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Ethan Nadelman’s recent commentary on the drug war, right or wrong,  is part of a conversation.  America needs this conversation on drugs, politics, incarceration and soaring costs to continue from many perspectives until we have a sane solution to the problem.  This is the Drug Policy Alliance’s stand, re-printed in the Huffington Post.  Nadelman, the Alliance spokesman, stresses his point that America plays an immensely expensive cat and mouse game that not only costs taxpayers dearly, but does nothing to keep our jails from swelling beyond capacity with drug related criminal  offenders.  He see’s it as a pork barrel ruse to prop up the drug enforcement and prison industries in an illusionary quest to reduce drug demand.  Some hold to zero tolerance;  others to liberal legalization.  Time and time again, answers to problems, fall somewhere in the middle of extremes.  What is your take on the perennial battle for a sane and sober drug policy in America?  Should America continue to invest in a losing war on drugs or divert taxpayer dollars better use? 

Something is in the air! People are blogging. Movements are growingThe criminal justice system is under scrutiny. Reform is coming that can engage good screening and address addiction as causal where appropriate and deal with the disease seriously.  Those days are coming.  Trends show American’s are seeing addiction as a public health issue and a chronic liability that needs a stop valve.  Today we are seeing the Obama administration follow suit.  A May 11th article, New Obama Strategy Treats ‘War’ on Drugs as Public Health Issue shows this shift.  The ice of public denial is breaking.  The journalgazette.net calls Obamas recent actions a policy shift.  As American’s continue to voice out their losses and concerns, the levees of resistance to reform are giving way.  Americans want  drug law reform and full medical inclusiveness towards addiction and alcoholism.  It is not just a personal issue.  The fall-out affects all of us.  Keep talking and lobbying.  Your making a difference.  links from Mary S.

Decriminalization is the main point of this Guardian piece:  War on Drugs:  Bring Out The Peace Pipe.   As the so call drug war wages war on  humanity in industrialized countries it is literally tearing the hearts out of third world nations like Mexico.  In the Mexico Drug War: The New Killing Fields, Rory Carroll puts it to words while you can see a bit of the daily activities of Mexico’s drug war foot troopers in Mexico’s Struggle to Win “War” on Drugs.  The “drug war” means somewhat different things to different people depending on whether its pork for the DEA, political ammo for medical marijuana pharmacies,  survival for those in the cross fire or heroin for an addict.  One thing is certain, we are not winning this war.  The definition of winning is a huge road block that has to be resolved.  We need to talk about what winning is.  Links by Mary.

The popular online encyclopedia, Wikipedia puts US drug policy in a nutshell.  Changing it might best be explained in CBS’s,  A New Era For US Drug Policy.  Here are two big efforts to watch in 2010 that will impact this.   First off,   S714, The Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009 will impact addiction treatment in Jail and effect de-criminalization of use.  Secondly,  Obama’s 2010 policy strategy for 2010 , handled by the ONDCP will impact recovery efforts.  You direct input can be facilitated by the  DPA’s legislative toolkit.   Check out a blog called TRANSFORM for further insights and a website called OVERCRIMINALIZED.COM which tracks S714.

ICSDP is a primary source for rigorous scientific evidence on illicit drug policy in order to benefit policymakers, law enforcement, and affected communities.

For millions of Americans, substance use progresses to a point where brief interventions are not sufficient to promote recovery Addiction treatment can be a critical—even lifesaving—resource in such situations, but only if it is readily available and of high quality.  Making recovery possible is, therefore, key to effective drug control, and the Obama Administration’s Strategy focuses on:  1)  Expanding addiction treatment in community health centers and within the Indian Health Service,  2)  Supporting the development of new medications to treat addiction and implementation of medication-assisted treatment protocols and 3)  The importance of domestic law enforcement, border control, and international cooperation.  DOWNLOAD THE STRATEGY STATEMENT IN PDF

Lets hope it does all of that.  The Obama administration has been talking about addiction in the context of being a medical problem which is a key definition.  Once that understanding makes it mainstream, we can expect to end some of the incredible gut wrenching madness that families endure simply to save their loved ones from a fate worse that most can imagine.  Check out Julia Negron’s poignant comment on the subject in Mom’s United…

