Drugs, Addiction and Fantasy

Matthew Page looks into the concept of drug addiction.

Did you help Peaches Geldof and all the other drugs induced fatalities to die? Quite possibly. Everyone who lazily accepts the conventional wisdom about drugs played a part in these tragedies.

Many years ago, we decided to treat heroin abuse (and many other pleasure seeking habits) as an illness, not as the act and pursuit of breaking a known law by one’s own free will in an attempt to derive pleasure. No, we decided we wouldn’t punish those who did it. Instead, we ‘treated’ them, in many cases by mugging the taxpayer to give them free drugs.

Most people still agree on the idea that the drug user is a ‘victim’. The main problem with it is that it’s not true. The next problem is that it makes it much easier for people to become drug abusers. I don’t believe in ‘addiction’, but I’ll leave that for another time, I will only offer the challenge; can someone please define what addiction is, describe it, show how we can prove it exists in an objective, measurable and testable way. No pseudoscience or psychobabble; objective, measurable, verifiable evidence which denotes specifically the disease of addiction. The burden in such disputes lies with the advocate, not the doubter.

Even if I did accept ‘addiction’ was an objectively verifiable illness, it would only strengthen my point. If it really is true that once you start taking heroin you can never stop again until you die, shouldn’t we be devoting huge efforts to making sure nobody ever starts? And wouldn’t a severe deterrent law, one which (for a change) we actually enforced, be the best way of doing that? A few examples work wonders in changing people’s behaviour, as we found when the breathalyser and seat-belts came in. If we’d very publicly locked up a few famous drug abusers in the 1960s and 1970s, there’d be many fewer of them – famous or obscure – now. Because we didn’t, there are plenty more of these cases to come, plenty more ruined lives, plenty more orphans and plenty more pious twaddle.

Then there is cannabis the so called ‘soft’ drug that we have legalized in all but legislature, but is also a drug which could quite possibly land you in a locked ward with severe mental illness. Although correlation nor causation is part of its epidemiology.  The great Victorian physician, John Snow, traced an outbreak of Cholera in London in 1854, to a particular water pump,  though correlation. Medical fashion believed that Cholera was passed on through ‘bad air’ (interestingly, Big Tobacco for many years tried to claim – yes, they really did – that lung cancer was caused by general air pollution).  So they derided Snow’s theory.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists have stated that; ‘In spite of government and media warnings about health risks, many people see cannabis as a harmless substance that helps you to relax and ‘chill’ – a drug that, unlike alcohol and cigarettes, might even be good for your physical and mental health. However, research over the last 10 years has suggested that it can have serious consequences for people, such as the development of an enduring psychotic illness, particularly in those who are genetically vulnerable.’

Dr Snow’s water sample from the affected pump didn’t conclusively prove that it was the source of the cholera outbreak, but when the authorities took the handle off the pump, the epidemic ended.  Now, of course, everyone knows that Snow was right. But if he had been beaten off by the ‘correlation is not causation’ merchants, how many more people would have died of cholera before he could prove it? And how many more young people and their families will have their lives ruined by irreversible mental illness, while the Cannabis Lobby continues to behave in this unscrupulous and selfish fashion?

To understand these issues in more detail I would strongly recommend Peter Hitchens book ‘The War we Never Fought’ which shines a light on the phantasm that is drug prohibition, and also Patrick Cockburns book ‘Henry’s Demons’ which is an account of his sons decent into schizophrenia.

By Matthew Page

[Image: Gary Owen]


One thought on “Drugs, Addiction and Fantasy

  1. First of all the debate on cannabis use and its mental effects is not definitive and to present it as so is wrong. Like the royal college of psychiatrists have said it only suggests that it can cause problems mental health problems. There is a serious question whether it leads to mental illness or if people with families of mental illness are only susceptible to the risks or if it matters how much you smoke, like liver failure with alcohol abuse. However this is not my main problem with your point of view.

    On your take on addiction i have to say i am amazed no-one has challenged you on this directly on this blog, and i hope the editors had reservations before putting this to print. Addiction is clearly when substance abuse leads to beyond pleasure taking and becomes a necessary to function or to ‘black out’ from life. Classifying addiction as an illness is actually to me pointless, whether it is an illness or pleasure taking out of control is besides the point. It is a state of existence and as we know it can be treated through abstinence, as well as often dealing with other mental health issues which leads to drug and alcohol abuse, or maybe you believe these are false as well. I presume you’ve never visited an AA group or met addicts of other substances with your take on addiction.

    Your view on locking up people with addiction would be and is a disastrous policy. Prisons are falling apart under the justice secretary’s jurisdiction with suicides increasing at an alarming rate and not enough staff to go around. Not only are prisons in such a state that vulnerable people (which addicts are) shouldn’t go in, if you criminalise people in these institutions with short sentences, not only will they likely descend into harder drugs and crime as often happens but they don’t receive the help and support needed to help them get off drugs or addictive substances like alcohol. This is why the government decided to offer methodrone (not a good policy) as a way to try and ease people off heroin. This is why the government doesn’t lock people away for cannabis use, because doing so often leads to much worse outcomes.

    Becoming addicted to drugs isn’t something which people just do on the spur of the moment, unlike drinking just over the limit and driving and not putting on a seatbelt, and to offer those two examples to set up your argument is an awful false equivalency. This is why deterrents won’t really work for this problem. Addiction is often a relatively slow process which is brought on by despair, hopelessness and mental ill health which is too often undiagnosed. There is a reason why Heroin by former users such as Will Self is called the drug of despair. You claim that ordinary people play a part in the tragedies such as Peaches Geldof, i have never read such guff. No-one is saying that people should take heroin are they? I have also yet to come across anyone who says that heroin should be legal. However your point of view is responsible for America’s decades of disastrous drug policy which completely failed its citizens on every level imaginable.

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