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    MaryJane 2:59 pm on May 25, 2012 Permalink  

    Transnational Crime 

    Drug Policy Question of the Week – 5-21-12

    As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 5-21-12.

    Question of the Week: What is transnational organized crime?

    According the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,

    “‘organized crime'” is any serious offence committed by a group of three or more people with the aim of making money.”

    Transnational extends organized crime across the globe.

    The Office of the President of the United States defined transnational organized crime as,

    “self-perpetuating associations of individuals who operate transnationally for the purpose of obtaining power, influence, monetary and/or commercial gains, wholly or in part by illegal means, while protecting their activities through a pattern of corruption and/or violence, or while protecting their illegal activities through a transnational organizational structure.”

    There is some inconsistency concerning which markets comprise this illicit trade.

    Citing the U.S. government’s International Crime Threat Assessment, which was completed in 2000 under the direction of National Security Council, the Congressional Research Service listed:

    “the largest international crime threats, in terms of their potential impact, [to] include smuggling of nuclear materials and technology; drug trafficking; trafficking in persons; intellectual property crimes; and money laundering.”

    The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) counted these threats in its 2010 “Transnational Organized Crime Threat Assessment”:

    trafficking in persons, smuggling of migrants, cocaine, heroin, firearms, environmental resources, counterfeit products, maritime piracy and cybercrimes.

    Global Financial Integrity reviewed

    “the scale, flow, profit distribution, and impact of 12 different types of illicit trade: drugs, humans, wildlife, counterfeit goods and currency, human organs, small arms, diamonds and colored gemstones, oil, timber, fish, art and cultural property, and gold.”

    Included in this review were the illegal drug markets for cannabis, cocaine, opiates and amphetamine stimulants.

    Taken together, “drugs” represent about one half of the illicit market value controlled by transnational organized crime.

  • avatar

    MaryJane 8:35 am on May 16, 2012 Permalink  


    Drug Policy Question of the Week – 5-17-12

    As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 5-17-12.

    Question of the Week: Which drugs impair driving?

    According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other sources, many do. Let’s take a look:

    Alcohol “reduces the ability to see distant objects … Blurred and double vision can also occur. Alcohol may also create a sense of overconfidence, with the result that people are prepared to take greater risks.”

    Amphetamines “have been associated … with driving impairment both in the stimulation and withdrawal stages; in the latter case especially as the drug interacts with fatigue.”

    Antidepressants “can cause impairment, especially in circumstances where extremely high blood concentrations are measured … There is also an additional risk of impairment associated with combined use with alcohol.”

    Antihistamines, “such as diphenhydramine, cause sedation, [which is] distinguished as … drowsiness.”

    Barbiturates “are associated with delayed reaction times and possibly loss of concentration.”

    Benzodiazepines (such as Valium® or Xanax®) “… desired/therapeutic effect … is sedation, which would obviously have a detrimental effect on driving.”

    Methadone, “a narcotic analgesic, … may have differential performance effects in naive or recreational users versus tolerant therapeutic users …”

    Opiates are “narcotic analgesics … [that] after an initial rush, … act as CNS depressants and certainly could have performance-decreasing effects.”

    Sleep aids, such as Ambien®, “cause drowsiness and may cause dizziness. If consumed with alcohol, there is an increased likelihood of these symptoms. Sleep aids alone or in combination with alcohol could have a detrimental effect on driving ability.”

    Cannabinoids “experimental and epidemiologic evidence [of their] … effects on driving are mixed. When marijuana is found in drivers, … it is often in conjunction with alcohol, where an impairing effect is more likely.”

    Quite a long list for a simple question.

    [Editor’s Note: Unless linked to other sources, the “Impairment by Drug” descriptions above come from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This list can be found under “Impairment” in the Drug Testing Chapter of Drug War Facts.]

  • avatar

    MaryJane 8:06 am on April 26, 2012 Permalink  

    Drug Control Spending 

    Drug Policy Question of the Week – 4-26-12

    As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 4-26-12.

    Question of the Week: How much does the U.S. spend on drug control?

    A guestimate of this number can be gleaned from the annual budgets for the National Drug Control Strategy.

    A 2011 Congressional Research Service report states that

    “The director of [Office of National Drug Control Policy] ONDCP has primary responsibilities of developing a comprehensive National Drug Control Strategy to direct the nation’s anti-drug efforts; [and] developing a National Drug Control Budget to implement the Strategy,”

    The report says that this budget

    “can be thought of as funding two broad categories of demand-reduction and supply reduction activities.”

