The “War on Drugs” has Become a “War for Drugs”

One of the arguments to legalize marijuana use is that the “War on Drugs” failed.  The term “War on Drugs” was adopted by President Nixon nearly 50 years ago, but it was officially dropped in 2009.  Like “War on Poverty,” “War on AIDs,” it represents a concerted effort to get rid of something.  However, it really is a just a euphemism which means different things to different people.

Today we have a “War for Drugs,” in which states think they can legalize marijuana for tax money without considering the other social costs.  These costs include car crashes, suicides, mental illness and crime.  Furthermore, gangs and cartels moved aggressively into the heroin trade after Colorado and Washington legalized pot.   Some states with legalized pot have attracted foreigners who come into areas and buy up properties for illegal marijuana growing.

Anyone who argues that US policy causes the violence of drug gangs and cartels lacks an of understanding of the nature of drugs.

 

“War on Drugs” Rhetoric

The idea that the “war on drugs” is a war on black and Hispanic communities is a simplistic way to explain a complex situation.   The ACLU, which has had an important stake in legalization efforts in Maine, Vermont and Washington uses these arguments to press legalization of marijuana.

Wealthy white drug dealers can often afford more expensive lawyers than minority drug dealers, leading to disparate sentencing.  Black males have been disproportionately jailed for violating drug laws.  Michelle Alexander, who wrote The New Jim Crow, supports legalization of all drugs.  However, she is laments the fact that legalization has benefited the white males who are now making all the profits.

The drug policy – violence theory also demonstrates a poor understanding of the nature of humanity.  Gangs and cartels are money-making paths that bring profits quickly.  Anyone can be lured into the profit motive without thinking of the harm, particularly when young and risky behaviors seem exciting.  There is a certain “high” that comes from evading the law.

Benicio del Toro in the 2012 film Savages
Benicio del Toro in the 2012 film Savages. Top photo is also Benicio del Toro

Criminal businesses will be always be attractive to both the rich and the poor.  Some cartel leaders are well-educated and even rich.  If it were only about income inequality, many would get out of the drug trade sooner.  We need to foster opportunities for the poor, so they don’t see drug dealing as a route out of poverty.  Regardless of circumstances, drug dealers are hungry for power.  They would find other ways to maintain power over people, if legalizing pot truly kept all the profits for government.  Experience has shown that they branch out into other crimes, such as human trafficking and selling heroin and fetanyl.

 When Drug Wars Occur

Drug wars happen when growers and cartels compete to have the strongest, most potent strains of marijuana.   High-THC plants bring higher profits.  The marijuana industry pretends that government is to blame for the greedy, violent wars between drug cartels.

We can see the violence that comes with the competition in the drug trade in the book and movie, Savages of 2012, with Benicio del Toro.  An earlier movie  Blow, in which Johnny Depp played notorious drug dealer George Jung, tries to illicit sympathy for the criminal who was instrumental in bringing the Columbian cocaine trade to the USA.  It is clear that greed and adventure motivated Jung, without concern about the harmful consequences to others.

Johnny Depp as George Jung in Blow

Marijuana advocates who say “drug wars don’t work,”  play into current anti-government sentiments.  They say anti-pot groups take money from pharmaceutical companies, police unions or the alcohol industry.   These claims are without merit.  In their twisted logic, they say the US has created cartel violence in Mexico. Violence of course has many causes including poverty.   On the other hand, there ‘s evidence that the legalization of pot moved the cartels into other countries of Central America.  The legalization of pot made the cartels promote heroin which is killing people in record numbers today.

The cause of racial problems of the United States and drug violence in Central America shouldn’t be seen as one-dimensional issues.  Opinions about the “War on Drugs” are irrelevant.  The “War for Drugs”  is about getting a higher, more potent version of marijuana and making a big profits.  It’s a cruel trick the ACLU and Drug Policy Alliance play on the public and a bad deal for minorities, because pot is very harmful.

