Laws Cause Crime

The government thrives on crisis.  If it doesn’t have one, it will create one, in order to justify wasting more money and grabbing more power.  The “opioid crisis” is a case in point.  To suggest this is a manufactured crisis invites challenge, because I am a lone voice against a deluge of government, media, institutional, industry, and public claimants who insist the “crisis” is real and in need of drastic counter-crisis interventions.

As I recently trudged the forty hours of propaganda training necessary to renew my medical license, I noted a new requirement by the state of Georgia to undergo three hours of training in opioids.  In studying the materials, I also learned about Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs), which are “state-operated databases that collect data on dispensed medications.  They periodically send reports to law enforcement, regulators, and licensing agencies, as part of an effort to control diversion of medication by prescribers, pharmacies, and organized criminals.”

Let’s be clear, here.  The histrionic references to the “opioid epidemic,” this “public health emergency,” and its fatalities usually involve heroin, which is increasingly adulterated with fentanyl.  Heroin is absolutely illegal in the US, so no doctor can prescribe it.  Fentanyl is used in surgery and exists as a patch, and is not injectable.  Most fentanyl is obtained illegally, and some sources say it is coming from China.

So the database to track prescribers and users of controlled substances sounds more like a government control strategy than any genuine attempt to protect users from overdoses.

Meanwhile, as I stewed over the “gotcha game” of putting doctors in the firing line of this artificial crisis—damned if you do and damned if you don’t–I received a notice requiring me to show up in court for federal jury duty.  Unlike jury duty for local court (which I did a month ago), there is a dress code for the feds.  Women must wear a dress or pants suit.  So I hauled out my one dress—a fall dress—and washed most of the musty smell out of it.  Already I was plotting ways to get myself disqualified without going to jail.

I have long protested the almost rabid encroachment of the federal government on individuals, most vividly embodied in drug laws.  I retired over the virtual mandate to prescribe, with psychiatrists marginalized into “medication managers,” and psychotherapy turfed to less expensive psychologists and social workers.

Meanwhile, drug laws as part of the patriarchal government control and revenue machine has a long history.

Wars have been fought over opiates.   Although their medicinal powers have been known for at least 6000 years, in the Middle East, Roman, and Greek civilizations, and Asia, the practice of smoking opium was brought to China in the 1600s by European traders.  By 1729, there was so much addiction that China outlawed it because it made opium smokers unfit for work or the military.  However, the British used slaves in India to grow the opium poppy and to smuggle the drug into China.  Presumably, the Chinese were willing to buy the opium with gold, and gold was leaving the country.  This led to the Opium Wars, which the British won, and through the Treaty of Nanjing and subsequent ones, forced China open to trade with the Western World.

My Goodman and Gillman’s The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics claims that “opioids have been the mainstay of pain treatment for thousands of years, and remain so today.” Opiates and opioids are highly addictive, and tolerance to their euphoric effects builds faster than to physical effects, such as respiratory depression.  This can lead to fatal overdoses, as the user takes more and more drug to reach euphoric levels.  When combined with other drugs that depress the respiratory center, like benzodiazepines (such as Valium, Ativan, or Xanax), or alcohol, the risk for fatal overdose is magnified.

The Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914 put the federal government in control of every aspect of the opiate and coca supply-and-distribution chain, as well as insuring taxing power over them.  There are strong arguments that it was a racial discrimination tool.  It was claimed that cocaine was improving Southern blacks’ gun marksmanship and causing them to rape white women.  Chinese immigrants were seducing white women with opium.  Later, the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was used to control the Mexican immigrants who had used marijuana as part of their culture for centuries.  US citizens, who had used “cannabis” in their tonics, did not know it was the same substance as the Mexicans’ “marihuana.”

Fast forward to 1970, when the Controlled Substances Act (Richard Nixon), instituted a schedule for approved substances.  Both heroin and marijuana were assigned to Schedule I status: no medical benefit and absolutely illegal.

The Drug Enforcement Administration was created as a sub-agency under the Department of Justice on July 1, 1973 to enforce the Controlled Substances Act, among other things.

