The Global War on Drugs Has Unleashed an International Health Crisis, Says Top Health Panel

Yves here. This sort of statement is years overdue.

By Sarah Lazare a staff writer for AlterNet and former staff writer for Common Dreams. SHe co-edited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare. Originally published at Alternet

A premiere public health commission warned Thursday that the global war on drugs and zero tolerance policies are unleashing an international health crisis by fueling “lethal violence, communicable-disease transmission, discrimination, forced displacement, unnecessary physical pain, and the undermining of people’s right to health.”

A joint initiative of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and The Lancet, the commission released a report calling for a global transformation of drug policy—towards decriminalization and harm reduction.

“The goal of prohibiting all use, possession, production and trafficking of illicit drugs is the basis of many of our national drug laws, but these policies are based on ideas about drug use and drug dependence that are not scientifically grounded,” declared Commissioner Chris Beyrer, a professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“The global ‘war on drugs’ has harmed public health, human rights and development,” Beyrer continued. “It’s time for us to rethink our approach to global drug policies, and put scientific evidence and public health at the heart of drug policy discussions.”

The researchers based their findings on a review of existing evidence and an “original analyses and modeling on violence, incarceration and infectious diseases associated with drug policies,” according to a press statement.

They concluded that punitive measures that fail to reduce harm are meaurably killing people. “The persistence of unsafe injection-linked transmission of HIV and HCV that could be stopped with proven, cost-effective measures remains one of the great failures of the global responses to these diseases,” the authors wrote.

Furthermore, criminalization of drug addiction is slashing access to life-saving medications like naloxone, which can reverse the impacts of drug Opioid overdoses—currently an epidemic across North America.

Notably, the report concludes that the criminalization of drugs unleashes political and social violence, including the “mass incarceration of African Americans and Hispanics for non-violent drug crimes has led to deterioration of families and communities.” The researchers also point out that the war on drugs has unleashed horrific violence across Central America and Mexico, leading to a spike in homicides that has measurably reduced life expectancy in Mexico and sparking a mass displacement.

The study follows the publication of a cover story in Harper’s magazine in which journalist Dan Baum resurfaced a damning, decades-old quote from President Richard Nixon’s domestic policy chief, John Ehrlichman.

“You want to know what this was really all about,” Ehrlichman said of the drug war. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying. We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

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66 comments

    1. Andrew Brooks

      His book “Chasing the Scream” is great – lays it all out in detail. The War on Drugs is a huge scam.

  1. jgordon

    My brother is a total addict of a drug called “spice”. It’s about the crappiest and most worthless drug there is, but he starts wigging out if he doesn’t get it after a few days. Also, he’s completely insane (bad schizophrenia) and has literally no self control or even an ability to rationally thing about anything at all. Once I got him a job, one of the few the few he’s ever had, of a lady who I was doing a permaculture design for. He showed up to work everyday, late, smelling like spice (it’s nasty) and frequently didn’t show up at all. He also mooches off everyone–and since he’s insane, he’s somehow rationalized to himself that everyone owes it to him to let him mooch, and he’s not shy about sharing that opinion.

    Anyway I think this is a textbook case of why drugs should be illegal. If anyone should be in favor of the war on drugs, it should be me! Except I’m not. Yes, my brother is completely useless and annoying while he’s on drugs, but taking away his drugs doesn’t improve the situation at all. He’s just as useless and annoying without them.

    Oh, ok. I have to make an admission–yeah I’d be happy if the cops could somehow round up his suppliers so he could never get the stuff again. It stinks and he actually is even slightly more useless than normal while he’s on it. But despite all the effort there’s always someone willing and able to sell him a bag for ten bucks. So–despite the “war” on drugs the supply is –never– interrupted. What the hell is the point then? I think this is exactly analogous to the F35: just another expensive boondoggle designed to funnel resources to special interests, but not much good for actually accomplishing anything worthwhile.

      1. different clue

        One wonders whether this spice re-arranges the user’s brain-chemistry enough to where genuine cannabinoids and cannabidiols delivered by genuine cannabis would no longer be able to compete with the spice for binding sites on the cerebrocortical endocannabinoid receptors. In which case, the spice merchants are indeed recruiting customers for life.

      2. Procopius

        Whenever I see a web site about drugs and “dot gov” is part of the URL I think of Reefer Madness. The movie, that is, and the people who distributed that as if it were fact.

    1. Beans

      Agreed. There is more middle ground on this topic than either side of the argument want to discuss. Modify the way we deter drug use – yes; make it all legal – no. Legalization of all drugs would produce and equally (if not worse) health crisis in the U.S. than what is detailed above. Anyone in doubt of that hasn’t spent time with those poor souls currently ravaged by drug addiction with us right now. There are public health reasons to deter access to highly addictive substances. Calling for all drugs to be legalized is the public health equivalent of calling for all trade to be “free”.

