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Japan's drugs policy: Punish or treat?

22 Comments

Three celebrities were arrested in November in connection with narcotics – actress Erika Sawajiri, 33; former singer and comedian Masashi Tashiro, 63; and Olympic snowboarder Kazuhiro Kokubo, 31. The notoriety their professions assure them must be gratifying as a symbol of success and mass admiration, but it has its price. Social media hammered them: “What, again?” “Don’t they ever learn?”

Spa! (Dec 3-10) asks: “To punish, or to treat?” with respect to drug addiction. Clearly, Japan’s tendency to punish is not only a judicial predilection but a social one. It’s misguided, says Spa!. Europe and, more gradually, the U.S. are shifting away from punishment to treatment. The results they are achieving are worthy of Japan’s notice.

Sawajiri’s case generated the most headlines, but Spa! focuses mainly on Tashiro. He grew up in a troubled family and graduated to entertainment from adolescent involvement in bosozoku (motorcycle gangs). His first of numerous narcotics-related arrests was for amphetamine use in 2001. In and out of jail, he was paroled in 2014 and underwent rehabilitation. Five clean years followed.

“The image of Tashiro under a hood being hustled off to the police station was replayed endlessly on TV,” says Tsukuba University psychologist Takayuki Harada. “In April 2016, the U.N. General Assembly reaffirmed its commitment to protect the human rights and dignity of drug users. Tashiro’s punishment, not only legal but in the kangaroo court of public opinion, violates the spirit of the U.N. resolution.”

It violates common sense too, Spa! maintains. European and American research has shown that treatment in prison reduces recidivism by 15 percent; treatment in freedom reduces it by 30 percent. There’s a cost factor too. Imprisonment is expensive. Each prisoner costs the state on average 3.8 million yen a year. Suppose instead a drug addict undergoes treatment instead at a live-in facility. The cost, according to U.S. data, is 1.29 million yen. Out-patient treatment is more economical still: 290,000 yen.

Decriminalization, moreover, says Harada, allows an addict to seek treatment without fearing arrest. In Japan, addicts who wants to quit may well hesitate to come forward, prolonging their misery and deepening their addiction.

Does treatment work? Tashiro’s apparent relapse raises doubts – wrongly, argues addiction therapist Akiyoshi Saito. Relapses, he explains, are par for the course: “You might even say they’re part of the cure.” Far from meriting opprobrium, “Tashiro on the contrary deserves credit for staying clean for five years.”

It would be a shame, he adds, if prison were to interrupt Tashiro’s treatment. “There are treatment programs in prison, but they’re less effective than those in society.”

It was a Japanese chemist, ironically enough, who was the first to synthesize methamphetamine – in 1893. His name is Nagayoshi Nagai (1844-1929). Sent in 1871 by the modernizing Meiji government to study in Berlin, he went on to become Japan’s first doctor of pharmacy. Spa! reminds us of a wisp of history long forgotten: In World War Two, Japanese and allied armies alike routinely supplied their soldiers with meth – to keep them awake and alert through the long, bitter and exhausting hours, days, months and years of slaughter.

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

22 Comments
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Both.

Japan's strict stance on drugs has ensured that the country has been largely free of the scourge of drugs, thus saving countless lives.

In my country, soft punishments, safe injecting rooms and and overly sympathetic approach has fed an explosion in drug dependency with many lives lost and ruined as a result.

For those who get caught, strict punishment plus sympathetic rehabilitation.

-6 ( +5 / -11 )

Criminal enforcement of a health issue has been a failed policy that people are still pushing after nearly four decades of failure. It shows the degree of brainwashing world wide, and it shows which people are unable to rethink their positions to see something that is very easy to understand logically and is right in front of their faces. It also shows just how effective brainwashing is - an idea can be put into the people’s heads and cause us all to think illogically on a species level.

All that needs to be done is to convince the people to push the illogical behaviour is to convince them it’s an issue of morality. If people think it’s an issue of morality, they will even ignore clear logical fallacies, such as one intoxicant (alcohol) being fine morally simply because the brainwashers said that one is ok, while the other ones are morally wrong because the brainwashers said so.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Death toll from drugs in Japan: almost zero.

Death toll from drugs in permissive societies: millions

Japan must be doing something right. The compassionate thing to do would be to copy them.

-12 ( +2 / -14 )

Western style 'compassion' has completely lost it's way.

