Thursday, October 25, 2007

Banning substances makes you not want to do them, or, The War On Drugs is working

Oopsy, I don't think that's what NPR meant to say, even though that's precisely what they did say. I heard a story on NPR this morning about how recent nationwide smoking bans work, if not by way of smoke and second hand smoke health benefits, but simply because when you aren't allowed to smoke, your ability to quit eases significantly. Here's the meat and potatoes:

Nationwide, smoking bans are on the rise in workplaces, restaurants and bars. Research shows that bans decrease the overall number of cigarettes people smoke and in some cases, actually result in people quitting.

One reason bans help people quit is simple biology. Inhaling tobacco actually increases the number of receptors in the brain that crave nicotine.

"If you had a smoker compared to a nonsmoker and were able to do imaging study of the brain, the smoker would have billions more of the receptors in areas of the brain that have to do with pleasure and reward," says Richard Hurt, an internist who heads the Mayo Clinic's Nicotine Dependence Center.
What's interesting about this story is not what it says, but what it doesn't say. The implications seem patently obvious that if what NPR says is true, then wouldn't that follow with all banned substances such as, say, crack cocaine, powder cocaine, heroin, crystal meth and dozens of other addictive substances which are banned outright? I don't have any evidence that NPR are cheerleaders for and end to the war on drugs or have a particular editorial bias against it, but I do know that they have many stories which are critical of the war on drugs. One of my biggest complaints about smoking bans-- a complaint which seems to increasingly fall on deaf ears-- is that we are systematically rolling everyday substances into the drug war. Ultimately, what's the difference between banning cocaine and banning cigarettes? As of late, the only difference is that there is no nationwide federal ban on cigarettes... yet. Municipalities are continuously banning cigarettes in wider and wider venues, however.

In my opinion, this is where drug wars start. We are seeing a new appendage to the drug war beginning to sprout, and in my estimation, many people who claim to be against the so-called "war on drugs" are supporting these same increasingly draconian municipal smoking bans with little or no sense of irony.

Aside: The NPR story made a segue into another smoking-related story about bans taking effect in mental institutions. The unintentionally funny quote of the year is in the audio of the story. At one point, there are worries expressed that mentally ill people who may be seeking treatment may not do so because if they find out they can't smoke in their favorite mental institution, they may avoid said treatment. The commentator in the story said, and I quote, "Mentally ill people may not have so much to fear".

Isn't it the very difinition of severe mental illness that you're completely loaded down with irrational fears that you can't be talked out of by logic and reason?

Phew, it appears that NPR has stumbled upon the best treatment for the mentally ill: Just tell them all their fears are unfounded. Who'da thunk?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Dutch reform drug laws and move to a more American style system

The drug war is getting a wider appeal these days with the Dutch banning magic mushrooms.

The Netherlands will ban the sale of hallucinogenic mushrooms, the government announced Friday, tightening the country's famed liberal drug policies after the suicide of an intoxicated teenage girl.

The ban — in response to the death and other highly publicized adverse reactions involving the fungus — is the latest backlash against the freewheeling policies of the past.
What's interesting here is that surely the Dutch have had some drug related deaths before this. My question is, what took them so long? Now if we can just get them working on marijuana, trans fats and cigarettes, we'll have more parity.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Chinese peasants have enough to eat; Scientists puzzle over how to reverse the trend.

The world's getting bigger, even the Chinese. This a bad thing, according to an article by Linda Shrieves in the Orlando Sentinel.

In developing countries such as China, lower prices for cooking oil have led to more fried foods. At the same time, food prices are declining, and people around the world are picking up Americans' bad habits: consuming fast food, sodas and other high-calorie snacks and drinks.

Scientists are looking at some techniques, drugs and the like which may curb appetite:

While the obesity epidemic has exploded, some scientists have been frantically trying to find a drug that will curb appetites. The answer, some say, may be a "drug cocktail," a combination of medications that doctors would prescribe before patients become obese.

Note to scientists: According to Ted Turner, North Korea has this nut cracked.

I'm sorry about your wife, but...

Do we really need to weaken our privacy laws, and rules on search warrants because a woman drove off the road in her Honda Element? I say no.

With Tom Rider at her side, Rahr also said she will push for legislation to ensure missing-persons detectives have better access to cellphone records. She said that if sheriff's detectives had not been held up by having to get a search warrant to obtain Tanya Rider's cellphone records, they would've found the Maple Valley woman three days earlier.


On Tuesday, Tom Rider said he planned to go to Olympia to deliver a letter to Gov. Christine Gregoire to explain why cellphone-privacy policies almost cost his wife her life. Though the King County Sheriff's Office requested Rider's cellphone records through Verizon on Sept. 24, it wasn't until three days later — after a warrant was obtained — that the information was released.