27 November 2006

Something About Drugs

There's a fairly long article in the ST today about drugs, but I just want to focus on one specific part of it. It's highlighted in orange below.

    Nov 27, 2006
    Not heroin, so not harmful? That's warped logic
    By Yusuf Abdol Hamid

    DRUG abuse has traditionally been associated with the riff-raff of society.

    Their poison of choice was primarily heroin, whose predecessor opium almost
    destroyed entire generations in 19th century Asia.

    Heroin has a reputation of being a 'hard drug' which ruins lives and earns its abusers long prison terms, and even the death sentence.

    With Singapore's focused fight against the malaise, it comes as no surprise that there has been a steady decline in the number of heroin abusers.

    Ironically, this has led to the impression among youths that drugs such as Ecstasy, ketamine and Ice are not dangerous. These drugs are not heroin, after all.

    As a result, young people who take these 'party' drugs are often in denial of their addictions.

    And the ease with which they obtain these substances puts a question mark over our supposedly tight border security.

    They claim to smuggle them in from Malaysia, or purchase them in clandestine deals in alleyways and void decks.

    So we should not be misled into thinking that the fight against drugs has been won.
    A few battles may have gone our way, but the war is still as intense as ever.

    Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng hit the nail on the head recently when he expressed his concern over the rise in the use of synthetic drugs.

    Last year, 629 arrests were made in relation to synthetic drug use. The figure was almost 10 times the number of heroin abusers caught in the same period.

    Some time ago, I was taken aback when a polytechnic classmate asked me over lunch: 'What happened just now during the lecture?'

    Having seen her sitting directly in front of me in class, I thought that she was joking.
    The sad truth is that she was high on a depressant known as '5', warping her sense of time and giving her no recollection of the entire lecture.

    It will take a huge effort, larger in scale than the campaign to counter heroin addiction in the 1970s, to rein in the ever-increasing abuse of synthetic drugs today.

    The current anti-drug abuse campaigns are too general in scope and should instead focus more on the danger of synthetic drugs, since they are now much more widely abused than heroin.

    Some youths, I am told, are blissfully unaware of the dangers of synthetic drugs - just like marijuana smokers who consistently reject the notion that cannabis contains high levels of cancer-causing carcinogens.

    An acquaintance once related to me how he managed to muster the will to quit his dependency on Ice only after attending the funeral of a friend who had died from an overdose.

    I hope it will not take more such stories to shake other abusers out of
    their habit.

Fact 1 - Cannabis, like nicotine and sunlight, is carcinogenic.

Fact 2 - Alcohol is a much more dangerous drug than cannabis.

Fact 3 - Cigarettes and alcohol are more dangerous than Ecstasy, LSD and cannabis. Click here to see.

Why then is alcohol and cigarettes legal in Singapore, when cannabis and Ecstasy are not?

Aiyah, I'm tired, so I leave it to you guys to discuss. Anyway, I mostly drink plain water and fruit juice, and I hardly ever even take a Panadol. The first and last cigarette I ever smoked was when I was eight (and I'm still angry with my grandmother for making me try that).

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ser said...
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ser said...
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Anonymous said...

Maybe its because alcohol and cigarettes makes good taxes for the Government.

And btw, your blog now loads 100x faster than before ^_^

at82 said...

It might be interesting to note that milton friedman had supported drug legalisation.


Anonymous said...

LSD, cannabis, opium etc.. are highly addictive- but they also lead to brain damage, psychosis etc.. Alcohol- red wine, beer etc.. for the general populace is not addictive and does not lead to any health damage- provided common sense is applied. And since most people have common sense- its ok. In fact, drinking a glass of red wine or beer everyday can be very healthy.

As for cigarette smoking- you can't ban that- its way way too popular now. It does have serious health risks- but the last I heard- noone went on berserk after smoking a pack of cigs.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Cannabis (aka marijuana) is much less addictive than alcohol or nicotine. Go here to see the scientific research:


(Look for Point 1).

Jimmy Mun said...

From what I know, marijuana is not addictive at all and has no lasting damage, especially compared to caffeine, alcohol or nicotine, but most will have trouble dying from overdose from any of these, as compared to opium or heroin.

Some caucasians have been proven to be genetically highly susceptible to alcoholism compared to asians; alcohol affects different people differently, and can be deadly addictive to some.

The tobacco industry is embroiled in lawsuits, not because they sell a harmful product, but because they intentionally misled the public about the addictive effects of nicotine, and worse still, introduced additives like ammonia into their cigarettes to maximise the nicotine absorption.

There is a worldwide change in opinion towards legitimising marijuana while cigarette smoking gets more and more restrictions. While I dont think I know enough to say marijuana is safe, I think it is overkill that our laws hang people for trafficking marijuana. In a different era, the main use of marijuana was really to make rope and cloth.

