Health, Hypothesis, Science

Against the Demonization of Drugs

For most of us, the word ‘drugs’ comes burdened with negative associations. Run a quick mental check: how many positive associations come to mind when you think of the term ‘drugs’? However, a ‘drug’ is simply any substance other than food that causes a physiological change when introduced into the body (inhaled, injected, smoked, consumed, absorbed, etc). As such, the term ‘drugs’ is so broad that any sweeping generalization about them is likely to be false. Drugs include a whole spectrum of substances ranging from the highly addictive, such as crack cocaine, to the life saving and pain relieving, such as anaesthetics, to the mind enhancing, such as caffeine, to the purely recreational, such as alcohol.

Yet public discourse on the subject is usually limited to the narrow mantra that “drugs are bad.” Where are the people reminding us that “drugs can be good”? There is no doubt that most anti-drug campaigns have good intentions (such as protecting people from addiction), but the simplistic picture they provide makes it difficult to make useful distinctions between dangerous, safe, and life-saving substances. Think of the people afflicted with mental health problems, for example, who might benefit enormously from antidepressant medication, but won’t due to a reflexive fear of drug use.

There is no doubt that some drugs can be dangerous and that their usage should be carefully monitored: heroin, crack cocaine, and methamphetamine are the most obvious examples. But the truth is that drugs are many things. Drugs are able to save lives and ruin them; enhance your mind and numb it; heal your body and destroy it. More important perhaps is that each substance can have different effects on different people and at different doses. In smaller doses, a cough syrup is soothing, while at higher doses it can have hallucinogenic effects. Similarly, Alcohol can be used safely as a recreational social lubricant, but when abused it can have neurotoxic effects.

The problem is that the current anti-drug movement lacks specificity or clarity. The term ‘drugs’ has become so tainted that even considering the positives of drug use has become extremely difficult.

This article aims to promote a more balanced, and scientific, view of drug use. It is our view that modern society desperately needs a more comprehensive, measured, and rational discourse about drugs. A discourse that enables people to understand drugs rather than simply fear them. This would prepare us to deal with drugs in a sensible way, better enabling us to enjoy their benefits, and mitigate their drawbacks and dangers.

The Legal Criteria Are Often Arbitrary

Legally speaking, there is of course room for some nuance. There isn’t a single country that has banned all drugs. After all, many substances are medically necessary and therefore legal. However, the methods by which we classify which substances are legal and which to criminalise are often arbitrary, historically anachronistic, and uninformed by scientific evidence.

It would be nice to believe that world governments had undertaken careful investigations and decided on the legality of substances based on their potential for harm or good; or if they ensured that further research into illegal substances is possible if they show medicinal potential. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Sometimes potentially harmful substances are legal due to popular demand.

A historically noteworthy example of the arbitrary criminalisation of drugs was the era of prohibition in the United States, which lasted from 1920 to 1933. The dangers and alleged immorality of alcohol were the driving forces behind its prohibition in 1919, when the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified making it illegal to buy or consume alcohol throughout the country. However, prohibition of alcohol was overturned, not only because people simply refused to abide by the law, but also because prohibition didn’t appreciably decrease alcohol consumption. As a consequence, today it’s largely left to each individual to be responsible in their consumption of alcohol, notwithstanding restrictions and regulations to ensure safety.

Sometimes safe substances are illegal due to their links to other substances

Coca leaves

Today, the chewing of coca leaves remains a traditional part of Andean culture and is used to treat all manner of afflictions, from altitude sickness to menstrual pain. Further, they function as a stimulant and produce a buzz not dissimilar to that offered by an espresso. Chewing coca leaves helps the user to sustain hard work and doesn’t appear to have any discernible side-effects. Arguably, the world could benefit from having access to the nootropic effects of coca. However, it remains illegal in most Western countries because it can be used to manufacture cocaine.