      1. Plenue

        A key point would be that you can’t deter access or use. I can get pot literally within 30 seconds of leaving my front door, and if you gave me a hour I could arrange a meeting with someone who could get me pretty much anything I wanted.

        If we ignored everything else and simply judged the War on Drugs on the grounds of preventing people from getting drugs it’s a complete and utter failure, just as Prohibition was before it. For all the Coast Guard and DEA like to brag and show off to the news when they make a big bust, 50x that amount gets past them. At the absolute most they might temporarily stop supplies to a specific area and force dealers to cut their product with filler, like in that one season of The Wire. But there’s so much money to be made in drug trafficking that very soon someone else will step in to restart the supply lines.

        There’s always going to people who want to get high, and the more tedious you make it for them to get lesser substances like pot, the more they’ll search for or make alternatives, which are often far more dangerous. Never underestimate the ability of humans to find creative ways to get wasted. From paint and aerosol cans to industrial waste chemicals, if given no other recourse people will huff, ingest, and inject pretty much anything.

      2. John Zelnicker

        @Beans – Check out the experience of Portugal which legalized drugs, IIRC, over a decade ago.

    2. ambrit

      We hear you. We went through something similar a few years ago. Cutting the ‘addict’ loose and washing your hands of him or her is very hard to do. It feels very like being some heartless Social Darwinist. The collateral damage was the deciding factor.
      One major ‘achievement’ of “Beelzebub” Reagan was his dismantling of the governments Mental Health System. All those previously institutionalized and outpatient served mental health patients ended up ‘on the street’ with no help or support. By ‘privatizing’ mental health issues, Reagan and his fellow demons made a conscious choice to sacrifice the weakest members of society on the altars of the Gods of the Market. If there is a literal H—, I fully expect to see Ronnie and Nancy at the Gates, serving their Master like the “greeters” at the entrances to Wal Marts across our land. “Welcome to H—! Have a crappy eternity!”

      1. Norb

        For those of us old enough to remember past systems, it comes as a surprise to the young that we once had a government Mental Health System. Until some cost is borne by the elite who instituted these disastrous public policies, the destruction will continue.

        How we think about money is the root of the problem. Along with how we view ourselves collectively. As long as all social functions are evaluated by the profit generated in the undertaking, the downward spiral will continue.

        Its not about profit, it is about doing what is right.

        Change will come when the elite experience hell on earth- not in the afterlife.

        1. digi_owl

          The trick will be to abolish MBA and NPM.

          The first because it teaches management to treat everything as a widget factory. The second because i tries to apply market mechanics to public services.

        2. different clue

          Give those addicts who need to steal to buy drugs to survive long enough to steal to buy drugs . . . maps and transit advice to those affluent neighborhoods inhabited by the sort of Reaganoids who supported the Bonfire of the Mental Health Systems to begin with . . . and who support the War on Drugs now. That might be a way of “bringing the cost” home to the policy-perpetrators.

    3. Quantum Future

      Jgordon – What most people dont know is the major cause of mental illness is gastrointestinal disease. Here is a short ABC article about this topic:

      http://abcnews.go.com/Health/anxiety-head-gut/story?id=20229136

      I have Diverticulitis, had Candiasis and highly allergic
      to gluten. I was fortunate I am in Health Pubkishing and use lots of data correlations for symptom clustering to point to cause. Otherwise, physchology
      only doped me out and gave me meds which made me suicidal.

      Also, Google: Digestive System and Mental Illness for a treasure trove of information on this very important topic.

      I have to avoid upper or downer stimulants like caffiene, alcohol, nicotine. I do take a low dose of anti-depressent and lorazapam.

      Another big issue with the drug war is chill pills are classified as ‘narcotics’. So shrinks and MDs will prescribe other meds with serious side effects. Amp a schizo out Rittalin and Prozac and watch them go postal.

      A side effect of mania can be inventiveness. Most of your serious scientists and musicians, artists are/were bi-polar. That is because when certain chemicals dont get processed in your gut, you lack them in your brain and it will release adrenaline in its place which amplifies beta brain waves. But this needs control for the mood issues such as anxiety and the inevitable crash. Your bright intellectual sociopath which is weak emotionally deep down general also fall into this category and are your wolves in politics. Such steal and justify.

      I hope this informatiom is useful.

      The war on drugs was for a self funded, perpetuating police state. It has made America a shitty place to live, the hypocricy stinks also. Bush tootin up or Clinton coke and weed while if your the little guy you go to jail.

