Saturday, May 26, 2007

BBC NEWS | Health | Using drugs as weapons 'unsafe'

BBC NEWS | Health | Using drugs as weapons 'unsafe'

I certainly don't know everything about what happened during the Moscow theater siege several years ago, during which several dozen Chechen fighters took eight hundred or so people hostage. Apparently, in addition to explosives planted at various places throughout the building in such a fashion as to collapse it on the hostages' heads, individuals wearing explosive devices had dispersed among the hostages in order to maximize the killing if the moment came.

Some 130 hostages died (meaning that 600 or more survived) when the Russians gassed the place with a drug of some kind, possibly something called Kolokol-1, supposedly a weaponized variant of Fentanyl.

It seems that many of the dead hostages died as a consequence of the physical position into which they collapsed when gassed, positions that obstructed breathing or caused them to drown in vomit. They were all physically stressed by three days of confinement, discomfort, thirst and so on, which probably also contributed to mortality. There were other contributors to mortality, such as lack of patient care preparations and secrecy about the nature of the gas.

It's certainly no less lethal to die this way than by explosion or gunfire, but there is a difference.

I'm open to argument, but I admire the Russians for what they did at that theater. I'm aware of insinuations that the Russians themselves instigated the event but, frankly, anybody can say anything and I don't know what's true. In any event, such arguments don't bear on the logic or morality of using drugs as weapons.

Weaponized drugs are primarily weapons. If you're in need of weapons, it makes sense to have ones that will work in the situation in which they're needed.

Raising the Moscow theater hostage event in opposition to weaponized drugs strikes me as akin to raising the spectre of Chernobyl in opposition to nuclear energy. It doesn't follow.

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