The Harms of Drugs Versus the Harms of the War on Drugs

The “war on drugs” is a as much of a political hot potato over here in England as it is in America. In June 2004, cannabis was re-classified from a B to C class drug. In England we put our drugs into classification according to the supposed harm to the user and society in general, A, being the most harmful to C, the least harmful. Since cannabis has been down graded, the right wing media have tried their hardest to get it re-classified by printing factually incorrect or half truth cannabis horror stories. Their approach pretty much mirrors the governments approach to tackling the drugs “problem” as a whole. Nothing but mis-information and scare stories. If the information the government put out about drug were true, there would be no drug problem, because all drug users would either be dead or under constant psychiatric observation.

Every day we read an article or watch the news to learn about some heinous crime committed by someone supposedly under the influence of illegal drugs. The emphasis is always placed on the drug making this person commit this crime, which in turn makes society think that all drug users/addicts are criminals. These stories achieve nothing other than creating paranoia in society and, in the case of the addict, shattering an already fragile self esteem. The media portray the addict as the lowest form of human life, a view point that often seems to be shared by the government. Being addicted to drugs is a mental illness, one that may have come about by making some wrong choices in life, but everyone makes mistakes. I often wonder how many addicts never end up getting treatment for fear of being labeled a criminal or feeling that society has turn its back on them.

Drugs can be very dangerous, we only have to look at the effects of alcohol or smoking to realize that, and so they need to be treated with respect. But respect can only come from a true understand of what you are dealing with. The information given to you about drugs from an early age basically boils down to “Drugs are bad, if you take them you’re a loser and you will probably end up dying”. There has never been a truly effective drug education program, because the government have never really tried to educate people about drugs. An educational approach to drugs would warn people of the dangers, but also give tips about taking drugs safely. It is then up to the individual to make an informed choice. I have an old fashion notion that government is there to protect society, rather than scare it.

The idea that drug users, and indeed addicts, never achieve anything other than being a drain on society is utter bollocks. Important cultural Writers such as Aldous Huxley, Hunter S. Thompson and Jack Kerouac have had a long history of drug use, William Stuart Halsted, the founder of modern American surgery, was addicted to morphine. Every important cultural movement has been spurred on by, of had an affinity for a certain kind of drug. Not that I am promoting the use of drugs. Saying that that you will create something beautiful or do something important because of drug would be inane, equally as inane as implying that all drug users will commit crimes because of drugs.

As far as the legality of drugs, its a topic that I myself am unsure about. There is a good argument for the legalization of all drugs. The drugs could be taxed, and the money put forward for rehabilitation programs, drug treatments and health care programs. The quality of drugs could also be regulated, so people can be sure of what they are putting in their bodies. But, on the other side, we only have to look at the way society consumes the drugs that are currently legal. Until people are truly educated, which will probably never happen, a complete legalization of drugs would border on insanity