The “War on Drugs,” begun by President Nixon in 1971, was vigorously pursued by President Ronald Reagan, who took office in 1981.  For-profit prisons began emerging after 1980 to accommodate the massive incarcerations that resulted.  Reagan’s Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 dramatically increased the number of incarcerations and length of sentences for drug-related convictions.  As of 2008, 90.7 percent of federal prisoners were incarcerated for non-violent offenses.  At present, the US has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, 724/100,000 people, compared with Russia in second place, with 581/100,000 doing time in prisons, jails, on probation or parole.  The US has 25% of the entire world’s incarcerated population, with black men comprising almost half.

Laws cause crime, according to me, and drug laws are especially guilty of creating the criminal element that is filling the prisons.  So last week, when the federal judge read the indictments against the young, black, male defendant, who was charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana, I knew I could not be impartial.  The judge listed all the members of the federal prosecution team, the local narcotics squad, and the members of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation team who had participated in this gang bang (my take) on this one guy and his lone, white, female attorney.  When the judge asked if anyone had any issues with the federal government, my hand shot up.

I was handed the microphone, stated my name, and said I retired over drug laws.  The judge asked if I could consider the facts of the case as they applied to the laws.  I said the laws themselves are criminal, and, to my mind, the federal government is on trial, here.  It is guilty of practicing medicine, and the defendant is innocent. (That’s how I remember it, anyway.)

“At least she’s honest,” the judge said.  At that point all the lawyers agreed that I would not be a good juror.  I was dismissed and did not get arrested on the way out.

Now, we have the ongoing “opioid crisis,” a new twist on an old theme, once again designed to control through fiat and insider collusion, people’s rights to self-governance.  The institutional powers-that-be have ganged up to push misleading propaganda on the public.  First, the officially prescribed “cure” for this crisis is more money, and more government and institutional control, specifically for “medication-assisted treatment.”

The misrepresentation in reporting shows in its superficiality, with slants calculated to confuse the facts.  First, in reporting numbers of fatal overdoses, heroin is included with other opioids, including prescription pain medications.  Heroin exists in its own category, because no doctor can prescribe it, so there is no legal way to obtain it.  Doctors are being targeted for over-prescribing opioid pain killers, so there’s the push to put more controls on prescribing MDs.

Another flaw in the reported statistics is that “overdoses” are not broken down to determine how many drugs may have contributed to the death.  Accidental overdoses of all medications are increasing, primarily because people are taking too many different medications—not all psychotropics– with cumulative side effects, including respiratory depression.

“Medication-assisted treatment,” is—no matter what they claim—substituting one pill for another, and yet another plank in the pill-pushing platform of the “health-care industry.”  The three drugs approved for treating “opioid use disorder” by the FDA include methadone (an opioid agonist) and buprenorphine (an opioid agonist-antagonist) —both opioids themselves—and naltrexone (an opioid antagonist). Now, “providers” need special licenses and special training to prescribe buprenorphine.

The psychiatric establishment is pushing for more funding for more “addiction specialists” and more legislation to curb this dangerous trend.    FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb is pushing for more funding for more treatment and insurance coverage.  They brag about how all the professional and government organizations have joined in “partnership” with drug companies to find ever more effective strategies for treatment.

Never mind that an internet search leads to addicts who extol the highs they experience from buprenorphine.  Addicts are happy with methadone, too, and can fairly easily switch dependencies, especially if they add other drugs.  The high from buprenorphine isn’t as good as with heroin, they claim, but it can be enhanced with benzos like Valium.  The withdrawal is easier than with heroin, but it lasts longer.  Nausea and vomiting are problems.

Never mind that most substance abuse treatment is notoriously ineffective, with most studies following patients for a year or less.  The mainstay of treatment since 1935 has been the non-pharmacological approach of Alcoholics Anonymous and its spin-offs, like Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Cocaine Anonymous (CA).

So where’s the crisis? It is claimed Prohibition gave rise to organized crime, because the best way to raise the price of anything is to put controls on it.  Do laws cause crime?  With all the lawyers practicing medicine in Congress and in the Supreme Court, I have to wonder if they do.





32 thoughts on “Laws Cause Crime

  1. srogouski

    Opium Wars: The Chinese government was trying to get the opium craze under control. They destroyed large amounts of it in the 1830s. British oligarchs pushed their government into declaring war in order to keep the market for their drugs open (trade with China was already open but limited to “Treaty cities” like Hong Kong). So essentially it was a question of national sovereignty, which the British violated. “Drugging a Nation” by Samual Merwin is still one of the best accounts of the drug trade in 19th Century China, even though it was written in 1907. IRONICALLY the treaty that ended the Second Opium War included a provision allowing Chinese citizens to emigrate. Tens of thousands went to the United States, which in turn created a racist backlash, and the Chinese exclusion laws. Before that there were no laws at all governing immigration to the USA. We had “open borders.”