      1. jgordon

        I think that is very useful information! The medical industry has exactly zero interest in treatments that are free or near free (i.e. fasting for a few days to get rid of some types of diabetes–you’d never hear about that one from the industry), which is just another example of the perverse incentives running rampant in our degenerating society. So it’s understandable why knowledge such as what you’re sharing is not more widespread.

        However, talking rationally to my brother is like talking to a tree for all its impact. He has an intense fear of any food anyone cooks for him because it’s “poisoned” and strictly eats packaged food (usually hamburgers a chips) from a local convenience store. Trying to convince him to eat healthier is liable to send him into an immediate psychotic episode. But thanks!

        1. Quantum Future

          Jgordon – Your brother probabaly has low lithoum level so craves the salt as the reason. Anyways, I wish you and your brother well. Battling that condition isn’t easy.

          Your correct, treating cause is not profitable. Shrinks mentioning causation would cost them money.

          Spreading good info cost money I am sure Yves has had frustration with that. What I did for four years was take big pharma profits from marketing and plowed them into health publishing on causation for philanthropy. I met some fantastic people but that draws predators and betrayal from sociopaths thinking I was rich. It was an interesting adventure and taught me to look in the mirror more often.

          In any event, mankind cannot cure sociopaths in politics until causation of that behavior is more widely spread and adopted. That will take time. As for drugs, someone else commented decriminalization happens when it makes political sense to tax which means the police state can no longer fund itself.

          That spice shit is about the worse drug your brother can do with his condition.

      2. pissed younger baby boomer

        Drug addiction, mental health .Here’s new one , my doctor yes(Psy) told me this past week to stop Lorazepam (atavan) causes dementia She ( my doctor) been practicing in here field going on seven years at a non profit mental clinic ,This organization is in Portland OR and suburban counties. Yes Reagan did cause the war on public mental health when he was governor of CAL ,and continued as president of the now dysfunctional America .

        1. Quantum Future

          Pissed Younger – Asking for a chill pill from a doctor these days is like asking your doctor for cocaine. My fiancee is an RN has two degrees and worked at Mayo clinic and now works her at a hospital.

          Anyways, she had all symptoms and tested for Epstein Bar which causes neck pain, knotting, Fibromyalgia. She had digestive issues of bloating and stomach pain and depression/anxiety. The symptom clustering I do said she had H Pylori (can be bad gut bacteria). Two years later she tested finally, she had it and cured that.

          As for fibro issue in 2011 an international panel called the ICC of the best Neurologists and Rheumatologists from Tokyo to Berlin to Harvard reclassified this as M.E. Myalgic Encephalomilitis. There are now specific treatment. One is for migraines, one is for the knotting and one for the pyschological symptoms.

          I went with her to the Neurologist and Rheumotologist. Neither had heard of this info but I came prepared with the scholarly med articles ICC site. Plus I dressed in a suit to play the game so we would get what was needed without 50 appointments and incorrect meds.
          But by God neither would prescrribe a benzodiazapene! Everything else but that, so she takes mine when she gets panic attacks once a week.

          Do you have stomach issues by any chance? I hope my information in that prior link leads you somewhere. It may not cure you but it can certainly reduce the amount of head meds needed. Best of luck to you and do not let anybody think less of you. Every other person has these kinds of issues. Most never get them diagnosed and externalize there pain as a sort of relief onto others.

          Exercise does help with the anxiety a little also but yet again that isnt a cure.

    4. pdehaan

      I’m originally from the Netherlands. I grew up in the seventies with one of my brothers (as so many other youngsters) being a heroin addict. At the time the Dutch drugs policy had already been transformed in dealing with drug addiction as a health issue rather than a legal issue. This brought many benefits for obvious reasons. First of all addiction would be treated medically rather than ensuring jail time. It was also possible to do decent research on different treatment programs and keep statistics on drug use (rather than it being an “underground” issue, hidden from view). It was then also possible to fund treatment programs, rather than funding police forces. Another important thing was allowing coffee shops to sell soft drugs, delinking soft drugs from hard drug usage. This would provide a way to obtain soft drugs without the need to go look for street dealers who would typically have a profit motive in trying to sell you the more expensive hard drugs (mostly heroin at the time). Last but not least, it also changes society’s view on drug addiction. It humanises the problem rather than criminalising it.
      My brother, after several failed attempts to kick his serious addiction, finally succeeded after voluntarily admitting himself into an experimental state-funded clinic in The Hague. It entailed a 2-year program, where the focus was mostly on psychological fashions of the time and divided into a number of stages that one could graduate from. The first few stages he would stay confined inside the clinic and then the remaining stages would involve different degrees of independence and claiming a new life in society. It worked for him and he stayed clean ever since and now with wife, marvellous kids, etc. Obviously the cost to society is very steep, but I am convinced that the cost to society in places like the US are much steeper still (and not just talking in dollar terms).

