“Why Good Parents Should Support Drug Legalisation”

I’ve followed this debate on the “Drug Talk” mail-list with interest & just want to make a comment that’s possibly stating the obvious but is worth noting nonetheless.

As stated clearly in the 2012 consensus statement of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, the definition of addiction is:

“Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors. Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.”


The above is a condensation of the full 8page statement.

Primary in the definition is the phrase “a primary disease”, putting to rest fallacious notions of personality, weakness, personal choice, willpower & all the other stigma producing concepts that are to be consigned to the dustbin of history, as has already happened with many other incorrect theories of human behaviour. The disease model of addiction is no longer a “theory”. Primary Research is rushing headlong into the task of determining the genetic defects underlying the disease & as is the case for most non-infective disease, treatment of addiction will evolve towards
various forms of genomic defect correction or amelioration. Successful treatment of addiction will result in dissolution of the symptoms of the disease, including those that are the source of so much of the stigma, discrimination & vilification of addicts today.

Approximately 10% of regular users of any psychoactive substance become “addicted” to that substance, the remainder able to start & stop the substance without developing the addiction syndrome.

Prohibition of substances is a very ineffective way to treat addiction as the majority can use or not use the substance as their whim dictates, whilst those addicted will go to extremes to obtain their substance of choice, regardless of legal sanctions.

Prohibition criminalises addict (diseased) & non-addict (recreation, pleasure, personal choice) alike, costs the state enormously, wastes precious resources better spent on treatment & simply does not work in reducing consumption.

Education, regulation & easy access to treatment have been phenomenally successful tools in reducing tobacco consumption & would be equally valuable if applied to alcohol and drugs now considered illicit.

Despite governments’ cynical exploitation of the “war on drugs” to gain “tough on crime” votes, the relentless march of scientific progress will reveal the cruelty of so many current approaches.


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