7-8 said...

Here's something interesting about marijuana and cancer:


Marijuana itself doesn't cause cancer, apparently. Smoking it does, but then inhaling any form of burning fumes causes cancer.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Jimmy said:

"marijuana is not addictive at all and has no lasting damage, especially compared to caffeine, alcohol or nicotine, but most will have trouble dying from overdose from any of these, as compared to opium or heroin."


This is NOT true.

It is very possible to die from an overdose of alcohol - in fact such deaths are relatively common. Click here to read an article on death by alcohol overdose. An excerpt:

"When the concentration of alcohol in the brain becomes high enough to depress the brain areas responsible for the control of consciousness and respiration, for example, the drinker lapses into a coma, stops breathing, and dies within minutes. As a central nervous system depressant, alcohol can kill just as easily as barbiturates, heroin or other depressants, because when organs that are necessary for life support fail, so does the patient."

What is true is that it is practically impossible to die of cannabis overdose.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Interestingly, there is some research indicating that cannabis can protect against ethanol-induced brain cell death,

In other words, cannabis can apparently save you from being killed by alcohol. Here is an excerpt:

"Not only has modern science refuted the notion that marijuana is neurotoxic, recent scientific discoveries have indicated that cannabinoids are, in fact, neuroprotective, particularly against alcohol-induced brain damage. In a recent preclinical study – the irony of which is obvious to anyone who reads it – researchers at the US National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) reported that the administration of the non-psychoactive cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) reduced ethanol-induced cell death in the brain by up to 60 percent."

... for full article, click here.

Anonymous said...

I would very much take the stand that if an adult wants to take his own life, he jolly well should have the right to ruin his own life.

I find it useless to do "everything in our power" to stop them. If they are determined to do it, they will.

We might as well concentrate all the resources spent jailing drug dealers in rehabilitating those young kids whom think that cigarettes are cool, then perhaps we'll even see evolution at work.

Anonymous said...

I lived in Melbourne for over 10 years, I've seen the effects of drugs on society that chooses to take a lax stance. I had friends who were drug users- and they all said that smoking cannabis was terrible because it caused delusions memory loss, and led them to do the most stupid of things- like surfing on trains.

Of course, there are medicinal benefits in all drugs. Morphein is derived from Opium etc.. And there is even research to suggest that opium smoking helps prevent/cure lung ailments.

But the historical evidence shows that a society that opens itself up to drug use - is a sick society. Think of China in the 19th cenutury when a large section of its populace was addicted to opium.

Of course, people will argue that smoking weed has no significant problems and is non addictive. Good for you. "Obviously" 95% of nations worldwide who have banned cannabis use were wrong.

Anonymous said...

Yau Ming,

1. YES - 95% of nations are wrong!
Cannibiods have been used by the cultures of the middle east, india, native america for millenia. Yes MILLENIA. Just because some small group decided it was bad, because of the disproportionate power they held to influence policy, in the face of centuries of precedent, bec. of their own bigotry (believeing they knew better than the Indians who were using this for over a thounsand years) they managed to outlaw it.

2. Watch Milton Friedman's defence of drugs.

3. As an adult, a provider for my family, a tax paying member of society, I do not need anyone to dictate to me what I can not do, when I am doing it to myself.

4. Outlawing drugs only exarcebates the problem. Go read up on alcohol prohibition in the USA.

Finally, I am sure your friends in Melbourne who had such a bad experience using drugs would have stopped, eventually.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Yau Ming:

What do you think of alcohol then? Before you reply, bear in mind:

ALL the scientific studies say that alcohol is more dangerous than cannabis.

Wait. Before you reply, let me say that again.

ALL the scientific studies say that alcohol is more dangerous than cannabis.

One more time. Because I know it is a major paradigm shift for many Singaporeans who have had it drummed into their heads that drugs are bad.

Alcohol is a drug.

ALL the scientific studies say that alcohol is more dangerous than cannabis.

Ok. Back to the question. What do you think of alcohol then?

Anonymous said...

Hello Mr Wang,

Really, ALL the studies show that?

As for alcohol... there are constant studies to show that drinking a glass of red wine a day (even a glass of beer) has a lot of health benefits. I wasn't aware of any benefit of smoking marijuna but clearly you know more about the issue than I do- so please elaborate further if you wish.

I drink a glass of red wine every now and then- its much more pleasant to drink it in winter time though. Australia's Coonerwara Cab/Sabs and merlots are pretty good.