Sometimes life-saving substances are illegal due to arbitrary moral beliefs

Historically, there have been some surprising reactions to medical advances, such as the initial resistance to general anaesthetics. In 1865, the city of Zurich actually outlawed the use of a general anaesthetic, arguing that it was important to experience and endure physical pain, since it was natural and a necessary burden for ‘original sin.’ In the same way, today many are expected to endure the pain of their mental illness, or feel ashamed of taking medication to treat it. Such medications are not illegal, but the irrational stigma attached to their use is analogous to that previously attached to anaesthetics.

Sometimes substances are illegal due to unscientific claims

Today, the legal system justifies drug prohibition by appealing to health hazards and the threat of moral corruption. Such arguments are remarkably similar to those made a century ago. Often, anti-drug campaigners offer a variation on the ‘slippery slope’ fallacy, which holds that people start by using so-called ‘soft-drugs’ and inevitably end up overdosing on heroin (these ‘soft drugs’ never seem to include alcohol, tobacco, or coffee). But, of the tiny minority of  people who experiment with heroin, most do not overdose and remain capable of leading reasonably functional lives.

The data offer scant support for the slippery slope argument. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, recreational drug use remains rare, even though almost half the population has consumed illicit drugs at some point in their lifetime. If anything, research shows that the most common ‘gateway drug’ is alcohol—a drug that large parts of every class in society consume.

Interestingly, most people acknowledge that tobacco and alcohol use entails health risks. But a liberal ‘live and let live’ attitude leaves it up to the individual to manage his or her behavior and limits. Unfortunately, the same logic doesn’t apply in the case of marijuana or Modafinil. Instead, anti-drug campaigners argue that because smoking marijuana or taking Modafinil entails health risks, people should be prohibited from deciding for themselves whether or not to use them.

We Are In Desperate Need of a More Scientific Framework

If you are left with the feeling that this is all a mess, you are not alone. A charitable summary of contemporary attitudes towards drug use goes something like this:

  • Drug use for (physical) medical purposes is accepted.
  • Drug use for (mental) medical purposes is legally accepted but often socially stigmatized.
  • Drug use for recreational purposes is unacceptable and illegal — however, alcohol and tobacco are presently exempt due to their history in our culture.
  • Drug-use for self-enhancement, other than coffee, (such as nootropics) remains relatively unexplored by the scientific/medical community and poorly understood by the general public.

While this picture has some logic, it’s far from a consistent or reasonable way to approach the subject.

Let’s take a charitable interpretation of our current legal framework around drugs. In the US, FDA regulations are loosely based on a cost/benefit analysis: if the perceived benefits outweigh the perceived costs, then a given drug should be legal; conversely, when perceived costs outweigh perceived benefits, it should be illegal. Were it applied consistently, this formula might provide a sensible framework for deliberation.

However, we do not follow this approach in practice. According to David Nutt, the former UK government chief drugs adviser and current professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London, some legal substances, such as alcohol, are significantly more detrimental to the individual and to society than illegal substances, such as LSD or MDMA.

Legal inconsistencies like this are largely the product of fear and ignorance. People worry that if drugs become more widely and freely accessible, it would necessarily increase the number of drug addicts and related levels of criminality, which would in turn force governments to commit ever-increasing levels of public money to addressing these problems. However, evidence from cases of decriminalisation paints a different picture.

Portugal has decriminalized all drugs, a bold and counter-intuitive move to combat its drug problem. Fifteen years on, the results are impressive: illegal drug-use has declined, HIV infections from shared needles have fallen by 17 percent, and the number of people seeking help for drug-related issues has doubled. Furthermore, mortality rates from heroin and related substances have been cut in half. Currently, the Portuguese show a lower life-time consumption of marijuana than any other Western country. And the money once spent on enforcement of drug-laws has been redirected to fund addiction treatment. These results should serve as a model should we decide to reconsider our intuitions about drugs and drug use, and the likely consequences of a more liberal policy.

