Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Not so insane

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  • Luke Williamson,

    There is nothing like an alcoholic (Pam) getting hysterical about “harmful drugs”. The new Act is a small step in the right direction but – he said, sounding like broken record – you simply can’t have a rational discussion about drug management unless you include alcohol. And nobody in government is ready to go there yet as witnessed by their substantial back down on the recommendations of the commission last year.

    Warkworth • Since Oct 2007 • 297 posts Report Reply

  • Virginia Brooks,

    Thanks for explaining the minimise harm thinking behind the psychoactive substances act. Its not stupid. But what gets me is the hypocrisy of outlawing genuine marijuana and allowing synthetic crap. The synthetic drug industry is ugly and worth billions of dollars and rapidly growing. Its sidestepping traditional drug laws. What gives? Questions need to be asked. Like, who rubber stamps this and cynically profits? Is it really just a case of – pass the tissues, start wringing the hands – ‘the synthetic industry is just too hard to keep up with. Better to allow it in a regulated fashion, save the poor kiddies’. Please, someone tell me.

    Since Jun 2008 • 43 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Virginia Brooks,

    But what gets me is the hypocrisy of outlawing genuine marijuana and allowing synthetic crap.

    That's the elephant in the room. Nothing outlawed under the Misuse of Drugs Act is eligible for this process, even though natural cannabis is better understood and quite probably safer than the synthetic alternatives. It will change, but I'm not sure how long that might take.

    Ironically, pot would probably fail the risk assessment because of the smoking part, but I think Matt Bowden is planning to submit an a cannabinoid inhaler product.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Virginia Brooks, in reply to Russell Brown,

    According to the Saturday Herald article he is also developing cannabis pills. Along with the inhalers, he is going to make a mint. But it still seems F'd up. Those particular synthetics are ugly (and yes I know, lots of useful and necessary substances are synthetic while 'natural' / herbal does not necessarily equate with healthy).
    Meanwhile our courts spend time and money prosecuting marijuana users, medical marijuana is banned, etc. Why is the red carpet being laid down for synthetics?? Is it just politics?? Or does corruption have something to do with it?
    Maybe I've watched Hong Kong crime thrillers & 'underbelly' once too often - maybe I'm having a conspiracy theory tanti - nah - maybe I'm just pissed off. Seriously.

    Since Jun 2008 • 43 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Ironically, pot would probably fail the risk assessment because of the smoking part, but I think Matt Bowden is planning to submit an a cannabinoid inhaler product.

    This is the main thing that puts me off harm minimization approaches. The end game is banning everything. That doesn't seem like a great leap forward to me. If you like the idea of harm minimization because it throws the hypocrisy of alcohol and tobacco into relief and maybe one day they'll free the weed when they choke on the double standard, consider that another highly likely possibility is that they just ban tobacco and alcohol as well.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Adamson,

    Steven it was the change in drink driving legislation that allowed for random breath testing plus the aggressive enforcement of those rules that led to changes in social attitudes. When people saw they were likely to get caught drink driving and the consequences were very inconvenient _then_ the norm shifted. Education is the industry's preferred option because it costs them nothing and doesn't work.

    Totally agree to banning advertising for alcohol - this would be a sensible way to have some parity between the traditional legal drugs and the new ones. We're all ok with not advertiing tobacco. Would it our lives really be impoverished doing without all that booze advertising? Quite the opposite I'd suggest.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2012 • 6 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    And in another legislative advance for another Australian state, Queensland is bringing in legislation (it may have already) to impose hefty fines and the prospect of prison for people found to have organised 'FaceBook parties' ie spread about news on social media about knees-ups or hooleys. This potentially includes the parents of teenager who misuse social media.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2560 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to ,

    But it is socially acceptable to be drinking a bottle of wine every single night, when children live in the same house.

