for overdose, and chemically alters your mind, resulting in the brain chemical that increases sleepiness to be held at bay.
Get off of your high horse that you are above the world of drug use. Nicotine, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and high fructose corn syrup all fit under the category of “drug.” What you are afraid of is illegal drugs, though, right?
If the line is “illegal,” you’ve got a bad line. The only real justification for that being a reason as to why drugs are bad is to avoid punishment from the government. What that means, though, is that you are not against the drugs themselves, you would rather just the consequences be avoided.
Not all schedule one drugs have the same issues, though, and that distinction should be made in one’s head. Heroin is much more dangerous than alcohol, which is much more dangerous than LSD. The government’s scheduling of drugs is the laziest and most useless way to feel the negativity of drugs in the real world.
The problem is people buy into this way. LSD, meth, and marijuana are now all the same in the mind of the average citizen. Tell someone you have used an illegal drug and their mind will immediately jump to the crackhouse junky who has six months if he is lucky. This is what I call the drug stigma; people have a preconceived negative notion about drugs (even though they themselves are probably an addict) so they don’t care to hear people out on their drug use, even to the slightest extent.
Some drugs are really bad. Those need to be treated and those people need care. There is a lot more going on in the mind of every addict than addiction to a specific chemical. It is wrong to treat a user of hard and dangerous opiates the way we do, and it sets up a dangerous way of looking at things to treat a psychedelic user the same way we treat an opiate user.
Steve Jobs should not be seen as a filthy degenerate because of his use of psychoactive substances, and you should not look at him that way. You should not look at any psychedelic user, whether they make “tripping” a habit or simply microdose that way. It is thoughtless, collectivizing, and ignorant.
And the government should get off their backs too.
By Mason Mohon | USA
Welcome to the glorious new world. We have an absurd amount of computer processing power and information in our pockets, at all times. We all carry around our phones with us all the time, constantly checking and looking for new information. The information age is kind of great. I can pull out my phone and text my friend in Sweden, look up an academic paper, or watch whatever episode of The Office that my heart desires. What isn’t to love?
Studies show that there isn’t much not to love. As The Economist recently reported, teens are backing off from what is usually considered “bad behavior.” That is, we are consuming fewer drugs, having less procreative sex, and beating each other up less. All across the developed world, this trend is repeated, with the average age of first consumption of alcohol increasing by two years in Australia since 1998. The pub and nightclub industry has lost the interest of young people in Britain. In the U.S., the teen birth rate has fallen down by two-thirds. In the U.K., about 3000 youngsters were in convicted custody when ‘07 rolled around. In 2016, that number has fallen below one thousand. Clearly, things are getting better. There is so much less to fear when teenagers aren’t going out and having abusive drunk sex.
Shoko Yoneyama, an expert on Japanese teenagers at the University of Adelaide, has gone as far to call it “kind of boring.” Everyone is a nerd now.
But this is coming at a cost. We are turning into really, really sad people. When I say that, I don’t mean that we are becoming sad as in lame (although the argument can clearly be made in favor of that), but rather we are becoming literally sad. We are frowning more, getting stressed more, and shockingly, we are killing ourselves more. The Wall Street Journal reported that depression is up 400% since 1990, and this seems to be more or less linked to our increased usage of life-easing tech. Dr. Ilardi, the author of the article, said the following:
Excessive screen time lulls us ever deeper into habitual inactivity, overstimulates the nervous system and increases production of the stress hormone cortisol. In the short term, cortisol helps us react to high-pressure situations, but when chronically activated, it triggers the brain’s toxic runaway stress response, which researchers have identified as an ultimate driver of depressive illness.
It is like we are playing a slot machine. We are constantly scrolling through Facebook or Instagram in search of satisfaction. We hope the next post to slide by will amaze us, and that’s the science of it. Dan Sanchez described experiments where both rats and humans would relentlessly press a lever that activated pleasurable feelings in their mind. He quotes Kelly McGonigal, who says the following: “When the brain recognizes an opportunity for reward, it releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine tells the rest of the brain what to pay attention to and what to get our greedy little hands on. A dopamine rush doesn’t create happiness itself — the feeling is more like arousal”
Our phones aren’t making us happy, they are merely arousing us to the potential of an award, and this has become extremely addicting for us. The aforementioned WSJ article said the following in relation to a group of 1000 students who pledged to give up screens for a day: “Most students dropped out of the study in a matter of hours, and many reported symptoms of withdrawal associated with substance addiction.” We have traded addiction to alcohol for addiction to phones and other kinds of tech. The results are extremely detrimental. Although evidence that the two are causally related is lacking, suicides in the U.S. increased by 24% in a period between 1999 and 2014.
Even though studies haven’t conclusively shown it, the link is clear. Face to face human interaction is important for us to have. We are engineered to pick up context clues from another human standing or sitting across from us while conversing. Taking that away and putting it into the world of phones makes even the most intimate conversations completely impersonal. It is clearly taking a toll, and it is a problem we need to fix.
But how do we fix this? Surely, it would only throw gasoline on top of the fire to ask the state to sweep in and solve things. What the solution has to be in personal responsibility. We need to both take care of our own minds and bodies by being careful in the amount that we consume, and we need to band together with families and friend groups to work together and keep each other accountable. There need to be support groups for screen usage just like we have for addictions of other kinds.
There is a lot that you can do in your own life, too. If you’re eating or getting coffee with someone, don’t check your phone. Don’t even set it on the table. See if you can go an hour or two throughout the day without it. We seem to be more addicted to our phones, using them every ten to fifteen minutes, than just about any other drug.
This is a problem we all need to work together to fix. Practice responsibility, and practice limiting yourself. When it gets down to it, we are dying for face to face human interaction and dying without it.