Sunday, March 23, 2014

Heroin Madness in the Star Tribune

One of the many things I learned from Carl Hart is that repeated drug panics, like Reefer Madness, are always exaggerated. So now I automatically suspect anything I see that seems to be trying to scare me.

Such as today's Star Tribune front page:

Oh, scary men of color are poisoning our precious white young people in the heartland!

This graphic from an inside page carries on the scare tactics:

Pipeline of death! And catch how this graphic looks like a traditional medical illustration of a heart, using red and blue, with arrows similar to those used to indicate blood flow in the veins and arteries.

When I first saw this map, juxtaposed with the word "pipeline," I thought the story would be about the Keystone XL pipeline -- something that actually could poison the heartland -- but no, it's just the continuation of the drug story.

Aside from Carl Hart's point that most heroin overdoses result not from the heroin but the combination of heroin and another depressant, such as alcohol, it's important to remember that classifying drugs as illegal makes them more dangerous.

According to Neill Franklin, a longtime Baltimore undercover narc and now head of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP):

...alcohol is far more dangerous than all the other drugs we have out there. Alcohol eats you from the inside out. Heroin doesn’t do that. Cocaine doesn’t do that that. People think it does, but it doesn’t. It’s the cutting agents that are used that cause you the health issues. If you get pure heroin—no adulterants, baby laxatives, and things like that—you’ll live just as long as anybody else. 
And this:
Q: So there’s actually an increase in violence after every drug bust? A: Yes, that’s exactly right. There’s also an increase in overdoses. People overdose because their dealer got arrested and they have to go to a new dealer. With their old dealer, he always mixes it the same way, so they know what the potency is. Suddenly, though, they’re buying from this new guy and have no idea how potent it is. Too much and they’re dead.
Even the Star Tribune story admits the big upswing in heroin use was caused by a crackdown on a safer drug:
The new heroin boom has its roots in a successful anti-drug campaign that, starting seven or eight years ago, began to restrict the availability of popular prescription opiates such as oxycodone. The Sinaloa cartel...saw an opportunity and filled the gap. Mexico’s heroin production has doubled since 2005, according to the U.S. Justice Department, and Mexico now ranks No. 2 in the world behind Afghanistan in poppy production.
And, finally, remember this from Neill Franklin:
Q: As a cop, did you have more trouble with people on drugs or people on alcohol? A: It was always alcohol. Alcohol and violence go hand-in-hand. As a cop on the street, in my entire career, I never had an altercation with someone on weed alone. Domestic violence calls, it’s always alcohol. Weed, man, they’re the most docile folks. 

1 comment:

troutbirder said...

When I lived in the Twin Cities I thought the evenings new regularly upscaled the murder and crime rate to boost rating. Now my beloved Star and Tribune panders to the same ideal...;(