Soft drug policies which lead to explosive addiction issues, death and ruined lives. Parents can no longer discipline thier kids for fear of being labelled abusers, leading to a generation of entitled brats with no fear of authority.

Police and the justice system give violent criminal teens slaps on the wrist, leading criminal teens gangs terrorizing neighborhoods.

I'm all for compassion and a restorative based justice, but not Western style.

For the sake of the welfare of its people, the Japanese should retain their hard line stance on drugs while introducing more compassionate rehabilitation programs.

-8 ( +2 / -10 )

Western style 'compassion' has completely lost it's way.

No, it's hardly been given a chance. The war on drugs is the the way, and never had a way to lose, it's been a complete and utter failure since the start. Proper education and rehabilitation, removing imprisonment is the way to go. Look at Portugal - that's exactly what they did. They stopped punishing adults for intoxicating themselves, and instead focused their efforts on education and rehabilitation, and it's been a resounding success to the point that the primary opponents to it when the idea was introduced have come around to fully endorse the policy.

That's compassion. There are almost no compassionate approaches in any other western society, so it's ridiculous to say it's lost it's way, particularly when it's been a resounding success in the place where it was given a way.

Soft drug policies which lead to explosive addiction issues, death and ruined lives.

No, prohibition has labeled intoxication as morally decrepit, and tried to deal with a health issue through criminality. This has led to people who need help not being free to get it without being labeled lesser, and created a profit motivation for the black market, which has caused explosive issues such as death and ruined lives due to a lack of regulation, quality control, proper education, and rehabilitation.

Parents can no longer discipline thier kids for fear of being labelled abusers, leading to a generation of entitled brats with no fear of authority.

This has nothing to do with the topic at hand.

Police and the justice system give violent criminal teens slaps on the wrist, leading criminal teens gangs terrorizing neighborhoods.

The failed war on drugs has created an environment where a very real and plausible hope of becoming financially stable is the drug game. This is because a black market creates an extreme financial incentive due to the massive profits that can be made by someone with nearly no money if they are willing to risk their personal freedom for such money.

These gangs are enabled by the black market that is created through the failed war on drugs. Take away the profit, you take away the financial motivations, and you collapse the black market. It's market economics 101.

For the sake of the welfare of its people, the Japanese should retain their hard line stance on drugs while introducing more compassionate rehabilitation programs.

Yes, because the war on drugs has been such a resounding success, right?

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Take note of Singapore's success from a Washington Post article. A wise and well balanced approach.

*We invest significant efforts to prevent drug abuse. The government works closely with community groups, parents and teachers to educate youths and the general public on the harm and consequences of drug abuse. Drug abusers undergo compulsory rehabilitation programs to help them kick their drug habits. Upon release from rehabilitation centers, ex-abusers receive help to reintegrate into society. *Tough laws and effective enforcement are a strong deterrent against drug sales and consumption. Stiff penalties punish those who disregard the law and deter others.

Singapore’s anti-drug strategy has worked well. Singapore has one of the lowest rates of drug abuse in the world: 30 opiates abusers per 100,000 people, compared with 600 in the United States.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/singapore-is-winning-the-war-on-drugs-heres-how/2018/03/11/b8c25278-22e9-11e8-946c-9420060cb7bd_story.html

-7 ( +2 / -9 )

Singapore’s anti-drug strategy has worked well. Singapore has one of the lowest rates of drug abuse in the world: 30 opiates abusers per 100,000 people, compared with 600 in the United States.

Now look at the other side of this. Singapore is imprisoning people for daring to intoxicate themselves - while selling state taxed and sponsored drugs (alcohol). Complete and utter inanity.

The idea that someone should lose their freedom for doing something that has been a part of humanity since our dawn is offensive, and frankly, unacceptable.

6 ( +10 / -4 )

The idea that someone should lose their freedom for doing something that has been a part of humanity since our dawn is offensive, and frankly, unacceptable.

Are you libertarian? I had thought you were a progressive/liberal, but I can't imagine how that kind of statement can be reconciled with that.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

Legalize all drugs and leave it to the people to decide. You cut out the pushers, the middlemen, the smugglers, the cartels etc.

The idea that someone should lose their freedom for doing something that has been a part of humanity since our dawn is offensive, and frankly, unacceptable.

Exactly. Many historical figures imbibed certain substances and are still respected in this day and age.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Death toll from drugs in permissive societies: millions

What's the opposite of a permissive society? Whatever it is, I don't much care for the sound of it.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Are you libertarian? I had thought you were a progressive/liberal, but I can't imagine how that kind of statement can be reconciled with that.

