Saturday, November 10, 2012

The "evil" of addiction to narcotic drugs

I posted this at DrugWarRant.


Recognizing that addiction to narcotic drugs constitutes a serious evil for the individual and is fraught with social and economic danger to mankind... 
Conscious of their duty to prevent and combat this evil...
‘Deliver us from evil’? – The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 50 years on by Rick Lines [Link]

In the context of international treaty law, this wording is notable in that the Single Convention is the only United Nations treaty characterising the activity it seeks to regulate, control or prohibit as being ‘evil’.   
[Conor]  Gearty is correct, however, in his recognition that the use of such language is highly unusual. Indeed, the unique nature of the use of the language of ‘evil’ in the Single Convention is particularly glaring when considered alongside that used in other treaties addressing issues that the international community considers abhorrent.   
For example, neither slavery, apartheid nor torture are described as being ‘evil’ in the relevant international conventions that prohibit them. Nuclear war is not described as being ‘evil’ in the treaty that seeks to limit the proliferation of atomic weapons, despite the recognition in the preamble that ‘devastation that would be visited upon all mankind’ by such a conflict.
The closest one finds to the language contained in the preamble to the Single Convention to describe drugs is that found in international instruments in the context of genocide. For example, in describing the crimes committed during the Second World War, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights uses the term ‘barbarous acts’, while the Genocide Convention uses the term ‘odious scourge’.
    I have been dependent (I'm trying my best not to use terms like "addict" or "addiction" as I think these are loaded with false meanings and used by the treatment industry to justify coercion and control of the lives of people who use drugs) on opiates for a long time, more than ten years.  I don't steal, commit acts of violence or any other criminal activities beyond using certain drugs "non-medically" (itself a meaningless term simply implying using a drug in ways not approved by the medical-industrial complex that is the FDA, AMA, DEA, ect).  People use drugs for all different reasons so I won't speculate on why other people use opiates, but for me it's always been about self-medication.  Without going into details let me say that, for me, opiates are a far better mood elevator than conventional treatments offered by doctors and yes I've tried many different medications.  There is a small but significant percentage of people who only truly feel well on opiates.  In case you think we're all just a bunch of dirty junkies consider that William Steward Halstead, the "father of American surgery" was also a lifelong morphine user, just one of many examples of men and women who accomplished great feats in many different disciplines while also using opiates.  As Ethan Nadelmann has said (quoting from memory so may not be verbatim), "Some people take drugs and say they feel normal for the first time in their lives.  I've only ever heard that reaction from two drugs: prozac and heroin."

    I have tried methadone which made me quite ill, gaining nearly 100 pounds and experiencing serious cognitive decline.  Suboxone is somewhat better, although nowhere near as good as traditional full-agonists like morphine, oxycodone, fentanyl , heroin, ect.  And God no I don't want naltrexone (Vivitrol),  which has such side effects as liver toxicity and inability to experience pleasure (anhedonia)!  Without a doctor to prescribe, indeed even if I could find such a doctor he/she would be be putting their practice and freedom at risk from the DEA, my choice is between the black market or inferior conventional options.  It is true that I could live without opiates, and I have done so for long periods of time (I try not to use terms like "clean" which implies that people who use drugs are "dirty"), but not without experiencing some loss of quality of life.  When people use drugs like antidepressants for depression or caffeine to increase alertness we don't condemn them for inability to "deal with reality."  Why is my particular form of self-medication a "serious evil for the individual" and "fraught with social and economic danger to mankind."

    The truth is that the convention on narcotic drugs, and all other treaties and policies that support global drug prohibition, are responsible for most of the social and economic danger to mankind caused by drugs.  Global drug prohibition is a serious evil that deserves to be compared to slavery and torture, NOT addiction to narcotic drugs.  Calling addiction to narcotic drugs an evil justifies the execution, arbitrary incarceration and torture (including the standard "cold-turkey" treatment in jails) of people who use opiates, as long as combating narcotics is seen as being good.  I myself have experienced violence at the hands of police simply for being a suspected "drug user."  All in all I would say that I've had it much easier (in no small part to being white) than some of my junkie brethren, so many of whom have histories of childhood abuse, neglect and poverty.  

The sooner we can get rid of these archaic and moralistic international treaties the better.  


  1. Hey Andy, I just read this piece and I was wondering if the majority of the post was you speaking personally or if that was a quote from somewhere?? Let me know......

    1. The beginning sections, which I marked by indented paragraphs, are quotes from the papers linked to above. Everything below "I have been dependent..." is me speaking personally.