Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A Tale Of Too Shitty

Compare and contrast:

Drug Use Increasingly Common in All Countries

TUESDAY, July 1 (HealthDay News) -- The United States has one of the highest lifetime rates of tobacco and alcohol use and the highest percentage of people who reported using marijuana or cocaine at least once in their lives, a new survey shows.

Researchers from the World Health Organization analyzed alcohol, tobacco and illegal drug use in 17 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Oceania.

Among the major findings:

The use of all types of drugs in the survey is becoming increasingly common in all the countries. Males were more likely than females to have used all drug types in all countries and all age groups.Younger adults were more likely than older adults to have used these substances.People with higher incomes were more likely to have used legal and illegal drugs.Alcohol has been used by most survey respondents in the Americas, Europe, Japan and New Zealand, compared to smaller percentages of respondents in the Middle East, Africa and China.Alcohol use by age 15 was far more common among Europeans than among those in the Middle East or Africa.Lifetime tobacco use was most common in the United States (74 percent), Lebanon (67 percent), Mexico and the Ukraine (60 percent and 61 percent) and the Netherlands (58 percent).
With this:
Survey Finds U.S. Leads World in Substance Abuse

The U.S. leads the world in marijuana and cocaine experimentation, as well as in lifetime tobacco use, according to a survey released this week by the World Health Organization.

For the survey, which was partially funded by a division of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, researchers at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia looked at drug, alcohol and tobacco use in 17 countries throughout North and South America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Oceania. More than 54,000 people participated in the survey.

"The United States, which has been driving much of the world's drug research and drug policy agenda, stands out with higher levels of use of alcohol, cocaine, and cannabis, despite punitive illegal drug policies, as well as (in many U.S. states), a higher minimum legal alcohol drinking age than many comparable developed countries," the authors wrote in the study, which was published in the July 1 issue of the journal PLoS Medicine.

"The Netherlands, with a less criminally punitive approach to cannabis use than the U.S., has experienced lower levels of use, particularly among younger adults," they added.
Does it seem odd to you that the more reasonable, and more honest, headline is over the more sensationalized story, while the zanier headline is over the more upfront fact laden piece?

Here's the kicker: the first story was taken from the Washington Post, the second from....drumroll,!

There's something wrong with this picture, as well as right, when FOX has the better story (wrong), and the Washington Post has the more accurate headline (right).

The implications of this study are fairly clear and it is ironic that this study is released the same day John McCain visits Colombia for photo ops with the drug interdiction forces: tougher drug laws do not discourage drug use.

The percentages are staggering: in the US, over 40% of respondents said they had used marijuana at least once in their lifetimes. In the Netherlands, which has far more liberal drug policies 9so you would think they'd be nothing but pot heads), less than 20% of respondents reported using pot even once.

Too, arguments against smoking laws can be made here as well: the US leads the world in tobacco use (76% of respondents had tried some form of tobacco at one point or other. The next highest percentage was Lebanon, with 67%), despite some of the toughest anti-smoking laws on the books, particularly when it comes to advertising.

The trouble with both of these conclusions, of course, is that it would be hard to discern the effects of a recent smoking ban in, say, New York City with someone who is, say, 50. I smoked, but do not anymore. If I had been born 30 years later, I likely would not have smoked.

Similarly with marijuana, drug criminality was made harsher during my lifetime. It's possible that people born after the Rockefeller laws, and certainly after "three strikes" were passed, might see a far lower percentage of drug use.

Personally, the libertarian in me would like to see all drug laws rethought and the liberation of about 1.5 million people currently serving jail sentences for smoking a joint.