Latest Drug War News

GoodShop: You Shop...We Give!

Shop online at and a percentage of each purchase will be donated to our cause! More than 600 top stores are participating!

The Internet Our Website

The Anti-Addiction Pill

By Gary Callahan, Prisoner of the Drug War

In the first week of August newspapers across the country carried the story of GVG (gamma vinyl-GABA). This is a medication widely used in Europe to control epilepsy, but is also proving valuable in curing certain kinds of drug addiction. GVG has been thoroughly tested on humans, has no deleterious side effects, and is known to be safe. It not only blocks the high from cocaine and heroin, but also eliminates craving and drug-seeking behavior. Scientists have discovered that a brain induced neurotransmitter called dopamine causes the pleasurable effects of cocaine, but a now a wide variety of stimulants have also been linked to dopamine, including alcohol, sex and even chocolate. It has proven an amazing fact, with far reaching implications: pleasures, of whatever sort, trace back to a single chemical in the brain. However, GVG increases the level of an enzyme called GABA which inhibits dopamine production. The coming possibilities medically, sociologically and philosophically are profound: there is a pill that will cure addiction.

Since the government bases the preponderance of its enforcement authority upon the addictive quality of each illicit drug, penalty schedules for possession of, or trafficking in illegal substances are entirely predicated upon their alleged potential for abuse, which translates into addiction. (With the glaring, but fiscally handy exceptions of alcohol and nicotine).

Now comes a medication which completely bulldozes the government's lofty moral high ground. What rationale remains, therefore, for the harshness of punishment dealt out to those who use or traffic in these substances once the specter of addiction is removed from the equation?

Several lesser arguments will persist, all of which lose at least partial force with a cure for addiction squatting squarely on the horizon. One such argument is the Child Wedge, that children must be protected from taking drugs, something we all very much agree upon. We note that severe penalties are already employed in that regard to those who sell such substances to minors. Moreover is the basic fact that the rest of us aren't children, we resent federal insistence that government become some monstrous surrogate nanny over us, and it hasn't constitutional authority to do so anyway.

The second argument revolves around drugs in the workplace. Drugs in the workplace can be problematical, but it is worth mentioning that American workers have no peers on the face of Earth as far as productivity goes. Not even the vaunted Japanese work longer, harder, nor do they produce more than the average American. It has been this way for as long as we have existed as a country with no change in sight. Perhaps this is in large part because of all the caffeine, nicotine, amphetamine and alcohol we consume to get us through the working day and even beyond it. It dulls the pain caused from being hive creatures.

The most specious argument left is the "fun equals sin" dogma, the centuries old chanson of religiosity. The emerging question is, are these remaining arguments enough to sustain mass imprisonment and its accompanying massive social damage? Is the Child Wedge, the Work Wedge and the Religious Wedge enough to sustain the current rage to punish, once the problem of addiction is rendered a nullity? We don't think so.

Joseph Califano, who heads the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (C.A.S.A.), said he "welcomed anything that helps," adding that "substance abuse is America's biggest problem." This statement is at odds with the President's recent comments denying that the United States has a national drug crisis, but rather regional areas in which drug abuse is too high. As usual, truth becomes another casualty, but fact is that Joseph Califano uses hyperbole to a shameless extent.

And now, suddenly, a pill to cure addiction. We submit that had the government invested but a small fraction of its drug war largesse into this kind of research, the pill would have long since become available. Time Magazine, for instance, carried a cover story on dopamine and addiction research in May of 1997 and independent studies, often proceeding on shoestring budgets, have been going on for several years now. But then again, this government has an overwhelming interest in the status quo, with criminal justice, law enforcement, drug counseling and prison empires at stake. Urine testing is a $600 million enterprise in the U.S. Would the government actually want to see a medication marketed that would in a single stroke remove its chief reason for keeping drugs illegal? We bet not, and that, my friends, tells you just how illegitimate drug policy is in this country.

Working to end drug war injustice

Meet the People Behind The U.S. Sentencing Guidelines

Questions or problems? Contact