The Demonization of Drugs Can Have Negative Effects on the Positive Uses of Drugs

The social acceptability of various drugs has changed tremendously as technology, medicine, and understanding have advanced. Today there doesn’t seem to be anyone left making an argument against anaesthetics. It is therefore unclear which substances will remain socially acceptable by the end of the century. Already, many countries are reconsidering attitudes and legislation related to marijuana, for example. Moreover, researchers are looking into the therapeutic effects of MDMA for trauma patients, LSD for alcoholism, and Ketamine for depression with promising results.

We’d like to share a personal account from one of the authors: When Sana told people that she had started taking SSRIs to treat her anxiety, many looked worried and suspicious. This wasn’t because she was suffering from anxiety, but rather because she was treating it with a drug that alters her mood — which was precisely the point. She has heard many misinformed arguments as to why she shouldn’t be taking drugs, even in these circumstances. Memorable examples include “artificially boosting your mood with an antidepressant doesn’t produce real happiness” and, even stranger, that “this is cheating.” The general expectation was that she should be working through her suffering ‘naturally’ without any synthetic support.

The common theme of such comments was an ignorance of, or disregard for, the physical basis of mental health problems, and an assumption that whatever the brain is producing by itself was in some sense good and helpful. The prevailing belief seems to be that our brains naturally produce the correct or appropriate responses to all situations. But mental illness means that exactly the opposite is true (which is not to say that mental illness isn’t a sensible response to trauma). The treatment of mental health problems without drug use would be nearly impossible in many cases.

The fact of the matter is that Sana’s brain wasn’t working in the way that was best and healthiest for her. The anxiety was a childhood relic that helped her survive a very abusive environment. However, as a grown woman, she now lives in a calm and stable environment but her brain hasn’t been able to fully accommodate and respond to these changes, and might never do so without treatment. Early traumatic childhood experiences can raise a body’s cortisol levels permanently, creating elevated susceptibility to stress throughout life, and dramatically increasing the chances of suffering from chronic diseases.

In contrast, she has never received comparable responses when she took drugs to treat physical diseases. It seems that taking a drug to alter one’s mental state is still perceived negatively. This is not to gainsay the hugely positive effects of therapy, social support, and a healthy lifestyle. But taking drugs out of the picture removes an important tool we have for facilitating the journey back to wellbeing.

This Attitude Is Counterproductive

In many ways, people have a status quo bias which causes us to believe that our human predispositions are the state of the art. The only exception, it seems, is when you’re physically ill. In those circumstances, it’s okay to reject the natural and seek medicinal improvement and amelioration. However, humans are anything but perfectly formed, and have the unique capacity to trascend their elementary state. In A History of Transhumanist Thought, Nick Bostrom argues that “after the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859), it became increasingly plausible to view the current version of humanity not as the endpoint of evolution but rather as an early phase.” This is gradually becoming more evident as we look at our evolving relationship with technology and medicine.

In many ways and circumstances, we routinely accept that we are not an ideal species. In political and public discourse we agree upon the need to educate people, create laws, and design systems and interventions that help us to avoid our own pitfalls and achieve our potential. It can be hard to accept, but our default state is the product of an amoral system, namely, natural selection. This imperfect process has created a diverse array of survival machines – in our case, humans. These humans may have been particularly adept in passing on their genes and mastering the challenges of their ancestral circumstances, but our modern lives now unfold in very different environments.

Our ancestral environment was significantly more physically demanding, whereas our modern lives require us to be able to sift and organise previously unimaginable quantities of information. At the current rate, human knowledge (specifically digital unique data) is doubling roughly every 13 months. According to IBM, if this growth rate continues, our collected data will eventually double every 12 hours. To be able to navigate today’s world, the use of computers and smartphones is becoming increasingly necessary, and to be able to keep up with the current growth rate, enhancing our cognitive abilities and psychological resilience will be paramount.