Regarding the demoralizing “drug war”,  leaders from Mexico, Brazil and Columbia have endorsed the Vienna Declaration which lists a range of harms stemming from the war on drugs, and notes that the criminalization of people who use drugs has resulted in record high incarceration rates, thereby placing a massive burden on taxpayers.  The Vienna Declaration calls on governments and international organizations, including the United Nations, to take a number of steps, 2 of which are:  1)  Endorsing and scaling up funding for the drug treatment and harm reduction measures endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations  and 2)  scaling up evidence-based drug dependence treatment options.  Links by Mary S.

Hillary Clinton’s  March 23rd  “high level” visit to Mexico is a start.  She says we need a “shift”.   Still, no one is hitting a home run on U.S. demand.  Its time to stop sweeping that part of the equation under the rug.  America needs sweeping new policy changes to squash demand in ways we still don’t acknowledge.  While the DEA amps up its PR for more  drug war funding and new narco-terror strategies they readily admit to 7 million junkies in the U.S.  See DEA Statement .  This report indicates a status quo approach to preserving a broken paradigm.   CNN’s Anderson Copper did this 60 minutes report one year ago.  He is ready to do another because the problem is blowing up.  Likewise the Brookings Institute published The Violent Drug Market in Mexico…a year ago.  Clearly the situation is escalating as violence hits new lows in its victims, which includes U.S. citizens.  We need  a war on demand.  Fighting a Mexican Drug War is countering violence with more violence.  Here are two more excellent historical pieces on the drug war.  Mexico’s Drug War, Council on Foreign Relations and Mexican Drug Trade Hits the Border, STRATFOR Global Intelligence.  links by Mary S. and dadonfire.

A 100 billion dollar drug business and popular narco cinema.  Mexican’s and North Americans love films about drugs….and sex, music, pick-up trucks,  violence….Well, that’s part of the problem.  DEMAND! Mexico has long been the superhighway of drugs into North America.  It supplies most of the meth, marijuana, cocaine and poppy.  Film tells the story.  Check out VBS.TV/Narco Cinema.

Judge Gray speaks out on failing drug laws.

Dadonfire is looking at all sides of the issue in this rather interesting you  tube video.  “Six Groups Who Benefit from Drug Prohibition”

Who best to talk about the drug war than, Oliver North. Made famous in the Iran-Contra scandal, he knows drug trafficking, albeit “contra”versial.   North faults Obama’s efforts for not fighting the war head-on as the Obama Administration coordinates efforts with Mexico taking on the drug war, less directly.   While, Mexican citizens deal with violence, U.S. citizens deal with addiction, fueling demand.   Sen. Jim Webb’s efforts is a proposal that seeks to reduce demand through widespread treatment starting in our jails.  America’s addiction to heroin, methamphetamines and marijuana is fueling this war.  Reducing drug demand is a beneficial place to start.  links by M. Slivinski

If you haven’t heard, National Geographic is presenting  a TV series every Monday  called Border Wars.  The series provides a little insight into the drug and human trafficking across our southern border.

Crackonomics collects opinions on US drug policy that may interest you to know.  I also found a youtube video  by Crackonomics call Unintended Consequences.   An effort initiated by Senator Jim Webb is a realistic chance at substantively improving drug and prison policy through legislation. The National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009 will finalize important recommendations this year, which means we need to keep up the pressure for sane drug policy by contacting our lawmakers.

Before Walter Cronkite passed  he  wrote about the war on drugs in the Huffington Post:  Telling the Truth About the War On Drugs.  He also aired a great television series on the drug war a little over a decade ago. If you never saw it;  HERE IT IS.

America’s efforts to reduce illegal drug traffic is not reaping big benefits.  It is chewing up 20% of U.S. spending.  Here is one idea that for some reform that can turn this around.   Its text  from a letter I sent to the Drug Policy Alliance who is pushing support for Senator Webb’s work.

“A big part of my concern is a costly prison system, where SUD/MH (Substance use disorder/ mental health) gets little or no address, which with screening could be a good place to start treatment for jail bound addicts.  Here’s what I see.

