Crusading against evil since ...
228 stories
1 follower

Language gaps

1 Comment

I have been reflecting on two traditional habits of our media that have become not only dysfunctional but actively destructive.  First, reporting on Trump as though he is a basically serious person.  The press is, slowly, getting better about nailing Trump for lying, and using the word. Old habits die hard, and the habit of treating the discourse of a US president as being considerable, and assuming conventional links among utterance, belief, and intention is one of those. But it’s not working, because those links are broken in Trump’s case.

When someone says something, in any serious context, we take the utterance as some sort of forecast of behavior.  “Drive me around in my car and I’ll pay you $X” is a commitment, maybe enforceable in court; “I love you” uttered by anyone not a complete cad isn’t as firm an assurance of future behavior, but normal people take it as at least not meaning “I don’t care about you” or “Actually I love someone else”, and normal people say it, or don’t, knowing that.  People can change their minds, but the general rule applies,  especially for public figures and leaders: what you say is and is seen to be predictive of your future behavior. A colleague of mine said what it means to a Jew to be Bar Mitzvah is that you are now responsible to what you say.

Accordingly, presidential discourse has always been reportable as spoken, data that is predictive (not perfectly) of consequential actions. However flacks and commentators spin it, we have taken presidents’ words as considerable.   It’s time to stop what has become a mechanistic charade: we have a president whose speech, whether about values, beliefs, or promised action,  only predicts his behavior accidentally. He reneges on flat commitments like promises to give to veterans’ causes, to invest in infrastructure, and ‘deals’ like the one last fall about immigration.  He is relentlessly, doggedly ignorant about absolutely everything, so his statements of fact are not even hopes and wishes, but short-run chum for his most hateful base, whatever he thinks a rally audience wants to hear. When Trump’s rallies, tweets, and press events are broadcast the way a normal president’s events used to be, and when his environmental policies are presented as though the fact assertions they rest on are on this side of the line between knowledge and witchcraft, they are flatly misrepresented. “Trump said X today” is simply not the same kind of report as it would be regarding the utterance of a responsible adult; tradition is a poor guide now. “Trump said X” means “the last person (or rally crowd) who flattered Trump in his presence, or his latest instructions from Putin, told him to say X” and little more.


The other old habit that has become toxic is courtesy, whether to the office or to the man (and his gang of grifters and incompetents).  Unwillingness to simply say Trump lied about this or that, and instead depending on counterassertions from other sources as though what Trump says has half the legitimacy in the sense above of any randomly chosen spokesperson from outside his orbit, is journalistic malpractice. But lying is not the only thing that needs to have appropriate language wheeled up in these times.  Another is to start saying cruel and cruelty, savage  and savagery instead of harsh, firm, and the like to describe the really unspeakable programs of this administration. Bullying is much too timid, and certainly nothing about the way Trump talks about others deserves any grace or courtesy in return.

Here are a few more words that need to be used more in characterizing Trump and his practices, words writers avoid as though saying what is true, rather than Trump himself, “coarsens” our public discourse:

Cowardly.  Lazy. Cheater. Hateful. Stooge.  Especially apt and underused, Whiner.

…and a word we need this week, treasonous.  Now, this is a big deal; the constitution, as Mark K. likes to point out, defines it for formal government actions as requiring aid and comfort to a foreign power with which we are at war, and Mark remembers a very dark period a half-century ago in which treason was used sloppily to attack moderates, lefties, socialists, and liberals and shouldn’t have been.

I no longer take Mark’s side about this word as regards the Trump administration. Whether or not Trump qualifies for prosecution for “capital-T Treason” in a court, and he may well, the word applies fairly for common debate and discussion. I believe (i) his behavior towards NATO and our allies generally, (ii) broadly destructive initiatives against core American institutions and mores, (iii) use of the tax system to secure and empower a class of 1% American oligarchs, (iv) assault on the physical health of millions of Americans by encouraging industry to poison them and denying them medical insurance (v) the evidence already on the table about the election and Russian meddling, all combined with his consistent stupefyingly sycophantic treatment of Putin, constitute a persuasive case that he is in the tank to a power as nearly “at war” with us as makes little difference–and committing overt acts against us in the interest of that power.  How “in the tank”–money, blackmail, physical threat, or all those–we don’t know yet.

How all this applies to a Republican Party that has traded all its historic principles for tax cuts for its donors,  voter suppression, and a Supreme Court seat deserves further analysis.