Two Most Recent Incidences of Religious Violence

The Common Web in Ideological Killings

Two cases of religious violence are dominating the news, and marijuana allegedly played a strong role in the lives of both attackers.  Jeremy Christian’s rants on Muslim women in Portland, Oregon resulted in the stabbing death of two men who defended the women. The Daily Mail reports about Jeremy Joseph Christian:

“Christian’s Facebook site paints disturbing a picture of the suspect, and he describes himself by saying: ‘I’m an Ex-Con. I Like Comix, Cannabis and Metal-In Any Combination. If you are an Employer, F*** Off.’ ”  The suspect has been in jail previously for a string of charges including robbery, kidnapping and unlawful use of a weapon, and he brags about being an ex-con on his Facebook page.  Whenever there are erratic rants with psychotic overtones, we should suspect marijuana use.

Salman Abedi, Manchester terrorist

Salman Abedi, the perpetrator of the Manchester bombing last week was also an early marijuana smoker and drinker.  Friends remember him as a good footballer, a keen supporter of Manchester United and a user of cannabis.  An article The Independent, questions how he turned from a cannabis-smoking dropout to a Isis bomber.   The paper concludes that his path to radicalization echoes those of Islamist terrorists throughout Europe.  However, his victims were disproportionately young, and overwhelmingly female–another fact that can’t be ignored.

British journalists have been publishing a good deal about the connection between heavy pot use and jihadist terrorism.  It seems  cannabis obsession turns up frequently with ideological or religious violence when the killers have no relationship with their victims.

Rising Pot Use, Rising Violence

Scholars from Michigan recently published a summary of incidences of the past few years linking violence and aggression with marijuana use. They reveal little-known facts, including information about how marijuana affected Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Osama bin Laden.

As pot use rises, we can expect a corresponding increase in violence.   (In Chicago, known for a high murder rate,  58% of violent criminals tested + for recent marijuana use.  Humboldt County, marijuana capital of California, has higher rates for suicide and homicide than most counties in the state. )

Frequent pot use eventually causes major brain changes that affect a chunk of marijuana users.  (Studies show that even a small amount of pot use changes the brain.)  Critical parts of the brain that influence emotion, happiness, empathy and conscience are involved, even if not entirely understood.  Pot users are vulnerable to paranoia, unusual or rigid thought patterns, anxiety and/or depression.

Dylann Roof killed 9 African-American at a church in SC. His parents sought outside help to stop his marijuana use when he was 14.

When continued marijuana leads to ideological or religious violence, the usual pattern is that heavy marijuana comes first, the ideology follows and drug use continues.  Dylann Roof killed 9 African-American at a church in South Carolina.  Recent documents revealed that his parents struggled to get him to stop using marijuana at age 14.   Other ideological killers and pot users included Planned Parenthood shooter Robert Dear, Eric Rudolph, an abortion clinic bomber, and Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber.

Is Marijuana Always a Factor?

It  also is not necessary to blame marijuana for each and every person who becomes radicalized and fanatic.  Orlando shooter Omar Mateen carried danger and rage that dated back years and would appear to be far more complex.  In 3rd grade, instead of singing a school song “mariposa, mariposa,” he sang “marijuana, marijuana.”

It’s  possible the radicalization of the San Bernardino terrorists, Tashfeen Malik and Syed Farook,  did not involve marijuana use.  Other drugs were found in their home, benzodiazapines and amphetamines, according to British journalist Peter Hitchens.  However, Enrique Marquez, Syed Farook’s friend who bought the guns, posted on Facebook, November 5, 2015:  ‘No one really knows me. I lead multiple lives and I’m wondering when its all going to collapse on M[e].’  He referred to being ‘Involved in terrorist plots, drugs, antisocial behavior, marriage, might go to prison for fraud etc.