  2. srogouski

    As for laws causing addiction, I think it’s more complex. Laws don’t seem to prevent it but I think addiction has a wide matrix of causes, including poverty, alienation, lack of good medical care, and even culture (as an early Gen Xer I distinctly remember the popular culture industry pushing the idea that drugs were “cool,” hard to believe now, but it happened).

    1. katharineotto Post author

      I agree it’s more complex than that. I didn’t say laws cause addiction but that laws cause crime, which is different. Every law takes away freedom. The “rule of law” promulgated by the lawyers has nothing to do with the “rule of right,” which was my argument. Laws don’t stop addiction, either, but tend to send it underground.

      I have a lot to say about addiction in general, and how we need to re-conceptualize it. Stay tuned.

      1. srogouski

        I have a pretty standard Marxist view of law and the state. In and of itself, the state is neutral. But what class controls the state? We basically live under the dictatorship of capital. If the rich want to do something illegal, they just rewrite the laws. That’s actually what makes the current opium epidemic so interesting. Doctors prescribed “legal” opiates to white people and not to black people. The result? Life expectancy went down for middle-aged white people but not for middle-aged black people who couldn’t get the legal opiates as easily. It’s possible someone from the Sackler family could go to jail. Every once in awhile the ruling class will throw one or two particularly evil rich people (Bernie Madoff, Martin Shkreli, Jeffrey Epstein) to the wolves, but those are largely the exceptions that prove the rule. The class character of the law remains the same. Will getting rid of the law entirely get rid of crime (in the form of the predatory rich exploiting the poor). Of course not. The “Purge” movies became popular because they address this very issue.

      2. katharineotto Post author

        You’re on the brink of some deep philosophy that has been bandied about for millennia. I don’t think Marx’ “dictatorship of the proletariat” offered any advantage, because it still put one group in power over others., so any group that becomes “the state” is capable (even likely?) to abuse that power.

        Token scapegoats, like the Sacklers, may get fines or jail, but the damage has been done, and lots of people got rich over it, while others got addicted, and the system will continue virtually unchanged, as you suggest.

  3. Sha'Tara

    Quote: “Do laws cause crime? With all the lawyers practicing medicine in Congress and in the Supreme Court, I have to wonder if they do.” Laws create criminals from victims of predatory capitalism, hence such “laws” do cause crime, or better put, IMO such laws are criminal.

    1. katharineotto Post author

      That’s what I (wish I’d) said. In fact, I would go so far as to say many laws are criminal, if we think about it. They are not only inequitable in themselves, but they are unevenly enforced. The obvious laws are those that don’t really need to be laws, because they are so obvious. They could exist as guidelines or social conventions.

      Laws put an arbitrary group of people in judgment over other people. Who has the right to judge another? That was my main objection to being a juror, but a pastor beat me to it.

    1. katharineotto Post author

      I wish I thought it would do any good. The legal system exists in its own world, and it has all the power. Most people are justifiably afraid of speaking up.

  4. navasolanature

    Another fascinating piece from you, Katherine. I think your own background offers much insight into this complex issue. Most of the issues with violence in London lately have been drug related criminality with young people being groomed into this.

    1. katharineotto Post author

      There’s so much complexity to this issue, that I don’t know where to begin. For instance, some people, including me, believe the CIA uses drugs as “commodity money” to foment insurrection in countries the US doesn’t approve of. When Osama bin Laden was killed, his hideout was found to be full of hashish, which, apparently was used in trade for weapons. A Harper’s magazine article related the Afghanistan war to the poppy trade, which is apparently much more profitable than growing food crops. At the street level, I believe low-level drug dealers trade to support their own habits, as well as to obtain easy cash when they don’t have job skills or interest in legal employment. And on and on.

      Thanks for reading and for the compliment.

      1. navasolanature

        I think I tend to agree with you and it is complex. I have read similar things about Afghanistan. Somehow there seem to be links with paramilitary type groups and drugs. Northern Ireland is an example where post IRA there have been significant links to drugs and crime.

      2. Sha'Tara

        It is said, what you resist, persists. How that applies to countering evil is interesting: one does not forcefully resist evil but renounces it by rejecting its lures. So much could be said on this topic!

