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Old 2003-08-01, 17:46   #1
graeme
 
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Jul 2003

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Default what wrong with this?

Hi everybody,

There is an arguement against soft drugs that is trotted out nearly every time I see or hear discussion about it. It goes something like this:

Nearly everyone who uses hard drugs started out using soft drugs, therefore to combat hard drug use we have to stop soft drug use too. Therefore we should ban soft drug use.

My puzzle is simply this - what's wrong with this?

(I'm not asking whether drug use is good or bad - I don't want answers along those lines - but what's wrong with the above arguement).

Happy logical thinking,

Graeme
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Old 2003-08-01, 18:02   #2
ET_
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"Luigi"
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Maybe the two populations represent sets of independent and unrelated variables?

It sounds like the coin shuffle paradox...

Luigi
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Old 2003-08-01, 18:26   #3
apocalypse
 
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Let's see... for starters:

1) We don't know how many current hard drug users who started with soft drugs would have gone directly to hard drugs if soft drugs were not available.

2) We don't know how many current soft drugs users would be hard drug users if their needs were not met by soft drugs.

If the populations in 1 & 2 are both small, we would expect banning soft drugs to decrease the number of hard drug users. If the populations are both large we would expect a ban to increase the number of hard drug users.
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Old 2003-08-02, 03:23   #4
cheesehead
 
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Default Re: what wrong with this?

Quote:
Originally Posted by graeme
Hi everybody,

There is an arguement against soft drugs that is trotted out nearly every time I see or hear discussion about it. It goes something like this:

Nearly everyone who uses hard drugs started out using soft drugs, therefore to combat hard drug use we have to stop soft drug use too. Therefore we should ban soft drug use.

My puzzle is simply this - what's wrong with this?
(A) The average young person to whom this type of argument is directed needs about 1.5 seconds to notice the simplistic and hypocritical nature of the argument -- on first hearing, that is. Thereafter, the recognition time approaches zero.

(B) Simply substitute "milk", "bread", or "air" for "soft drug(s)".

Nearly everyone who uses hard drugs started out drinking milk, therefore to combat hard drug use we have to stop milk-drinking too. Therefore we should ban milk-drinking.

... or ...

Nearly everyone who uses hard drugs started out eating bread, therefore to combat hard drug use we have to stop bread-eating too. Therefore we should ban bread-eating.

Nearly everyone who uses hard drugs started out breathing air, therefore ...

It could be better to retain the verb "use" instead:

Nearly everyone who uses hard drugs started out using water, therefore to combat hard drug use we have to stop water use too. Therefore we should ban water use.

(C) But some might object that those substitutions are absurd. So try just substituting "ink" for "ug":

Nearly everyone who uses hard drinks started out using soft drinks, therefore to combat hard drink use we have to stop soft drink use too. Therefore we should ban soft drink use.

Then you can append a note about the current dentists' campaign on radio. In case you haven't heard it, it goes something like "The American Dental Association and your local dentists want to remind you teens that if you sip soft drinks all day, you'll get tooth decay." (with just enough emphasis on the "day/decay" rhyme to punch up its impact).

- - - - -

But, having said all that, I'll throw in a contrary:

In the context of this particular "hard drugs"/"soft drugs" argument, as is often the case the adjective "illegal" is left unsaid. From experience, we all know that what is meant to be the subject here is use of illegal drugs, not just use of any old drugs such as caffeine and nicotine.

Why has our society decided to enact legal prohibitions on some drugs but not others? Though to some extent it's just politics, it's been widely, if not universally, recognized that the use of some types of drugs is detrimental to society because the users, while under the influence, tend to make choices that are harmful to society as a whole. E.g., violence, theft, abandonment of long-term productive work, and self-destruction through bodily health effects.

But only recently has scientific study clarified the mechanism by which some addictive drugs operate.

Basically, opiates and other addictive drugs have been found to "hijack" some of the human body's basic biochemical subsystems that usually operate to help people make rational positive pro-survival choices. They convert some basic survival instincts into very powerful drives to maintain addiction to the drug. This conversion results in the harmful effects as above.

I favor using these findings to design means to discourage use of undesirably addictive drugs. I'm not claiming this is a universal answer, just that it could be more effective than any current Drug War tactics for some fraction of the population. I presume I'm not the first to think of this, and that such plans are already in progress somewhere where it'll do some good.
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Old 2003-08-02, 17:23   #5
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I won't allow my children to participate in DARE "education" for precisely this reason. They're smart little buggers and they would spot the logical and statistical fallacies and outright lies with just a little thinking. I don't want them to get the sense that everything bad said about drugs is true just because some people use lies and misleading information to try to manipulate them into not taking drugs. I've already talked to my 8 year old daughter about things like her grandfather's struggle to quit smoking, what addiction is, what kinds of drugs are physically addicting, what kinds of drugs are not, and why some are addicting to some people and not others. We've had discussions about the societal effects of making drugs illegal, and what might happen if drugs were made legal.