  2. YankeeFrank

    What stupefies and angers me no end is how our government has been completely unresponsive to the needs and demands of the American people over the past 40 years. And its just continues to get worse it seems every year as the American people make clear and are ignored for our desires for systemic change in almost every facet of our society. From the drug war, to healthcare, to conventional war, to education, to deindustrialization, anti-worker “trade agreements”, taxes, monopoly power, and elite immunity from prosecution, nothing changes for the better. Its no wonder that Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are dominating the energy and focus of the electorate. The only surprising thing about these phenomena is how incredibly out of touch and clueless our political and media class (joined at the hip as they are) have shown themselves to be in response. The complacency of these utterly corrupt courtiers is as breathtaking as it is historically predictable. And just like their forebears, they have no idea how pompous and putrid their pronouncements and lazy judgments come across to the vast majority of us; this despite the countless contrary and insightful internet comments to their windbaggery they fail to read or grok. The jokes on them but they’ll never, ever get it. And the revolution, like very other major event of the past century, will leave them flat footed and mystified.

    1. so

      Your comment should be the title page of this website. Everything that I have read here for the last 8 years backs your comment up, day after day. Sometimes it gets depressing, but then I think about all the others that have to learn about where we are and how we got here.

  3. equote

    THE CRIMINAL AND LABOR MARKET IMPACTS OF INCARCERATION
    by MICHAEL MUELLER-SMITH JULY 21, 2015
    ABSTRACT. This paper investigates the impacts of incarceration on criminal behavior and labor market activity using new data from Harris County, Texas. The research design identifies exogenous variation in incarceration through defendants’ random assignment to courtrooms. Two factors, multidimensional and nonmonotonic1 sentencing, generate bias and a new estimation procedure is proposed. The empirical results indicate that incarceration increases criminality in terms of the frequency and severity of illegal activity, worsens labor market outcomes, and increases dependence on government programs. A simple cost-benefit exercise finds substantial general deterrence effects are necessary to justify the use of incarceration in the low-risk, marginal population.

    I finally found the 59 page paper at the link below.
    http://sites.lsa.umich.edu/mgms/wp-content/uploads/sites/283/2015/09/incar.pdf

  4. TedWa

    As Bernie has stated emphatically so many times, drug abuse is a mental health problem and should not be considered a criminal problem.

    Portugal legalized all drugs in 2001 :

    “Portugal, which in 2001 became the first European country to officially abolish all criminal penalties for personal possession of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

    At the recommendation of a national commission charged with addressing Portugal’s drug problem, jail time was replaced with the offer of therapy. The argument was that the fear of prison drives addicts underground and that incarceration is more expensive than treatment — so why not give drug addicts health services instead? Under Portugal’s new regime, people found guilty of possessing small amounts of drugs are sent to a panel consisting of a psychologist, social worker and legal adviser for appropriate treatment (which may be refused without criminal punishment), instead of jail.
    (See the world’s most influential people in the 2009 TIME 100.)

    The question is, does the new policy work? At the time, critics in the poor, socially conservative and largely Catholic nation said decriminalizing drug possession would open the country to “drug tourists” and exacerbate Portugal’s drug problem; the country had some of the highest levels of hard-drug use in Europe. But the recently released results of a report commissioned by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, suggest otherwise.

    The paper, published by Cato in April, found that in the five years after personal possession was decriminalized, illegal drug use among teens in Portugal declined and rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing of dirty needles dropped, while the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction more than doubled.

    “Judging by every metric, decriminalization in Portugal has been a resounding success,” says Glenn Greenwald, an attorney, author and fluent Portuguese speaker, who conducted the research. “It has enabled the Portuguese government to manage and control the drug problem far better than virtually every other Western country does.”

    Compared to the European Union and the U.S., Portugal’s drug use numbers are impressive. Following decriminalization, Portugal had the lowest rate of lifetime marijuana use in people over 15 in the E.U.: 10%. The most comparable figure in America is in people over 12: 39.8%. Proportionally, more Americans have used cocaine than Portuguese have used marijuana.

