Friday, August 06, 2010

Thrown Under the Bus by the "Leader"

Now that the dust has settled slightly concerning the release of the latest National Drug Control Strategy (NDCS) from the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), it's time to point out the truly horrifying (and apparently completely overlooked), focus of the newest NDCS: drug testing everyone as frequently as possible as a proven, effective technique of reducing drug use and it's possible negative impacts on society. Perhaps the worst aspect of recent events however, is that whether he realizes it or not, Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann has given his endorsement to keeping the drug war chugging along -- but worse yet, has basically stated that he wants ONDCP to work on re-directing their efforts against drug users rather than focusing on drug suppliers. Of course, he's actually been saying that since the days of Barry McCaffrey, but it looks like the new Drug Czar agrees with Ethan. With friends like this, we're totally screwed.

We'll get back to Ethan and his "too slowly, too timidly, and with little vision of a fundamentally different way of dealing with" approach to changing drug policy in depth in a future piece, but right now it's important to illustrate how the Drug Czar plans to do exactly what Ethan has told him he needs to do. The pertinent details about what the Drug Czar has planned are on the very first page of the NDCS, which lays out the first two of its overall objectives, to whit: Strengthen Efforts to Prevent Drug Use in Communities; and Seek Early Intervention Opportunities in Health Care. The two key words here are "prevent" and "intervention." You see, the absolute best way to avoid the potential negative societal impacts of drug use is to do your best at ensuring that nobody is using any drugs. And the best way to do that is by making everyone prove they aren't using any drugs -- including some "legal" ones in certain contexts. So, how does the Drug Czar plan to accomplish these objectives? The specifics are also right there on the first page. Let's have a look.

The czar intends to Prevent Drug Use by (among other things):

  • Developing a community-oriented national prevention system focused on young people;

  • Collaborating with States to help communities implement evidence-based prevention initiatives;

  • Fostering collaboration between public health and public safety organizations to prevent drug use; and by

  • Curtailing drugged driving by encouraging States to establish and enforce laws that impose penalties for the presence of any illicit drug while driving and by launching a national effort to educate the public about the serious public health and safety threat posed by drugged driving

The key thing for us to focus on is that the Drug Czar is stating over and over again in no uncertain terms that he is not focused on drug abuse -- he is focused on preventing all drug use, period. That's "zero-tolerance" -- same as it has always been. On page 8 of the NDCS we can find the czar's reaction to calls for basing drug policy on science and reason: "Research indicates that preventing drug use in the first place is the most cost-effective strategy in drug control policy." That seems to indicate that the Drug Czar has taken to heart all the criticism about wasteful drug war spending and lack of science based policy. He's simply doing what he was told to do by drug policy critics in the name of "sane and rational" drug policy.

Drug testing provides the best way to "implement evidence-based prevention initiatives" -- kind of a no-brainer isn't it? It looks like they want to spend early attention focused on testing young people. It is important to make that practice seem as "normal" and "reasonable" as possible at very young ages to ensure higher compliance rates and less resistance over time -- another cost-effective technique. Be prepared for your children to be drug tested for a wide variety of reasons, multiple times over the course of the school year, and don't worry that your school districts have no money to pay teachers and can't afford to do constant monitoring of students for drug use -- the feds will gladly pay for your testing programs. For the rest of it you'll still be on your own.

Naturally, though, drug testing cannot be limited to children if the goal is "zero" use. Be prepared to get drug tested when you get or renew your driver's license, register a vehicle, or get pulled over in a "routine" traffic stop. Those activities will be how the Drug Czar attacks the problem of drugged driving -- by making the states create and enforce these laws in order to get federal funds for highway and infrastructure projects. And here's the really fun bonus: you won't have to pee to provide a sample. Thanks to the long term efforts of the drug testing industry, the utopia of constant monitoring for the presence of "bad" drugs is upon us. You can hardly make a coherent case of your "privacy" being violated from a simple mouth swab that you yourself use to acquire the sample with, now can you? Open up and say "ahhhh!" Hell, they'll probably just have us licking the test strips in a few years, which would be even less intrusive. The kids will all be tested, the drivers will all be tested, the workers will all be tested -- the "most cost-effective" way to reach the goal of zero use. There's that critical word again -- "use." Not abuse, just plain use. All use. Everywhere. Everyone. Every way. Always.

