Friday, March 03, 2006

It’s That Big Black Boat in the Charlestown Navy Yard

The other day I filled a prescription at CVS. The nice folks at CVS (and all the other pharmacies in Massachusetts) had to make me show my ID before they’d fill it. The pharmacist wrote some notes on the prescription slip and handed me my driver’s license back. This normally doesn’t happen but Ritalin is a Schedule II Controlled Substance. Two things bother me about that course of events.

The first is that potentially I would not receive crucial life supporting medications if I didn’t know how to drive a car. Sure I could use a passport or some other official state issued ID. Because I need something the government thinks I shouldn’t have except in the most extreme cases I am forced to identify myself to the government and request some form of identification. At some level you lose the right to hide from the government if you need certain drugs. Mind you this isn’t law. It’s a ‘regulation’ that the pharmacies comply with in order to keep their license. They are required by law to have a license.

Don’t forget I had a prescription from a local doctor and one that I’ve filled before. So my right to engage in a lawful transaction with a private company anonymously has been regulated away in order to protect me from what? Someone who forges prescriptions. I don’t need protection from someone who’s only hurting themselves. Prescription drug abuse is a growing form of addiction in the US. It says so on CNN. So what. Let them get clean pharmaceuticals. It beats having them try to cook up drugs in their own kitchen. Anyway, fuck’em. If they want to be junkies on Oxycontin let them. At least they’ll be out of my way in the job market. But junkies aren’t good little workers who contribute to our consumer culture. See now that’s really the problem here. Junkies don’t need fuck all when they’ve got a good hillbilly heroin addiction. Junkies commit crimes to support their habit. Maybe, maybe not. The crime rate goes up when junkies get desperate. Give them a cheap clean high and they’ll stay out of your hair.

The other thing that bothers me is that the Scheduling System is a backdoor to prohibition but without proper ratification. In the first half of the last century there was Prohibition, Constitutionally amended. The law of the land was no alcohol for sale. Alcohol flowed like, well, any fast flowing liquid from one state to another. Alcohol was so easy to get because there was such a high demand. It didn’t work out. The government realized the amendment was a failure. They won’t make that mistake again.

Now in order to protect me from drugs the government hasn’t outlawed drugs, they’ve regulated them just out of reach. Slowly they’ve slipped in a system of classifying chemicals and made regulations on how they may be handled and sold. These regulations are loosely tied to taxes and interstate commerce. Anything on the Schedule I is absolutely forbidden. Schedule II is still forbidden but there’s an exception, if you ask nicely a physician will give you a permission slip and as long as you are known to the government you can have your medicine. This works out nicely for the physician, you have to get a prescription every thirty days. That's $1200 a year for three hours work.

The higher a drug is listed on the Schedule the easier it is to get. Schedule V drugs can be prescribed by some nurses, dental hygenists or just asking the pharmacist. Drugs are Scheduled not by scientists who have done exhaustive peer reviewed studies on their safety. Drugs are listed on the Schedule on the whims of law enforcement agents who have no demonstrable scientific background. They find a bunch of stoners abusing some anti-cancer drug on a Saturday night it goes down a tick on the Schedule. Make it harder for those junkies to get. If it gets really popular or there’s a particularly damning study that they can point at it goes Schedule I. Mind you they don’t have to understand the study, they just have to point at it. Cancer patients can have fun dying.

The study doesn’t even have to be accurate. It can even be retracted by other scientific evidence. It doesn’t matter. Drugs don’t come off Schedule I. That would be admitting to a mistake. Ecstasy doesn’t burn holes in the brain. The one published study that made this claim has been retracted. The researchers were supplied with mislabeled bottles of research materials. After years of other scientists failing to reproduce the results of the study the principle investigator discovered the error. Ecstasy is still Schedule I despite a growing body of evidence of its usefulness in therapeutic settings.

Sadly, although it’s not a law, you and I have no right to privacy at the pharmacy. Also, prohibition didn’t work when it was written into the Constitution. What makes anyone think that prohibition by a myriad of confusing regulations is going to stop a junky from getting high? After all, teenagers can’t buy beer but they have no problem finding drugs. In the mean time, my pharmacist treats me like I’m about to commit a crime when all I want is the medicine that helps me feel normal.

“Prohibition? HA! They tried that in the movies and it didn't work”. Homer Jay Simpson who more Americans know then who know The Bill of Rights.

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