Two of the most successful young shooters,  Adam Lanza and Seung-Hui Cho, Virginia Tech shooter, appear to have not used pot.  For the most part, Lanza’s mother rejected psychiatric pills as a solution to his problems.  Cho was prescribed Prozac, but there’s no evidence he used it.  Neither Lanza nor Cho were ideological killers.
Radicalization comes easier to a brain that has been primed by marijuana or other drugs.  It’s not just for religious violence, but all kinds of ideological killers.  Mind control from  political groups comes more easily to the drugged brain.  Marijuana lobbying groups use terms like “Marijuana Majority,”  “inevitable,” “racism,” expecting people to be good sheep who follow.

Robert Dear, shooter at Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado.  A heavy marijuana user, he moved to Colorado for the pot.

We Can’t Ignore Correlation

Cutting out all marijuana use would not eliminate all murder and mass violence by any means.   However, as a society, we cannot ignore when these correlations occur:

  1. a shooter’s psychosis and or mental illness is triggered by marijuana use – (James Holmes, Jared Loughner, Eddie Routh and possibly Robert Dear are clear examples)
  2.  marijuana use numbs feelings so that shooters feel no empathy  (Robert Durst, Dylann Roof)  As marijuana manipulates the brain, it appears aid in the formation of psychopathology.
  3. Victims of PTSD turn to marijuana and it turns deadly for them and others.  Cascade Mall shooter Arcan Cetin was an early marijuana user who suffered from PTSD.  He killed five people at a Macy’s in Washington.  Stephen Bourgoin who recently killed five teens in a wrong way crash also suffered from PTSD.  If we offered better ways to identify and treat early PTSD, we’d have a less violent society.

A chorus of marijuana activists will say: “Correlation doesn’t equal causation.”  That’s what their leaders say, too.  For further study, please read Part 2, as well as these studies:

Miller, Norman S Miller and Thersilla Oberbarnscheidt.  Marijuana Violence and Law. Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy, January 17,  2017

Fazel S, Långström N, Hjern A, Grann M, Lichtenstein P. Schizophrenia, substance abuse, and violent crime. JAMA. 2009 May 20;301(19):2016-23.

Harris AW, Large MM, Redoblado-Hodge A, Nielssen O, Anderson J, Brennan J. Clinical and cognitive associations with aggression in the first episode of psychosis. Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2010 Jan;44(1):85-93..……

Dr. Randall’s Letter Exposes Truth of Pot Legalization

Dr. Karen Randall, an emergency physician of Pueblo, Colorado, sent a letter to the physicians of Vermont.  Their state legislature narrowly passed a bill that would legalize marijuana, but it’s hoped that Governor Phil Scott will veto it.  There was not enough time to read Dr. Randall’s at a Press Conference on May, 18, 2016.  Here’s the contents of that letter:

Firstly, I’d like to thank you all for the opportunity to share some of my experiences as a physician in a region with heavy legal marijuana use.

In 2012, Coloradans voted to pass Colorado Amendment 64 which led to the state-wide legalization of recreational marijuana beginning in January of 2014. Since then, the number of medical and recreational dispensaries in Colorado has grown to more than double the number of McDonald’s and Starbucks combined. While individual counties could and did choose to abstain from allowing recreational marijuana sales, my county, Pueblo, was one of many that embraced Amendment 64 and the projected benefits of recreational legalization, even unofficially rebranding itself the “Napa Valley of Pot”.

A homeless camp along the river in Pueblo, one of many makeshift residences

This led to an influx of people looking to smoke without the risk of legal consequences and to cash in on the burgeoning “pot economy”. Unfortunately, many of these people arrived only to find that the supply of marijuana-related jobs was far outweighed by the demand, and few had backup plans. Since 2014, Pueblo’s homeless population has tripled, and our low-income housing have occupancy rates of 98% or more. We have seen a drastic increase in the number of homeless camps, and social services and outreach programs are buckling under the strain.

