Short Answer Questions on Drugs Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

economic impact of drug use in the United States might initially seem easy to measure. A legal trial is an expensive proceeding: police officers, prosecutors or public defenders, judges, stenographers, and bailiffs are employees of the state, and even if jurors are barely remunerated, defense attorneys are lavishly remunerated. To prosecute someone for dealing marijuana is an expensive undertaking, and to do so under a "three strikes" law, where the crime is suddenly elevated to a horrific felony with extreme penalties, is even more expensive. The greater expense comes with convictions: America has the largest imprisoned population in the world, with more people behind bars in this country than comprise the entire populations of other sovereign nations. Imprisonment is not a cheap proposition. We can then consider the further economic impact, legally and morally speaking, of drug use in the current extensive misuse of civil forfeiture laws. Ostensibly designed to reclaim the ill-gotten gains from the trade in illegal narcotics, these laws have now resulted in the seizure of vast amounts of property in cases that bear little resemblance to what the laws were designed to do. The high-profile case in 2014 of the Sourovelis family of Philadelphia -- whose son was caught selling forty dollars worth of heroin in front of the family home, only to see his parents' house seized by the police who claimed the house had been used to "facilitate" drug trafficking -- raised awareness of this appalling misuse of the law, resulting in untold economic damage to large numbers of people who (like Mr. and Mrs. Sourovelis) had no participation in the drug trade at all.

From a medical perspective, the economic impact of drug use is more easily measured perhaps. Illegal drugs result in countless health problems and hospitalizations. Also large pharmaceutical companies profit lavishly from the illegal trade in their highly regulated products: the current epidemic of opiate abuse in America (which has nearly crippled health care systems in places like Staten Island) does not center around illegally-produced black tar heroin from Afghanistan but licitly produced (yet scheduled) consumer drugs like oxycontin, fentanyl, or vicodin. If an epidemic of overdose on opiates can place severe strain on emergency rooms -- such that, in Staten Island, ordinary citizens have been instructed in how to give an injection that stops death from opiate overdose -- it is also worth noting that the opiates being consumed are legally produced by pharmaceutical companies, who reap the profits accordingly.

Socioculturally the economic impact of drug use is perhaps hardest to measure. Much ink has been spilled over how the crack cocaine epidemic has gutted urban African-American communities, turning drug use into a larger sociocultural problem. But it is impossible to measure whether this might have been the result of draconian laws in which crack cocaine was treated differently under law than powder cocaine, thus providing disproportionate prison sentences for the cocaine users (predominantly African-American) who preferred crack to powder. The other difficulty is in judging the large-scale sociocultural phenomena of drug use when such things change over time. The Volstead Act rendered beer and wine into criminal drugs for years -- recent legalization efforts in Colorado have made cannabis a regulated consumer product. Most of the current crop of "dangerous" illegal drugs -- ranging from LSD to heroin to cocaine -- have at some point been in regular medical use and available by prescription. When sociocultural phenomena shift so fast, to generalize about large economic trends is a tricky prospect. In Colorado, the sociocultural embrace of cannabis, for example, has been an economic boon.

2. Diagnosis of drug addiction is usually based on the presence of two conditions: physical dependence, manifested through tolerance and withdrawal, and behavioral manifestations, manifested through an inability to control use, continued use despite adverse effects, and social dysfunction. If you were looking for signs of either of these in a friend, you would watch for the telltale symptoms of withdrawal (sweating, tremors) alleviated after usage in the first case. You could look for a breakdown in customary grooming habits in the second case. Although the stimulant-depressant continuum model of neurochemical function has been shown to be largely obsolete in light of the effects of new medications like tricyclic antidepressants and phenothiazines, it has a certain appeal for crude summaries of drug abuse behavior, largely because so many of the drugs routinely abused in America are depressants (like alcohol) or stimulants (like nicotine). The model suggests that consumption of a depressant like alcohol overall depresses the central nervous system, which attempts to reassert equilibrium by stimulating itself. Over time, more alcohol is needed to have the same effect of depressing the system (tolerance). The constant presence of alcohol in the system leads to an upset of the equilibrium as alcohol leaves the system (withdrawal). Very few people set out deliberately to become drug addicts. Instead they follow a predictable pattern of recreational usage, followed by behavioral addiction, followed by chemical addiction. The Swiss Cheese model of addiction suggests that everyone has different sized "holes" (risk factors) in their ability to protect against addiction. A bad home life or parents who are addicts represents one kind of risk factor -- of differing size depending on how bad. Poverty is another risk factor. Protective factors include such things as education and social enagement in the community. One good reason to consider drug addiction as being a disease is that drug…

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