    The Cato paper reports that between 2001 and 2006 in Portugal, rates of lifetime use of any illegal drug among seventh through ninth graders fell from 14.1% to 10.6%; drug use in older teens also declined. Lifetime heroin use among 16-to-18-year-olds fell from 2.5% to 1.8% (although there was a slight increase in marijuana use in that age group). New HIV infections in drug users fell by 17% between 1999 and 2003, and deaths related to heroin and similar drugs were cut by more than half. In addition, the number of people on methadone and buprenorphine treatment for drug addiction rose to 14,877 from 6,040, after decriminalization, and money saved on enforcement allowed for increased funding of drug-free treatment as well.”

    Resounding success.

    1. upstater

      Cato is well funded by the Koch brothers. There is another agenda here.

      Drug use and addiction should be largely considered a medical problem; we shouldn’t lock people up for personal drug use. But if it were decriminalized that doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be crime associated with drug use. Consider while alcohol is legal and largely unregulated it figures very highly with criminal behaviors (e.g., domestic violence, DUI killings, etc).

      Lastly, a drugged and drunk population isn’t going to be involved with BLM, Occupy, anti-War or trade unions. They’ll be slumped over in a miserable stupor while the 0.0001% enjoys life.

      1. TedWa

        I have to disagree. Most serious drunks have mental health issues which leads to violence and domestic abuse and they aren’t getting individual treatment, they’re mostly just thrown in jail or forced into AA and almost never recover. And drunks won’t get involved anyway with social movements. Using the issue of today’s drunks that aren’t receiving treatment to denigrate a drug problem solution is missing the point because they both need mental health treatment they aren’t getting. That post was a re-post of a 2009 article. Check out more recent ones on Portugal’s experiment that is still working and, with great success as seen by all that have studied it in depth.

        1. digi_owl

          Note btw the very important distinction between decriminalization of possession, and the legalization of sales.

          As best i recall, it is still illegal or sell drugs in Portugal. But simple possession is not, and thus addicts no longer fear getting slapped with jail time if they try to seek help kicking the addiction.

        2. Ping

          Michael Moor’s new movie ‘Where to Invade Next’ documents what other developed nations do that benefits the public, builds the society and produces excellent economic results.

          Portugal’s decriminalizing drug use and providing mental health care instead is one example.

          France’s public school meals are part of cirriculum where students learn to appreciate delicious healthy food and the social graces of mealtime with full service presentation including table linens, real utensils. It is contrasted with US students wolfing down fast food on disposables shopping mall food court style. No wonder US youth diabetes and high blood pressure is epidemic. The French approach to public school meals is free and documented as far more economic than US system.

          He explores Germany and Iceland and topics like health care, education, financial regulation, incarceration. I won’t spoil the ending but it profoundly illustrates how brainwashed and manipulated the US population is when demonstratively productive programs are discredited while flooding the world with weaponry for global dominance is ‘health’.

          Too bad Michael was hospitalized with pneumonia and cancelled the promotion tour for film…..

      2. different clue

        Consider how much MORE crime there would be if alcohol were outlawed. Alcohol users and addicts would buy their alcohol regardless and commit as many crimes as they commit now. Also, it would create a whole new layer of violent organized crime to make or get and sell the illegal alcohol. We know it would because we know it did, during Prohibition.

        Legal drugs including legal alcohol won’t make people any more drugged up than they are now. Illegal drugs, including illegalized alcohol, won’t make people any less so.

        And we know from the 60s and 70s that many of the most effective in-the-street war protesters and such were periodic marijuana users. So marijuana didn’t make them compliant zombies.

        So I think the Koch brothers are differently motivated in this case.

  5. Ep3

    Also, look back to when the dea started going after Pablo Escobar in the 1980s. Pablo had been running drugs for a decade already. But as soon as he started helping the poor & then announced he was running for office with the support of all these poor people, the US declared him a major threat, and escalated their presence in Columbia.

  6. Dino Reno

    Drugs will be legalized overnight once the ruling families of the elite are guaranteed exclusives rights for their manufacture and distribution. It is happening precisely that way in here in Nevada, where the ruling families, who have fought legalization for years because it might cut into their business interests, are now as one behind the November 1 ballot measure that will legalize recreational marijuana. They have installed the politicians who will grant them the exclusive right to grow and distribute pot once the ballot measure passes. The referendum will be supported by tens of millions of dollars in generous contributions from those very same families. Las Vegas is predicted to become the biggest pot market in the world, generating billions of dollars a year in revenue. All illicit drugs in this country will become legal once the rentier class is convinced that is in their best business interest and not before.