  • Proactive judicial and prison systems that screens offenders and inmates for SUD/MH treatment diversion.
  • Re-classification and/or dismissal of non-violent petty crimes stemming from SUD/MH, based on the success of treatment and victim restitution.
  • Re-classification of narcotic drug “use” related offenses to a civil status and a re-designation of marijuana “use” to civil or a “no offense” status.
  • Public funding and treatment of SUD/MH outside the prison system based on a sliding scale of client financial contribution and/or contributing service.

Broad reform has a realistic possibility of showing how cost is assimilated.  Regarding drug and alcohol abuse, N.I.D.A. estimates 480B is already spent on incarceration, judicial work, demand reduction and general societal damage.  A 1/3 of that goes directly to prisons.  These expenditures are firmly entrenched in federal and local penal budgets.  If a third of inmates are SUD/MH identified by screening, then that part of the job has begun.  We have them.  We keep them. We treat them.  If we don’t, we know they will be back to impact to the system.  The cost doesn’t go away. This is also known as the revolving door.

If the same energy spent criminalizing addiction is transformed into treatment, funding is already there!  The more we de-criminalize and treat, the less need for incarceration. This reduces demand for an illegal drug market.  The message needs to go to the ears of lawmakers from voices from American’s impacted by the scourge of addiction”  dadonfire

A lot of parents and families of alcoholics and addicts are patiently waiting for a mandate on SUD/MH  (Substance use disorder/ mental health) treatment coming out of health care reform.  After today’s election victory of Scott Brown it looks like the senate health bill may be in for some re-constructive surgery.  I guess it is time to quit holding my breath for Health Net Insurance to cover SUD/MH in this family.  Recovery is a tough row to hoe and it looks like we may have to plow through a lot more  hard pan and black clay for some time to come.  The American Society of Addiction Medicine did make a comparison of addiction issues in the hotly debated health reform bill.  Here it is  →  January 5th , 2010 side by side comparison. All I can say is that America deserves this.

This is the time for change.  An opportunity to expand treatment and recovery options.  The ONDCP will complete their strategies this year and Webb’s National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009 is coming to a head at the end of 2010.  Here are Webb’s main points:  The USA has 5% of the world’s population and houses 25% of all prisoners  •  Incarcerated drug offenders grew 1200% since 1980  •   Four times as many mentally ill people are in prisons than in mental health hospitals  •  A million gang members and drug cartels operate in 230+ communities across the country  •  Post-incarceration re-entry programs are haphazard and often nonexistent, undermining public safety and making it extremely difficult for ex-offenders to become full, contributing members of society.   READ A FACT SHEET ON THE BILL HERE

Community input on the bullet points in this fact sheet are critical.  We can look at addiction and mental impairment screening of new offenders and inmates with immediate diversion of addicts to venues of compulsory treatment.  Costs can be covered by the same funds we already waste.  We can look at re-categorizing criminal charges based on successful diversion of  non violent offenders.  Right now, diversion options for drug addicted offenders to treatment misses most addicts because of their crime category.  When jailed, untreated addicts are released and continue to use.  This is the revolving door of jails and drugs.  We can also expand and fund drug courts.   Addicts not yet criminalized could have the threat of jail removed by de-criminalization of drug use, accessible treatment, alternative replacement drugs, safe detoxification with follow-up post acute withdrawal treatment and so on.  We can’t ask to legalize street narcotics, but we can  own the reality of the horrific impact drugs and trafficking has on us and reduce demand and jail populations at the same time.

In order to make an impact that helps young addicts and families, reduces drug demand, and better spends tax dollars, we need to impact law makers at all levels.  Maybe our elected officials don’t listen to activists but an America full of families affected by the scourge of addiction can convince their lawmakers.  Thanks to Senator Jim Webb for getting the ball rolling.   Lets help him.

China Executes UK Drug Smuggler.  Source: Al Jazeera and agencies:  China has executed a British man.   The execution of Akmal Shaikh by lethal injection on Tuesday morning followed last minute appeals for clemency from his family and  UK officials. (U.S. penalties)  Links by Mary S.