    The Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics defines “demand reduction” as

    “programs and research related to drug abuse treatment, education, rehabilitation, and prevention that are designed to reduce the demand for drugs.”

    It calls “supply reduction,” a

    “wide scope of law enforcement-related activities designed to reduce the supply of drugs in the United States and abroad.”

    A new Drug War Facts table and graph adapted from the Sourcebook shows federal drug control budgets from 2004 to 2012.

    The ONDCP recently wrote,

    “The President’s Fiscal Year 2012 National Drug Control Budget requests $26.2 billion … This represents an increase of $322.6 million (1.2 percent) over the FY 2010 enacted level of $25.9 billion.”

    What isn’t mentioned is that since 2004, the 2012 Budget has grown by over one third. From 2004 to 2012, the Demand Reduction budget expanded by about one quarter, while supply reduction swelled by almost half.

    Added together, drug control budget spending 2004 to 2012 equaled almost one-quarter of a trillion dollars.

    As of today April 20, the outstanding public debt stands at $15.7 trillion.

  • avatar

    MaryJane 7:46 am on April 21, 2012 Permalink  

    Cost of Corrections 

    Drug Policy Question of the Week – 4-21-12

    As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 4-21-12.

    Question of the Week: How much does the U.S. Corrections system cost taxpayers?

    With April 15th upon us, this is a reasonable question, considering that there are over 7 million Americans currently under the control of the U.S. Corrections system. Their “price tag” includes:

    • Total 2008 spending in the U.S. on corrections: $75 billion
    • Spending in 2010 on state corrections: $51 billion
    • 2009 spending on the 767,000 inmates in local jails: $20 billion
    • The 2011 budget for the federal Bureau of Prisons: $6.8 billion
    • 2009 spending on the 242,000 inmates in state prison with a drug conviction as their most serious offense: $6.3 billion
    • 2009 spending on the 4.2 million individuals on probation: $5.5 billion
    • Spending in 2009 on 171,000 inmates in federal prison: $4.3 billion
    • 2009 spending on the 95,000 federal inmates for whom a drug conviction is their most serious offense: $2.4 billion

    Unfortunately, these staggering billion dollar “price tags” take a snapshot of only one year. Over the decades, their financial burden on taxpayers has increased exponentially.

    The Center for Economic and Policy Research, points to a solution:

    “… a 50 percent reduction in non-violent-offender inmates would save the federal government about $2.1 billion per year, state governments about $7.6 billion per year, and local governments about $7.2 billion per year … these savings total $16.9 billion or about 22.8 percent of the total national spending on corrections.”

    Non-violent offenders basically mean drug offenders.

    Ending drug war would clearly reduce the cost of corrections and ultimately the “price tag” borne by taxpayers.

  • avatar

    MaryJane 7:35 am on April 5, 2012 Permalink  


    Drug Policy Question of the Week – 4-5-12

    As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 4-5-12.

    Question of the Week: What is Ibogaine?

    According to a 2008 article in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology,

    “The incidence of opioid-related deaths in the US doubled between 1999 and 2004, with methadone and oxycodone accounting for most of this increase.”

    Expanding in parallel with this explosive growth is a subculture that by 2006 had

    “increased fourfold relative to the prior estimate of 5 years earlier, an average yearly rate of growth of approximately 30%.”

    This subculture advocates for opiate treatment with Ibogaine, defined by a Journal of Neuroscience article from 2005 as,

    “a natural alkaloid extracted from the root bark of the African shrub Tabernanthe Iboga,[that] has attracted attention because of its reported ability to reverse human addiction to multiple drugs of abuse, including alcohol. Human anecdotal reports assert that a single administration of ibogaine reduces craving for opiates and cocaine for extended periods of time and reduces opiate withdrawal symptoms.”

    A 2011 Journal of Legal Medicine review suggested that it is with higher doses that the user experiences the drug’s most intense effects, which are

    “characterized as the “panoramic recall of a large amount of material relating to prior life events from long-term memory, primarily in the visual modality,” or the “waking dream” state. If the user is an addict, he or she will usually be taken back to the place and time where the underlying issue leading to the addiction arose, allowing the addict to gain critical insight into the reasons why he or she abuses.”

    The irony is that, classified as a Schedule I controlled substance, ibogaine is listed in the same highly restricted category as the very drugs it counteracts.

