This is the third article in a series on how the “War on Drugs” is state-sanctioned theft, rape, murder, and class warfare. Read Part ONE, “Theft” and Part TWO “Rape”.
There are multiple ways that the War on Drugs promotes murder. One major example is the rampant narcoterrorism in Mexico and Central America, caused by major drug empires battling each other for regional supremacy in the drug market. I highly encourage anyone who still believes, beyond all reason, that we have any chance of “winning” the drug war to watch this Ted Talk about drug cartels in Mexico:
Here in America, the War on Drugs also promotes murder through violent turf battles with street gangs, and also by incentivizing police, through federal funding and asset forfeiture, to focus more of their time and resources on victimless crimes like drug possession. Meanwhile thousands of rape kits sit untested on law enforcement agency shelves for decades.
From the article How the War on Drugs Creates Violence:
“You just can’t move $100 billion worth of illegal product without a lot of assault and homicide. This should not be a hard point to see or make. Criminologists and law enforcement personnel alike acknowledge that the most common examples of “criminogenic trends” that generate increases in murder and other violent crimes are gang- and drug-related homicides.
But there is also another, more subtle connection between the drug war and violence, pinpointed by economists Brendan O’Flaherty and Rajiv Sethi . As they argue, above-average homicide rates will result from low rates of successful investigation and prosecution of homicide cases. If you live in an environment where you know that someone can shoot you with impunity, you are much more likely to be ready to shoot to kill at the first sign of danger. When murder goes unpunished, it begets more murder, partly for purposes of retaliation, partly because people are emboldened by lawlessness, but also as a matter of preemption. Unpunished murder makes everyone (including police) trigger-happy. Such places operate according to the dictum that the best defense is a strong offense.
Major urban centers of the drug trade are just such environments, plagued by low clearance rates for homicide. In Detroit, in the years approaching the city’s bankruptcy, the homicide clearance rate verged on single digits. In Chicago, in 2009, police cleared only 30 percent of homicide cases, many of them without charges. In one Los Angeles Police Department bureau, clearance rates in the 60s mask the low rate of cases ending in arrest and prosecution. And clearance rates are lowest when victims are black and brown, as Jill Leovy explains in her new book, “Ghettoside.” In contrast, in the 1960s, in the United States, the average clearance rate for homicide was above 90 percent, according to NPR.
Why have homicide clearance rates fallen so low in these cities? According to criminologist Charles Wellford, drug-related homicides are harder to investigate, possibly because they are more likely to be stranger-to-stranger incidents and possibly because the drug business generates witness-suppression systems. Additionally, stop-and-frisk tactics have eroded trust in police and further diminished the willingness of witnesses to testify. And, recently, justified anger over police violence has further reduced the capacity of the police to function well in investigating homicides.
Finally, an overloaded judicial system may well put prosecutors in a position where they wish to pursue only open-and-shut cases that will generate plea deals.
The article continues:
And what is the No. 1 source of this prosecutorial overload? According to federal judicial caseload statistics, in U.S. district courts in 2013, 32 percent of defendant filings were for drug-related cases, making this the biggest category of filings. State judicial systems, too, have been significantly strained for financial resources and personnel by drug-related casework. Add to this picture the fact that plenty of violent offenders in our nation’s prisons started out as nonviolent drug offenders, and you have a complete picture of just how much the drug war itself has been a generator of violence.
The 2010 Department of Justice crime clearance rates, the most recent available, reveal that 1 in 3 homicides goes unsolved. Remember the chart below the next time you see your local law enforcement parading some massive drug or cash seizure on TV.
Felony murder is another tough on crime tactic frequently employed in the War on Drugs to charge people as murderers when they haven’t actually murdered anyone. Reason Magazine explains how this works:
In all murder cases, with the exception of the felony-murder rule, the state has to prove that a person who caused the death of another intended to kill that person or cause serious bodily harm.
In states with a felony-murder rule, a person could be convicted of murder if someone died during the commission of a felony, even if the person did not intend for the death to occur. This rule, while seemingly straightforward, has been applied broadly to cases in which individuals had no knowledge a murder—or even a crime—had occurred. Simply being connected to a felony crime in some way, however small that connection may be, allows the state to charge an individual with murder.