I will not be surprised to learn that Trump OKs Russian invasion of Estonia when he gets his next marching orders from Putin this week (after all, half the population speaks Russian and “they all speak Russian” was good enough for Trump to endorse the Crimea grab); maybe formally annexing eastern Ukraine is on offer. What domestic mischief Putin orders will not be clear right away, but I am no longer on any fence about its imminence, or viciousness.

[minor edit 12/VII/18]



Read the whole story
4 days ago
Words matter.
Central Pennsyltucky
Share this story

Nature imitating art

1 Comment

It always does; never perfectly but well enough to teach us something.  At the end of The Lord of the Rings (the book, but not the movie), the evil wizard Saruman and his nasty, slinking sidekick Wormtongue Cohen arrive in the hobbits’ peaceable shire and spread ruin, fear, and mistrust. Along the way they cut down trees, destroying nature, and try to make an industrial wasteland out of it.  Eventually they are overcome, and in a final squabble resulting from Saruman disrespecting Wormtongue and betraying him to the hobbits, Wormtongue kills Saruman.

For some reason I am remembering this episode lately.


Read the whole story
8 days ago
Not in the film
Central Pennsyltucky
Share this story

Epistemic Sunk Costs and the Extraordinary, Populist Delusions of Crowds?

1 Comment and 5 Shares

Here’s a thought about the Trudeau incident. (Remember that?) Possibly an obvious thought. Or obviously wrong. (You tell me.)

The first rule of persuasion is: make your audience want to believe. Trump has a talent for that. But I think it’s fair to say that he has often lived his business life by a different maxim: if you owe the bank $100 it’s your problem. If you owe the bank $100 million it’s the bank’s problem. There is a sense in which that works at the persuasion level, as epistemology. In the Trudeau case there are two options as to things you might believe.

1) Justin Trudeau is a weak, nefarious dairy extortionist.

2) 1 is just fucking ridiculous.

If 2 is true, Trump voters ought to be ashamed of themselves. Anyone can make mistakes. But the President of the United States should not be ridiculous.

If you have to choose between being being ashamed of yourself or thinking Justin Trudeau is going to hell for dairy-related reasons, the latter option is far superior on grounds of psychic comfort. (Exception: you yourself are Justin Trudeau.)

But it adds up. I don’t just mean: you get wronger and wronger. It gets harder and harder to doubt the next ridiculous thing – since admitting Trump said or did one thing that was not just wrong but ridiculous would make it highly credible that he has done or said other ridiculous things. But that would raise the likelihood that you, a Trump supporter, have already believed or praised not just mistaken but flat-out ridiculous things, which would be an annoying thing to have to admit. So the comfortable option is to buy it all – the more so, the more ridiculous it threatens to be.

There is nothing uniquely Trumpian about epistemic over-investment. But Trump does seem to have a Too Big To Fail talent for locking folks in, by deliberately getting them deeper and deeper in epistemic hock.

Do you think it’s deliberate? Trump knows he gets his base to buy huge, ridiculous lies – things that don’t even matter – just so, when he says the next ridiculous thing, they have to buy that, too? Is it a deliberate group-bonding strategy?

It might seem that this point is pretty basic and obvious and I’m just belaboring it. Namely, people don’t like to be told they are wrong; they are, generally, loss-averse. And that goes for political arguments, too. But it’s a bit more specific: people don’t like to be made to look ridiculous. The media is constantly getting blamed for disrespecting voters in Trump Country. But Trump himself makes it the case that there are really only two options. Either Trump is the greatest US President – the only one with the genius to penetrate the Matrix of Canadian lies – or else he is, at best, totally ridiculous. There really isn’t a third way, so take your pick. And tomorrow it will be some other damn thing. As a result, there is no way to conceptualize the red-blue divide except as a red pill-blue pill divide, so to speak. The reason Trump talks constant lies is, in part, to ensure the debate frame can only be: which side is constantly lying? He can’t grow his base that way, but he can lock it in.

Am I just saying there is polarization? (If so, I should take a number: only about 1 million books and articles and blog posts about increasing partisan polarization have been written in the last couple years.) Again, it’s more specific. It’s impressive that partisanship maintains its high level on the right while ‘conservativism’ – which is now Trump – is, on the surface, ideologically exploded. I buy Corey Robin’s basic model. On that model, Trump isn’t such a surprise. Nevertheless, I am impressed with the rapidity of the change in rhetorical tone on the right. It isn’t just that Trump is saying the soft parts out loud. He isn’t saying what used to be the loud parts even softly. The philosophical veneer is just … gone. That’s the thing about a veneer. You can strip it away. But I’m surprised it is happening so fast. As Henry wrote a while back, it’s hard to see what conservative intellectuals are for these days.