  • avatar

    MaryJane 7:29 pm on March 24, 2012 Permalink  

    Illegal Drugs Treat Alcoholism 

    Drug Policy Question of the Week – 3-19-12

    As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 3-19-12.

    Question of the Week: Can illegal drugs cure alcoholism?

    Several illegal drugs are showing promise for reducing the harm and death associated with alcoholism.

    In 2011, the Journal of Legal Medicine overviewed Ibogaine,

    “… a naturally occurring psychoactive substance derived from the roots of the Tabernanthe iboga shrub … It allowed patients to revisit their past experiences objectively and without the negative emotions experienced during the actual incident, which, in turn, enabled them to confront and resolve deep personal conflicts.”

    The report concluded,

    “ibogaine promises the real possibility of substantially lowering the costs shifted to society by drug and alcohol abuse.”

    A very recent 2012 article in the Journal of Psychopharmacology stated,

    “Numerous clinical investigators have claimed that treating alcoholics with individual doses of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), in combination with psychosocial interventions, can help to prevent a relapse of alcohol misuse, for example, by eliciting insights into behavioural patterns and generating motivation to build a meaningful sober lifestyle.”

    This report concluded,

    “… a single dose of LSD had a significant beneficial effect on alcohol misuse.”

    A 2009 study in the Harm Reduction Journal conducted at the Berkeley Patients Group, a leading medical cannabis dispensary in Berkeley, California, found that

    “research on medical cannabis patients has alluded to the use of cannabis as a substitute for alcohol, illicit or prescription drugs.”

    This report concluded,

    “substitution might be a viable alternative to abstinence for those who are not able, or do not wish to stop using psychoactive substances completely.”

    Unfortunately, all of these substances are banned in the United as Schedule I drugs. Further, the U.S. Attorney for Northern California has just forced the Berkeley Patients Group to close.

    These Facts and others like them can be found in the Drug War Facts Chapters for Ibogaine, Enthogens and Medical Marijuana at

  • avatar

    MaryJane 7:53 pm on March 12, 2012 Permalink  

    Size of Illegal Drug Market 

    Drug Policy Question of the Week – 3-12-12

    As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 3-12-12.

    Question of the Week: What is the size of the global illegal drug market?

    A 1994 report from the United Nations called

    “the traffic in illicit drugs one of the world’s most substantial money earners. The retail value of drugs, at around 500 billion US dollars a year, now exceeds the value of the international trade in oil and is second only to that of the arms trade.”

    The United Nation’s 1997 World Drug Report reduced that estimate stating,

    “[A] growing body of evidence suggests that the true figure lies somewhere around the $US 400 billion level … larger than the international trade in iron and steel, and motor vehicles.”

    A 1998 report from the Transnational Institute with the tongue-in-cheek title, “Let’s All Guess the Size of the Illegal Drugs Industry!” placed the size of the world illegal drug market at between “$45 and $280 billion.”

    Reducing these estimates even further, a 2001 article in World Economics declared,

    “In true trade terms, a more reasonable estimate of the total for illicit drugs—cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and synthetic drugs—is only about $20 to $25 billion annually.”

    The 2005 World Drug Report didn’t back down,

    “[T]he value of the global illicit drug market for the year 2003 was estimated at $13 billion at the production level, at $94 billion at the wholesale level (taking seizures into account), and at 322 billion based on retail prices and taking seizures and other losses into account.”

    Not surprisingly, that 2001 World Economics article concluded,

    “The underlying data that give rise to estimates of global drug markets are riddled with discrepancies and inconsistencies.”

    These Facts, numbers and others like them can be found in the Economics Chapter of Drug War Facts at

  • avatar

    MaryJane 8:02 pm on February 28, 2012 Permalink  

    Race and Prison 

    Drug Policy Question of the Week – 2-28-12

    As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 2-28-12.

    Question of the Week: How many people of color are under the control of the U.S. corrections system?

    In its analysis of racial disparities in California, the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice offered these stark contrasts,

    “Compared to Non-blacks, California’s African-American population are 4 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana, 12 times more likely to be imprisoned for a marijuana felony arrest, and 3 times more likely to be imprisoned per marijuana possession arrest. Overall, these disparities accumulate to 10 times’ greater odds of an African-American being imprisoned for marijuana than other racial/ethnic groups.”

