Ritalin 4, Marijuana 0

by Roland Lindsey

A new study from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is a good indicator of just how poorly conceived drug policy in America is. MSNBC has the AP article here. From the article:

In the study, researchers from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center evaluated 1998-2005 data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers. During that time, nationwide calls related to teen abuse of ADHD drugs, specifically stimulants, increased from 330 to 581 yearly, and there were four deaths. Overall, 42 percent of teens involved had moderate to severe side-effects and most ended up getting emergency-room treatment.

My daughter has fairly intensive ADHD. Adopting a regimen involving Concerta in the morning and Ritalin in the afternoon meant the difference between passing and failing 9th grade. I resisted medicating her for years, and when it was clear that she was making less and less progress in school and in social relationships, I relented. I believe it was the right decision. Her grades went up, she made some friends she could keep, and so long as she took her medication, she stayed on a stable course.

Another reason I decided to put her on medication was based on a study done some years ago that linked ADHD with increased probability of drug abuse and other risky behaviors. It isn’t surprising that kids who are predisposed toward risky behavior and drug abuse will abuse drugs that are handed to them a month’s worth at a time. What is surprising is that despite all of the evidence that ADHD medication can and does kill children, and despite all the evidence that ADHD medication can and does lead children to abuse these drugs, Ritalin is legal and Marijuana is not. While Marijuana has yet to claim an overdose victim, there were 4 deaths from ADHD drug abuse in the study.

Imagine a freer America where Marijuana is controlled to the same degree that ADHD medicine is controlled. In addition to the personal liberty we would enjoy, and the drastically reduced cost of incarcerating those who deal in the substance, we would perhaps see a similar study showing Marijuana abuse, only this time it would not include the deaths of children. A Conservative who believes it is permissible to make ADHD medication available to children despite the chance of abuse and death, yet believes it is impermissible to make Marijuana available to adults is no Conservative at all. Conservatives, after all, deal in reality.

Democratic Congressman Barney Frank has recently introduced yet another bill attempting to adjust drug policy to obvious reality. Conservative Republicans should be the ones introducing this bill, if they want any credibility with those of us who would see drug policy determined by the facts, and not ideology. Ritalin is not going away, and neither is Marijuana. One kills, and the other does not. This is the reality.

Published in: on August 24, 2009 at 4:20 pm  Comments (3)  
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Firing the War on Drugs

The right time to fire someone is when everyone wonders why this person hasn’t been fired yet,” said the mentor to this young manager. It was good advice, and I followed it to my own success, although some may say I followed it a little too often.

A Zogby poll in 2008 revealed that 76% of likely voters believe that the War on Drugs is failing. Of four options on how we should change our approach, the most popular option chosen was that we should legalize some or all illegal drugs.

And yet, despite so many debates, arguments, statements, speeches, articles, blog posts and other expressions of opinion on the issue, we are still left wondering, why hasn’t this person been fired yet?

The legalization of drugs is an inherently conservative position. William F. Buckley and National Review have advocated this position for many years, yet this journal of Conservative opinion is ignored on this point. I can think of very few other political actions that would simultaneously advance the causes of personal liberty, pragmatism, free markets, return to traditional values and states’ rights as drug legalization. And yet, conservative politicians are largely silent on this issue, save for those libertarians who have fought this struggle since its beginning.

We do not see politicians on either side of the aisle typing up the pink slip for the War on Drugs because they are afraid of being perceived as being soft on crime, and yet drug legalization would allow us to be tougher on crime. No one is harmed by the neighbor who lights up some marijuana, yet many are harmed by the hoodlum down the street robbing a store to support his habit. Freeing up resources to deal with the hoodlum in order to dispense liberty to the neighbor is a tough on crime position. And years after the decision is made to legalize drugs, the politician will be able to trot out statistics on how many more people were protected and served by law enforcement due to this decision, and everyone will wonder why we didn’t do it sooner.

We will close jails for lack of criminals. We will be a little freer than we were the day before. The markets will develop and the economic benefits will serve us all. The states will manage the markets to their benefit and see growth in their economies. We will spend a fraction of what we currently spend on treatment instead of incarceration.

So why hasn’t that irritating employee named theWar on Drugs” been fired yet? I don’t know, either.

Published in: on June 15, 2009 at 6:35 pm  Leave a Comment