A Kranz (wreath) of Kölsch beer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Following up on yesterday’s post, a few articles jumped out at me.
First, the Michigan legislature is considering lowering the blood alcohol level for boats and other recreational vehicles to 0.08, so that it matches the BAL for driving a car. Sorta makes sense, right? Look at the comments in the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News. Yikes. Being allowed to drink to the point of impairment and still legally drive a boat is really important to us.
The other thing that caught my attention was another exchange from the interview I linked to yesterday with Kleiman:
Matthews: Roughly how much of the crime problem would you attribute to alcohol, percentage-wise?
Kleiman: Half the people in prison were drinking when they did whatever they did…Of the class of people who go to prison, a lot of them are drunk a lot of the time. So that doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t have done it if they had not been drunk. It’s just that being drunk and committing burglary are both parts of their lifestyle. Still, alcohol shortens time horizons, and people with shorter time horizons are more criminally active because they’re less scared of the punishment. Most people who drive drunk are sensible enough to know when they’re sober that they shouldn’t be driving drunk. It’s only when they’re drunk that they forget they’re not supposed to drive drunk.
We need to keep them from drinking, which is what the 24/7 program does. We could also require everyone to be carded. Maybe you still get carded, but I don’t. But imagine everyone got carded, and if I had a DUI, I had a driving license showing I wasn’t allowed to buy a drink. You’d make the alcohol industry regulate its own customers. And I think you’d cut down on crimes substantially. But if I say that, I’m a nanny state fanatic, and if I say adults should be allowed to smoke a little bit of pot, I’m a crazy drug reformer.
This guarding of alcohol’s place in our culture puts us in some pretty crazy knots, huh?
Edited copy of Image:The Brewer designed and engraved in the Sixteenth. Century by J Amman.png (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I frequently find myself in discussions about drug policy. I feel strongly that incarcerating people for possession is stupid and wrong, but I’m reluctant to legalize drugs. (I think there are a lot of options in between.) In these discussions, I inevitably hear someone say, “Look at alcohol. It’s way worse and it’s legal!” My response is always, “Exactly. Look at alcohol. It’s a public health and public safety disaster.”
Mark Kleiman points out that higher alcohol taxes would reduce battery, burglary and murder. The problem? The power of the alcohol industry’s lobby. Michigan has been incredibly revenue starved and we haven’t raised the beer tax since 1966. And, the beer tax is a flat tax per barrel, so there haven’t even been any increases in revenues because of inflation.
From a recent Kleiman interview [emphasis min]:
Matthews: No, of course not, single-malt all the way. But how much power do the spirits companies have? It seems like they’d fight any price increase.
Kleiman: Much power. The spirits guys are not really important because they’re not the real market. The real problem is beer. The beer guys are powerful. It’s two thirds of the market. Not only do they have heavy campaign contributions to politicians, because they’re state regulated and thus have a stake in state politics, but customers don’t dislike their beer company, so if they get a political message from the beer company, they’ll respond.
Contrast that with tobacco, with a smaller number of lower status users who hate their providers. The cigarette companies have absolutely no luck mobilizing smokers. Smokers hate tobacco companies. It’s easy to say it’s just a tax on responsible drinking until you do the math. It would cost a typical beer drinker $36 a year. The man who’d get hit is the 10 beer a day drinker, and he’s the guy we want to hit.
Taxation is just about the perfect way to control alcohol use. It’s not complete, because you need controls for the real problem drinkers. But if we tripled the alcohol tax it would reduce homicide by 6 percent. And you’re not putting anybody in jail. But instead we spend our time talking about doing marijuana testing for welfare recipients.
English: Pre-war Bayer heroin bottle, originally containing 5 grams of Heroin substance. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Though the federal government is participating in marketing buprenorphine as having low addiction potential, buprenorphine is being identified as a growing problem overseas:
Responses to the drought varied by country, with drug users in each developing their own preferences for heroin alternatives, according to reports from the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA.) In Norway, users turned to buprenorphine, a semi-synthetic often used to treat heroin addiction, but intoxicating and addictive in higher doses. In Hungary, cathinones gained popularity. That substance – an ingredient in the drug mixes known as “bath salts” in the U.S. – is part stimulant, part opioid. Slovakia, too, went for uppers – there, methamphetamine use surged. In Bulgaria, a mysterious substance known as “white heroin” cropped up; reports vary regarding its makeup.
Buprenorphine also swept the country of Georgia, which previously never had much of a heroin problem.
Lasha – whose name has been changed to protect his identity – first tried the drug when he was 15, on the 2007 Georgian New Year. He easily scored the drug through older acquaintances he had met the day before, and his new friends crushed up a tablet of Subutex, a name brand of buprenorphine, and injected him with it.
Lasha’s first high was a nightmare. “Every five minutes I got sick and it didn’t stop until the morning. I had nothing in my stomach and some strange liquid was coming out,” he said. “I thought I would die.”
But two days later, he did it again. ”The same thing happened,” Lasha said. ”I was going crazy… I wanted to feel the real pleasure that was felt by my friends. I wanted some more.” So a week later, Lasha injected the drug a third time.
”I felt it at last. The warmth came from my feet up to my head,” he said. “I was God. I was cool. I could do everything possible and impossible.” By the time the high wore off, Lasha was hooked. ”It finished and again I felt like a nobody,” he said. ”I immediately missed that feeling and wanted to inject once more…I became the classic junkie.”
Thousands of users befell the same fate in Georgia, where a third of the drug users who now seek treatment are addicted to synthetic opioids. Georgian drugs reforms in 2007 cracked down on traditional narcotics but did nothing to stem the misuse of perscription drugs. “It was effective for catching drug dealers, but drug users found an alternative way — artificial drugs,” explained Georgian drug counselor and anthropologist Tamaz Mchedlidze.
alone by Lst1984
Marc Schuckit discussing findings from a 30-year study of nearly 400 men:
“If you’re an alcoholic, you’re going to have a lot of mood problems,” Schuckit said. “And you may be tempted to say, ‘Well, I drink a lot because I’m depressed.’ You may be right, but it’s even more likely that you’re depressed because you drink heavily.”
Drug policy expert Mark Kleiman:
The question about my own use or non-use of pot always comes up, and I always answer the same way, with a polite (I hope) “None of your business.” I don’t think there’s any ill will involved in asking the question: journalists simply want to “place” their sources culturally on the hippie-to-jock spectrum. But I want to resist the whole idea that drug policy should be a clash of cultural identities rather than a serious discussion of harms and benefits.
Indie singer-songwriter, Jason Molina recently died of alcoholism.
Oregon Public Broadcasting has a nice memorial post.
Lil Wayne’s recent scare prompted The Atlantic to post a primer on sizzurp.