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Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The War on Drugs – your wallet is the loser.

Drugs are a controversial topic at the best of time  – your opinion is welcomed so that the diversity can be expressed.
True or False:
1.     Psychoactive drug use is rising?  - False – while drugs specific information can vary, most drug use prevalence data has continued down  over the past few decades.   Some drugs like Cocaine peaked later in the 90’s. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hc-ps/drugs-drogues/stat/_2009/summary-sommaire-eng.php#tbls
2.      The War on Drugs is working?  – that depends on what is considered working.  At best the situation is a stalemate based on drug seizures.  Drug offenses have decreased and overall use is decreasing, unlikely a consequence of enforcement activities. Illicitly derived drug related money remains the major driver for organized crime activities in Canada.  http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/drugs-drogues/2009/index-eng.htm
3.    Locking up drug offenders will reduce drug use?  - False -    The past three sittings of the Canadian government have entertained legislation which would see the introduction of mandatory minimum sentencing for drug crimes – the “get tough on drugs” agenda.  This included a minimum of 6 months for possession of 6 cannabis plants.   The debate and background research can be following through the Urban Health Research Initiative at http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/6452/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=4894   The good news is that the legislation has died on the order paper so far, but with a new majority government in place, expect this to become a reality despite the evidence against its effectiveness.
 While the evidence suggests longer term reductions in drug use are occurring, this is not attributable to “war on drug” policies.  Prevention and early intervention underlies the effective social change behaviours related to long term substance use.   These efforts are the most cost-effective and efficient in reducing demand.  
Having read this brief introduction, and armed with information from Health Canada, the RCMP and Canada’s foremost researchers in this field -  be amused by reading the government’s perception and ease with which it has dismissed Canadian generated data by questioning the methods http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/SEN/Committee/371/ille/library/DrugTrends-e.htm .
There is a common saying about how politicians and others dismiss information that is not in keeping with their beliefs
First Question the data
Them, Question the methods
If necessary,   Shoot the messenger
The current right leaning Canadian government has routinely questioned the data and methods, and in the case of the supervised injection sites in BC, shot messengers that carried supportive messages.   The price will be more jail terms, more prisons, more enforcement – and  too often reductions in programming that support prevention and early intervention.  The cost is borne by Canadians everywhere, duped into thinking that money is being wisely spent.
Is it too much to hope that national policy that affects health is driven by informed decision making?

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