Dadonfire recently editorialized  Drug Czar Kerlikowske’s October Address to America’s  law enforcement leaders.   We viewed his speech as continued support for a failed drug war.  Our counterpoint  was punctuated Monday, Nov. 1st  by news that one million Mexicans are working in the drug trade to supply our eight million addicts.   That’s an industry 4 times larger than General Motors.  This doesn’t speak of a winnable war.   On Oct. 29th, the LA Times published a great piece called Mexico Under Siege. You can also download a 2008 PDF file:  Mexico’s Drug Cartels to see the same information presented to your congress.    Links by Mary Slivinski

Drug war politics emerged after Vietnam and it wasn’t just about legalization.  Dadonfire has been looking at addiction and treatment, personal experiences and access to recovery.  We support decriminalization and a shifting of America’s focus on this problem from being silent to creating solutions.  A new paradigm.  Viewers know that for better or worse, the  atmosphere of decriminalization parallels the legalization effort.  Dadonfire’s  interest is decriminalization and access to recovery.  Legalization is whole other focus sometimes synonymous with the anti-drug war lobby.  That is beyond the scope and interest of this website. We do watch some of this work and share  information emerging out of the anti-drug war effort for the benefit of viewers.  Stopthedrugwar.org chronicles  events of 2009 in a piece worth reviewing.   Others sites that  focus on drug war politics and reform are:

Drug Policy Alliance •   NORML •   Drug Truth Network •    Law Enforcement Against Prohibition •    The New American Drug War •       Drug War Facts

You be the judge.  Dadonfire views all sides of the issue in an effort understand all vantage points and to postulate what possibilities will emerge that can significantly impact the access to treatment of drug addiction.  Links by Mary S.

Replacement Drug Therapy attracts a debate between the medical and moral definition of addiction.  Is this a question of medical necessity or one’s will.  Medical research is breaking down why heroin in particular is so hard to lay down for some.  Alcohol is a progressive disease.  Peak opiate addiction happens fast and it is brutal.  I spoke with Keith a 28 year old recovering addict.  He sees two truths in the debate.  Clean, after 5 years of opiate addiction he talks about his 3 year replacement drug therapy to date.  “I am an addict and alcoholic.  I work the AA program. I have service commitments in AA and some in NA.  I also have been on Subutex for 3 years.  It works good for me if I apply recovery principals and work AA.  I am an alcoholic at heart but when I found opiates, I was off to the races” Keith say’s opiate addiction is far worst than people imagine and takes determination just to work the program he is on now.  Addiction for him is very much a medical condition.  He has explained that quitting opiates after long term use for many young addicts is near impossible and the leap to replacement drug therapy still takes iron clad determination, explaining further.  “Suboxone or Subutex (subs) work for some and not for others.  Subs make you feel normal.   There is no post acute withdrawal (PAWS).  You feel as you did before you started using; normal”…Here is the problem with many… “Most on subs do not fix what is really broken because they perceive that nothing is broken and don’t use the subs correctly”… “Some take sub “vacations” and use opiates off and on”.  This explains why so many young opiate addicts do not recover and continually relapse, even when using subs or methadone.  Keith holds on to the premise that he would would prefer the initial week of heavy physical withdrawal than the many months of the post acute phase.  For him, subs built his bridge to sobriety.

Check out NY Times, Dec. 7th, 2009,  Addiction on Two Fronts; Work and Home. …”His son had been dead from an overdose only three months when A. Thomas McLellan, among the nation’s leading researchers on addiction, got a call from the office of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. …” (excerpt). Deputy director McLellan of ONDCP, Office of National Drug Control Policy,  knows addiction from all angles and advocates re-directing  resources   from  demand reduction efforts not reaping big gains to prevention and treatment.  The latest figures from his office estimate 25 million alcoholics and addicts, comprising about 8% of the population.  Less than 1 in 10 of these receive treatment.  The ONDCP office’s immediate goal is to triple that number.  Look for an upcoming February 2010, drug policy strategy statement.     Link from Jon R.

Richard Farrell posts a searing piece warning of growing heroin use by young people all around us; a modern day Trojan horse, threatening our very sanity as a nation.  Read this post here.