    It's not in my house, but you know... I'm an alcoholic and my partner is on medication for which alcohol is contraindicated. Thank God we're not stupid plebs, all I've got to say, or we'd be fucked. In other news: Carl Jr's 'Bourbon Burger' ads make me feel like my brain's just powerchucked all over the inside of my skull.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • HamMer, in reply to Simon Adamson,

    I agree. Some tobacco control advocates reckon we never started making strong gains in that area until addressed sponsorship and marketing elements in the 1990s, so that we could look at the product more clearly/objectively. The same would help with alcohol

    Hamilton • Since Nov 2012 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Geoff Lealand,

    I'd imagine the next thing is going to be distributed, anonymous social networks.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    I don't know. I think that alcohol's different from tobacco, in that lots of people consume alcohol in a responsible and safe way. Very few people consume tobacco in a safe, responsible way. So the policy response has to be different and take that into account.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    ery few people consume tobacco in a safe, responsible way. So the policy response ha

    In my small world, people who consume tobacco do so in small amounts - I would have 1 or 2 pipes OR cigars a week, and only provided I didnt have cracked lips...
    and I dont inhale-
    the only other pipe/cigar smokers I know are similarly moderate in their use-

    whereas the cannabis smokers I know....!!!

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Islander,

    My small world is the exact opposite. Whenever I call break time or class is over, an awful lot of my male students sprint out into the corridor to light up. I've even seen my boys warming up for a basketball match cigarette dangling from their lips.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Stewart, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    So why is drug use always described as 'drug abuse'? There are plenty of people who use recreational drugs in a 'responsible' manner. When does use become abuse?

    Pt Chev • Since Feb 2012 • 72 posts Report Reply

  • andin, in reply to Richard Stewart,

    When does use become abuse?

    When someone else says it is...?

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1890 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    I have noticed this with my Chinese students here too. It will be difficult for them when the smoke-free campus begins (like the Univ of Auckland).

    What are the rates of smoking-induced lung cancer in China?

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2560 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Geoff Lealand,

    I tell my students to quit smoking before they head overseas because it's too expensive and there's no way anybody would tolerate them lighting up inside. Now I'm going to add "smokefree campus" to the list of threats - "You guys will be getting really fit if you go study overseas, what with having to sprint off campus for a smoke then sprint back to class".

    I have no idea of smoking-induced lung cancer rates here and struggle to see how you could separate them from general air pollution-induced lung cancer rates. But with officially 60% of Chinese men smokers (and everybody I know thinks the real rate is higher) it must be ridiculously high. Add in second hand smoke, not helped by the assumption that corridors and men's toilets are smoking areas (with many exceptions in hospitals, commercial premises, airports, etc, although policing of those exceptions sometimes can be a bit lax) and the rural Chinese assumption that one can light up anywhere, including in somebody else's home right in front of somebody else's kids, and it gets a bit scary. What's worse is young women are getting more and more open about smoking. It used to be something only "bad girls" did, so very few women smoked, and those who did wound up as fairly light smokers, a bit like what Islander described in terms of how much they smoked, because smoking was something they could only do in secret. Now the younger ones care less and less about those traditional values, which is a good thing in most respects, except that with smoking it'll lead to more women smoking more, which is only going to increase the toll it takes on Chinese public health.

    On the plus side I see more and more urban Chinese men taking care to take their cigarettes away from the kids - once even had to stop my daughter effectively chasing some poor guy off campus because she kept trying to play where he was trying to have a quiet smoke without hurting the kids - and the Yanqing County hospital in the northwestern exurbs of Beijing has a quit smoking clinic, so the "smoking is bad for your health" message is getting out, but there's a hell of a long way to go and a hell of a lot more to worry about.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    The big drug bust reported in today's Herald underlines the extent to which novel psychoactive substances are already flooding in to the New Zealand market:

    A total of 379 suspected psychoactive substances totalling more than 500kg were intercepted during Operation Static which ended this month, Mr Williamson said.

    This included Class A, B and C drugs, controlled medicines and a range of synthetic cannabinoids and analogues.

    "There was a total of 80 kilograms of Class C analogues seized, including 18 kilograms of ecstasy mimic methylone, and these drugs have a street value of $21 million.

    And of course the story wouldn't be complete without some conjuring with the police Drug Harm Index.