Just as we are improving the environment to better suit our needs, we must begin a conversation about how we can better improve our minds to suit those needs. Of course, there will be many novel challenges and large changes as a result of these developments, and these can be hard to foresee or accept. Nonetheless, many of us have a desire to understand the world’s complexity, and to be a part of the beauty that our information age has to offer. It seems that, without enhancing our own abilities, we will fall behind the very society we are aiming to create.

Drugs can be used to enhance ourselves in a myriad of ways

Before the rise of modern medicine, child mortality was extremely common and many perished from preventable diseases. Since 1900, we have doubled the human lifespan and across the globe we live increasingly healthier lives. We came to accept the benefits of taking drugs, as we conceived of the huge advantages scientific medicine has to offer. In that sense, we are already self-enhancing with drugs, and we are already regular drug users. Our current approach in the medical professions is largely concerned with curing diseases and alleviating or preventing illness and suffering. In this light, medicine and psychology today care only about getting you back to your baseline when you fall below it. There is a lot less active research into how we can make ourselves happier, fitter, and more productive. Furthermore, research on cognitive enhancement and other forms of self-enhancement is sparse and rarely incentivised. Looking into the future and considering our past, it becomes quickly apparent that drugs will be a key component in improving our health and further prolonging healthy lifespans.

“Drugs are bad” is holding us back

Ecstasy tablets (MDMA)

Raising the bar of happiness for the average reasonably well-adjusted person doesn’t yet seem important to most institutions, which is understandable given the amount of suffering we have yet to combat. Nevertheless, maximising what we can get out of life is something that many of us strive for. We needn’t exclude helpful tools that can help us achieve our goals. Of course, the use of drugs needs to be approached with caution and knowledge, and the majority of discourse on drugs centers around precisely those aspects.

Nobody denies that drugs can be harmful. But modern science is producing a whole host of promising drugs that can improve on the default in a myriad of ways. Today, nootropics such as L-theanine or Modafinil and the scientific exploration of largely illegal substances such as marijuana and MDMA could be an important step towards self-enhancement. It’s important to acknowledge the huge benefits responsible drug use has already offered, and the huge potential it still holds. Dismissing this would mean a huge setback for the future of human well-being and happiness.

Conclusion

Attitudes towards drugs have varied dramatically across time and cultures. There are good reasons to suppose that our attitudes today will look as crazy as the abolition of anaesthetics in the 19th century does to us. It’s important that we take a rational and scientific look at our drug legislation and attitudes, and come up with public policy that is clear-eyed about the benefits and dangers. Not doing so will prevent us from finding better treatments to illnesses, prevent people from accessing treatment, and delay us from developing cognitive enhancers for dealing with an increasingly complex future.

 

Sana Al-Badri holds a degree in psychology and cognitive science. She currently works in the leadership department of ProVeg International, an organisation aiming to accelerate the transition to a plant-based society and economy.


Marco Vega holds a degree in philosophy and political science, and a master’s in cognitive neuroscience. He is  the co-author and director of the mini-documentary, An Introduction to Transhumanism, and is the co-founder of Nootropics.com. Marco currently works at ProVeg international
, and is doing research on how best to reduce sentient suffering and prevent climate change. 

18 Comments

  1. “…and an assumption that whatever the brain is producing by itself was in some sense good and helpful. The prevailing belief seems to be that our brains naturally produce the correct or appropriate responses to all situations. But mental illness means that exactly the opposite is true…”

    Very well put. And as you mention, this idea can be extended to the fact that, outside of mental illness, our responses still may not be optimal for our current environment, particularly given the new challenges of modernity.

    I would go even further, though, and point out that “optimal” in the context of natural selection need not be equivalent to our own definition of optimal.

