Cato Unbound has a thought-provoking essay arguing that we need to radically re-think our relationship to psychoactive substances of all kinds to encourage informed responsible drug use rather than relying on the impossibility of prohibition to protect society.
The piece is by the founders of the Erowid drugs information and experience exchange site, who have been at the forefront of promoting education and information as the basis of responsible drug use.
‚ÄúKnow your body. Know your mind. Know your substance. Know your source.‚Äù One of Erowid‚Äôs earliest slogans, this directive encourages people to pay close attention to multiple aspects of their psychoactive substance use. These include understanding the individuality of response; avoiding drugs contraindicated because of health issues; learning enough about each substance to avoid unexpected effects and overdoses; and choosing both substance and information sources carefully in order to reduce risks. While these principles may seem obvious, they are seldom taught in contemporary drug education.
Alcohol is a good case to study, as its use is accepted in our culture and is not illegal for those over 21. Yet healthy and pragmatic drinking practices are seldom taught by parents, schools, or the government. By the time young adults reach the legal drinking age in the United States the vast majority of them have already consumed alcohol. In 2006, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the average age at which Americans first tried alcohol was 16.5, with only one in ten waiting until they were legally of age to drink. And they haven‚Äôt just had a sip; nearly 40% of 20-year-olds have gotten drunk in the last month. The opportunity to teach responsible use of alcohol‚Äîthe most commonly consumed and arguably one of the most dangerous strong psychoactives‚Äîis missed. The situation is much worse for controlled substances.
Teaching responsible, intentional use to young people does not require giving detailed instructions on how to use illegal psychoactives. The general principles can be taught through education about prescribed medications, alcohol, or other legal drugs. There are many practical lessons about how to safely and responsibly use psychoactives, whether learned from personal subjective experience, research, or the hard-won wisdom of others.
They make the important point that this applies to all drugs, illicit, commercial, medical, natural and artificial – from aspirin to angel dust.
Link to ‘Towards a Culture of Responsible Psychoactive Drug Use’.