« A Reader asks about adolescents and marijuana use | Main | Dr. O'Connell's Statement to Medical Board of California »

September 12, 2005

Rehnquist's Placydil habit, the drug war and human behavior

I consider my self reasonably well-read when it comes to drugs and public
figures, but Jack Shafer's  revelation  that the late Chief Justice
once had a substance abuse problem caught me by surprise.
However, his complaint that the problem had been--and still is--
ignored by the media did not. In fact,
Shafer's articulate and  detailed parsing of Rehnquists's Placydil 
habit will predictably excite as little interest from  'mainstream'
media and Academia as Nixon's weakness for booze, Bennetts's for tobacco.
food, and  gambling-- or Limbaugh's for opioids.  yet it's also
an accurate-- albeit  unwitting-- metaphor for the multiple layers of
duplicity and self-deception  required for widespread endorsement of
our wasteful and destructive  policy of drug prohibition--  to
say nothing of the political power that policy exerts-- thanks to backing
from  from both major parties.

Its well-documented sins and failures have excited little honest interest
from institutions allegedly devoted to  policy analysis; even as the
policy itself  has been accepted as necessary for the public welfare--
almost from its historic origins as a deceptive "tax"  (Harrison Acy)
in 1914. In a very real sense, the  spurious reasoning behind 
Harrison (which must be imputed because it was not stated until the CSA rewrote
our drug  policy in 1970) is that prohibition is the ONLY possible way
to deal with the imagined evils of addiction. That's still its 'logic, which
remains just as bereft bereft of scientific confirmation as ever. Yet the
drug ware continues to be accepted by the public at large and tacitly endorsed
by most of our institutions. Indeed; in the case of cannabis and "kids,"
it's even endorsed by 'organized reform'..

Isn't it at least  possible that such pervasive delusional thinking
is more representative of deeply ingrained patterns of human behavior than
reflective of any 'evidence-based' cognitive process? Isn't it possible--indeed, 
even likely-- that what  has enabled US drug policy to gain its present
world-wide acceptance may be more dependent on a specific human cognitive
frailty  than on responsible thinking and planning?

That the drug war may simply be another instance of the now-obvious failure
of our species to come up with any strategies (aside from war, hypocrisy,
and denial) for coping with its most pressing problems is both depressing
and a real possibility; however there are no indications that the growing
list of dire climatic portents is being heeded-- even as  we seek to
rebuild after Katrina.

Tom O'Connell

Posted by tjeffo at September 12, 2005 10:55 PM