  2. I don’t know where to start with this article. There is scant evidence to back any of the broad claims in the article up. They apply the use of the “slippery slope” fallacy but don’t recognise their own use of a “straw-man” to paint their oppositions position is “drugs are bad”. It’s almost as if the authors know very little about why society discourages drug use. They certainly don’t seem to make any indication in the article of, say, religious principles which moderate our approach. To use the example of anaesthetic prohibition over 100 years ago shows the level of dishonesty this article is willing to propagandize for the drug lobby. Of course, one of the authors owns a drug selling website. In almost all western countries anaesthetics are still prohibited from public consumption. Nor should we see this in the future.

    • Epson Maverick says

      Yawn. You can start by offering an argument that is not steeped in sententious moralising.

      There are all sorts of sensible arguments for a rethink of current illicit drug policy.

    • Can you show me the steelman version of the anti-drug (pro drug war) argument. I honestly dont know what that would be

    • Religious principles? I came to this article via RealClearScience not RealClearMythsandLegends. Hence I received a thoroughly well put together, well written, coherent, reasoned, evidenced based analysis.

    • yandoodan says

      This article starts with a definition of “drug” that includes water. (Then again, water, when inhaled, causes an astonishing number of deaths.)

      Many such moments later, I reached the claim that Portugal has made all drugs legal, and that this has led to a decrease in illegal drug use. No kidding!

  3. In a world which revolves around hedonism and short term gratified egoism, we should be able to tackle this issue head on. Pleasure is good unless proven otherwise. If its working i.e. the large portion of recreational drug use has utility, then medicinal value doesnt matter. It sucks that you have to tip toe around the subject.

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  6. People murder other people and prohibition against murder does not stop them. Therefore we should recognize this and stop wasting public money in stopping this obviously human desire. I mean, it obviously has utility for the people who commit murder. Also if you consider the percentage relative to the population, it’s self-evident that the race plays into why murder is a crime. It is historically committed at a relatively higher rate by oppressed minorities and the poor.

    I mean, all this condemnation of normal human behavior is ridiculous. The stupid religious nuts even have the story of Cain and Abel. Like the son of Adam and Eve murdered the other. Even those who believe in Myths and Legends should be able to get on board this deeply ingrained human behavior.

    There is so many ways that the human condition is advanced by some recreational murder. It totally relaxes the mind and removes that irritation that just won’t go away. If you haven’t done it, what right do you have to sit in judgement?

    There are so many mental health benefits to murder. I have a friend that killed that guy that cut her off. She told me that she felt a thousand times better. She under the direction of the mental health provider that told her to remove the root causes of stress in her life. Who are you to get between a health provider and their patient?

    There are other examples. Killing someone in self-defense is acceptable to most; therefore greater latitude in homicide should be considered. It is just like drugs. We shouldn’t say murder or drugs are bad since there are exceptions.

    Just look at our hypocrisy. With drugs we say ‘Drugs bad’, and with homicide we arm solders and police. We shouldn’t say drugs or killing a fellow human are bad since people who actually have societal reasons to use drugs or defend themselves. The change both do to people’s mental state should just be ignored.

    The argument that people engage in an activity, therefore the activity is good should just be accepted. At no point should we suggest that there are spillover effects from letting adults do what they chose onto their children or community as a whole.

    Alternatively, we could accept that both drugs and homicide, in general, are not beneficial to our society, and the generic phrase that drugs and violence are bad, by and large, is accurate. In both cases, one could account for the nuance without a polemic on a common statement that is commonly true.

    When people learn that a person was a veteran that had direct combat experience and killed face-to-face they tend to pause. People tend to pause when another human is acting a tad off due to chemical alterations. Neither of these is particularly strange when regarding the oddities of human behavior. That people make inane comments to behavior outside of the norm is something that adults expect.

    As an aside, it might be noted that instead of focusing on using drugs to cope with childhood trauma it’s possible to focus on preventing that trauma. A not insignificant cause of childhood trauma is parents with substance abuse problems.

    • “Alternatively, we could accept that both drugs and homicide, in general, are not beneficial to our society”. Except this isn’t true as drugs are just as beneficial as they are potentially dangerous.

