Want Pork? Get Clean Urine!

In an unusual display of equanimity, the Florida House of Representatives yesterday briefly considered requiring ALL recipients of government pork to undergo drug testing to demonstrate their eligibility.  This was a happy moment in this legislative season’s otherwise long sad march down a pee-soaked trail.

Florida's Motto: "Clean Pee or Die"

Last month, Senator Steve Oelrich (R-Alachua) introduced a bill that would require all applicants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to be screened for drugs–at their own expense.  While such a requirement might seem, oh, onerous and unconstitutional, Oelrich kindly explained that in fact it is “an offer of help and a wake-up call” to the poor benighted wastrels who would scrounge at the public trough.  Furthermore, mandatory testing of welfare applicants should not be seen as in any way stigmatizing or moralizing, because the previous month our Governor, Rick Scott, has also begun to demand testing of all state employees.  (No dirty drops yet for the managing editors of Points.) 

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Cops and Doctors: The Hidden Drug War

Siobhan Reynolds’ most recent guest post to this blog does an outstanding job of making the case that we (meaning both society writ large and the medical profession more generally) have utterly failed to address problems of chronic pain, and that these failures have a great deal to do with “the context of drug prohibition.”  Reynolds observes: “The system-wide denial of humane and effective treatment is covered up by the fear campaign that has been hammering away at our consciousness since the dawn of drug prohibition–a fear campaign masquerading as a public health initiative.”

The phrase “the dawn of drug prohibition” led me to ask myself–just what are the roots of our contemporary struggle to employ opiate analgesics effectively and appropriately, and how deep are they?  Here’s a bit of what we, as historians, know about the case of the United States.

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