In Orwell’s 1984 there are two things that are impressively awful about the future. One, the degree to which ideology rules everything, and there is no room for dissent or free thought. The party is everything, and the party is, largely, an idea. The other awful thing is sort of the opposite. The sheer, reversible capriciousness of it. The way Big Brother can say any damn thing he wants and everyone has to believe. This feels like a wise paradox: only an ideology – a para-consistent system of ideas strategically sealed off from reality-checks – can afford that sort of sheer arbitrariness. What impresses me about Trump is not so much that he can take over the tribe so completely, or that being a member of a tribe means believing what everyone else believes, but that a modern political tribe can be so groupthink lockstep without being more pseudo-coherent, ideologically. You would think a ‘we have always been at trade war with Canada/North Korea is our friend’ switcheroo would take some serious philosophical spin-doctoring to pull off. But, apparently, not. Tribalism plus charisma, invested in the leader. Very old school. I’ve been lied to by dystopian literature about how much our sucky future needs a Matrix to make it suck, in a red pill/blue pill kind of way. All it takes is the right person speaking weirdly random-seeming falsehoods about Canada.

Someone’s going to say: but here’s a false thing some progressive has said about Trump! (Don’t be that guy. The time you spend writing that comment, and waiting for it to clear moderation, you could have spent growing a seedling sense of proportion.)

Someone else is going to say: FOX News. Ah, fair point.

UPDATE: I also don’t mean to bad-mouth research into paraconsistent logic.

Read the whole story
34 days ago
If you believe the first ridiculous lie, it becomes easier to believe the next one. And the next one...
Central Pennsyltucky
34 days ago
Or perhaps 'ridiculous' isn't properly an adjective attached to assertions. It is an adjective describing our reactions to assertions. Each change in ourselves is a synthesis of our pre-existing ideas and the ideas we are engaging with. If those ideas seem in line with our own ideas, then we are likely to accept them. And then that new synthesis becomes the basis of the pre-existing ideas we bring to the next engagement. Each step is reasonable in its own terms. But by the end you have a cult that literally drinks the kool-aid. Or a political party that stands behind a traitor who emboldens our enemies and pushes away our friends.
Share this story

Worried About Judge Jeanine?

1 Share

Don’t be.

It’s gonna be a little difficult for her to explain what Alfredo over at the Dairy Queen dug up about Jeanine Pirro to entertain us at The World’s Most Dangerous Beauty Salon weekly business meeting Fantastic Fête Friday and Hunger-Buster Coven.

It seems as though Judge Jeanine might have a tough time being named Attorney General or to the Supreme Court considering that she has some unpaid political bills.

Alfredo always has visuals at his lunchtime presentations, which is appreciated because this stuff is such fun.

In 2006, Jeanine ran against Hillary Clinton for the senate seat in New York. She polled so badly and made some shockingly bad teevee appearances, that she dropped out of the race. She still has $600,000 in unpaid bills from that campaign.  Here ya go.  She quit paying the past due bills in 2010.

However, senate campaign committees are required to continue to file FEC reports until all the committee’s debts have been extinguished.  Pirro hasn’t filed ANY FEC reports since 2012.  This is the most recent of 25 failure to file letters she has received from the FEC since 2013: Here ya go.

Now that right there is the cherry on top of the banana split. You won’t see this on CNN or in the New York Times because they never show up at the Dairy Queen for lunch with Alfredo. Fools.

Thanks to … well, Alfredo for the heads up.


Read the whole story
38 days ago
Central Pennsyltucky
Share this story

Do You Know What’s In Your Nail Polish?

1 Share

EPA Won’t Release Study that Says Formaldehyde—Used in Building Materials, Paints, Even Cosmetics—Causes Leukemia

Scott Pruitt’s EPA is said to be sitting on a study that concludes—for the second time—that formaldehyde causes leukemia.

Three Democratic senators wrote Pruitt on May 17, asking when the assessment will be released.

“It appears that the agency may be succumbing to pressure from industry in its attempt to delay or block the publication of the formaldehyde health assessment,” they wrote.

A 2010 study by Luoping Zhang, an adjunct professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and other researchers found that Chinese factory workers exposed to high levels of formaldehyde had an increased risk of leukemia. The EPA relied on that study in 2010 when it first concluded formaldehyde causes leukemia.

Action Box/What You Can Do About It

Tell EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt your thoughts via his Facebook and Twitter sites. His email is

His phone number is 202-564-4700.

