The Family Council on Drug Awareness
"Responsible decisions based on accurate information."
New alternatives in drug abuse treatment.
Proposition 36: Sacramento Bee's political analysis below.
On Nov. 7, 2000, California voters passed treatment, not prison, by a wide margin. Here is an excerpt of the July 17, 2001 CNN interview with Asa Hutchinson, nominated to head the DEA.
QUESTION: One of the biggest debates you'll be facing is the idea of incarceration and or treatment. Last fall California by a landslide, 61 to 38 percent passed so called proposition 36 which tells the state for first or second drug offenses, no drug treatment. Good idea?
HUTCHINSON: We have to wait and see. We have to look at alternatives when it comes to nonviolent drug users. I think that it should not be something that's mandatory. The judges should have discretion on this. I'm a advocate of drug courts, which mandate intensive treatment efforts over a long period of time, close supervision, as an alternative to jail for drug users and -- but I don't know that it should be mandated in every case.
I think that the Judges should have some discretion there. But we will have to wait and see how it works in California.
-- Chris Conrad, Family Council on Drug Awareness.
I attended the ibogaine conference at New York University over the weekend of Nov 5-6, 1999. After attending, I do not consider ibogaine to be a "cure" for addiction in the sense that antibiotics are a "cure" for infection, but I do think that it is potentially a highly effective treatment for many individuals with substance abuse problems, and that it is time for the reform movement to give more consideration and serious support to this substance.
For those who do not know, ibogaine is a derivative of an african plant, Tabernathe iboga, that has a psychedelic aspect that involves long term memory stimulation and an openness to life changes. It has received support from NIDA for animal research, and the FDA has approved phase 1 studies in humans. No major pharmaceutical company has undertaken its development.
First off, the conference did not present ibogaine as a one treatment miracle drug. It has major potential for the treatment of addictions, including alcohol, tobacco, opiates and cocain. It is not a maintenance drug, it is a treatment. Its major effect is as a detoxifying drug that eliminates withdrawal symptoms and ehnances the desire and ability to stop using hard drugs. It is most effective as an entry tool into rehab. Most people relapse to their addiction and need multiple treatments, but not maintenance doses such as are required by methadone. It is not a substitute, and it is not a cure: it is a treatment. Its success appears primarily to be as an interupter that needs two things to succeed: 1) the desire to change and 2) a change in environment away from the previous drug-use scene. In the cases of alcohol and tobacco there seem to be enough social support in most people's current environment that a change in environment is not necessary, just a desire to change.
Ibogaine does have toxic effects, and there is a safer cogener called noribogaine. There has been one death reported in Holland, in which someone apparently used heroin in a clinic bathroom after taking the ibogaine. For that reason, close observation of the subject at all times during the first day is absolutely essential.
While ibogaine appears to be very effective at interrupting hard drug abuse on the mid- to long-term basis, it has received little pharmaceutical company interest to develop it because of the small size of the addict market and the social stigma attached to them (as well as the general lack of insurance and money on the part of most addicts to pay for their treatment).
For this reason it appears that the best approach would be to get corporate research funding to work on treating alcohol and tobacco addiction, then segway into the addict community, or else to have local communities and universities sponsor the research into the harm reduction potential of the drug. It is important to remember that it will also require the creation of a support network for recovering addicts to prevent their relapse, which is why local political support for such a program is essential to its ultimate success.
There is significant research on this plant, and much more is needed. I am thinking of networking with some elected officials and academia to see if there is a possibility for getting a pilot program going in the San Francisco Bay area (SF or Oakland). If anyone can help with this, I will appreciate your support and any contacts that you can offer. Thanks to Cures Not Wars for sponsoring my attendance.
To learn more about ibogaine, visit ibogaine.org/
Drug-war weary: Voters mandate a radical change in drug strategy
On Election Day, California voters grown weary of business as usual in the war on drugs sent politicians an unmistakable message: "Time out. Let's rethink our strategy." A huge majority of voters -- more than 60 percent -- approved Proposition 36, which requires judges to sentence nonviolent first-time drug users to treatment rather than to jail or prison.
Voter approval signals a remarkable turning point. Nearly every law enforcement interest in California strongly opposed Proposition 36. Police, prosecutors and judges issued dire warnings that the initiative would lead to greater drug abuse. Gov. Gray Davis opposed the measure, as did Attorney General Bill Lockyer. The state's newspapers were nearly unanimous in opposition. But voters roundly rejected their counsel, voting overwhelmingly for treatment over incarceration. Mindless "tough on crime" rhetoric was rejected; voters said they want their government to be "smart on crime," not just punitive.
Many Proposition 36 opponents, including The Bee, strongly supported the need for more treatment but feared that by removing even the threat of jail, the initiative would provide too few incentives for drug users to succeed in treatment and too few tools for law enforcement to control drug trafficking, particularly in vulnerable poor neighborhoods.
But now that Proposition 36 is the law, it is the responsibility of state and county officials to make it work. At the state level, Davis needs to beef up the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, the agency that will dispense the $120 million annually that Proposition 36 authorizes for drug treatment. In the two years since he was elected governor, Davis had not even appointed a director of the department - an omission that speaks volumes about government's wrongheaded, dangerous and cruel neglect of treatment. At the county level, supervisors will need to provide more resources and attention to the perennially underfunded and understaffed probation departments.
Under the initiative, probation officers are charged with monitoring the thousands of drug addicts who will now be sentenced to treatment in the community instead of to jail or to prison. Treatment programs must be monitored to ensure legitimacy. Thoughtful critics of government drug policies have been clamoring for a shift in approach; voters have now handed them a radical transformation.
Success can come only with coordinated efforts at every level -- a challenge government cannot afford to fail.
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Content (c) 2000-2004. Family Council on Drug Awareness (FCDA), El Cerrito CA