  5. srogouski

    Well, certainly a “dictatorship of the workers” would be run by human beings, who are corruptible. So you’d have abuses exactly the way you would under our current dictatorship of capital. But I don’t see how doing away with the state altogether would change human nature. Let’s take the Middle East post invasion of Iraq. The breakdown of the traditional authoritarian state hasn’t ended tyranny or crime. It’s only distributed it more evenly. So instead of one Saddam, you have 100 little dictators. On the other hand, the United States has gotten to a point where (real) power is so concentrated in so few hands there’s no longer a functioning democratic state or legitimate judiciary. The class nature of the “legal” system is hidden in plain sight. Take for example the judge in New Jersey who went easy on a rapist because he was from a “good” (upper class) family.

    (They’re not even hiding it anymore.)

    “Family court judge James Troiano in New Jersey ruled a 16-year-old accused of raping a girl the same age should not be tried as an adult because he comes from a good family and is “clearly a candidate for not just college but probably for a good college.”

    As for the Sacklers, they have zero (no) change of going to jail for the lives they ruined. If any of them do wind up doing any time it’s only because the ruling class thinks they’ve become too much of a liability (like Epstein or Madoff) and need to be thrown to the wolves as the occasional sacrifice to the masses. I agree with you that it wouldn’t change the basic class structure that put them into power. BUT, the same court system would send a working class black woman to jail for 40 years because her boyfriend hid a stash of drugs in her apartment and she wouldn’t testify against him.

    1. katharineotto Post author

      I no longer think I have answers and am not even sure of the questions. I believe people need some structure. Reading Guns, Germs and Steel now, where Diamond claims government and religion have gone together throughout history, with government providing the force and religion providing the justification. But people wouldn’t submit if they didn’t believe outside authority has some legitimacy. In other words, they don’t know how to be free. Self-governance requires maturity that we have never seen in history (the one we know, anyway).

      All the philosophy I’ve been reading, especially lately, can be summed up by noting these intellectuals have visions of ideal societies, if only all those other people would shape up, or can be compelled to do so. Laws are enacted not to control self, but to control the other guy.

      1. srogouski

        Once again, I think so much comes down to the phrase “it depends.” Sure there’s never been a “perfect” government but there have been far more democratic governments than the rule by corporate oligarchy we have today. Sure Periclean Athens and Jacksonian America were slave based societies but if you were a full citizen you did have some say in how your government operated. These days we live under a system that Sheldon Wolin called “inverted totalitarianism.” We have all the trappings of a representative democracy but quite obviously your vote and my vote counts for much less than Jeffrey Epstein’s. In some ways it’s the perfect “libertarian” government. Money = Political Power. The only choice the typical citizen has is choices in the marketplace. I CAN chose what kind of car I want to buy. I don’t have the option of voting for an antiwar political party.

      2. srogouski

        Ancient Athens had a process called ostracization that I think we should bring back. If a powerful political actor or family started to have a destructive effect on the political culture he would simply be banned from the city for 20 years. Imagine how much better a society we’d be living in now if the Clintons had simply been ostracized in 2008.

      3. katharineotto Post author

        I’m working on this theory that our debt-backed economy is at the crux of all our skewed beliefs and values. A country that perpetually borrows against the future, devitalizes the initiative of the nation. There’s a sense of running as fast as you can, knowing you can never catch up. A country in debt is not free.

        Some people claim the government should be run like a business, but businesses have to depend on a bottom line. Our government(s), as we have seen, have no bottom line.

        I contend governments should be run like households, where you don’t spend unless you have the money to pay for it or a plan for paying back the debt.

        I could go on, but don’t you think it’s strange that people have no safe place to save their money? Retirement funds are invested in the banks or stock/commodities markets, which are basically unstable (as we saw in 2007), or in Fed-membership banks, meaning the Fed, a basically secret body, as ultimate control over the entire economy and everyone’s nest eggs.

      4. srogouski

        “Some people claim the government should be run like a business, but businesses have to depend on a bottom line. Our government(s), as we have seen, have no bottom line.”

        I think part of the problem is our governments are too large and too separated from the people the supposedly govern with their consent. Local governments often work pretty well. The typical upper-middle-class suburb is going to have good public schools because its citizens value getting their kids into the right schools above all. Of course it doesn’t work quite so well in working class towns where people have fewer resources and less time. But in general I think the idea of government as a local homeowners association is a pretty good model. It’s actually the original model for American democracy. The New England town meeting. The other American tradition (the libertarian/corporate tradition) is obviously descended from the plantation where you had an owner/CEO and his slaves/clients.

