Saturday, June 18, 2011

drugs: good and good for you

Since this month (especially yesterday) marks the fortieth anniversary of Nixon's declaration of the War on Drugs, I would feel remiss if I didn't blog something about it. My inclination in attacking the War on Drugs is typically to focus on its most soul-crushing outrages, like the racism, the paramilitarization of the police, or the assault on the 4th amendment. For more information, the ACLU has been doing the Lord's work and blogging about drug war excesses all month.

With the corpses of prohibition piled so high, it's easy to lose track of the fact that many drugs don't even pose the social problems laid at their feet. I was reminded of this upon reading this Kevin Drum's piece on psychoactive mushrooms at Mother Jones.
But now for the most interesting result: psilocybin produces not only mystical experiences, but joy, happiness, and positive social effects. And it does it for a long time: in followup interviews 14 months after the study was completed, nearly all the subjects still reported positive changes in their lives, especially if they received their psilocybin in increasing dosages. (Half the study volunteers got the highest dose first and worked down, and half started with the lowest does and worked up. All volunteers also got a placebo tossed in at some point.)
There is a reason people throughout history and all over the world have sought out mind-altering substances. Like art, literature, or a good film, drugs entertain us, and can even change the way we think about the world. In many cases, such as 'shrooms, they're only about as dangerous as a good novel (maybe a hardback, to be fair). And they're fun, remember, which is the oft-forgotten but necessary consideration of any proper cost-benefit analysis. If ingestion of a particular drug induces good feelings then, all else being equal, that drug should be considered a good thing, like apple pie.

True, some drugs, like alcohol, are significantly more dangerous than others. But mushrooms and marijuana are virtually harmless. It's important to point this out, since the drug war propagandists have a bit of a communication advantage over the academics doing experiments and drearily tabulating data to ascertain the real-world effects of drug use.

So while it's not as enraging as reading about 30,000 Mexicans killed as a consequence of prohibition, we should remember that at its most fundamental, the War on Drugs is an effort to prevent regular folks from having a fun time in the way they choose.

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