By this logic, every politician, government official, and law enforcement officer who has been involved in crafting, interpreting, or enforcing drug prohibition laws should be charged with felony murder, along with the criminal civil rights violations they have committed in the course of waging the drug war. Here are a few examples of how these drug warriors are guilty of felony murder:
- Since there is no legal recourse against dishonest sellers and no organization specifying standards, drug buyers have no means for knowing what they are paying for. An example of this is the highly lethal fentanyl-laced heroin that has been making the rounds for several years:
All around North America, U.S. drug officials warn, some drug dealers are lacing heroin with an illicit version of the potent anesthesia drug fentanyl. The dangerous combination is quickly killing unsuspecting users — and worsening the nation’s epidemic of deaths from heroin overdose. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, fentanyl is 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin, and 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Regional drug dealers add the illicit form of fentanyl to the heroin they sell in hopes of restoring the potency of a product that’s been diluted by dealers higher up the distribution chain.
In a legal marketplace, buyers would be able to know the composition and quality of the products they were getting, and there would be legal and market-based disincentives against committing this dangerous type of fraud.
- Another example is the phenomenon of people turning to bath salts, research chemicals, et cetera. These new substances are often more dangerous and unpredictable than the drugs they were manufactured to mimic, such as marijuana and MDMA. The only reason anyone is buying these “legal highs” is because they are trying not to break the law, and it’s leading them directly into the kind of harm the War on Drugs purports to prevent.
- There are also all the HIV and Hepatitis C cases directly caused by mass incarceration and criminalizing the possession of syringes, which is much more effective at promoting sharing of dirty needles than it is at motivating addicts to get clean. Several years ago, the CDC issued some alarmist new guidelines encouraging all baby boomers to get tested for Hepatitis C. Although the warnings included helpful statistics such as “people born during 1945 through 1965 are 5 times more likely than other adults to be infected,” and “75% of adults with Hepatitis C were born in these years,” they didn’t provide any answers about how that came to be. “The reasons why baby boomers have the highest rates of Hepatitis C are not completely understood.”Just this month, CNN reported, “Hepatitis C-related deaths reached an all-time high in 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Wednesday, surpassing total combined deaths from 60 other infectious diseases including HIV, pneumococcal disease and tuberculosis… New cases of hepatitis C doubled as well, mostly among young, white drug users.”
Among the most significant findings is the fact that criminal persecution of drug users appears to be driving the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C. This is largely caused by the unsafe sharing of needles, as injectors are often denied access to safe syringes in countries where funding is directed toward imprisoning drug users rather than setting up needle-exchange centers.
Consequently, 30 percent of all HIV transmissions outside of sub-Saharan Africa are thought to be caused by unsafe injection. This statistic is even higher in countries with particularly harsh drug laws, and has been estimated at 67 percent in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Similarly, the sharing of needles in prison – where access to clean syringes is particularly scarce – has been shown to contribute considerably to the spread of such diseases, especially in countries with severe custodial sentences for drug users. For instance, in Thailand, where narcotics-related offenses can result in lifetime imprisonment, 56 percent of hepatitis C infections are thought to occur in prison, while in Scotland, where similar offenses draw shorter sentences, this figure is only 5 percent.
When the DEA is Your Doctor
Officials involved in conducting the drug war could also be charged with felony murder in conjunction with practicing medicine without a license, since they position themselves to make decisions for patients that should best be left to trained health professionals.
While the propaganda machine is continually spitting out new stories about prescription opioid addiction and overdoses, two important things are left out:
- Methadone, the very drug authorities want heroin addicts to take to get “clean,” “accounts for nearly 1 in 3 prescription painkiller overdose deaths in the U.S., but only 2% of prescriptions for opioid painkillers.”
- There are 116 million chronic pain sufferers being left horribly undertreated, and at increased risk of suicide.
