Friday, June 6, 2014

the drug war, a theater of the absurd


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

June 6, 2014


                My home state of Ohio is launching a war on heroin.  A senior legislator is heard to call on the US government further to strengthen the border with Mexico, and on the Mexican government to eradicate poppy fields.

                In Switzerland, habitual heroin users go to clinics to be maintained.  Opiates are not toxic.  The body balances its pharmacological equivalent, endorphins, with a blocker that athletes who stop training notice as aches and pains.  Heroin is the most potent opiate.  A sudden increase in dosage can shut down the respiratory system, can kill.

The danger of pure heroin is not that it is poison; the body digests it as it does a biological equivalent, the endorphins.  And a person, who as in Switzerland maintains a balance between heroin and the blockers, is fully functional.  I hear a judge in Dayton, Ohio, tell a radio interviewer confirm how often people who run out of prescriptions for powerful, goodness knows how toxic, patent medicines like Oxycontin and Percocet, because heroin is cheaper.  It is not only cheaper, as a biological rather than pharmaceutical agent, safer than artificial prescription painkillers.  As to a weaker opiate, codeine, requiring a prescription in the US, Tylonel with codeine is available over the counter in Canada.  At the other end of the painkilling chain, Tylenol is toxic to the liver, while willow bark, in the form of aspirin.

In essence, the drug war is a battle to relegate users who can afford it to patented concoctions from drug producers, in a futile effort to demonize a therapeutic, naturally occurring medicinal life form that wars cannot destroy.

Then there’s cocaine and crack.  My thanks go to Travis Linnemann on a punishment and social control website, for posting a copy of a 1914 New York Times front page story demonizing “Negro Cocaine Fiends” in the Deep South, at .  I weigh this against several trips my wife and I made to visit our daughter when she was an agricultural Peace Corps volunteer in Bolivia.  When I tried chewing coca before climbing a hill with my suitcase in Cochabamba, I found that indeed I wasn’t winded.  Without a second thought, I picked up a box of coca tea bags at the airport on the way home, good for digestion.  Cocaine became distilled from coca leaves in the nineteenth century because the unrefrigerated coca leaves got moldy onboard ships bringing them to the States.  As traced by Alfred Lindesmith in his books on opiate addiction and the law, following the Civil War, morphine became touted as a cure for alcoholism, cocaine became substituted as a cure for morphine addiction (and Pope Leopold carried a flask of cocaine-infused red wine on his belt), and finally, heroin injection kits were sold to cure addiction to all its predecessors.

Doctors liberally prescribe Ritalin even to children to keep them in their seats at school; in my schoolchild years it was Dexedrine, widely used by air force pilots to stay awake.

Marijuana use is now being legalized across the country, even as drug courts for adults and children spring up to widen the net of drug warfare.  Drug warfare as we know it in my country simply favors doctors’ prescription of corporately owned designer drugs over medicine mother nature provides.  Across the spectrum, to me, the war on drugs is a theater of the absurd.  Love and peace, hal

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