    When minorities go to prison, they become caught up in a criminal justice web that includes, not only federal, state and local prisons, but also probation and parole. A new Drug War Facts table using data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics attempts to provide accurate national estimates concerning their numbers.

    From the table, of the 7.2 million individuals who found themselves in the criminal justice web in 2009, at least 3.6 million or about half belonged to a minority group. Blacks represented about one third, a percentage roughly three times their 12% portion of the U.S. population. The proportion of Hispanics/Latinos held steady over the past 20 years at about 16%. But, when it comes to prison, a consistent 60% of inmates – about 1.3 million – count themselves among those two minority groups.

    As the Drug Policy Alliance lamented,

    “Mass arrests and incarceration of people of color – largely due to drug law violations – have hobbled families and communities by stigmatizing and removing substantial numbers of men and women.”

    These Facts, numbers and others like them can be found in the Race & Prison Chapter of Drug War Facts at


  • avatar

    MaryJane 9:01 pm on February 21, 2012 Permalink  

    Celebrity Overdose 

    Drug Policy Question of the Week – 2-21-12

    As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 2-21-12.

    Question of the Week: Why have there been so many reports of celebrity overdoses?

    From Heath Ledger, to Michael Jackson, to Amy Winehouse, and now to Whitney Houston, celebrity deaths from overdoses of otherwise legal drugs seem to be increasing, and indeed they are.

    A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control outlined these disturbing statistics.

    “In 2009, 1.2 million emer­gency department visits (an increase of 98.4% since 2004) were related to misuse or abuse of pharmaceuticals.”

    The report went on to read,

    “In 2008, a total of 36,450 deaths were attributed to drug overdose … among which a drug was specified in 27,153 deaths. One or more prescription drugs were involved in 20,044 [almost 75%] of the 27,153 deaths, and opiate pain relievers were involved in 14,800 [almost 75%] of the 20,044 prescription drug overdose deaths.”

    U.S. Food and Drug Administration tracks the “serious outcomes” of its approved drugs through its Adverse Event Reporting System. By “serious outcomes,” the FDA means a “death, hospitalization, life-threatening, disability, congenital anomaly and/or other serious outcome” reported to it through the AERS system.

    This system shows a substantial escalation in the number of deaths and serious patient outcomes over the last eleven years. From 2000-2010, “Serious outcomes” numbered 2,816,297, with “deaths” equaling 452,780. These two values grew by well over 50% during the last five years alone.

    An article in the Connecticut Law Review laments that,

    “Prescription drugs are paradoxical: as one of the greatest triumphs of the twentieth century, their powerful chemicals and biologics save many millions of humans from suffering and death; yet, these same chemicals also cause great suffering and death.”

    These facts and others like them in the Causes of Death Chapter of Drug War Facts at

  • avatar

    MaryJane 9:19 pm on February 15, 2012 Permalink  

    Changing Prisoner Numbers 

    Drug Policy Question of the Week – 2-15-12

    As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 2-15-12.

    Question of the Week: Why have the counts of drug prisoners changed?

    Government reports are notoriously foggy when it comes to those incarcerated for “drugs.” Divining these elusive numbers requires a spreadsheet and a detailed search of the Bureau of Justice Statistics for numbers buried in some years, but missing from others. Some numbers must simply be computed.

    This is the case with probation and parole, for which two different values are reported. For example, Appendix Table 15 of the “Probation and Parole in the United States 2009” report displays percentages for “Characteristics of adults on parole,” including those for “Drug” as the “Most Serious Offense.”   This table indicates that 36% of parolees had “Drugs” as their most serious offense in 2009. Multiplying the 819,000 total 2009 parolees times this 36% produces a count of 295,000 of parolees with “Drug” offenses. However, the numeric counts of “drug” parolees reported in the report’s Appendix Table 20 produce a lesser percentage of parolees with drug offenses – 32%. The same problem can be found in the probation numbers.

    Further, reports going back to 1990 contain these kinds of percentages, enabling better trending.

    Thus, the new Drug War Facts table that displays the number persons under the control of the U.S. corrections system has been updated with numbers derived from the percentage of total calculations.

    Here’s the bottom line. Over 1.7 million probationers, parolees and state and federal prisoners were under the control of the U.S. corrections in 2009 with “drugs” as their most serious offense. This represents over one quarter of the estimated 7.3 million individuals on probation, parole or in prison that year.

    These facts and others like them in the Prisons & Drug Offenders Chapter of Drug War Facts at

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