Anyhow, perhaps armed with all the scientific data- I'm sure you will wish to press the Singapore Govt to end its stance on cannabis etc.. Considering how much tax revenues the govt makes on tobbacco, it will surely make a killing on the cannabis trade. Good grief, someone tell them they have been fools to not see this!!! :)

Take care.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Yau Ming:

Of course you are surprised. Go google for yourself and see lor. You'll be more convinced, if you convince yourself, rather than wait for me to convince you.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, you ought to come to Australia and live for awhile... 5+ years etc.. then you can see for yourself what happens when a soceity has a slack attitude toward cannabis consumption. You can argue til you are blue in the face with regards to the benefits or relative safety of marijuna smoking - but wait until you see its effects on individuals, families, and society and then you may possibly reconsider your position.

Anonymous said...

Opps, spelling error, society not soceity... pardon me.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

But you do not know what is my position. You are merely assuming that I have a particular position.

For example, perhaps my position is that the government must take more action to control alcohol abuse, because it's clearly a far more dangerous drug than cannabis?

Jimmy Mun said...

I'm not sure if Australia is a good example, cos cannabis is still illegal after all, with all accompanying side effects of prohibition, like the criminal elements attracted by the high profit of import and distribution and poor quality control, even if law enforcement is slack. I believe the only place in the world where cannabis is fully legal is Amsterdam, and many point to the fact that it is the tourists and not the local residents who are causing trouble.

It is also said that Francis Crick, one of the three credited for discovering the structure of the DNA, dreamt up the double helix while high on LSD. Many writers like Aaron Sorkin and Philip K Dick were high on something while creating much of their most creative work.

That said, I agree with Yau-ming that drug abuse is not always a victimless crime. But there is always room to challenge conventional wisdom. I am incapable of speaking against alcohol, but from what I now know, the medical case for banning tobacco is stronger than cannabis.

7-8 said...

It's not a good comparison to compare the lives of cannabis smokers to alcohol. Because cannabis is illegal and alcohol is legal. What sort of a person would take legal drugs, and what sort of person would take illegal drugs? For a fair comparison, you have to look at alcohol users during the prohibition era.

This so-called "gateway effect" works because the illegal dealers who sell you cannabis can also sell you heroin, and there will be no gateway effect if cannabis were legalised.

All the side effects mentioned by Yau Ming, aren't they even worse for alcohol? Memory loss? Disorderly behaviour? Violent behaviour? Addiction? Ever seen people going to rehab for cannabis? Ever heard of cannabis anonymous? Ecstasy anonymous? Where are your cannabis users dying of cancer?

That being said, I'm a supporter of stringent legislation on really harmful drugs. Heroin, cocaine, no argument. The 3 unforgivable curses in the Harry Potter books, 1 for murder, 1 for mind control, 1 for physical torture. Heroin smuggling causes all three.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see that some Singaporeans aren't being totally misfed with propaganda.

To Yau Ming, I don't want to offend you, but may I suggest you read up on cannabis first before being so dogmatic on your stance of narcotics? I used to be abhorrent of cannabis as well until I realised my own ignorance.

Did you know that if you smoke a high-enough dose of tobacco, you can hallucinate? That's what many Native American tribes used to do - they didn't do it for recreation - they did it to get themselves in a trance to carry out religious ceremonies.

A "glass of wine" doesn't contain a lot of alcohol, by the way ... if you solidify that alcohol (which would require some extraordinary cooling methods) you'll find the amount is very small (but such a small dose is enough to cause an effect!) Which is why it doesn't cause as much damage as an entire pill of narcotics.

One also finds that cultural values from the grassroots-up is are much more effective than bureaucraic regulation top-down. France has a drinking age of 16 and it doesn't even have the problems with youth drinking that the United States does.

Cigarettes are also much more lethal than cannabis; people die from tobacco. I don't know a single case of someone who died from cannabis.

And Yau Ming, you might also want to know you're on the verge of using a fallacious argument, faulty generalisations and misleading vividness for one.

"Obviously" 95% of nations worldwide who have banned cannabis use were wrong."

These nations are part of the World Trade Organisation - often many of these countries enforce these measures in order to earn most favoured nation status. It's purely for money and trade. The moment a country decides not to comply the WTO slaps a bunch of sanctions on it.

Yau Ming, it's all about the money. The western corporations can control tobacco production ... it has no control or investments in cannabis production. Do you know what happens if cannabis is legalised? The demand for tobacco will probably plummet - cannabis is a far less lethal while more enjoyable alternative. The western corporations can't have that. If they did, many nations in South America would get the money instead. That means many of the people there might actually get a sense of what is a decent wage and start striking at the MNCs. Can't have that either.

Agagooga said...

There's a reason why some countries are moving to relaxing penalties on cannabis, or even decriminalising possession.

The Netherlands, the only country in the world where pot is legal, also has the lowest death rate in Europe from hard drugs.

The War on Drugs does enough damage. Bringing cannabis into the fray is even more ridiculous. We might as well ban skydiving.

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