Monday, March 10, 2014

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

The idea that "the more things change, the more they stay the same" is a common one around the world. No doubt because it's true.

The late Horace Judson was a famous and well respected journalist. His most famous book was Eighth Day of Creation, a history of molecular biology. Published way back in 1996, I believe this book is still in print. Of course, the fact that his daughter Olivia Judson is the well known evolutionary biologist and popular writer also keeps his name current.

While reading a review of Horace Judson's book on heroin addiction, published in 1974, I was struck by how little the world has moved forward in the intervening forty years.

The reviewer, Gerald McLaughlin, Associate Professor of Law at Fordham University School of Law, wrote:

Apart from government moneys being spent on drug law enforcement, apart from the countless government research grants given academics every year, entire industries have begun to grow up around the drug cure business - methadone clinics staffed by private physicians have become booming business, drug analysis and urinalysis centers have sprung up to serve their needs, and private drug research firms have been created. Like the fabled "military-industrial" complex of the Eisenhower years, a "drug abuse-industrial complex" has been created. Once created, it is hard to dismantle. To put it another way, with so much money at stake, there is an incentive not to let the problem die or at least there is an incentive to push for one's own special treatment modality. The law enforcers want to keep their funds, so they push for new law enforcement programs to end the heroin traffic; the methadone maintenance advocates push for more money for more centres; sociologists and psychologists request further grants to test this or that theory of addiction. Quite often some of these diverse elements or the "drug abuse-industrial complex" lobby against new alternatives simply to prevent money from being siphoned off to fund new programs or approaches. Fiscal preservation is an age-old vice of man.

Of course, some things do change. I must add that in the years following the publication of Judson's book, Heroin Addiction in Britain - What Americans can learn from the English experience, the British government turned more and more towards the American model. The Brits even appointed a drug czar in 1998. 

The changes failed.

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