      Your entire argument is premised on the absurd notion that drug use and murder are somehow comparable. Having a drink of beer, smoking a bong, or even popping a pill and dancing to repetitive music like a lunatic is nothing like extinguishing forever the life of another human being. If you think those two things are alike then you have a serious mental deficiency that I’m not sure reasoned argument alone could rectify. Maybe one day a drug will be developed to cure your affliction.

      • It would require you to actually read and think to form a reasoned argument. If you believe my position is that drugs and murder are exactly equal, you have done neither.

        • “The argument that people engage in an activity, therefore the activity is good should just be accepted. At no point should we suggest that there are spillover effects from letting adults do what they chose onto their children or community as a whole.”
          You say this.
          But the argument is that the costs of drug prohibition likely outweigh the benefits. Its not that spillover effects dont exist. Its just that their magnitude is greatly exaggerated.
          And you really did seem to compare drug use to murder. if that wasnt your intent then your argument is just very opaque and poorly written

          • Better living through chemistry is the argument of the OP. Only tangential reference to the cost/benefit of drug prohibition is mentioned.

            The OP is supporting a society more open to drug use; my response uses the ‘drugs are awesome’ defenses for more homicide.

            Given my closing statements, the opening is obviously satirical. The OP made arguments that similar in nature to mine, and both are equally irrational.

            The specific example given of someone who was using drugs to deal with childhood trauma I specifically addressed.

            The OP argument reduces down to the idea that we shouldn’t say drugs are bad. My response, is that, in general, drugs are bad. Just because one can find cases on the margin where there is a positive effect, does not mean increased drug use is good.

            The OP argument fails to make their case in much the same way my response failed to make one for increased homicide.

            My argument isn’t opaque. You projected your argument about cost/benefit of drug prohibition on the post that argued that society needs to consider drug use to be a good thing.

            Presented differently:

            Consistently within the arguments supporting increased drug use the argument is made that alcohol and tobacco are more damaging than some illegal drugs.

            Alcohol leads to significant societal issues. It’s not just the users, but also the people around them. I recently reviewed, as part of my job, the first 100 cases of sexual misconduct for the Navy in 2016. Without exception, every one had one or both parties consuming alcohol. Others have done myriad of research showing that drug use leads to poor decision making. I’m assuming you don’t contest this. We accept alcohol in our society. Prohibition didn’t work.

            Tobacco leads to significant health issues, but I assume most people agree it does not have near the same societal issues as alcohol. We have reduced tobacco use by effectively teaching the idea that, ‘tobacco bad’. Not prohibited, although restricted.

            One can both hold to the ideas that the legal approach to reduce drug use with a drug war has not been effective and that increased societal acceptance is not a net positive. One can both see the destructive nature of alcohol and tobacco with the differing approaches. One can look at the evidence and believe that both the Prohibition of the 1920s was a failure and that a societal decision to abstain from alcohol would be a net positive.

            One could hold to the above position and find no evidence in the OP to alter the view. That there is medical uses does not mean that increased recreation use is necessarily good. I do not know if the childhood trauma involved adults with alcohol/drug dependencies, but the odds would be in favor of the prediction. The solution is not increased societal acceptance just because drugs are now used to cope. The solution isn’t a drug war or saying drugs are good.

            We would have to chose as a society to encourage reduction in drug use. If you have an argument for increased drug use on it’s own merits, I’d be interested. I’ve never heard one, as most revolve around that the drug war is not a net positive. That’s not really relevant. Support for or against increased societal acceptance of drugs is not necessarily causal to support for or against the drug war.

            The OP attempted to make an argument on the merits of drugs, which is why I thought it worth reading an commenting on. However, I don’t find his arguments at all compelling. Many similar arguments, with far more detail, are made for steroids. I find myself unconvinced that either a ramp up in steroid enforcement or widespread acceptance are positive.

