The zombie apocalypse is unofficially upon us after details were released on the shocking news story about a Florida man who, after taking synthetic bath salts, became psychotic and began eating the face of a homeless individual. From a scene right out of the AMC show The Walking Dead, officers were forced to shoot Rudy Eugene, age 31, when he refused to stop mauling the homeless man. The six shots fired ultimately killed Eugene. The homeless man is now in critical condition, with much of his face gone.
Although the attack occurred in Florida, the use of bath salts and other synthetic drugs is not uncommon in states across the U.S. In fact, in 2011, New York became one of many states to ban synthetic bath salts, which are crystallized chemicals that users snort, swallow or smoke in order to mimic cocaine, LSD and methamphetamine.
Synthetic bath salts are not a new problem. Rudy is just the most recent example of this dangerous trend of manufacturing synthetic drugs with disastrous consequences. Among the more extreme are examples of a woman losing her arm after injecting the substance and a man who cut his own throat before shooting himself with a shotgun. Both individuals lived in Louisiana and had a history of synthetic bath salt use.
This most recent situation in Florida has proven to be disturbing, scary, sad and ultimately, preventable. The story is that of a lifetime criminal addict who was looking for any possible way to get high, according to the police reports that show Rudy to have been arrested 8 times, most of which for drug offenses. Rudy Eugene’s actions were some of the most detestable and horrifying in recent memory, but it is vital to consider how this could have been avoided.
If drug prohibition has taught society anything, it is that those who want to get high will, in one form or another. This has led many to take substances that were not meant to be used for personal consumption or are a dangerous chemical version of drugs, such as aerosol cans, hand sanitizer, synthetic marijuana, and of course, bath salts.
Completely banning drugs is an arcane and draconian measure that has only served to strengthen illegal organizations, while forcing many non-violent drug offenders into disproportionate prison sentences without rehabilitation. Possession of marijuana charges and other forms of prohibition on soft drugs has forced many otherwise sane individuals to search out any way to get their fix, even if the method by which they get high is extremely dangerous.
The drug war is misguided and focused on eradication, as opposed to pragmatic regulation. If we were to decriminalize certain drugs while legalizing others, namely marijuana, it could be realistic to expect that use of much more dangerous substances would drop precipitously. With legalization and regulation, it will be easier to focus on responsible use and rehabilitation, as opposed to a punitive approach that does not correct the inherent problem. It will also allow non-violent individuals to stay out of the ever-increasing jail population in our country. When 1 in 4 of all prisoners in the world are held within the United States prison system, the issue is not that crime is out of control (just the opposite in fact), but rather a matter of how broken the justice system actually is.
Although a world without drugs would likely be a better place, this is not realistic. Our society will be much safer if we develop a system that allows for individuals to have access to marijuana and other soft drugs so that situations like a “face-eating zombie” terrorizing Florida would not happen. In fact, there has yet to be any deaths directly related to marijuana use in the United States, much less any situations that involve becoming psychotic and acquiring a taste for man-flesh.
Simple drug policy changes would allow for us to reduce prison populations, free up resources for more vital domestic matters, unclog the court system, reduce corruption, cripple organized crime and add a strong source of tax revenue. Regulating drug usage would prevent damaging drugs like synthetic bath salts from being allowed, or even wanted, on the streets, leading to a safer society.
Using this story to advocate for the legalization of certain drugs seems antithetical, however, the war on drugs has forced individuals to turn to untested chemical combinations that are much more dangerous. The fact that we are even talking about such a disturbing and terrifying story, shows that fundamental changes need to be made to our national drug policy. If not, simply banning bath salts will only be the catalyst for the manufacture and introduction of new, untested chemical drugs in New York, which may or may not allow the undead to finally get the upper hand.