Our medical infrastructure is also reaching critical mass. Out of the 160,000 residents of our community, roughly 115,000 are on Medicaid. As a result, we have been losing primary care providers at an alarming and unsustainable rate.  The largest local clinic has been looking to hire 15 new doctors, but has only been able to hire 1 in the past two and a half years. My emergency medical group has been able to fill less than half of our open positions. The average wait time to see a new primary care provider is months with the wait for a specialist even longer, and many primary care physicians in the area are no longer taking new Medicaid patients.

Additionally, the legalization of marijuana has led to normalization of behavior that in my professional opinion is strongly impacting our youth. Despite sales being legally restricted to those ages 21 and over, the Healthy Kids Survey of 2015 shows:  16% of Pueblo High School kids under the age of 13 have tried marijuana, 30% of high school kids had smoked within 30 days of the survey, 64% feel that it would be easy or very easy to get marijuana, and that 6.3 and 6.6% of respondents have used heroin and methamphetamines respectively, compared to 2% for the rest of Colorado. The number of ED visits for cannabis hyperemesis syndrome, accidental

Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome is an illness that is sending marijuana users to ER rooms.

pediatric ingestions, accidental adult ingestions and psychosis have sharply risen. There has been an increase in the number of babies testing positive for marijuana at birth (many internet and dispensaries are now recommending marijuana for nausea in pregnancy).

The potency of marijuana has risen tremendously since legalization, which is also a cause for significant concern. Almost all of what we do know about marijuana is based on studies where the marijuana was 1-3 mg of THC. Currently, dabbing provides 80-90 mg of THC; edibles provide 10 mg THC per bite and are frequently packaged in quantities to total 100 mg of THC.  Fortunately, legislation has passed so that edibles must be packaged in safety packages and can no longer be sold as appealing candy gummies, suckers, etc.  Currently, law requires that chocolate be labeled with a stamp and dose quantity but it still looks like a chocolate bar to a child.

Ads and claims to the health benefits of marijuana are rampant on the internet with reported cures for almost every ailment, yet there is very little research, if any to support those “health benefits” and frequently people come to the area with a disease process (for instance, Parkinson’s disease) and purchase marijuana.  Many of those looking for cures are seniors who are not toleratant to the dosage/strength of the current marijuana being marked and they come to the ED with side effects.

suicide-risk
Some people compare medical marijuana sellers to snake oil dealers of the 19th century. Certainly, the “snake bites” from the marijuana industry against those who disagree are brutal.

I deeply appreciate having been given a platform to share my experiences with you today, and I strongly encourage the physicians of Vermont to consider the broader medical, economic, and social ramifications of the legalization of marijuana.

Thank you for your attention,                                                                                 Dr. Karen Randall, FAAEM                                                                          Southern Colorado Emergency Medicine Associates                             Pueblo Colorado

Dr. Randall presented her experiences at a press conference in Pueblo on October 20, 2016.

To watch the Press Conference of May 18, Orca Media presents the proceedings of the entire Press Conference.

 

Be Ready for the Long Term if Your Teen Needs Rehab

3 Tips for Finding a Rehab for Your Teenager       

by Julie Knight  

If you think your teen’s pot use is no big deal, you may be very wrong.  You may need to prepare yourself for the long-term recovery from drugs.

Over the past three years, I’ve struggled to find a rehab with counselors who could convince my teenage son that using marijuana two or three times a day is damaging his developing brain.

“It’s just marijuana,” he told me when he was 15-years-old. By the time he turned 16, he’d escalated to dabs, one of the most intense concentrates of marijuana, OxyContin and cocaine. He would drink alcohol until he blacked out.

A friend his age died after ingesting the same lethal mix of OxyContin and alcohol that my son was experimenting with.

I’ve sent my son to five residential rehabs for drug addiction. He’s relapsed after each rehab within a few weeks. When he turned 18, I offered to send him to sober living or said he’d have to live on his own. He’s living on his own now. I know he’s still using marijuana and alcohol. I’m not sure what else.

