Drugs are bad. Apparently. This is the never ending, incessant view of drugs shoved down our throats at every available moment by all those shady individuals who make up 'they', as in 'they' told me so. In the first place I'm uncertain about assigning moral values to an inanimate object, it is after all those who can't control their habits and vices that are bad and even then 'sick' is a more appropriate term, but more importantly these people seem to be missing another key point. Drugs are fun.
Drugs have been fun for a long time. One of the few constants through the evolution of human civilisation has been the people getting wasted on some kind of chemical substance. It is the unfortunate case about every aspect of human life that things which are bad for you will inevitably be more fun than things which are good for you. There are a million and one things that are potentially lethal to human life and serve no purpose apart from recreation that are perfectly legal, and yet most drugs are illegal and anyone who takes them is damned. A little unfair I feel.
Taken to my idealistic extremes I will quite happily argue for the legalisation of drugs based on personal responsibility, safety and tax revenue. But more importantly than that, and before we get close to coming up with a solution to the drug problem, we first of all need to take a much more mature and intelligent look at drugs than the bipolar 'these things are bad because we say so' argument that has so utterly failed so far.
The worst kind of hypocrites when it comes to drugs are those who will condemn any kind of drug use and yet quite happily sit there and sip their wine. It is an obvious point to make but it’s one that some people clearly can’t get their heads around: alcohol is a drug. An extremely dangerous drug. It’s highly addictive, causes major damage to your body and kills tens of thousands of people in the UK every year. And yet so many people drink it because it’s a highly enjoyable habit to have. Those people who say, ‘You don’t need to drink to have a good time’ are just bare-faced liars.
Alcohol is a drug that has class A written all over it, but I’m not concerned with the alcoholics who die from alcohol abuse. Nor am I concerned with the 48 people who died from ecstasy in 2006, or the 54 people who died from cocaine in 2004. Drugs are not perfectly safe, anyone who claims they are is a moron. If you develop an addiction to a substance, for whatever reason, then it’s more than likely that it’s not going to end well for you. That’s obvious and doesn’t interest me.
What interests me is the millions of people who drink alcohol who are not alcoholics. Those who have responsibility and mental stability, who know their limits and when it is acceptable to drink. You can see them everywhere, people whose lives are not ruined by drinking, who go out for a drink and still manage to be a normal, functioning part of society. It’s not that big a leap to realise that there are people who use other drugs in a similarly mature and measured manner. Just because the story of the person who took some cocaine to celebrate a promotion, partied all night, had a great time and woke up the next day and got on with his life doesn’t make the front pages doesn’t mean it never happens.
It’s patronising and insulting to the rationality and personal freedom of human beings to be told that you’re allowed to choose to take mind altering and damaging chemical substances in the form of caffeine, nicotine and alcohol for your own personal enjoyment but none of the other drugs because… well, because… er… ‘they’ say so? If as a rational thinking adult I am free to make the decision to have a few pints for my own personal enjoyment I should be allowed to say that I want to have an ecstasy tablet because it makes clubbing more enjoyable, or a joint because I want to relax with some friends and giggle inanely at youtube videos. It’s my body, my responsibility, I’ll do what I like with it. We allow pregnant mothers to commit infanticide based on the argument that it’s their bodies and their right. Can I please have the right to lie on the grass, take some shrooms and feel happy and content with the world?
A lot of the problem lies in the intensely personal nature of the affects of drugs. Most people know what it is like to be drunk, and how they behave after a few drinks. Some people become more aggressive, some become more confident, some think it’s the best time to burst into song and tell everyone just how lovely they are. Alcohol affects everyone differently because people are many and varied in their personalities. And other drugs are the same. They bring out different aspects of people’s personalities. While the physical process in the brain may be the same the mental effects will vary from person to person.
Despite this there is a perception that illegal drugs have a homogenous effect on everyone that takes them. It’s a ridiculous thought that just goes to show how little these people, who have a knee-jerk ‘All drugs are Satan’s sperm’ reaction to drugs, respect the individuality of humans. Taking an ecstasy tablet doesn’t transform you into some pre-defined ecstasy robot whose functions are dictated by the drug. The pill will temporarily affect parts of your brain, but how these affects manifest themselves depends entirely upon the personality of the individual. That’s why some people enjoy some drugs, some people enjoy others, and some find the whole experience too weird and off-putting. That’s their choice to make, the state can’t say how drugs will affect everyone and therefore how illegal they should be in the same way it can’t say that football is a better sport than rugby.
Drugs are a nightmare topic and there really is no easy answer. The idea of legalisation seems too ridiculous for many people to even begin to comprehend and there would be some serious consequences to such an act, not all of them good. But there is no doubt in my mind that our current attitude to drugs, from treating users as criminals to presenting only one side of the drug culture in the media, is fundamentally flawed and until there’s a more open-minded and even-handed debate on the subject the problem will never get close to a resolution.