Mexico’s Drug War? or America’s drug war?  Earlier this year, Anderson Cooper did this CBS 60 Minutes piece that is worth re-visiting.  It hammers on just how critical this issue has become.  Tucson, Arizona’s  Charles Bowden spoke in a video production back in September called Mexico’s Dirty War Against Drugs, in which he claims that from the drug cartel’s  point of view, drugs are the largest industry in Mexico.  The point is that this.  The drug war for all the rhetoric it produces from both side of the prohibition and anti-prohibition debate;  is a real issue with real consequences that keep America from standing up to drug addiction.  Americans are the  deer in the headlights of Mexico’s drug war.   As the old saying goes.  You can’t fix anything unless you know what’s broken.  Addiction is ugly and so is market that satisfies its craving, not the least the low level lust Americans have for alcohol and drugs in general from  prescription pain killers to pot.    Links provided by B. Ford and M. Slivinski.

Veterans: Drug Addiction and Treatment.  The Veterans Administration for many of its faults is the best model we have for public health care and taking care of millions of soldiers, yet their policy for drug and alcohol treatment is under scrutiny in this recent 11/04/09  research brief  called:  Healing a Broken System: Veterans Battling Addiction and Incarceration.  The focus is on opiate addiction and  point is that adequate and effective opiate recovery is elusive for veterans.  The outcome for these addicts  is too often; still jail.  The National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) also supports many of the  points made in this paper.  Heroin was a scourge for veterans coming back from Vietnam.  See Eddie Grijalva’s story.  Today, Opiates have made a big comeback, largely encouraged by the rampant mis-use of opiate based prescription drugs.

For those who weren’t able to attend the International Drug Policy Reform Conference or were interested in it what was happening there;  you can click here to view  Ethan Nadelmann’s opening speech link by Mary Slivinski

Anyone that knows a junkie or parent(s) of a junkie;  know the insanity of dealing with chronic irrationality.   Smack Time by Matt Harvey gets into the trenches.  The Drug war has failed and beckons  a  restructuring of drug laws in “Face the Facts; End the Drug War” by Johann Hari.  In this last piece entitled : Will the US step up on drug treatment. David Crary of the Assoc. Press examines unmet needs,  destroying people in ways you can’t image unless you’re  there.  This should  be a national priorty.  Links by Mary Slivinski.

Mrs. BONO MACK (for herself and Mr. PATRICK KENNEDY) submitted the following concurrent resolution, which was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and which reflects the full nature of statistical evidence of what the impact of addiction is on our communities and America as a whole.  Read House Resolution 115, 111th CongressLibrary of Congress link provided by Mary Slivinski

Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske, speaking in front of the  International Association of Police Chiefs, could have taken a small step towards decriminalization of drug addiction and expanded drug regulation.  He didn’t do that.  His vision appears to maintain a status quo:  (Read his statement here) • marijuana remains illegal  • the war on drugs goes on •  drug addicts continue to face criminalization of their behavior.  He did, however, talk of ways we can reduce demand for illegal drugs, and offered a proposed budget of 120 million dollars to do this.

Consider that 21 to 25 million Americans are drug addicts and alcoholics in need of treatment ranging from a few counseling sessions to a year in residential care.  10% of them do receive some kind of treatment, privately and publicly.    6 to 8 million of these are addicted to hard drugs and require some level of controlled residential care.  A million and half of inmates today are incarcerated due to drug use and will be released untreated.  Some of them are there for direct drug offence, while over half of these inmates are there for doing something to get drugs.  Stealing to get drugs usually equates to addiction.   This new spending is supposed to stimulate efforts for treatment programs, expansion of drug courts, better problem solving in the court system, and treatment of incarcerated inmates.  Do the math.  With a negative cost impact to America  of 480 billion dollars due in some way to drugs and alcohol,  can 120 million make  a dent in curtailing the problem?  Treating roughly  60,000 thousand  incarcerated opiate addicts alone could cost 1.5 billion dollars for a solid year of compulsory treatment and recovery.

