Sunday, 13 March 2011


One of my favorite films in the last ten years was REQUIEM FOR A DREAM. The film dealt with the concept of drug addiction in the US not as a segment of the subculture, not glamorized, romanticized, or super-dramatized to induce cheap emotional response from the audience; not as a segment of class, ethnicity, race, religion or gender, but as an issue that is at the heart of mainstream culture. It is tragic that the drug culture has spread throughout much of the world, and new designed drugs - 16 new such drugs in Europe and 51 in Japan - are now in the market.

Who is responsible for the drug culture of the US and the West? Is it the hedonistic atomistic lifestyle that is inexorably linked with the political economy of the market economy; weak individuals prone to addiction, no different than those smoking cigarettes or drinking alcoholic drinks; the CIA and US government that experimented with LSD on subjects at home and abroad; the banks that launder billions of dollars in drug money; corrupt officials that do not enforce the law; a competitive society that places so many demands on people, to the degree that athletes take steroids to compete; is it the disintegration of the family and commercial culture that openly or implicitly glamorizes drug use; is it the drug producers and traffickers; the irrational propensity in the human behavior in 'the age of nothingness'; some or all of the above?

Drugs have been around since ancient times, part of religious ceremonies, celebrations, etc. Western imperialism, especially the British East India Company, made narcotic drugs into a major article of world trade and a tool of decapitalizing China. In 1690, the Company established trading posts at Madras, Calcutta and Bombay, while the navy provided protection. Given that China was self-sufficient and had no desire to trade with England, the First Opium War in the 1830s was launched to force China open its ports for the flooding of the opium trade that continued until Mao took power in 1949.

Opium traded by European and American companies had the effect of leaving China increasingly in debt as drugs poured in while money fled out. The Europeans divided China into spheres of influence and exploited it commercially and militarily. Widespread opium use debilitated the Chinese population and decreased productivity, while the country suffered a sharp rise in gambling, prostitution and crime, damaging the entire social fabric. All of this until Mao took strong measures to end drug and prostitution that have now returned to China.

The UN International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) recently revealed that the problem of the drug trade and use stems largely from the geographic and social inequalities on a world scale, given that 90% of the legal drugs are consumed by Western countries while 80% of the world's population does not even have access to simple analgesic medication (pain killers). As the world's largest consumer of legal medication, the US remains the largest consumer of illegal drugs with 38 million people (15% of the population) above 12 years of age as addicts, most of whom receive no therapy assistance.

Russia that has freed itself from the Soviet regime, has now enslaved close to two million of its people that have become drug addicts. A similar situation has spread throughout all former Communist bloc nations along with a sharp rise in HIV/AIDS - Ukraine having the worst record of AIDS at 1.6% of the population. China, which had wiped out the drug and prostitution problems within a few years after Mao took power, currently has two million drug users to go along with a sharp rise in gambling, prostitution, and human trafficking by crime gangs. These developments are symptomatic of a changing society turning increasingly to Western materialism and the vices that that the culture of materialism embodies.

Made mostly in Southeast Asia and Africa, designed drugs pose a threat because they bypass authorities, as the INCB notes. "These drugs are often produced by modifying the of illegal substances, resulting in a new product with similar effects, which then circumvents control measures. Detailed instructions for the manufacture of designer drugs are often shared via the Internet."
INCB is concerned that one of the problems in limiting the drug trade in official corruption on the part of those in charge of law enforcement - police, custom officials, judges, politicians.

In some Latin American countries from Mexico to Colombia, the drug economy far exceeds government budgets and represents a substantial percentage of the national economy. This problem has now spread to Africa where it is relatively easy and cheap for drug traffickers to bribe officials and secure cheap labor for transport, especially from West Africa to Europe with few obstacles along the way.

Drug use is linked not only to prostitution but also HIV/AIDS where is has been a major health problem in Africa and Southeast Asia. As India's economy has been growing rapidly, so has the drug trade. India is currently the number one producer of illegal synthetic drug substances traded through the internet. As I have noted before on articles regarding the US role in Afghanistan, the war-torn nation is back on top as the world's number one opium producer; opium use has risen by 53% since the US invasion and heroin use by 140%, according to INCB.

So what is the solution for the narcotics problem linked to infectious disease, gambling, prostitution, human trafficking, and crime? Legalization as an option has its own set of problems, though it would reduce much of the illegal activity. More law enforcement has not worked, given that drug money is enticing for corrupt officials. The best answer is to curb the demand, but how if the narcissistic hedonistic culture creates and reinforces such demand?

Is the problem that the pharmaceutical companies and the entire medical establishment are pushing drugs for everything from having trouble sleeping to having trouble expressing oneself in public without the burden of shyness? Narcotic drugs will be a part of mankind until the end of the species, but under if the current drug culture continues it will have a corrosive effect on the economy that is debilitated and on the social fabric. There may come a time where the drug culture of the West may suffer from some of the same problems as Chine from the Opium Wars to Mao's Communist Revolution.

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