For as long as I can remember, our government has been engaged in a ‘War on Drugs’ that never seems to be won and never seems to do any good. This is a war fought as much in the media and in the disenfranchisement of a significant part of the population as it is in raiding dealer’s houses or stopping boatloads of heroin from being smuggled across our coasts.
The thing is, the whole premise behind the ‘war on drugs’ i.e. that drugs are bad for you and the government is protecting you from a manifest evil, is fundamentally flawed.
For a start, if the government was interested in protecting us from things which are bad for us, alcohol and cigarettes would be more stringently controlled than hallucinogens, many kinds of processed food would be outlawed and automotive and industrial emissions would be more of an issue. The government does not seek to control drugs for our protection.
Secondly, the policy of prohibition, allied to the demonization of drug users actually increases the harm caused by drugs in numerous ways. By putting the supply and distribution of drugs in the hands of criminals, quality control is nonexistent and the potency of substances tends to increase (in pursuit of profit as a return on criminal activity) and anyone taking or transporting drugs is less likely to seek medical attention for any negative effects for fear of prosecution.
By attaching a social stigma to drug users, they are disassociated from mainstream society, which tends to remove them from support networks as well as entrenching any mental health issues which may have led to the individuals drug taking in the first place.
As a personal belief, I hold that you should be allowed to purchase and ingest into your own body whichever substances you wish. The role of government should be to regulate this market, ensuring that consumers receive what they expect to receive, with dosage and treatment for adverse reactions clearly labeled.
In this way, recreational drugs could be taxed which would fund education on the dangers of drugs and treatment for addicts with plenty to spare. Overnight, drugs could go from being a drain on society to a contributing resource, perhaps with the additional income also used to help address the core causes of drug addiction i.e. poverty, inequality and unemployment.
Of course, irresponsible abuse of drugs (such as driving while under the influence) or the illegal manufacture or sale of regulated substances should remain illegal and heavily punished as a breach of public safety and the social contract.
Additionally, once the attitude of prohibition and stigmatization is dispersed we can revisit the medicinal use of drugs, mostly in the use of hallucinogens such as DMT, psilocybin and LSD to treat mental illness alongside the use of cannabinoids in pain medication and other applications. Research into these potential benefits has been suppressed and frowned upon for decades due to the policy of prohibition.
We are conditioned to think of ‘druggies’ and ‘junkies’ as willful users, only interested in taking from society to feed their habit, with so little mainstream attention given to the reasons for such dissolution or the positive affects of other recreational drugs, when used correctly.
Prohibition increases the dangers, entrenches the harm and denies the benefits of narcotics, while hypocritically allowing the use of more demonstrably harmful substances.
Time to reassess some attitudes, for the public health.