    "The harm prevented from keeping these analogues away from communities has been calculated at $32 million," Mr Williamson said.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    Any idea *why* smoking is so much more prevalent in China?

    I assume Big Tobacco wasn't allowed in during the Communist era? Were the population already addicted by the 1950's? Did the government tacitly encourage smoking as a relief valve or revenue source?

    Is any national effort being made to reduce smoking now - presumably it must cost the health system a lot of money? (or maybe not - if a countries life expectancy rises due to healthier lifestyles, does that lead to more expenditure on an aging population?)

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh,

    Big Red Tobacco, yes. And Big Red Tobacco is state owned, so there does seem to be a revenue stream there. I have read, though, that smoking costs the government more than it collects in tobacco income, but others have argued that the health system has been purely market since reform and opening up and you have to pay the full cost of medical care. Then of course there's lost productivity due to ill health... but as I already said, how do you separate that out from ill health due to air pollution or industrial causes?

    I really can't answer most of your questions, except to say that the history of smoking in China goes way back at least into the Qing Dynasty, possibly even the Ming. There's this strange old attitude that Men Smoke, and it's kinda jarring to watch historic kung fu films like Ip Man or Once Upon a Time in China, films about Chinese folk heroes with at least some basis in actual history, and see the hero, a martial artist and, in Huang Feihong's case, a TCM doctor, puffing on a pipe.

    I don't know if you can call this tacit encouragement, but Mao's and Deng's favourite brands were well known and there are "luxury" brands of cigarettes that cost Western prices, while most cigarettes are dirt cheap.

    Then smoking has a role in communication among Chinese men. Handing out cigarettes is like a handshake. It used to be that handing out cigarettes could help get a favourable deal in a market - but no smoking rules are spreading further and more and more enforced for both fire safety and public health reasons. I'm sure it does still help business deals get done. I have heard that people will give a carton of fancy cigarettes and a bottle of expensive baijiu to a teacher if their kid gets a lower grade than they deserve - the characters for smoke and booze (烟酒/yānjiǔ) have a very similar pronunciation to a word that can be translated in this kind of context as "think it over" (研究/yánjiū) - and oddly enough, 烟酒 and 研究 are the first two suggestions my IME gives when I type "yanjiu" - trouble is, nobody's ever tried that on me. It's annoying, because gifts like this can be recycled, I could turn it into cash. In facct, nobody's ever really tried to bribe me in any way. So much for rampant corruption.... anyway...

    Rising life expectancy, well, I doubt that's got much to do with healthier lifestyles, I suspect it's a lot more about economic development, more secure food supplies and greater political stability. Most people can now afford meat and food supplies are guaranteed year-round rather than only seasonally, and there's a greater variety of food available thanks to improved transport infrastructure. My wife remembers winters when her family had nothing but cabbage, noodles and vinegar to eat, Chinese New Years where they couldn't afford any meat. There are still plenty of malnourished people in the poorer, more underdeveloped regions (China's per capita GDP is still about right for sub-Saharan Africa, remember), but it's been a while since the last famine. And there aren't many people being beaten to death in struggle sessions these days. And although health care is expensive, insurance is available and the quality is vastly improved as China has been catching up with Western medical science and technology. Oh, and senior doctors are no longer bullied out of their clinics by their students and interns for having an inappropriate class background or being a bit too strict....

    But China's population is aging and smoking and binge drinking are still a huge part of social, business and official* life for very many Chinese men, and economic development has brought massive environmental destruction and all kinds of industrial illnesses, partly through using old, dirty technology, partly through cost- and corner-cutting by bosses desperate to make the maximum short-term profit (cos who knows how the political winds are going to shift tomorrow, so better make sure you're well set up now for any future eventuality).

    So yeah, haven't really answered your questions, sorry, but that's what I've got right now.

    *We'll see how Xi Jinping's austerity drive affects things long term. Short term I've heard a lot of fancy restaurants have been struggling since the official banquet income stream has been choked off, but it's still early days.