  7. Can you show me the steelman version of the anti-drug (pro drug war) argument.

    Drugs make Baby Jesus sad.

    Like bum sex and evolution.

  8. One of the crucial points always left out of this kind of discussion is that ALL addictive “Drugs” that is specific chemical substances that are generally discussed in drug war rhetoric were creations of the medical industry. There are only two plants i am aware of that are themselves addictive, opium poppy and tobacco. However ALL single substance chemicals that are considered part of the drug war were created for medical reasons. The point of this is that, for the most part, addiction is an iatrogenic disease, medically caused. It is a side effect of chemical technology and an irremovable part of the medical industry, just as ecological disruption is an irremovable part of the oil industry.

  9. It should be completely obvious to our governments, after more than 40 years of dismal failure to suppress illegal drug use, that their policies in this area do not work and will never work. It should be completely obvious, a simple logical step, to realize that by decriminalizing drug use, and making the supply of all drugs available to those adults who wish to use them through legal and properly regulated channels, we could, at a stroke, put out of business the vast criminal enterprise that presently flourishes on the supply of illegal drugs.
    It ought to be obvious, but somehow it is not.
    It appears to be a natural human urge, as deep-rooted as our urges for food, sex, and nurturing relationships, to seek out and explore such “altered states of consciousness.”
    Instead the powers that be continue to pursue the same harsh and cruel policies that they have been wedded to from the outset, ever seeking to strengthen and reinforce them rather than to replace them with something better. Indeed the only “change” that the large, armed bureaucracies that enforce these policies has ever sought since the “War on Drugs” began has, year on year, been to demand even more money, even more arms, and even more draconian legislative powers to break into homes, to confiscate property, and to deprive otherwise law-abiding citizens of liberty and wreck their lives. In the process we have seen our once free and upstanding societies— which used to respect individual choice and freedom of conscience above all else—slide remorselessly down the slippery slope that leads to the police state. And all this is being done in our name, with our money, by our own governments, to “save us from ourselves”!
    Winners and Losers
    Who benefits from this colossal stupidity and systematic wickedness? And who loses?
    The beneficiaries are easy to spot.
    First, the large and ever-expanding armed bureaucracies, funded with large and ever-growing sums of public money to suppress the use of drugs, have benefited enormously. Everyone who works for them, including the PR people and spin merchants who concoct the propaganda used to sell their policies to us, including their subcontractors both public and private, and including the (often privately run) prisons stuffed to bursting point with their victims, are the beneficiaries of this catastrophic failure on the part of our governments to think laterally, generously, and creatively. Whether you are a Drug Enforcement Administration agent or a prison guard, you naturally have a deeply vested interest in maintaining the miserable status quo, justified by the “War on Drugs,” that keeps you in your job, that ensures your monthly paychecks continue to come in, and that continuously expands your budgets.
    The second main category of beneficiaries is—of course!—the criminal gangs and cartels that the present misguided official policies have empowered as the sole source of drugs in our societies. Over the past 40-plus years they have earned countless billions of dollars from the sale of illegal drugs which, had they only been legal, would not have earned them a single penny.
    Who are the losers? First and most directly those millions upon millions of good, nonviolent people in our societies who have been jailed or otherwise punished for the possession and use of drugs. And second (regardless of whether or not they use illegal drugs themselves), virtually everyone else in our societies as well. For the quality of life of all of us has been diminished by the growth of the police state and by the murderous activities of the criminal gangs enfranchised, and kept in business, by the blind and mindless perpetuation of this failed and bankrupt “War on Drugs.”
    So, in summary, the criminalization of drug use has brought no positive effects, only negative ones, and it has not stopped or even reduced the use of dangerous and harmful drugs. On the contrary, we have been so little “saved from ourselves” by this phony war that the use of almost all illegal drugs, far from decreasing, has dramatically increased during the past 40 years.

    The War on Consciousness
    Graham Hancock    
    by Graham Hancock 

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