Drug addiction is responsible for one quarter of all deaths worldwide. Ninety-five percent of untreated addicts die from their addiction, while ninety-seven percent of addicts never seek any treatment. Images of substance abuse are prevalent throughout society. It has been reported that the average twenty year old has seen over 200,000 television commercials encouraging the use of alcohol and tobacco. All addicts will experience a time when they will crave the drug on which they depend, but none will be available and they will suffer withdrawal symptoms. The immediate response is to get the drug to relieve the pain of withdrawal. The reason for withdrawal is that drugs affect the cells of the body and the body counteracts with its own chemicals and adaptation. When the drug on which an addict is dependent is absent from his system, the body continues counteracting the drug even though it is no longer present. This causes irritation, mood swings, insomnia, stress, as well as emotional and physical pain. Acute withdrawal is a definite sign of dependency and addiction. In order to break an addiction, one needs total abstinence from the drug. Help is available through rehabilitation and professional counseling. Although the addiction may seem impossible to overcome, the trial of withdrawal will be small compared to the grip of addiction. Overcoming addiction is much easier with external help: physical, mental and spiritual. Substance abuse is a common illness and freedom can and should be found. Doctors for Life is here to help, please call.
USA – Los Angeles bans marijuana shops
The Los Angeles City Council has voted to ban marijuana shops outright until it has clearer guidance from the state’s highest court, after being unable to rein in the hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries that have cropped up across the nation’s second largest city. The 13-1 vote drew an angry, profanity-laced response from some medical marijuana advocates who attended the council meeting. If approved by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the storefront ban would go into effect after 30 days. In the interim, letters will be sent to as many as 900 dispensaries advising them of the ban. The city has fumbled with its medical marijuana laws for years, trying to provide access to the drug for so-called ‘marijuana patients’ while addressing worries by neighborhood groups that streets were being overrun by dispensaries and marijuana users.
Although marijuana is illegal in the USA, California became the first of about 15 states to decriminalize the use of marijuana in 1996 for medicinal use, with a doctor’s recommendation. Therefore, by banning marijuana dispensaries, Los Angeles is setting a precedent. Many cities have struggled with medical marijuana ordinances, but none has had a bigger problem than Los Angeles, where pot shops have proliferated. At one point, the city ordered closure of the shops — a process that failed amid lawsuits and conflicting rulings by appellate courts. The state Supreme Court has decided to clarify marijuana’s hazy legal status by addressing whether local governments can ban medical marijuana clinics but a hearing has yet to be set by the high court.
“We need to start with a clean slate,” Councilman Mitchell Englander said before the vote. “Los Angeles has experimented with marijuana and has failed.” At least 178 California cities from Calistoga to Camarillo and 20 counties already have banned retail marijuana shops, according to the medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access. Reflecting the murky language of the state’s medical marijuana laws, a handful of dispensaries have successfully challenged such local prohibitions in court along with laws that merely sought to regulate dispensaries.
Most recently, an appeals court in Southern California struck down Los Angeles County’s 2-year-old ban on dispensaries, ruling that state law allows co-operatives and collectives to grow, store and distribute marijuana. But in a separate case, an appeals court said federal law pre-empts local municipalities from allowing pot clinics. The hearing came a day after a priest, drug counselors and others decried crime and other social problems they say surround neighborhood marijuana dispensaries. Among those who spoke at that gathering was a woman who complained about having to push her baby’s stroller through clouds of marijuana smoke near dispensaries in her East Hollywood neighborhood.
Harm Reduction: More than just Side Effects Dr. A. van Eeden
The recent stance of the managing editor of the South African Medical Journal  in favour of the extremely controversial practice of decriminalizing drugs of abuse is both surprising and disconcerting.
When last has he sat in front of a drug addict who has lost their family through being addicted to drugs, or lost a job through accidents in the workplace related to cannabis abuse ? Or treated drug addicts from Switzerland, where they have failed to regulate substance abuse by providing clean needles, syringes and drugs.
Medical Science is exploding with new research that proves the harmful effects of marijuana use including:
• Causing psychosis in healthy people. 
• Harming teenage brains. 
• Increased risk of testicular cancer. 
• Poor foetal development. 
• Suppression of the immune system. 
The argument that we cannot root out drug abuse by keeping it a crime is irrelevant. Historically, not a single crime has been rooted out but we are not considering decriminalizing murder, rape, theft and fraud. To use the example of Jackie Selebi to legalize drugs is inappropriate.
The editor quotes that more harm is caused by legal drugs such as tobacco and alcohol than illegal drugs, ignoring that legalizing them appears to increase the harm. The implications of legalizing drugs to benefit the economy are vast:
• Politoxicomania. The very costly methadone distribution program in Zurich showed that almost all recipients consumed additional drugs and practically none of them stopped. 
• The financial implications of increased accidents in the workplace. Studies have shown that over 50% are drug related. 
• Increased work absenteeism. USA Postal Service employees who tested positive for drugs were absent 43% more often. 
• Medical claims and theft at work are tripled by drug abuse. 
The editor of the SAMJ quotes the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, but fails to mention the UNODC’s 52nd session of the Annual Commission on Narcotic Drugs March 2009, to which South Africa is a co-signatory. When some parties tried to include Harm Reduction policies (such as the managing editor is supporting), Sweden, Russia, Japan, the USA, Colombia, Sri Lanka and Cuba refused to sign the document unless the reference to harm reduction was removed.
The Alaska Supreme Court ruled in 1975 that the state could not interfere with an adult’s possession of marijuana for personal consumption in the home. A 1988 University of Alaska study showed that 12 to 17-year-olds used marijuana at more than twice the national average for their age group. Alaska’s residents voted in 1990 to re-criminalize the possession of marijuana.
In Holland the government started closing down “coffee shops” because many of them became outlets for the illegal drug trade, providing illegal amounts of cannabis and supplying underage children with the drug. After 15 years they have been unable to separate the illegal crime related activities from the legal. It looks like Holland has slipped into the quagmire of the slippery slope.
The U.K. reclassified marijuana as a less harmful Class C drug but moved it back to a more dangerous Class B drug in January 2009.
Doctors for Life International are all in favour of doing more as far as the rehabilitation of drug addicts is concerned. However, we feel that a prison sentence as an alternative to rehabilitation is a powerful incentive for substance abusers to seek help. To this end we would argue for more government funding for established rehabilitation units and NGO’s, who to a large extent have taken over the responsibility of the government in this regard.
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