(TMU) — Illegal drugs including cocaine, ecstasy and opiates can potentially be less harmful than tobacco or alcohol yet are seen as dangerous narcotics due to cultural biases and politics rather than actual science, according to a report by the Global Commission on Drug Policy.
Calling for a comprehensive review of the international system that classifies drugs, the commission—comprised of 14 former heads of states from countries including Mexico, Colombia, Portugal and New Zealand—blasted the “incoherence and inconsistencies” of laws that cherry-pick the harmful effects of certain substances using “unreliable and scientifically dubious” methods.
The group also described how the scheduling system has propped up a global drug control regime that imposes major costs on society in the form of “collateral damage,” with some substances facing strict controls and others allowed for medical purposes. This has entailed patients in low-to-middle income countries facing surgery without anesthetics, a lack of crucial medicines, and excruciating and painful deaths that were wholly unnecessary and a result of a ban on opioid pain treatment.
In 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 83 percent of the global population resides in countries where access to opioid pain relief is either inadequate or nonexistent.
Michel Kazatchkine, a French physician and former head of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said that 75 to 80 percent of the global population lacks access to medicines and “all of the reasons are linked to repression and prohibition-based control systems,” according to the Guardian.
Other consequences include the spread of infectious diseases, higher mortality rates and prisons around the globe that are filled to the brim with drug users.
The group wrote:
“Such drug control policies have resulted in social and economic problems not only for people who use drugs but also for the general population, including health epidemics, prison overcrowding and arbitrary enforcement of drug laws.”
Continuing to criticize the arbitrary and biased application of drug laws, the group wrote:
“This de facto prohibition is arbitrary. the current distinction between legal and illegal substances is not unequivocally based on pharmacological research but in large part on historical and cultural precedents.
It is also distorted by and feeds into morally charged perceptions about a presumed ‘good and evil’ distinction between legal and illegal drugs.”
Ruth Dreifuss, former president of Switzerland and commission chair, blasted the classification while calling for a “critical review” that centers the WHO, modern scientific research and a criteria that sufficiently takes into account the harm and benefit of substances. Dreifuss said:
“The international system to classify drugs is at the core of the drug control regime – and unfortunately the core is rotten.”
Dreifuss also noted how some illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin, cannabis and hashish haven’t been seriously evaluated in 30 years or weren’t evaluated at all, seriously undercutting the legitimacy of prohibitionist approaches.
Former president of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos similarly affirmed that drugs should be reclassified. Speaking to journalists in an online briefing on the report, Santos noted that “the scientific basis [of classification] is non-existent.”
Continuing, the former president explained:
“It was a political decision. According to the studies we’ve seen over past years, substances like cannabis are less harmful than alcohol … I come from Colombia, probably the country that has paid the highest price for the war on drugs.”
Instead, the country has been saddled for over 50 years with an unwinnable drug war that causes “more damage, more harm” to the world than practical approaches to regulating the sale and consumption of drugs in a “good way,” he added.
The Global Commission added the “only responsible answer to this complex topic is to regulate the market of illegal drugs, starting by establishing regulations and a new scheduling system adapted to the dangerousness of each drug and based on solid scientific assessments,” in line with the same criteria used for food, medications, and other products that could potentially pose risks to consumer health.
The group added:
“While the international community continues to struggle to find a new consensus, countries should move forward with designing and implementing a more rational policy of scheduling, controlling and regulating psychoactive drugs.”
The group also recommended that milder and less harmful drugs should have restrictions loosened, especially to include “other legitimate uses” such as traditional, religious or social use.
Anand Grover, the former special U.N. rapporteur for health, India, said:
“We need to think of these things with a fresh outlook. We can’t go with the cultural biases of the west.”
Biden to Ban Menthol Cigarettes, Citing Health Impact on Youth and Black People
The Biden administration is reportedly planning to propose an immediate ban on menthol cigarettes, a product that has long been targeted by anti-smoking advocates and critics who claim that the tobacco industry has aggressively marketed to Black people in the U.S.
On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the administration could announce a ban on menthol and other flavored cigarettes as soon as this week.
Roughly 85 percent of Black smokers use such menthol brands as Newport and Kool, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Research has also found that menthol cigarettes are easier to become addicted to and harder to quit than unflavored tobacco products, along with other small cigars popular with young people and African Americans.