    1. animalogic

      Dino Reno and others make a very good point when they highlight the linkage between business/political elites and illicit drugs.
      Simply put: criminalisation of drugs is VASTLY PROFITABLE.
      Illicit drugs are a multi-billion dollar business– the bulk of this money goes directly or indirectly into the “straight” economy. Just 2 of many examples: much of drug money transfers goes through banks or other financial entities. The huge amounts of various chemicals some drugs require for refining comes from legitimate chemical Co’s (naturally, NONE of these company executives have ANY idea as to the true character of these lucrative transactions).
      And let’s not forget how our elites are so warmly supported by Ma & PA
      Six-pack. Wound-up by all the usual grubs in the low-brow media, they indulge themselves in visions of drug fueled anarchy, of mobs of darker skinned persons running amok….Actually, I suspect, the thought of poor people (any people) experiencing any kind of sensual pleasure fills Ma & Pa full with a deep and corrosive resentment….
      But, even ignoring the above, most politicians simply don’t care…in their eyes the whole drug question is full of guaranteed down side & very questionable up-side. After all, no one will thank you for doing the right thing…will they ?

      1. digi_owl

        Ran into a claim the other day that the war on crime basically allowed the cartels to act as a massive USD sponge to soke up all the printing happening to fund the Vietnam war.

  7. Mary Wehrheim

    The psychopathic mindset is the breeding ground of the elite class. Most of the characteristics of psychopaths such as: glibness and superficial charm, grandiose sense of self-worth, pathological lying, cunning/manipulative, lack of remorse, emotional shallowness, callousness and lack of empathy, unwillingness to accept responsibility for actions, a tendency to boredom, a parasitic lifestyle, a lack of realistic long-term goals, impulsivity, irresponsibility, lack of behavioural control are the perfect attributes for the conqueror and captain of industry and finance as well as serial killers. Robert Hare who has studied this condition states, “These are people who are so emotionally disconnected that they can function as if other people are objects to be manipulated and destroyed without any concern. The psychopath views the world in a very different way. It’s like color-blind people trying to understand the color red, but in this case ‘red’ is other people’s emotions.”“There are two kinds of empathy,” says James Fallon, a neuroscientist at the University of California and author of The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist’s Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain. “Cognitive empathy is the ability to know what other people are feeling, and emotional empathy is the kind where you feel what they’re feeling. Psychopaths know what you’re feeling, but don’t feel it themselves. This gives certain psychopaths a great advantage, because they can understand what you’re thinking, it’s just that they don’t care, so they can use you against yourself.” Chillingly, psychopaths are particularly adept at detecting vulnerability. Psychopaths do think they’re more rational than other people, that this isn’t a deficit. Fallon describes a great loop that starts in the front of the brain including the parahippocampal gyrus and the amygdala and other regions tied to emotion and impulse control and empathy. Under certain circumstances they would light up dramatically on a normal person’s MRI scan, but would be darker on a psychopath’s. Jon Ronson “The Psychpath Test:” “All of the things that keep you good, morally good, are painful things: guilt, remorse, empathy.” Fallon agrees: “Psychopaths can work very quickly, and can have an apparent IQ higher than it really is, because they’re not inhibited by moral concerns.” Psychopathic traits run along a continuum from mild to get the fava beans. I am not suggesting that all CEOs and politicians are psychopaths…it is just that given our love of rugged individualism, social darwinism and the lure of material success, the possession of some of these traits is necessary for great success as well as a one way trip to jail. I think there are two types of psychopaths basically inhabiting the “elite” set: The feral card-carrying ones and the domesticated psychopaths who are not psychopaths but function in that way in order to succeed. I see Hillary Clinton as one of the domesticated versions. Our whole societal ethos is drenched with psychopathy aka neoliberalism and neo conservatism. In practice it generates great financial political success for a few and chaos and ruin for the rest as we have been discovering for the past 40 years. The predators have taught us to worship this mindset so they can prey on us with ease. They are cunning manipulators whether selling us strawberry flavored douche or a “war on terror.”

    1. bob

      Garbage-

      “All of the things that keep you good, morally good, are painful things: guilt, remorse, empathy.”

      And there is no good without pain? Seems very psycho to me.

      1. Gee

        I think you are taking this more generally than it was meant. By “keep you good” I think what Mary means is more like “prevent you from bad” – very different things. If this is the case, then it doesn’t prevent any goodness for its own sake, and also doesn’t preclude goodness that occurs without pain.

        1. bob

          Shorter- Calvinism.

          You do realize you’re preaching Christianity, just without all that Christ baggage?

          1. Gee

            I’m not preaching anything. Just attempting to clear up a possible misinterpretation. Perhaps Mary should take care of it herself so you two can go at it

        2. bob

          I also think that there is very little ambiguity in the sentence I copied.

          No generalization that I can find. 15 words.