      5. katharineotto Post author

        I agree with you in theory, but our local governments and the state government are controlled by insiders and “economic development” interests. Savannah is large enough to have a full range of economic subgroups and a large percentage of disenfranchised (usually black) people. So the extra sales tax that was supposed to go to education went to insider friends/contractors for building large schools and to administration. We have a Metropolitan Planning Commission that has 90 members, mostly comprised of realtors and developers.

      6. srogouski

        “I agree with you in theory, but our local governments and the state government are controlled by insiders and “economic development” interests”

        We have a similar thing here in Cranford NJ. Hartz Mountain wants to build a huge condo complex on a vacant industrial lot and the (largely upper middle class) town is mobilizing to stop it (and they’ll probably succeed). I was talking to a local councilman about it and made a remark something along the lines of “well since everybody wants to build those mixed use condo projects isn’t that what the market dictates. He answered something like “democracy is more important than the market.” So here you have this (probably Republican) white upper middle-class dude advocating socialism (democracy over the market) on a local level (when on a federal level he’d never even think about it).

        And in fact they did stop it.

      7. katharineotto Post author

        In Savannah, the planning board is advisory only, and the City Council has final say. The residents in Cranford make a good argument about the additional students in schools, but that many additional residents would stress all infrastructure. However, as long as the lot remains vacant, there will be a push to increase density, either by Hartz or the next owner.

        Re-zoning is the key. In Savannah, the insiders got the church to apply for a re-zoning on the pretext that they wanted to build a church school. But then they sold the land to private developers (one member of the church board) who sold it to Walmart. We now have a Walmart and Sams on the site, along with McDonalds and a few other franchises, three new traffic lights, and congestion.

      8. srogouski

        Re-zoning is the key. In Savannah, the insiders got the church to apply for a re-zoning on the pretext that they wanted to build a church school. But then they sold the land to private developers (one member of the church board) who sold it to Walmart. We now have a Walmart and Sams on the site, along with McDonalds and a few other franchises, three new traffic lights, and congestion.

        (Midnight in the Garden of strip malls and big box stores)

      9. katharineotto Post author

        Tis sad, isn’t it, that every American city is becoming like every other American city? The country’s “ethnic food” is McDonalds and Pizza Hut.

  6. MrJohnson

    From my experience yesterday I’m now starting to think some teenagers have easy access to opioid-type drugs. I was sitting close to a group of teenagers at a convenience store when one of the boys was telling his friends how his grandmother has 43 bottles of percocets(maybe I heard wrong) and he’s going to “pop one” when he gets home later. I don’t think he recognized me but I live across the street. At least with heroin there’s some barriers one needs to go through to attain it. I didn’t even know what a percocet was when I was a teenager. My guess is that it’s not too uncommon that teenagers steal some of these drugs from their family and sell them.

    Jury duty is not something I’m looking forward to doing either. I’m not sure I would have the courage like you to speak up though. I’ve taken the coward’s way out and refrained from voting in elections which means I’m not registered to be a possible juror.

    1. katharineotto Post author

      Mr. J.,

      I’m wondering how a grandmoter (who is possibly about my age) has 43 bottles of Percocet. Is she dealing? I think lots of users become at least low-level dealers to support their habits.

      I haven’t voted since 2006, so I wonder how I got picked for both local and federal jury duty within the same month. They must really be hard up.

      I didn’t have the courage not to speak up. I dreaded the vry idea of sitting in that courtroom for four days (at least) to hear lawyers belaboring petty points. I knew the decks were stacked against this guy, and I would probably have been the one juror who held out for his innocence, simply because I believe the laws themselves are wrong. Who gives the lawyers the right to sit in judgment over fellow citizens?

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      1. srogouski

        In New Jersey they use voter registration record and driver’s licenses. I get called for the jury duty cattle call once every three years like clockwork but I never get picked to serve on a jury since I’m quite palpably anti-police. Basically it means a long boring day listening to potential jurors be questioned.

      2. MrJohnson

        She apparently collected them for a knee surgery. It sounds strange but then I remember a friend whose dad passed away from cancer and left 800 pills of morphine behind.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s