Sunday, January 30, 2022

Chemistry is replacing agriculture in the supply of black market drugs

 The war on drugs is getting more complicated, as chemistry replaces agriculture as a primary source.  This calls for changes in both law enforcement and harm reduction.

Here's a balanced view from the WSJ:

The Once and Future Drug War. During the 50 years the U.S. has battled the narcotics trade, illegal drugs have become more available and potent. But that’s no reason to give up. Governments must adapt and find answers beyond law enforcement  By James Marson, Julie Wernau  and David Luhnow 

"America’s longest war isn’t the 20-year fight in Afghanistan. That struggle is dwarfed by the War on Drugs, started by President Richard Nixon more than 50 years ago and still raging.

"The drug war—which has relied on both law enforcement and the military, at a cost of untold lives and hundreds of billions of dollars—has fared little better than the Afghan campaign. Since Nixon’s declaration of war in 1971, drug use has soared in the U.S. and globally, the range and potency of available drugs has expanded and the power of criminal narcotics gangs has exploded.


"The global spread of synthetic drugs like methamphetamine, fentanyl and synthetic opioids is complicating interdiction—the core of America’s strategy for 50 years.


"Fentanyl has now killed far more Americans than all U.S. conflicts since World War II combined. In the past decade, it has claimed more than a half million lives, a toll that is growing swiftly. The nation was reporting fewer than 50,000 fatal overdoses as recently as 2014. 


"The Biden administration is the first to name “harm reduction” a priority. The White House Office on National Drug Control Policy, which was often run in the past by former generals and law-enforcement officials, is now led, for the first time, by a physician, Dr. Rahul Gupta.


"Europe is also pursuing harm reduction. The U.K., the Netherlands, Austria and others have offered drug testing, often at music events, to reduce the risk of overdosing or poisoning. Switzerland, the U.K., Germany and the Netherlands prescribe heroin to dependent users to cut fatal overdoses and needle sharing.

"Portugal has gone further. It decriminalized all drugs in 2001 amid a surge in heroin use and drug-dependent prisoners. Anyone caught with less than a 10-day supply of any drug is sent to a local commission that includes a doctor, lawyer and social worker for treatment. Overdose deaths have fallen from about 360 a year to 63 in 2019.


"Growing social and legal tolerance of drugs dismays people like Mike Vigil, who had a 31-year career in the DEA, including chief of international operations. He acknowledges that interdiction and law enforcement have not solved the problem. But he says that the U.S. has failed to develop a comprehensive strategy, including investing in down-and-out communities where drug use flourishes and trying to reduce future demand through massive, sustained education programs.


“We aren’t going to be able to arrest our way out of this,” says Mr. Vigil. His frustration is widely shared. “The U.S. has never taken the demand side of things seriously,” says former Mexican President Felipe Calderón."

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