Write him at:

EPA Headquarters
William Jefferson Clinton Building
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Mail Code: 1101A
Washington, D.C. 20460

Contact your representative and senators.

The Environmental Defense Fund, which supports stronger regulations for chemicals, can be reached at 800-684-3322 or at 1875 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite 600, Washington, D.C. 20009.


The American Chemistry Council, the industry mouthpiece, has been trying to trash Zhang’s study since then. The council sued to get the data underlying her study and funded another study, this one done by scientist Kenneth Mundt known for biased research for the tobacco industry.

Mundt, who found flaws in conclusions by the National Cancer Institute on low-tar cigarettes, also found problems with Zhang’s work. The EPA redid its assessment, the one Pruitt and other Republican appointees at the EPA are now blocking from being released.

Formaldehyde is used in building materials, insulation, glues, paints, cosmetics and dishwashing liquid. An EPA assessment that formaldehyde causes leukemia would lead to more regulation and expense for the chemical industry. The U.S. allows workers to be exposed to more formaldehyde than other countries.

Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), one of the letter signers, asked Pruitt in January when the assessment would be released. Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.), another letter signer, asked about it in February. The third senator is Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.)

Pruitt’s staffers involved in blocking the assessment from being released include Byron Brown whose wife has been a lobbyist for an oil and gas company, Bill Wehrum, who sued the agency at least 31 times as a corporate lawyer, and Clint Woods, who used to work for a nonprofit funded by the Koch brothers.

The Toxic Substances Control Act, passed by Congress in 1976, regulates chemicals, but it was so weak that the EPA couldn’t use it to ban asbestos. Congress amended the act in 2016 to give the agency more power to regulate dangerous chemicals by using “the best available science,” not junk science such as that practiced by Mundt and his ilk.



Read the whole story
53 days ago
Central Pennsyltucky
Share this story

A primer on fentanyl(s)

1 Comment

The synthetic opioids – usually referred to both in the press and by law enforcement as “fentanyl” – have now outstripped both the prescription opioids such as oxycodone and heroin in terms of overdose deaths, and (as you can see below) the trend line is almost vertical.

Image result for opioid overdose deaths

Keith Humphreys warns of “fentanyl’s potential to permanently alter illegal drug markets.”

Kevin Drum asks about the causes of the change:   “Fentanyl has been around for a long time, and only recently has its use become widespread. Why?”

Why, I thought you’d never ask. Settle back; this is a complicated story, and it’s going to take a while to tell. But Keith is right: this is a BFD. So it’s worth understanding.

First, a little bit of chemistry and pharmacology. “Fentanyl,” in its precise use, is the name of a single molecule. It’s a purely synthetic opioid: that is, it binds to the same μ opioid receptors as oxycodone or heroin does and has most of the same effects, but it’s not made from the opium produced by the poppy plant; its raw materials are chemicals, not crops. It’s about thirty times as “potent” as morphine: that is it takes about thirty times as much morphine as it does fentanyl to get the same pain relief. (Here’s a handy chart.) Morphine is the standard reference molecule here; note that both diamorphine (heroin) and oxycodone are about 1.5x as potent as morphine itself. Potency also varies with route of administration; injection is about 3x as effective as swallowing a pill.

For a person who hasn’t developed a tolerance (and who enjoya the psychological effects of opioids: most people don’t) 5mg. of oxycodone (by mouth) is enough to get high on; that’s also the dose that will handle moderate pain, and the amount in a Percocet. That same person would likely get the same effect with about 1.5 mg. of injected heroin.  But it would only take about 1/20th of a milligram – that’s 50 micrograms – of injected fentanyl.

In medical practice, injected fentanyl is most common as part of surgical anaesthesia; as a pain reliever – generally for people with severe, chronic pain – it’s more usually administered as a transdermal patch, from which the molecule gradually leaches into the bloodstream, or as a lozenge.

But the “parent” fentanyl compound turns out to be one member of a very large chemical family, known generically as “fentanyls,” each with its own name and a varying set of pharmacological properties. Some of them are astoundingly potent: carfentanil, for example, has something like 100 times the potency of fentanyl itself, which makes the effective dose for a human a fraction of a microgram. (And yes, it’s literally used – in dart guns – as an elephant tranquilizer.) Legally, those other molecules are “fentanyl analogues.”