    ETA: Sorry, national efforts to cut smoking. Yes, they exist, there are anti-smoking posters around, stronger and more strongly enforced no smoking rules, and as I already mentioned, quit smoking clinics. But still, very much early days. There also seems to be more chatter about the health risks of smoking. I don't know the price of a pack of cigarettes (could ask my students, obviously, but I'm not in class right now, which I hope is equally obvious), but although there are "luxury" brands, most seem to vary between cheap, dirt cheap, and practically free.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • "chris", in reply to Chris Waugh,

    I don’t know the price of a pack of cigarettes

    It’s been a while since I’ve had to, but as I recall, at the lower end, Derby’s can be purchased for as little as 2.5¥ (50c) a pack, most of the brands you see young people smoking cost between 5-10 ($1-2).

    location, location, locat… • Since Dec 2010 • 250 posts Report Reply

  • "chris",

    Perhaps I just brought it back because I like to see my name under the heading “Not so insane” but…On topic:

    What’s being done here looks a lot less “insane” on close inspection

    Not to dispute your findings here, as I agree, but compared to the relative sanity that is our food regulation, distinguishing between the various insanities presented by Governments to regulate psychoactive substances would seem to require some hellishly competent forensic psychiatry.

    location, location, locat… • Since Dec 2010 • 250 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Interesting - Authority refuses approval for six psychoactive products:

    The Psychoactive Substances Regulatory Authority has refused applications for six products seeking interim approvals under the new Psychoactive Substances Act.

    The products refused approval are the psychoactive product G-13, three Kronic brand products (Kronic Skunk, Kronic Tropical Explosion and Kronic Pineapple Express) and two Kryptonite branded products (Kryptonite Green and Kryptonite Red).

    The manager of the Psychoactive Substances Regulatory Authority, Dr Donald Hannah, says the six products were all assessed to pose more than a low risk of harm.

    "The applicants cannot now import, manufacture, wholesale or retail these six products. The product that is out there must be recalled."

    Dr Hannah says the Authority has reviewed reports of adverse reactions from a range of sources including the National Poisons Centre and hospital emergency departments.

    "Such adverse effects are being monitored on an on-going basis and the Authority will also act to remove any currently approved interim products should there be concern."

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    The manager of the Psychoactive Substances Regulatory Authority, Dr Donald Hannah, says the six products were all assessed to pose more than a low risk of harm.

    Anecdotally, I'd say this is a good idea. It was one of those 3 that caused a friend of mine to lapse in and out of consciousness 4 times over dinner in a restaurant a few years back. Pretty damned alarming - I thought he was having a heart attack and took him to hospital. This was someone not unaccustomed to getting stoned, and was off a single dose, a few puffs. There was a doctor at the next table who saw him doing it, and was not going to have a bar of him saying he was just a bit sick and needed to lie down. It was not a simple faint - he was talking to me, and then his eyes rolled back, and he fell slowly towards his plate. I caught his head and people either side stopped him falling over, and then his eyes rolled back, and he appeared to have no memory that it had happened at all, wondered what everyone was looking at him for. Then it happened again, and then twice more.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • "chris", in reply to BenWilson,

    I’m quite interested in this Ben, given that this was not the first time he had used Kronic or for that matter experienced serious issues while under the influence:

    In another incident, the same fellow (yes, he was this foolish) found himself confronted with armed police at his door, having called the police on himself during a Kronic induced psychotic break. In 10 years of smoking dope in large quantities, nothing like that had ever happened to him.

    Firstly I guess the real question is did he stop using Kronic after the second incident?

    Secondly, given your ‘experienced stoner friend’ is already seasoned user of a banned substance, do you imagine that the banning of this new substance would sway him were he able to acquire (quite possibly without the required health warnings, a list of the active ingredients, contact details for the manufacturer or distributor, and the telephone number of the National Poisons Centre for unbanned substances) it on the black market?

    Thirdly were it not banned, would he still be likely to purchase and use this product were these negative effects (blackouts/ psychotic breaks) clearly stated on the packaging?

    location, location, locat… • Since Dec 2010 • 250 posts Report Reply

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