I’ve been asked to share some of my lessons learned. Here are my top three tips.

  1. Understand that the best program is probably going to be a long-term solution: short-term residential rehab followed by a long-term boarding school or after care program. As hard as it is to fathom giving up your child for up to a year, it’s so much easier than trying to stay two steps ahead of a drug- or alcohol-addicted child who is a mastermind of deceit.

The purpose of a short-term (30- to 90-day) residential rehab is just to get your child to wake up to the fact that drug or alcohol use might not be leading him or her on a path to success or wellness. The goal is to uncover the factors driving their use and offering tools to cope with those issues.

Prepare for sticker shock. That program can cost anywhere from $2K or $3K up to $50K+ for just one month.

The catch? After you spend that boat load of money for residential rehab, you’re not done. Then they tell you, “Oh, by the way, now you need to send your child to an ‘after’ program and that program has to be at least 6-12 months, so mortgage your house again because that will cost you at least $80K for a good program.”

What? You don’t have a house or an extra $80K stuffed in your mattress? Good luck.

  1. Get over the cost. Find any way you can to pay because that “after” program is the key to your child’s success. Don’t make the mistake I did by skipping it.

It should be a program where your child has no access to outside influences. Bringing a child home and trying to manage the process with outpatient counseling doesn’t work. At least not for my son.

My son fooled us all with his “miracle” recovery in his first wilderness program. He seemed transformed while safely tucked away in the mountains of Southern Utah. But he relapsed within a week of returning home, though it took me several months to discover this.

When my son came home the first time, I signed him up for outpatient counseling and sent him to a presumably “drug free” private school to get him away from his drug friends. I tested him for drugs but he figured out how to cheat the urine test. He also started using alcohol heavily since that didn’t show up in the urine test.

He met a boy at the “drug free” private school who introduced him to OxyContin, the pill form of heroin.

I didn’t think I could afford a 10-month boarding school / after program for my son because it was so expensive. Where was I going to get $80K? But turns out I went on to spend more than that with various other, shorter-term rehabs that didn’t work.

  1. Find an expert to help you find an appropriate rehab for your child. I used David Heckenlively in Walnut Creek. He did a great job of counseling me to find the best rehab for my son, a program called Open Sky Wilderness. Even though my son relapsed soon after returning from wilderness, I truly believe he learned valuable lessons there that influence him today in positive ways. It was one of the better programs my son went to, and it taught me a lot about how to parent a drug-addicted child.

In retrospect, I wish I’d listened to the advice that a longer-term boarding school is recommended after residential rehab. Not all teenagers will relapse and get into harder drugs like my son did but many will.

I was a single mom paying for all this myself. I didn’t have a house or relatives to help. I didn’t think I could afford a more expensive after program. But I later learned I could use my retirement money since this was a health-related expense. I could also borrow against my 401(k).

I also used Denials Management, which helped recover a portion of the cost of the wilderness program. A refund of about $10K came to me after about eight months of fighting the system. That was the best Christmas gift ever.

I believe all the counseling my son has received has helped him understand a few key concepts. He knows he can’t try meth, even once. He knows he can’t mix drugs and alcohol.

When I kicked him out, he could have moved to be closer to his drug-using friends but didn’t. He’s living 30 minutes from me in Sacramento. Thanks to all the counseling, he knows how much I love him. He visits often.

I think he’s using more moderately now because he’s able to work full-time and he’s finishing school. But I know it’s a progressive disease. I have to enjoy every hug I get while I can.

The cost of the five residential rehabs totaled more than a year’s salary. I drained my retirement fund to save my son. I’d do it again. For all I know, my son might be dead now or in jail if I hadn’t intervened.

In my next blog post, I’ll feature tips from other parents weighing in on “How to find the best rehab for your teenager.”

The author, Julie Knight, is a single mother living in Davis, California with her sixteen-year-old daughter.