Melanie Thernsom, a co-author of an Institute of Medicine report on the subject explains their predicament:
Thernstrom went on to describe cases in which patients who had been on a stable and effective low dose of medication for years were suddenly cut off by their doctors for no apparent reason. She also spoke of cases in which the required monthly doctor visits caused patients to take time off work and travel hours to see a doctor who would prescribe.
“Many pain patients, in fact, are paying the price for a policy not designed for their benefit,” she said, adding that doctors said they prescribed less than they thought was appropriate because of fear that law enforcement was “looking over their shoulder.”
Take the case of Matthew Lowery, a now-fired FBI agent who began stealing heroin on the job after “the doctor who prescribed pain medication to ease his chronic and painful inflammation of the intestines had disappeared.” Despite the fact that Lowery was found on the nod in Washington, DC with opened evidence bags of heroin in his car, and that the subsequent investigation led to cases being dismissed against 28 defendants, he received only a three-year sentence rather than the recommended seven to nine years the typical mundane who doesn’t have blue privilege (or happen to be pill-popping hypocrite Rush Limbaugh) can expect.
The website paindr.com has hundreds of accounts from patients who have had their previously effective medication reduced or cut off all together:
I have been in pain since I was 11 years old. I am now 46…
My doctor hates that he is being forced to reduce my medications. I said, what am I supposed to do? Kill myself? He said of course I cannot tell you to do that but then he did say he wouldn’t be surprised to see the suicide rate skyrocket because what is happening.
My state just joined Mass. in their daily limit which is more than half of what I now take which is already a quarter of what I need to function. Suicide now seems probable for me…
I just want to live. I don’t want to die. I want my medications back. I want to make a difference in this world.
None of this makes any sense. Cancer? There is no physical or biological difference between cancer pain or any other type of pain. Pain is pain according to my doctor. This whole thing is just a knee jerk reaction, a political ploy during election year and an excuse to make well people believe that oxycodone is the bane of their existence and without it no one would overdose, take heroin and the drug war will finally have done some good.
This fear of narcotic prescribing will no doubt worsen as we see more cases like Dr. Hsiu-Ying “Lisa” Tseng, who was convicted of second-degree murder in the deaths of three patients who overdosed on medications. One of them, Joey Rovero died after mixing alcohol with the Xanax and oxycodone that he and some college friends had driven 360 miles from Tempe, Arizona to Tseng’s office in Los Angeles to obtain. The case is seen as a victory for grieving parents looking to shift responsibility and blame to anyone other than their adult children and themselves, but “medical and legal experts worry about ‘a chilling effect,’ making good doctors reluctant to prescribe painkillers to patients, who will suffer unnecessarily.”
This chilling effect is already underway as providers have been subjected to raids for years for suspected improper prescribing practices.
Should pill mill operators go unpunished? No, but the same remedies already in place of revoking medical licenses, charges for illegal delivery of a controlled substance, and malpractice lawsuits should suffice. Save the murder charges for people who actually murder people.
Video: What Should Be Done about the Heroin Problem?
As health providers become more leery of prescribing opioids, they are more likely to steer patients to NSAIDS (aspirin, ibuprofen) and acetaminophen (Tylenol). NSAIDs have blood thinning properties so they cannot be taken before or after surgery. NSAIDs may also prevent bone healing in cases of fractures and orthopedic procedures like spinal fusions. Acetaminophen doesn’t have these issues, but, it’s also the number one cause of acute liver failure. How much of that is due to undertreated pain patients desperately downing Tylenol because they’ve been denied more effective pain management treatments?
It’s fairly well known that marijuana is effective for pain management, however another alternative to opioids, that is still-legal in most states, for the time being anyway, is a relative of the coffee plant, kratom, which has long been used in Thailand and Malaysia as a pain reliever:
Advocates say kratom’s valuable as a natural painkiller, especially for patients suffering long-term discomfort from conditions like multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia, and as an aid to those looking to fight addiction. It’s also touted as an herbal treatment for anxiety and attention deficit disorder and, in lower doses, as a stimulant that avoids the jittery feeling caused by too much caffeine.