Civil rights advocates claim that the decision should be greeted by Black communities and people of color who have been marketed to by what they describe as the predatory tobacco industry.
Black smokers generally smoke far less than white smokers, but suffer a disproportionate amount of deaths due to tobacco-linked diseases like heart attack, stroke, and other causes.
Anti-smoking advocates like Matthew L. Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, also greeted the move to cut out products that appeal to children and young adults.
“Menthol cigarettes are the No. 1 cause of youth smoking in the United States,” he said. “Eliminating menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars used by so many kids will do more in the long run to reduce tobacco-related disease than any action the federal government has ever taken.”
However, groups including the American Civil Liberties Group (ACLU) has opposed the move, citing the likelihood that such an action could lead to criminal penalties arising from the enforcement of a ban hitting communities of color hardest.
In a letter to administration officials, the ACLU and other groups including the Drug Policy Alliance said that while the ban is “no doubt well-intentioned” it would also have “serious racial justice implications.”
“Such a ban will trigger criminal penalties, which will disproportionately impact people of color, as well as prioritize criminalization over public health and harm reduction,” the letter explained. “A ban will also lead to unconstitutional policing and other negative interactions with local law enforcement.”
Pollution Is Making Human Penises Shrink and Causing a Collapse of Fertility, Scientists Say
With many still scoffing at the idea of rampant pollution posing a threat to humanity, a new study could drastically change the conversation: the chemicals across our environment could be the cause of shrinking human penises.
According to a new book by Dr. Shanna H. Swan, conditions in the modern world are quickly altering the reproductive development of humans and posing a threat to our future as a species.
The argument is laid out in her new book Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race.
The book discusses how pollution is not only leading to skyrocketing erectile dysfunction rates and fertility decline, but also an expansion in the number of babies born with small penises.
While it may seem like good fodder for jokes, the research could portend a grim future for humanity’s ability to survive.
Swan co-authored a study in 2017 that found sperm counts had precipitously fallen in Western countries by 59 percent between 1973 and 2011. In her latest book, Swan blames chemicals for this crisis in the making.
“Chemicals in our environment and unhealthy lifestyle practices in our modern world are disrupting our hormonal balance, causing various degrees of reproductive havoc,” she wrote in the new book.
“In some parts of the world, the average twentysomething woman today is less fertile than her grandmother was at 35,” she also wrote, noting that men could have only half the sperm count of their grandfathers.
Swan blames the disruption on phthalates, the chemicals used in plastic manufacturing that also have an impact on how the crucial hormone endocrine is produced
However, experts note that the proper implementation of pollution reduction measures could help humanity prevent the collapse of human fertility.
Visualizing The World’s Deadliest Pandemics By Population Impact
Humanity has been battling against disease for centuries.
And while most contagious outbreaks have never reached full-blown pandemic status, Visual Capitalist’s Carmen Ang notes that there have been several times throughout history when a disease has caused mass devastation.
Here’s a look at the world’s deadliest pandemics to date, viewed from the lens of the impact they had on the global population at the time.
Editor’s note: The above graphic was created in response to a popular request from users after viewing our popular history of pandemics infographic initially released a year ago.
Death Toll, by Percent of Population
In the mid-1300s, a plague known as the Black Death claimed the lives of roughly 200 million people – more than 50% of the global population at that time.
Here’s how the death toll by population stacks up for other significant pandemics, including COVID-19 so far.
The specific cause of the Black Death is still up for debate. Many experts claim the 14th-century pandemic was caused by a bubonic plague, meaning there was no human-to-human transmission, while others argue it was possibly pneumonic.
Interestingly, the plague still exists today – however, it’s significantly less deadly, thanks to modern antibiotics.
History Repeats, But at Least We Keep Learning
While we clearly haven’t eradicated infection diseases from our lives entirely, we’ve at least come a long way in our understanding of what causes illness in the first place.
In ancient times, people believed gods and spirits caused diseases and widespread destruction. But by the 19th century, a scientist named Louis Pasteur (based on findings by Robert Koch) discovered germ theory – the idea that small organisms caused disease.
What will we discover next, and how will it impact our response to disease in the future?
Like this? Check out the full-length article The History of Pandemics
Republished from ZH with permission.