As I write this, I consider all the people I know who would completely disagree with me, specifically because of the cultural implications of drugs. (Most people think of addiction, loss of agency, loss of relationships, motivation, self-control, money, health, integrity, etc.) In extreme cases, these things do happen. But realistically, this is less frequent than most people think.
How many times have you or someone you know been given a line of coke in the bathroom of a club or bar, to absolutely no effect whatsoever? Probably more than once. How many times have you been able to have a drink or smoke marijuana a time or two a month and be completely fine? And how many people do you know who use substances more frequently but are perfectly functional? How many people do you know who have truly lost themselves and their lives to a substance? What kind of a person were they before they started using drugs? Did anything happen in their lives that seemed to be more than they could cope with?
The problem of addiction has less to do with the drugs than the psychological state of the people who choose to do them.
If someone has addiction issues, it’s most likely a result of them literally having different kinds of neural pathways regarding gratification. It also most likely has to do with that they have other problems they’re unable to cope with. Life can be hard, I’m sure all of you know. The idea of ‘taking the edge off’ has substance, and cause.
Desire for anything is stoked with restriction. This applies to everything, in every field and instance. Consider value in connection with rarity. The more rare something is, the more valuable it’s considered to be. Why does something that’s connected to taboo create a sense of excitement for some people? Because it’s forbidden. Forbid anything and it’ll return with force. War on drugs? Created more adverse affects for lower income communities where access to education and resources makes it very difficult to become adequately employed. When John Walters, the man working George W. Bush on drug policy during his presidency, created a requirement that students be tested for marijuana use, the rates of use stayed the same while the rate of overdose rose drastically. There’s more research to support this. Portugal is the country most famously quoted when the topic of drug decriminalization comes up. In 2001, Portugal decriminalized all drugs in small amounts. The backstory here is that there was a huge influx of drugs into the country in the 80’s, just after 40 years of authoritarian rule. The drug problem was intense and difficult to deal with. They decided to do something different; instead of jail, people in possession of drugs would be fined, or asked to appear in court and to see a doctor for health reasons. This had incredible effects. Firstly, incidents of HIV infection went down. Secondly, crime rates dropped, as did rates of incarceration. Thirdly, the rates of addictions dropped as well.
In part, this was a reflection of a country in which the changes were already were happening. The way that people spoke about drugs changed as well. People were no longer ‘druggies’ and were instead referred to as ‘people who do drugs’. More sympathetic, less judgemental.
An article in The Guardian states the following, “Portugal’s policy rests on three pillars: one, that there’s no such thing as a soft or hard drug, only healthy and unhealthy relationships with drugs; two, that an individual’s unhealthy relationship with drugs often conceals frayed relationships with loved ones, with the world around them, and with themselves; and three, that the eradication of all drugs is an impossible goal.”
I completely agree.