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Could strict drug laws damage our health?

August 17th, 2011

The effectiveness of the ongoing war on substance abuse in Hungary draws an ironic commentary from a liberal commentator. Young Hungarians are turning to designer drugs sold as fertilizers, instead of traditional drugs. They may prove even more harmful.

“No one thought it would be this easy. NGOs and whingeing human rights groups  tried to convince people that it makes no sense to declare war on drugs;  proper education, prevention and information are more effective. But by the summer of 2011 our drug laws – the harshest in Europe – have proven successful,” liberal commentator András Földes writes in Index.hu, mocking the government’s tough stance on drugs. Toughness, he contends, has simply diverted consumption from one kind of drugs to another.

The Hungarian press has reported extensively on the increasing popularity of designer drugs. Young Hungarians are buying less marijuana, the reports suggest, but are turning instead to cheap and easily accessible designer drugs that are sold legally as fertilizer, bath salts or bedding-plants. The government has promised to introduce a new drug law in the second half of 2011. Government politicians say that the new regulations will criminalize not only dealers working for profit, but also drug users who share substances with friends.

Földes doubts that further criminalization could help roll back substance abuse. The current very strict and anti-liberal drug laws have only redirected people from the traditional drugs to designer drugs sold legally on the internet and in plant shops. As soon as a designer drug is put on the list of banned substances, the producers come out with a new version.

These substances may prove an even bigger health risk. Földes gives the example of the  so-called ’crocodile’ drug used as a cheap replacement for heroin. The flesh of crocodile-addicts starts to rot, and most users die within three years.

Further criminalization would only help ‘improve’ statistics which focus on traditional drugs – showing a drop in consumption. And would take the burden of  prevention off the shoulders of the government, Földes concludes.

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