I'm me. Some of my opinions are libertarian, some are progressive, and some are liberal.

I don't feel the need to define myself by some political persuasion. Sometimes some parts of some political persuasions can be used to describe me.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Death from narcotics in Japan, is far, far lower than in nations with widespread drug use, like USA. Those who argue for legalization of narcotics, that its no different from alcohol, must not care that doing so will lead to thousands of deaths like in the USA.

Keep these dangerous drugs out of Japan! Severely punish those caught in possession, and life sentence for dealers, and many lives will be saved. Simple as that.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

Yeah because there are no drugs in japan, right?

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I agree with Strangerland, was going to say the same, the Portuguese approach is both more effective and less wasteful of resources, human and material. By redirecting the resources wasted to no effect on the “war on drugs” in to tackling the underlying problems that led individuals to self medicate with narcotics, they have achieved real success and helped many people who would otherwise be marginalised and failed by the system.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Unfortunately, the people who promote the war on drugs are so entrenched in their beliefs, having been told that's the correct approach their whole lives, that they won't even look at Portugal, and make ridiculous claims that the war on drugs is compassion from the west.

They also have this idea that if one dares to stray from the list of approved intoxicants (aka alcohol), they deserve to have their right to freedom restricted, and that this person should have X number of days of their lives where they are placed under lock and key.

But rest safe, if you stick to the list of approved intoxicants, you will not have your right to freedom restricted. Although you are limited to an extremely hard drug in that case, one that makes people prone to violence at that. But it's approved!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Many historical figures imbibed certain substances and are still respected in this day and age.

This is one of those issues that people who support the war on drugs must skip over, because there is no logical defense on the matter. They claim that intoxicating onesself with an unapproved intoxicant is a sign of moral decreptitude, but then their same history has painted these people as respectable, even having used morally decrepit, non-approved intoxicants. If they really thought about it, they would have to explain how they justify this, but the gymnastics that requires instead drives people to double down on the war on drugs and just state they don't want people doing drugs around them.

As they live among people who do approved drugs every single night of every day of every year, in legal shops and legal establishments.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

They don't need to legalise everything, just the less harmful and non-addictive ones. Scientists have actually ranked drugs based on how dangerous they are and politicians could determine a cutoff point for whether they could be used or not based on it.

https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2019/06/25/what-is-the-most-dangerous-drug

0 ( +0 / -0 )

So much disinformation and double-speak from legalization supporters.

Legalization is not decriminalization. Addiction is not recreational usage. Users, dealers and buyers are not victims. Historical non-regulated usage is not the same as modern day regulated usage. Freedom does not equal common sense.

But the buzz word of the day here seems to be "self-medication."

How buying illegal stimulants from a black market dealer before going out for a Friday night got conflated with treatment of mental disorders, only the disingenuous would be able to explain it.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Purely to cower the populace by making examples of celebrities,along with changing the narrative of the govt's numerous scandals.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Legalization is not decriminalization.

That's correct. Decriminalization does not remove the black market, and is a weak policy by those who want to try to maintain the failed war on drugs while appeasing the concerns of those who aren't trying to pretend it has not been a failure. Appeasement doesn't work. It needs to be done properly.

Addiction is not recreational usage.

That's correct. That's why we have rehabilitation for alcoholics, so they can manage their addiction to their drug of choice.

dealers and buyers are not victims.

That's correct. Liquor stores operate legally, and are not victims. They are legitimate businesses who are selling drugs that have been approved.

Historical non-regulated usage is not the same as modern day regulated usage.

Baseless statement.

Freedom does not equal common sense.

Common sense says that removing someone's human right to freedom for intoxicating themselves with a substance, where the crime is that they chose a drug that was not approved instead of one that is approved, is ridiculous.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

They don't need to legalise everything, just the less harmful and non-addictive ones. Scientists have actually ranked drugs based on how dangerous they are and politicians could determine a cutoff point for whether they could be used or not based on it.

This is still pushing the failed war on drugs.

Treating a health issue as a criminal issue will always fail. Always. It creates an extremely lucrative black market, which has a worse net impact on society than the drugs themselves.

Legalization, with education, and rehabilitation is the socially responsible approach to drugs.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Bit of both . . . . Make certain to educate young children in the schools that drugs are a bad thing.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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