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Cato Unbound features a lead essay by Earth and Fire Erowid (of Erowid.org), which is a real thought-provoking exploration of what needs to be done to move “Towards a Culture of Responsible Psychoactive Use“. After pointing out that most humans use legal psychoactives (coffee, alcohol), and that a very high proportion have also used illegal psychoactives, despite the manifold risks, they go on to suggest that it is time to change tack:

Instead of working towards unrealistic, naïve goals such as a “drug free century,” our response has been to step back and reassess, asking: How can society adapt to the realities of the communication age and develop more sophistication and balance regarding the use of psychoactive drugs?

Modern humans must learn how to relate to psychoactives responsibly, treating them with respect and awareness, working to minimize harms and maximize benefits, and integrating use into a healthy, enjoyable, and productive life.

The Erowids also reinforce that it is time to get past the simplistic meme of labelling everything “drugs” and “bad”:

[I]t is common for those on the national stage to use the unqualified term “drugs” when discussing psychoactive substances, as if everyone knows exactly what is meant. But cannabis is not oxycodone, nor do stimulants behave like depressants.

This “drugs” meme has done long-term damage to the public’s critical thinking skills due to the unspoken assumption that everyone knows which drugs are the bad ones. Certainly they’re not talking about ibuprofen, and probably not coffee—but how about Viagra, Prozac, or dextromethorphan (a common ingredient in cough medicines, also used recreationally)? One often hears that people should not drive while on “drugs,” but this is much truer of depressants and psychedelics and less true of stimulants. The right dose of caffeine or amphetamine has been shown to improve driving, especially among tired individuals — a fact well known to long-distance drivers and the U.S. military. Specificity in language is necessary for making good personal decisions, teaching others, and drafting appropriate laws. Not everyone has to be an expert on all psychoactive drugs, but we do need to be critical thinkers.

It’s a great piece – pragmatic and realistic discussion of where to move from here, with the ‘Drug War’ obviously not working, and more and more people realising that psychoactives have played a large part in human history. Have a read, and post your thoughts.

(Had to laugh at the last lines of the piece as well: “[Conflict of Interest Disclosure: This article was written partially under the influence of oolong tea, diet cherry Coke, and California chardonnay.]”)