          1. Gee

            OK, let me put it this way then : when I say you are generalizing, I believe you are taking the sentence for its literal value based on its sentence structure. That is your prerogative, but I dont believe that was the way it was intended. I think that it was probably just insufficiently well written to make the point clear and thus became too specific, saying something that has a slightly more narrow meaning. As I said before, you’ll have to take this up with the original poster, Mary.

            And, btw, the quote is obviously part of a larger thought, so I can’t say what the original Psychopath Test meant for sure. Mary probably knows, but I am referring to that quote, in the context of her comment.

            1. bob

              “when I say you are generalizing, I believe you are taking the sentence for its literal value based on its sentence structure.”

              That’s not called generalizing; it’s called reading.

              1. Gee

                You aren’t a very good reader. Saying these things “keep you good” does not compel any action. The word keep means prevent from taking bad or immoral actions. It does not mean that these things make you do anything at all, least not something good.

                1. bob

                  “The word keep means prevent from taking bad or immoral actions.”

                  First up, no. Get a dictionary.

                  Second, it’s a pretty simple sentence.

                  “All of the things that keep you good, morally good, are painful things: guilt, remorse, empathy.””

                  So, it then follows that the only things (all of) that keep you good are the painful things?

                  1. Mary Wehrheim

                    I find the purpose of a blog is to present an idea for consideration, to suggest another way of looking at things. Despite popular belief that all ideas can be completely expressed within the length of a tweet, the more one looks at an issue or idea, the more complicated it becomes. I am not suggesting my little blog says it all regarding this topic, only to serve as a take off point. Philosophers have been arguing over the issue of what makes us “good” for centuries. Ronson’s observation is interesting: that what makes us Good (treat each other as something other than objects) are EMOTIONS: empathy (and its blowback of remorse and guilt) so that if others are in pain we feel that pain and want to alleviate it. I would also ask how love factors into this? Even if it would be in one’s self interest to cheat or exploit someone else, a person with empathy could not do that. His /her conscience would be too disturbed. If you don’t have much of a conscience, making a lot of money off people working little wages or in bad working conditions would not be a problem to you. We can argue about who may or may not be a true “psychopath,” I’ll leave that to the shrinks. Psychopaths generally leave chaos in their wake: manipulating others, (usually through fear which is the one emotion strong enough to eclipse empathy), to achieve some self interest. “War on Drugs”, “War on Terrorism” borrows from this same mind set. Ayn Rand’s objectivism is an ideal name for her “philosophy” which objectifies other people in psychopathic fashion. Psychopathic traits can lead to great financial/political “success” in our society but at great expense to others, we are becoming a world of grifters and marks. As Peggy Lee questioned, “Is that all there is?”

    2. Norb

      All this reminds me of the power of evolution. If the environment support certain traits, that trait will survive and multiply. The form of unregulated capitalism under which we live selects for various traits of parasitism. See Michael Hudson for full explanation. Until this environment is changed, or is forced to change on its own, the anti social behavior will prosper and grow.

      Society, the individual, and the environment. Three aspects of a complex system. In the end, the environment is the ultimate determining factor. As our corporate masters double and triple down on their misguided plans, no thinking individual should be caught off guard when the ultimate collapse finally arrives. Is the collapse gradual or quick- depends on concepts of scale and time- but downward all the same.

    3. digi_owl

      One nasty thing about psychopaths is that they are not emotion blind, they are emotion unaffected. Meaning that they can go from happy to sad to angry at will. This can make them master manipulators.

  8. TheCatSaid

    Does anyone have ideas about how legalizing drugs would impact EU countries with long, irregular borders (currently making them good for drug smuggling)? Schengen countries: Greece, Italy; Non-Schengen: Ireland, UK

    Specifically, what if anything would these governments stand to lose financially if drugs are decriminalized?

    I understand that they might perceive a political risk (rightly or wrongly), and that these perceptions could be manipulated by other actors with a vested interest (organized crime, for example).

    I’m trying to figure out what certain EU countries stand to gain or lose financially by keeping the status quo or by changing drug policy to something like Portugal’s.

    1. TheCatSaid

      What comes to my mind so far is that currently, knowledge of a person’s involvement in drug use could be used by a government to control people, particularly important political actors or government appointees. It’s known that this is one of the important uses of intelligence data in the USA, and I don’t expect other places to be different. (FBI and CIA whistleblowers spoke of potential candidates or appointees being vetted for personal indiscretions of any kind, and those with the most indiscretions were considered by the highers-up to be the “best ones” to put at the top of the recommended list.)

      What other possible government motivations have I overlooked, in relation to drug policy?

    2. HotFlash

      A quasi-governmental function that would very likely be affected is off-the-book ops. The CIA, it seems from a number of reports, has been augmenting its official funding with sales of drugs for decades, at least.