Part of a new treatment paradigm can look like using the same dollars it takes to incarcerate opiate addicts;  to treat them.   That begins to look like no extra dollars are needed  for treatment facilitated within the legal system.  To help this comparison, consider that an incarcerated opiate addict even if released much less than a year,  will return to prison numerous times after that, while failing drug court efforts and  continuing  to inflict financial damage to society which is part of the overall cost of alcohol and drug addiction to America.  See The Impact of Just One Addict.   Roughly, the financial impact to Americans of one addict averages 25K per year.  Coincidently, the  cost to incarcerate that addict for an aggregate of one year is about the same.  You can begin to see that having an addict leave the legal system free of drugs and alcohol and a good chance to stay sober has it advantages.

Back to the status quo, delivering treatment outside the penal system would in fact take at least two more digits added to Kerlikowske’s budget and of course expand the current cost impact to America due in some way to drugs and alcohol.  The reality of the situation is that we don’t have extra money and states don’t fund most drug court mandated treatment.  Case and point.  Most offenders are simply returning to jail for re-offence or  drug court non-compliance.  At that point, they are back in jail where treatment is not available other than optional AA and NA 12- step meetings in some prisons.  Beyond that, prison health management falls short of even treating conventional diseases, much less drug addiction and parallel mental illness.  A fresh look at new solutions and ideas requires a  necessary attitude change in legal policy.  These points were absent from Gil Kerlikowske’s speech.  We are in for more of the  same for now.

By maintaining the status quo of the war on drugs we, unfortunately  insure that the current cost impact of 480 billion dollars to Americans due to drugs and alcohol will continue to grow.  History already informs us that get tough on drug and 3-strike laws doesn’t reduce demand.  Statistics show that the rate of drug abuse and addiction is growing.   The step that wasn’t taken yet is the one towards  policy reform, budget re-allocations and facing the reality of a crisis of drug addiction in America.  Notwithstanding, our biggest concern right now is the economy.  Having just punished our budgets by more than a trillion dollars to seed economic recovery, American’s can’t stomach adding more dollars to new budget needs.

Drug addiction is an ugly horse and easy to ignore.  It’s impact is small on the surface and big where you don’t like to look.  Drug addicts and alcoholics comprise 7 to 8% of our population.  If we took 7% of the T.A.R.P. funds to seed recovery programs, we would have over 10 billion dollars, roughly two digits more than what Kerlikowski is proposing.  The drug czar is sweeping the problem under the rug.  Here’s where the 7% becomes a much bigger problem.  Our own government figures show that when you consider the collective expense of incarceration, an out of hand drug war, record deaths, hospitalization, demoralized families, and damaged communities, the impact now touches 60% of American lives and 17% of Americas operating budget.  That’s a big problem.   This is why Mr. Kerlikowske’s speech underscores an already ineffective status quo approach to addressing the scourge of drugs and alcohol.  In fairness, I will reserve final opinions until we see upcoming strategy statement scheduled in 02/10 from the ONDCP.   Look for that to come.    Dadonfire.

Ongoing debate for decriminalizing the “use” of drugs loses a little steam with latest statement from America’s Drug Czar to the International Association of Police in Denver this month.  A piece put together by JOIN TOGETHER has many links, including Gil Kerlikowske’s speech in PDF and a Washington Post editorial by the Group LEAP who advocate decriminalization and legalization.  Legalization would not create a drug free-for-all.  In fact, regulation reins in the mess we already have.  If prohibition decreased drug use and drug arrests acted as a deterrent, America would not lead the world in illegal drug use and incarceration for drug crimes.  The cost of our drug war is widely known.  Senator Jim Webb knows this and discusses the issue in his senate address, which can be viewed here.  Plain and simple:  the direction America has been going with the drug war is not only failing to get the cartels, it is draining our budgets and making criminals out of many thousands of our own young people every year this travesty continues.  America has a drug “use” crisis.   That’s the real subject.

Judge Jim Gray on C-Span Washington Journal Nov. 2008, discussing the War On Drugs, jails, marijuana and drug prohibition.  The U.S. is currently jailing drug addicts and dually diagnosed addicts with a diagnosable mental problem.  The impact is billions of taxpayer dollars going to a failed drug war, improperly allocated prison budgets, unnecessary emergency room treatment for drug complications, homelessness, and untreated addicts.  Check out this website/video.  http://www.leap.cc/link/176

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