Alexander Chrisotomou looks at the argument for decriminalisng drugs. This blog was originally published on Alexander’s own site which you can check out here.
There are 3 main approaches that attempt to explain why people start an addictive habit such as the use of drugs, and for the sake of this argument, let’s assume there are genetic influences for some, some people do learn that drugs may make you happy or look cool, and some people do start using drugs as they believe it is the best way to ‘self-medicate’. Now, let me tell you in light of the information we have, why the ‘War on Drugs’ or the ‘War on people’ (being that it’s not the drugs that go to prison, it’s the person using the drugs that goes) is fundamentally unethical. (Maybe I shouldn’t say ‘unethical’ as ethics and morality is subjective, but rather it doesn’t make any sense).
According to the governments prison population statistics 14% of the prison population in England and Wales are drug ‘offenders’. It’s clear then that this is a problem which must be dealt with. But as Ron Paul said ‘You want to get rid of drug crime? Fine, let’s get rid of all the drug laws.’
Forget your personal opinion on drugs for now, adopt reason and you’ll conclude that we must end the war on drugs, there is no alternative. This sounds counter-productive when the notion is first heard of by many, but let’s be logical. Put briefly, recent studies tend to suggest for the most, addicts have been harmed by a specific set of circumstances, which have led to specific brain problems, which people attempt to self-medicate with drugs.
When exposed to extraordinary stressors in life, your dopamine system and endorphin ‘system’ does not work very well at all. When exposed to drugs, it’s often these people then feel ‘normal’ and ‘how they should be’ so when they stop using that drug, their actual state becomes agonizing, so they learn to do the drug again to feel good again. Weren’t you always told ‘don’t blame the victim’? Research Gabor Maté; he’s spent many years working with some of the most substance dependent people around and in that he found not one person that was not a victim of abuse as a child, and I’ll let you think for yourself what this suggests. Genes are not the underlying cause, they’re literally turned on and off by the environment, and when it comes to learning, our environment has a big role to play in your thoughts also.
Does it make sense to put vulnerable people in jail where they will be more stressed, which is most likely the main reason they were addicted in the first place? Here’s a clue: it doesn’t. They should be helped, not caged up. You can really look at it as a physical brain injury. Imagine we made wheelchairs illegal… People with wheelchairs would have to fight and steal to get a wheelchair to help them, they’d be criminalised and also wheelchair prices on the black market will rise, leading them to more crime (the need to steal).
I said it’ll raise prices because not only does criminalisation protect the drug cartels that are effectively monopolies on drugs as prohibition stops the market from working, criminalisation also drives people from mild drugs to hard drugs. How is that? Well, for example, weed is easier to interdict than cocaine, so weed prices go up, meaning it’s likely some people will move on, that’s what drug prohibition does. For example, crack was created because cocaine was so expensive, and I don’t even want to get started on Krokodil, but read this.
Research Portugal’s system where drugs are not criminalised. Where drug addicts are not criminals, meaning they’re able to speak up and get help without the risk of persecution. Things very much did improve. Note that I’ve said all of this without pointing out that the use of drugs does not violate the non-aggression principle; it does not directly initiate force on anybody. Some call this an axiom, I just say that it’s logical, preferable to me and I feel this principle has the strongest case. By prohibiting drugs, you’re claiming ownership over a person’s body, because they can only possibly be harming themselves by using drugs. The logic behind prohibition of actions that are victimless is ‘I don’t like it so let’s ban it’.
They say that the best way to defeat idiocy is to listen to it, and just repeat it back. So is ‘I don’t like it’ a good reason to incarcerate people whom voluntarily choose to put substances that can possibly only harm them into their own body? My point is, using drugs may be unwise, but it shouldn’t be punished with a prison sentence. Let’s not forget that some drugs are great for creativity, and are not harmful (psychedelics in general come into mind), why not do some more research on them? I did enjoy ‘DMT: The Spirit Molecule’ for one. What about the seemingly endless possibilities of hemp also?
Let me end with this. Making people criminal for something that people may not approve of is completely is destructive, it destroys lives just as much as drugs POSSIBLY could, but let’s help them. The case for prohibiting drugs is as strong or as weak as the case for prohibiting over-eating. No victim, no crime.
By Alexander Chrisostomou
[Image Credit: nima; hopographer]