The opioids as a class have what is known as a “narrow therapeutic window,” where the “window” is the range between the median effective dose (ED50) – the dose that’s effective in half the population – and the median lethal dose (LD50). The larger the LD50/ED50 ratio (the wider the “window”) the safer the drug will be in terms of overdose risk. For the opioids, the ratio is typically about six, which sounds like a reasonable margin of safety until you remember that individuals differ, individual vulnerabilities differ from occasion to occasion (especially with the presence of other drugs, notably alcohol), and people make mistakes, especially when drugs are made and distributed illicitly rather than in pharmaceutical factories and taken by people who are not always at their sharpest mentally. Given all that, a factor of six is an uncomfortably narrow window.

The narrow therapeutic window explains why overdose death is so much more common with the opiods than with the stimulants or the benzos or alcohol. And the smaller the intended dose, the harder it is to measure out precisely. So the potency that can be an advantage clinically (allowing less painful injections and the use of things like transdermal patches) can be a nightmare on the street. To make things even worse, neither users nor dealers have reliable ways of knowing just what’s in the white powder they’re consuming or selling: someone who injects what he thinks is the right dose of heroin, but has in fact purchased fentanyl, is likely to stop breathing. Even someone who intends to take fentanyl could die if he’s actually been given, say, 3-methylfentanil or some other high-potency analogue.

Which – finally – brings us back to Kevin’s question: “Why is this stuff just getting popular now?” Fentanyl was patented as a pharmaceutical nearly 60 years ago. It was in limited use as a street drug – some diverted from medical use, some illicitly synthesized (back then, mostly domestically) by the early 1980s. From a trafficker’s viewpoint, high potency meant high value-to-bulk, making it much easier to ship illegally without getting caught. But from a user’s viewpoint, it was Russian Roulette. A street dealer buying fentanyl from a higher-level supplier and “stepping on it” – diluting it with mostly inert chemicals – would have had to remarkably skilled to ensure that every dose had just 50 micrograms of the active agent and that none had the 300 micrograms – roughly the weight of a grain of table salt – that could be deadly. So fentanyl never really caught on.

At the same time, the price of heroin started to fall, and kept falling. In 1979, a milligram of pure heroin delivered to an illegal consumer in the U.S. sold for about $2.40; that’s something like $9 in today’s money. Today, that same milligram costs sells for something less than a quarter. The causes of that decline – and similar declines seen over the same time period in the prices of cocaine and cannabis (adjusted for its rising potency) – aren’t entirely clear. It certainly hasn’t been for want of vigorous enforcement; we have about thirty times as many drug dealers behind bars today as we had in 1980 (450,000 v. about 15,000). My guess is that it’s mostly learning-by-doing: over time, drug dealers develop smoother and smoother procedures for doing business and avoiding enforcement, helped along by the falling prices of transportation and information and the rising volume of international and long-distance commerce. (Falling homicide rates also reduced one major risk of drug-selling.)

Then we got hit with wave of prescription-opioid (mostly hydrocodone and oxycodone) diversion and dependency that started around 1992 and was accelerated by the introduction of Oxycontin in 1996 and its relentless marketing by Purdue Pharma. The widespread availability of diverted prescription opioids – available in pharmaceutical bottles, in every neighborhood, often from friends or at least from people who didn’t look as scary as old-fashioned heroin dealers, and cheap enough to be taken orally rather than using the more efficient, but ickier, injection route – created a widespread national demand for opioids. As those oxycodone users built up habits they could no longer afford, or lost access to a script-happy M.D. or a “pill mill” pharmacy, the falling price of heroin enticed many of them to “trade down.” Milligram-for-milligram, heroin cost about a quarter as much as oxycodone (25 cents vs. a dollar).

At the same time, people in the U.S. were learning how to buy chemicals unavailable here – banned drugs, cheap unbranded pharmaceuticals, Human Growth Hormone, you name it – by mail-order from illicit or quasi-licit outfits in China, ordering over the Internet (and, when law enforcement made that dangerous, over the “Dark Web”) often paying in cryptocurrencies. Instead of using complicated smuggling schemes, sellers simply put these products in the mail; for about $20, you can get a package of up to four pounds mailed from China to New York.

It didn’t take long for some of those Chinese outfits to start making fentanyl; unlike heroin dealers, they didn’t need a source of opium. The chemistry involved isn’t especially challenging (not, for example, like making LSD). Fifty grams  of fentanyl – an ounce and a half – has the potency of a kilogram of heroin, and it’s way, way cheaper.

