Sunday, December 04, 2005

Stephen Harper's War on Progress

The Conservative leader is making it all too easy for me. He's concerned about the abuse of drugs. Fine; me, too. But his solution is to increase drug enforcement and lengthen prison sentences, which has absolutely no record of improving the situation at all, is prohibitively expensive, and generates a multitude of unintended (negative) consequences. At a speech in Vancouver (could he have possibly picked a less-appropriate location to go on a diatribe about the evils of pot?), Haper vowed to "get tough" on sellers of hard drugs and move away from the de-criminalizing of marijuana advanced by the Liberals. I suppose because he's seen that enhancing the drug war has been so successful elsewhere. Awesome former mayor of Vancouver, Larry Campbell (now sitting in the taskless thanks of Canadian politics, the Senate), makes a statement about the meth problem in Canada in the article:

"There's absolutely no statistical information that can back it up. The reason we're so horrified is that the results are so visual, and so awful."

I've been away for a few years, so I'm not sure how much press meth gets in Canada. But the research I've seen from the US confirms that the claims of a widespread epidemic are somewhat overblown. Regardless, the solution to drug problems is not more enforcement and tougher sentences. We need to be more creative and come up with solutions that will actually be effective (and ideally, allow individuals the freedom to decide what they put into their own

UPDATE: This commentary is timely and relevant.


At 12:05 AM, Blogger Garry said...

I also noticed the panic about meth. This summer there was a multi-part "expose" of the meth problem in Saskatchewan; I felt it was blown out of proportion, but then again, I am not connected to the drug circles. As they say, where there's smoke, there's fire, and in Harper's case, if there's a lot of smoke ie law enforcement, then (presumably) the political fire will justify those means. Okay, that was confusing, but I think Harper would rather show that he is doing something about the drug "problem" rather than rely on stats 10 years down the road. If there's a whole bunch of drug enforcement officers, constituents will think that the problem will be taken care of. In ten years, when it is revealed that the problem wasn't taken care of, Harper will be maxin' and relaxin' at his Alberta ranch enjoying the riches his scheming brought him ten years earlier. Go Layton!!!!

At 12:06 AM, Blogger Garry said...

P.S. the expose was in the Star-Phoenix.

At 1:20 AM, Blogger Scott McC said...

Well OF COURSE Harper was doing this for political reasons, there is rarely anything else that motivates a politician. He's attempting to secure the votes of anyone who thinks the War On Drugs is a winnable war. But as the headline from the Onion said: "Drugs Win Drug War".

I sincerely hope the L in Layton was a typo and you were actually enthusiastically supporting former Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton.

Just kidding. We'll fight about it at New Year's.

At 2:27 AM, Blogger Christeen said...

I have a lot to say on drugs. So I'll keep it short. I agree 110% with the mayors comment with regards to meth. At a recent seminar on pharmacists role in substance abuse at the SDM national conference (thought it was a relevant topic for PG) meth's usage ranked about the same as other drugs teens venture into, not more, not less. Consequently and for the reason I will shortly disclose in caps I am annoyed that the Canadian Pharmacists association is pushing pharmacists to record sales of cough suppressant dextromethorphan and/or keep it behind the counter (like Iron and T1s) in an effort to slow meth production. I'm annoyed because BLATENTLY OBVIOUSLY DM IS WAY TOO EXPENSIVE TO PRUDUCE METH FROM. KIDS ARE USING WAY CHEAPER WAY CRUDER CHEMICALS. Ahem. Sorry.

From practical experience I am torn on the value of increased enforcement when it comes to restriction of drug abuse. On the one hand, I fully believe the restricted access to T1s (tylenol 325mg/codeine8mg) put in place in Saskathcewan has been effective. The synopsis: all customers purchasing T1s may only purchase 1 bottle at a time, present their health card at time of purchase, have the quantity bought and date of purchase recorded on the pharmacy's network and then are monitored by pharmacists so that they cannot purchase more than 50 in 30 days. Can they go to another pharmacy and buy more T1s? yes. So are the regultaions effective? yes. Especially in small towns where there is only 1 pharmacy and even in larger centres where abusers cannot easily access multiple pharmacies. Plus it makes it much easier for the pharmacist/HCP to discuss usage patterns with the patient. The patients have become accustomed to answering questions about their usage b/c by law it has to be recorded. In other places where this is not law patients take offence, lie more often and are more easily offended when questioned about their purchasing patterns. In my experience anyways. The point of all my rambling is this: effective drug regulation MUST involve the creation of social environments where the user does not feel judged or like a pariah but at the same time is able to disclose to the health care professional information regarding frequency of use/abuse. This creates a relationship between patient and professional... establishes trust and can lead to better patient outcomes. i.e. needle exchange programs. The user gets clean needles. the user appreciates the pharmacy and does not feel judged but supported by the staff for exchanging the dirty needles for safer clean ones. The pharmacist knows the usage pattern of the patient from his/her frequency of needle exchange. The patient is more inclined to seek help from the pharmacist. My postition is based from experience, but there is an article supporting my view in the most recent edition of CPJ (Canadian Pharmaceutical Journal).

I guess I didn't keep it short at all!

At 9:45 AM, Blogger Speedy said...

I agree. I don't know much on the background of meth and what not but from what I have read/ seen/ understood etc... it does have very awful results. And upping enforcement. Yeah that's so gonna solve the problems! (please note that last bit was sarcastic)

At 3:05 PM, Blogger Scott McC said...

Thanks for your professional perspective, Fleury. I'm glad to see a pharmacist seeing that resricting access to DM will not solve the meth problem. All it does is make people who want some cough relief go through hassle do get drugs that will help them. Furthermore, the experience in jurisdictions that have put meds with pseudophedrine behind the counter have not solved the meth problem at all, because the majority comes from big meth labs in Mexico anyway.


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