I don't want to have my daughter end up like some children I've seen. I was at a dinner once where wine was being served, and one of the moms gave an amusing demonstration of how well her son had been indoctrinated against drugs and alcohol. She called him over and offered him some wine, and he made a face and said, "Mom, alcohol is bad!" and stalked off. I can only guess what effect her (and her husband, as well as many other adults he knows) drinking alcohol when he is being told in school that alcohol is bad is going to have on him in the long run.
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Old 2003-08-02, 19:30   #6
Orgasmic Troll
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The only reason that I haven't done a single illegal drug in my life (unlike my fellow DARE grads) is because my ex-hippie mother sat me down and told me every little aspect of her drug use, from the good to the bad to getting over addiction and how many things in her life she screwed up..

and even with all that, it's still been a fine line. It's really hard to find a solid reason for yourself not to do *anything* when the majority of people are at the least smoking weed. If you have kids and they tell you that it seems like everybody is smoking weed, BELIEVE THEM, it's not much of an exaggeration. Ultimately, there is nothing you can do or say to prevent kids from experimenting, but if you're honest and tell them the truth, they won't mess up their lives with it.

as a side note on the prevalance of marijuana, I applied for a 911 Dispatcher position, and I had to disclose any crimes I had ever committed whether I was caught or not, and at every step of the process, they were shocked and slightly taken aback that I had never done anything at all. The supervisor and chief of police told me in my 2nd interview "Now, we're going to give you a lie detector test, and if it swings the wrong way when we ask you about drug use, you will no longer be eligible for this job .. I just wanted to say this again because it's so rare that we get someone in who has never tried anything even once"

It's kind of disheartening
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Old 2003-08-03, 04:29   #7
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Did you get the job?

I have never knowingly tried any illegal drugs, but I once got a contact high from a bunch of guys smoking pot in a bus station waiting room where I was nervously waiting for my bus to arrive. I didn't like the sensation at all, so I've never felt any inclination to try any for real (not to mention that I grew up with a father who smoked like a chimney, and the thought of smoking anything is rather repulsive, plus I ended up with asthma at the age of 35).

A lot of people think that those who favor drug legalization just want it because they're a bunch of druggies, but I favor it on a rights basis (it's my body, I'll do with it what I please, please do hold me responsible for any consequences, however), and the fact that the societal harm is less with drugs legalized than with them illegal.
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Old 2003-08-03, 07:11   #8
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Years ago when I wanted to be a cop, the testing process required a polygraph examination.(They still do , but who cares now.) When it came time for the inevitable question of "Have you used illicit drugs?" I answered truthfully, saying "No."

As one would guess, I did not get the job. Not because they thought I lied and used drugs, but because they didn't believe I had not and therefore could beat the polygraph.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
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Old 2003-08-03, 13:06   #9
nomadicus
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by outlnder
. . . they didn't believe I had not [used drugs] and therefore could beat the polygraph.
Protect the guilty and punish the innocent. What has our society come to?

Why not legalize drugs? (this is a libertarian POV which I don't support) Get some quality control, create legit jobs, get rid of the black market, create a new source for taxes, etc.
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Old 2003-08-03, 20:57   #10
graeme
 
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Hi All,

glad to see my little "drug problem" got so much attention. For those who still care about it, cheesehead just about answered it all.
There is no logical connection between taking hard drugs after taking doft drugs.
It is a logical falacy which even has a name "post hoc, ergo proctor hoc" - it happens after it so it must be caused by it [those of you who watch The West Wing may recognise this as one of the episode titles.]

The logically significant figure in this arguement is; what fraction of people who use soft drugs then go on to use hard drugs? If this is a large fraction, then you could claim that you can combat hard drugs by combating soft drugs. if it is small or at least about the same percentage in the population at large, then the argument is false.

This figure is is quite hard to obtain with any confidence (which is partly why it's never used in the debates I was talking about) ,mostly because it's hard to estimate the number of soft drug users (in the UK at least), since most of the policing effort is biased towards hard drugs.

Graeme
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Old 2003-08-03, 21:44   #11
cheesehead
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by graeme
For those who still care about it, cheesehead just about answered it all.
There is no logical connection between taking hard drugs after taking doft drugs.
There is a logical connection between taking hard drugs after taking soft drugs -- it's just not as simple as the "Nearly ..." argument.

But the latter is probably what you meant to say.

Quote:
The logically significant figure in this arguement is; what fraction of people who use soft drugs then go on to use hard drugs? If this is a large fraction, then you could claim that you can combat hard drugs by combating soft drugs. if it is small or at least about the same percentage in the population at large, then the argument is false.
I disagree. What counts are the reasons why people use soft and hard drugs. Looking at a percentage is just a quick step in guessing whether there's a significant correlation.

Quote:
This figure is is quite hard to obtain with any confidence (which is partly why it's never used in the debates I was talking about)
IMHO at least some debaters don't even try to use that figure even if they have some confident basis for it, because it has less value than quoting it would suggest.
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