It is also used to help opiate withdrawal symptoms for those trying to quit heroin. Although there are reports that kratom is also addictive, it is much less so than heroin, and has much less potential for overdose since ingesting too much will merely cause you to vomit.
“More recently, it’s been formally studied as an alternative to methadone in treating opiate addiction, with one study showing mitragynine, one of kratom’s active ingredients, prevents withdrawal symptoms in lab rats.”
From the Drug Policy Alliance’s article, Why is the U.S. Disregarding Plants like Iboga and Kratom in the Fight Against Overdose and Addiction:
For millennia, kratom has been used as a folk remedy in southeast Asia, where it is traditionally popular among day laborers and has long been used as a replacement therapy for people struggling with opiate addiction. Kratom leaves can be chewed fresh, or dried and consumed in powder, tea or bar form. In small doses, it can have stimulant-like effects, and in larger quantities it acts as a sedative.
Side effects of kratom are minimal and a briefing paper by the International Drug Policy Consortium and Transnational Institute notes that kratom’s withdrawal symptoms are weak and nearly inconsequential compared to the suffering of people trying to quit opiates or amphetamines.
Of course the fearmongering stories are starting to trickle in, and, ever-interested in empire-building, the DEA has listed Kratom as a “drug of concern.”
The DEA is not only concerned with opioid-prescribing, and substances that can potentially alleviate opiate addiction, it’s also taken upon itself to determine how much Adderall needs to be available for ADHD patients. You may have heard about the Adderall shortage a few years ago. That was the DEA’s doing:
“To prevent hoarding of materials and their potential for theft and illicit use, the Drug Enforcement Agency sets quotas for the chemical precursors to drugs like Adderall. The DEA projects the need for amphetamine salts, then produces and distributes the materials to pharmaceutical companies so that they can produce their drugs. But with the number of prescriptions for Adderall jumping 13 percent in the past year, pharmaceutical companies claim that the quotas are no longer sufficient for supplying Americans with their Adderall.”
The pharmaceutical industry will have you believing there is a pill to cure everything that ails you, and the DEA is right there waiting to punish you as soon as you do. Which brings me to all of the “illicit” drugs that are turning out to have practical, therapeutic uses after all, uses that would probably be well-established if the DEA, National Institute of Drug Abuse, and FDA had not all stood in the way of legitimate research for generations.
It’s amazing that we have been using the term “self-medicating” in discussing drug abuse for several decades, while remaining blind to the idea that many of these substances may have practical applications in treating mental illnesses:
- Onetime Party Drug Ketamine Hailed as Miracle for Treating Severe Depression
- Mushrooms Could Help with Social Rejection
- DEA Approves First-Ever Trial of Medical Marijuana for PTSD in Veterans
- How Psychedelic Drugs Can Help Patients Face Death
- LSD could make you smarter, happier and healthier. Should we all try it?
- DEA approves Clinical Trial of MDMA for Anxiety
The medical benefits of marijuana don’t need to be covered here as it’s common knowledge that it is helpful for a whole host of conditions, despite its ridiculous Schedule I status claiming it has no medical use. Of course that has much more to do with the fact that legitimizing marijuana would completely destabilize the drug war since pot accounts for nearly half of annual drug arrests.
Thanks to all of the restrictions placed on doing research with marijuana, one thing we don’t know much about is how it interacts with other medications. For instance, did you know that marijuana increases the effects of blood thinner medications and possibly works as a blood thinner itself? It’s not something you’ll find in the drug interaction warnings that come with your prescription medications, and you likely wouldn’t talk to your physician about it if you live in a state where medical marijuana isn’t legal. However, if you’re one of the 2 million Americans who take blood thinners to prevent conditions like strokes and deep vein thrombosis, or you’re about to have surgery, taking marijuana could cause dangerous bleeding disorders. Of course, the DEA would be happy to include such events in its annual reports of why marijuana should be considered as deadly as heroin, while impeding legitimate research into how it interacts with other medications.
PART FOUR: The Drug War is State-Sanctioned Class Warfare coming Wednesday morning.