|Addiction Research Unit
|Department of Psychology/University at Buffalo
Drug-Regulation Policy Advisory
The Drug-Regulation Policy Advisory involves the development
and advocation of rational drug control policies based on scientific evidence.
An objective is to provide legislators and community leaders with the best
'expert opinion' on drug regulation (e.g., what drugs to regulate and how
to regulate them) and related topics (e.g., Internet 'prescribing' of psychoactive
compounds). Advocacy of harm-reduction strategies, such as methadone maintenance
and needle-exchange programs, is another objective because this policy
is strongly supported by the scientific evidence as well as by humanitarian
Public and government policy regarding psychoactive drugs often does not
seem to follow common sense nor the scientific evidence. The issue of whether
an individual should be permitted to 'recreationally' use psychoactive
substances is a moral issue, perhaps best left to the individual and those
involved in 'moral education.' The issue of whether the use of certain
psychoactive substances have documented deleterious effects on the individual
and/or on society can be studied scientifically. It is the mandate of science
to provide unbiased factual information so that the individual and those
charged with governing individual behavior (e.g., legislators) can make
There are several notable examples where current government policy is contrary
to the best scientific evidence.
Case 1: Current laws provide much more severe penalties for possession
of "crack" cocaine than for the powder form of cocaine (i.e., cocaine hydrochloride).
Because 'crack' cocaine use is much more prominent with inner-city minority
groups, this policy of differential criminal penalties is viewed by some
as racially motivated--black urban youths are more likely to be arrested
for "crack" cocaine use than white suburban youths who are likely to be
arrested for powdered cocaine use.
Case 2: Several Presidential committees and numerous expert scientific
committees have concluded that sufficient evidence exist for limited use
of marijuana for certain medical conditions.
Some Specific Recommendations
Maintain severe criminal penalties for trafficking 'hard drugs'
such as cocaine and heroin that have a well-known high addiction liability.
These drugs are deleterious to both the individual and to society. Reduce
the criminal penalties for drug users possessing small quantities of these
drugs. These individuals are the victims of their own addictions, and medical
treatment not incarceration is appropriate. Equate the criminal penalties
for possessing and selling equivalent amounts of "crack" and powder cocaine.
The current laws are clearly discriminatory and these punitive measures
have not diminished the spread of inter-city "crack.".
Relax the current Federal laws regarding medicinal marijuana, permitting
its use for a limited number of conditions where its psychoactive as well
as its clinical effects are beneficial. Follow the progressive lead of
several states (e.g., California) and Canada where medicinal marijuana
is currently permitted.
Expand harm-reduction efforts such as needle-exchange programs.
Use New York state's syringe availability demonstration program as a model
for a rational approach to this problem that minimizes the risk of encouraging
illicit drug use. Provide information regarding 'safer' drug-use practices
to current intravenous drug users and to 'high risk' individuals.
Prohibit Internet 'prescribing' of highly addictive compounds such
as the narcotic analgesics (e.g., OxyContin) and the psychomotor stimulants
(e.g., Ridalin). The clinical use of these compounds requires careful assessment
on a case-by-case basis to minimize abuse and potential addiction. Physicians
should be encouraged to provide adequate medication for clinically documented
conditions while assessing the possible long-term adverse consequences
of such treatment. (Current U.S. prescribing practices often under medicates
conditions involving chronic pain.)
©2004 Addiction Research Unit/University at Buffalo
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