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May 12, 2014 - Harry Eagar
If this story about India did not come from a usually trustworthy news source, I would have a hard time believing it:
"About 40 percent of Punjabis 15 to 25 years of age were addicted to some kind of narcotic, and 48 percent of farmers and laborers are addicts, according to a 2011 government report."
It is difficult for me to conceive of a society with addiction rates that high (though I am not clear exactly what "addiction" means here; it has been demonstrated, for example, that people who are addicted to heroin can work steadily, as long as they do not have to spend all their time getting more heroin).
I had recently read a persuasive argument for legalizing drugs, but am not yet convinced.
My argument, in simplest form, goes thus:
If a hit of crack cocaine/heroin/whiskey/name your poison costs less than a pack of cigarette, then what is it that prevents nearly everybody from using the poison? At least in America, when crack got down to $2, usage did not then become as common as chewing gum. (It is irrelevant to the proposition what comparison is used; when I first began thinking along these lines, a pack of smokes was around $3. Cigarettes are relatively higher now, but I don't see the smokers I know giving up. They try, lately by vaping. Most have ended up giving up vaping, but a few now vape and smoke both. This applies even to those for whom buying tobacco means not eating regularly.)
The barrier is not religion or fear of the law, for the most part. A hundred years ago, when addictive drugs (except alcohol) were hardly regulated in the U.S., I don't think addiction rates got as high as 48% even in heavily addicted sectors.
It seems clear to me that a big factor in addiction is a personal propensity for risk-taking. I have a friend who used to be addicted to snorting coke. A spell in prison and a near-death overdose got her off snow but not off excitement. She started running up bills she could not pay, for the thrill of evading bill collectors.
Not appealing to me, but to some people.
It is also true that social pressure has a lot to do with it. Perhaps this is what happens in Punjab.
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