This leads us to objective 2 in the new NDCS: "Early Intervention" which will be implemented via (again, among other things):

  • Increasing screening and early intervention for substance use in all healthcare settings; and

  • Increasing healthcare providers’ knowledge of screening and brief intervention techniques through medical schools and continuing education programs

The stated reason for the above is that: "The healthcare system can avert enormous human and economic cost if care providers consistently screen and intervene with early-stage substance abuse before it becomes acutely life threatening." Translated into reality, what this says is that every time you get near any health care professional, you will be drug tested. Drug testing is slated to become a routine test in all health care related scenarios. Check-up? Drug test. Flu shot? Drug test. Donate blood? Drug test. Dental check-up? Drug test. Sports physical? Drug test. Join a gym? Drug test -- it's only a matter of time, especially if you get some kind of health care benefit, employer contribution, or tax write off as a result of membership. Don't believe it? Read the verbiage about how the Drug Czar wants the whole "community" involved. You wanna hear the really fun part: you will have to pay for it.

In summary then, the "new" drug control strategy apparently is to ensure that nobody uses drugs. Nobody. Ever. Zero Tolerance. That, of course, is nothing new, but what's different here is that the ONDCP appears ready to take the advice of Ethan Nadelmann and shift the imbalance of drug war funding away from production and supply interdiction, and move a lot more of the budget into "prevention and treatment." Ethan has on many occasions over the past decade and a half bemoaned the funding imbablance specifically -- most recently in testimony before a U.S. House Domestic Policy Subcommittee hearing on funding for the ONDCP and it's overdue release of the annual NDCS. Here are some of the pertinent quotes from Ethan's testimony:

    "In terms of the broad strokes of ONDCP's proposed FY11 drug war budget, it is largely a continuation of the failed drug policies of the last three decades, with most of the money dedicated to ineffective supply-side programs, relatively little going to treatment and prevention, and almost none going to harm reduction."

    "The U.S. is never going to significantly reduce the problems associated with drug use and misuse as long as most of the drug war budget is dedicated to supply reduction instead of demand and harm reduction. Drug strategies that seek to interrupt the supply at its source have failed over and over again for cocaine, heroin, marijuana and virtually every drug to which they have been applied - including alcohol during alcohol Prohibition."

There you have it folks, the Drug Czar doesn't want to fight a war on our own citizens anymore and thinks he found a way out: by concentrating on "prevention and treatment" -- just as Ethan Nadelmann (and in fairness, others) has demanded. Inadvertently or not though, the "leader" of drug policy reform has of late taken to singing the praises of the Drug Czar and his "new" policy, and has been offering up the advice to stop the supply side fight and focus more on "prevention." And it appears that is exactly what the Drug Czar's "new approach" actually is. I can see the headlines from the Drug Czar's office now: "Drug Policy Alliance and ONDCP Agree: Prevention is Best Approach." It should be quite easy to demonstrate that absolute lack of drug use is a "proven" (and measurable) technique for addressing the ills of drug use: no use equals no problem. What better form of "prevention" is there?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I'm back!

At long last, I have finally regained control of my blog!  I forgot my password and the primary account email was set to a dummy account I can't even log in to.  It was a huge pain in the ass and all of the "support" is automated -- no one to talk to or email.  But, I should be back to posting on a several times a month basis soon.

I've been working my ass off for the past two years doing more historic research (which will allow me to show people beyond any doubt that this whole mess is simply an insane merry-go-round in which the exact same crap occurs over and over), as well as updating all of the primary data resources on my site.

There are a lot of things going on, the dialog is starting to get better and more and more people are paying attention.  Now is the time to get everybody lined up, singing the same song, and marching in the same direction.

The prohibitionists are feeling the heat and relying on their same old tired arguments and shocktoids -- time to knock them off their horses!