      Interesting that the most problematic street drugs seem to be indigenous to the area that is the current target of The Empire — marijuana and heroin from Viet Nam and the Nixon days, then coke and crack when the action was in S America, now opioids, now that we’re busy in Afghanistan and the ME — oil pro’ly in there too, though I don’t know how that would work.

      Another point, of course, is that the war on drugs is hugely profitable to individual politicians (donations and other bribes from drug cartels, official enforcement agencies, prison-industrial, etc.), and get enough of them agreeing, that’s the way the country goes, no matter what is in the interests of the people or the country as a whole.

    3. TedWa

      Well, Portugal saved money by investing in treatment rather than jails which is why they did it to begin with. Saved money that went into arresting high level drug dealers and larger quantities of drugs and if they have confiscation laws like America, that would also enrich government and local police. Who would lose out? The banksters that need to launder drug money to stay afloat.

  9. Juneau

    Just one point of clarification in a very lively discussion: Decriminalization and legalization are often seen as 2 different things. Decriminalization keeps you out of jail if you are a drug user so you get away with a ticket and a fine. Legalization lets you buy it at the supermarket. I understand the arguments favoring decriminalization but oppose legalization. Criminalization of alcohol led to increased used and massive crime. Prohibition did not work with respect to alcohol. Still I agree with legalization of alcohol. Funny bias on my part I hate hard drugs. Still there is more death and destruction from drinking than any other addictive substance save tobacco which is also legalized.

    1. TedWa

      Drugs are still illegal there, it’s just that less than a 10 day supply isn’t illegal. That headline is somewhat misleading.

  10. diptherio

    So you’re saying that the hippies and stoners and crackheads and junkies have been right all along? And the serious, responsible people were wrong as wrong could be? Let that be a lesson to everyone…take advice from junkies…or something like that…surely there’s a life lesson in there somewhere for those inclined to look.

  11. susan the other

    Has there ever been an experiment studying the addicts who dry themselves out on their own? We know it happens all the time, DTs and all. Heroin addicts resolve to detox themselves and shiver and twitch for several days. Point being: we should provide over-the-counter medications to help them. If drugs are going to be legalized for all the reasons we embrace, then the antidotes should also be legalized.

    1. susan the other

      And also too, there are morning-after pills for alcoholic binges (aka a party), and for wild and irresponsible sex, so there should also be morning-after pills for using dirty needles to protect against aids, for being bitten by rats because you were passed out, and to stem the craving for higher doses of highly addictive drugs so your next binge gets satisfied much easier. And etc. And all this stuff should be over-the-counter or handed out freely by the pharmacist. If recreational drugs were sold at the liquor store, grocery store or pharmacy that would improve morale for everyone except the church lady.

      1. John Parks

        I would also like to see some studies done in Co, Wa, Ca, Or to see if there has been any decrease in spousal abuse as relaxed marijuana laws allow for the displacement of alcohol consumption.

  12. SKL

    “The global ‘war on drugs’ has harmed public health, human rights and development,” Beyrer continued.

    Ha ha. He thinks that the last two are a bug and not a feature. (And I’m not even sure about the first one.)

  13. different clue

    I have at home a book-form compilation of various 60s and early 70s articles about politics, drugs, etc. from the “underground press” . . . especially the Underground Press Syndicate.

    They make a very interesting case that the Nixon war-on-drugs agenda had an even more evil goal than what Erlichman thought it had. The war on marijuana and the psychedelics was very sincere. It was meant to suppress use of those things down to zero. The war on heroin/cocaine/etc. was bogus. It was waged just hard enough to restrict availability just enough to keep the prices up where Nixon and his international mafia soulmates wanted them kept at. And suppressing marijuana and psychedelic use to zero would hopefully recruit millions of grass-and-acid-bereft young people into the marketplace for Nixon’s Narcotics.

    ” Remember, kids . . . . CIA drugs are a government tool. If you use CIA drugs, that makes you a government tool. Don’t be a government tool. Just say no to CIA drugs.”

  14. pdehaan

    I wonder why my posts relatively often just disappear after hitting the ‘Post Comment’ button. I understand there are moderation queues for good reasons, and I gladly recluse myself from any participation if this is indeed the moderator’s wish and my input is not up to the required standard. This blog is a wonderful source of information to me in any case and no hard feelings at all. Point is, it’s not clear to me if disappearing posts is a bug or a feature.

    1. Paul Tioxon

      Unfortunately, it is the way of all flesh to be rejected at times for no rhyme or reason. Pdehaan, it’s just WordPresstown, lets go on and keep posting, these things just happen in WordPresstown, its not personal.

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