ENCOD BULLETIN ON DRUG POLICIES IN EUROPE
NR 66 AUGUST 2010
THERAPEUTIC OR RECREATIVE DRUGS?
The counterattack against drug prohibition must necessarily pursue
one of two lines of reasoning: to defend the legal access to drugs for therapeutic use only or for all forms of use, including recreational use.
In past years many arguments have appeared defending the therapeutic use of drugs to justify their legalization, most of all concerning cannabis but also MDMA, among others. The importance of the list of diseases that these and other drugs can cure, control or help to alleviate, is increasing. It is evident that these studies are important, but there are two aspects to consider here: are the effects real, and secondly, do they justify the conclusion that we use drugs because we are ill?
In spite of the fact that all drugs have therapeutic applications and that almost all pharmaceutical companies and health systems are using them, the truth is that the medical argument is not the one that will allow us to use medicines legally. Morphine reduces pain, but we cannot use this pain as an excuse to enjoy one substance or the other legally for purposes we ourselves might choose.
I am encouraged that some of the most important politicians and decision-makers in the international drug policy field understand the pressing need to change the system and therefore study our arguments carefully. But these arguments have apparently not been sufficiently convincing to initiate any significant change, therefore these people do not support our cause in any effective way. Possible reasons may be:
There is not yet enough social tolerance to accept the responsible use of drugs.
The fact that no drug is free from negative aspects.
The idea that one need not be ill in order to use drugs for therapeutical purposes.
We need to gain a wider acceptance of public opinion, not only of
some minorities that are directly affected by the issue.
We are not an important part of the open and public society that fights for its rights.
As a movement, we are very divided.
We are expected to be more intellectually sober than others.
It has not become clear yet if the fight for the legal right to
consume any substance whatsoever is legitimate in itself, or if this is
only about an especially effective medicine.
We demand to be seen as people who are able to study, to work,
have friends and family, however we also still want to use our favourite
“soma”, and this is a fundamental and extremely important basic human
right in the 21st Century.
If we are too enthusiastic in using all available arguments and we go forward on thin ice, so to speak, even if the case we make may well be more substantial in the future, we will be criticised, our case dismissed: “they’re just these guys with their illusions, their theories are interesting as usual, let’s give them a little slack, and perhaps they will destroy themselves..”
For years all sides claim to have studied anti-prohibitionist argumentation, but generally at the end of the day there are only one or two organisations that really employ it to the full. In order to be listened to, it should be our priority to analyse argumentation and counter-argumentation with the best specialists we have on the issue.
I would like to finish with two elements:
1- The importance of assuming and developing the concept of “Recreational”:
The importance of enjoyment in the 21st century is fundamental. However, enjoyment is a concept that is avoided because of shame and of the dubious utilitarian conviction that an individual’s activities must always serve society at large. But unlike the past, the part of life in which someone enjoys him or herself should be given much more respect and consideration. At the end of this Century this part might be considered the most important of a human beings’ existence.
Recreation and enjoyment has now become primary since there has been a reduction of energy dedicated to survival, professional careers are facilitated by machines, with media of mass communication in hyperfast evolution. Due to ecological limitations we will need to reduce the extraction of the world’s natural resources and minimise its liberal concepts of ambition and materialism, while continuing to develop a better social balance.
The area of individual enjoyment will be the only place where man will have true freedom to implement his wishes and escape from the obligation to participate in the society of mass consumption.
2- With the hardening of prohibitionist policies in the UN and the eventual prohibition of new substances, the validity and applicability of our arguments will be tested more than ever before. For us it will be a challenging time, because a hardline policy typically ends with the cynical position of not taking decisions seriously. Therefore we need to counter-attack with the firmness of our best arguments.
By: Jorge Roque (with the help of Peter Webster)