Somewhere in here someone figured out a technique for diluting the stuff with enough accuracy to reduce the consumer’s risk of a fatal overdose: far from perfectly, but enough to create a thriving market. And for a retail heroin dealer, the financial savings from buying fentanyl (or an analogue) rather than heroin, and the convenience of having the material delivered directly by parcel post rather than having to worry about maintaining an illegal “connection,” constituted an enormous temptation.

For law enforcement, the parcel-post approach makes a hard problem nearly impossible. The volume of legitimate parcel post from China to the U.S. means that there’s no way to scan every package, or even a high enough fraction to make the traffic uneconomic. As more and more potent molecules appear, I’d expect another shift, from parcel post to regular international mail, moving the drugs in quantities of a gram or less, perhaps dissolving them, soaking a sheet of ordinary paper in the solution, typing a letter on the paper, mailing it, and then extracting the drug at the other end of the process.

So that’s why the fentanyls are a big factor now when they weren’t before. And I don’t see a snowball’s chance in Hell of stopping the flow. It’s possible that, with adequate urging from the U.S., the Chinese authorities might succeed in cracking down on illicit manufacture and sale. But there’s nothing magical about China. India also has skilled chemists and a huge flow of mail to the U.S.  So, for that matter, does Canada. And so does the U.S.; if international sources dry up, the stuff will be made here.

On top of that, the “technology” of illicit retail drug distribution has been transformed by the introduction of mobile phones.

Thirty years ago, illicit retail drug transactions were characteristically carried out either in public locations (parks or street corners) or in dedicated drug-dealing locations (e.g., crack houses). Those locations tended to cluster heavily in low-income, high-crime urban neighborhoods where police had other priorities and neighbors were reluctant to call the police. Having to travel to such a location – risking arrest or robbery – constituted a significant barrier to illicit acquisition. Moreover, for open-air transactions, a buyer had to search for a willing seller–usually, a seller with whom he had an established connection – and that search took time (45 minutes was not uncommon) and sometimes failed entirely. Search time and risk constituted a second kind of “price” of illicit drugs, perhaps as significant (especially to new consumers) as the money price.

From the retailer’s point of view, that style of dealing meant exposure to both enforcement risk and the risk of robbery. It also greatly decreased the number of transactions a dealer could consummate in an hour, since most of his time was spent waiting for customers to arrive. Much of the retail price of illicit drugs represented compensation to the retail dealer for those risks and costs.

But with mobile phones, texting, and social media, transactions can now be arranged electronically and completed by home delivery, reducing the buyer’s risk and travel time to near zero and even his waiting time to minimal levels. In the recent Global Survey on Drugs, cocaine users around the world reported, that their most recent cocaine order was delivered in less time, on average, than their most recent pizza order.

These efficiencies reduce retailer’s costs and thus the margins they need to earn to stay in business. That in turn reduces the retail price. Bottom line: the stuff is cheap and easy to get, just about anywhere in the country. The websites will cheerfully sell in consumer quantities, cutting out the middlemen entirely.

So I’m tempted to reach a fairly grim conclusion: Preventing people from harming themselves by falling into substance use disorder – which often also means harming other people – through making abusable drugs more expensive and harder to get by making laws against selling them and enforcing those laws becomes a less and less workable policy over time. And no, I don’t believe in “drug prevention” (or in the Tooth Fairy). Making people genuinely resilient in the face of temptation can’t be done by chanting “Just Say No,” or by inventing ever more creative lies to tell to schoolchildren. Lots of people are going to be addicted, when strongly habit-forming and highly pleasurable drugs are available to them, for the same reason lots of them are going to wind up obese when they’re offered all the sweet, fatty, and salty food they can stuff themselves with, plus unlimited sedentary amusements.

At best, we might make it easier for people who want to use heroin and not the fentanyls to tell the difference by allowing them to have test kits, and maybe make the penalties for selling much higher for fentanyls than for heroin to give dealers a disincentive. But I wouldn’t bet the farm either that we will do those things or that they would work if we did them. So I think we’re going to wind up just making sure that naloxone is available to reverse as many otherwise-fatal overdoses as possible (it’s already reversing more than half) and that methadone and buprenorphine are available to help people with opioid dependency when they’re ready to stop risking their lives.

It’s likely that the current opioid epidemic will burn itself out, as the younger brothers and sisters, and children, of today’s problem opioid users decide to profit from the bad example of their elders. But the fentanyls aren’t going to be the last class of purely synthetic and super-potent recreational chemicals; they’re just the first.

Read the whole story
53 days ago
More than you wanted to know but almost everything we should know
Central Pennsyltucky
Share this story
Next Page of Stories