Drugs Are Good???

by Thaddeus Camlin, Psy.D.

image of doctor giving child a shot to show that drugs can be goodThis week offers another controversial idea to consider in the realm of addiction, the idea that drugs are good.  In order to truly consider the idea that drugs are beneficial in an honest way, we must start by recognizing the vast extent to which we are led to believe the opposite.  There is no way for anyone raised in modern society, and the U.S. in particular, to not absorb – through PR campaigns, pop culture, D.A.R.E., etc. – the overarching message that drugs are bad.  Lucky for us we have the gifts of reason and thought, and we can question.  Let us exercise our intellectual gifts and openly consider the idea that drugs have value to balance out the indoctrination of the message that drugs are bad.

People tend to feel guilty about doing something bad…  most at least.  The guilt people feel about using drugs (“bad!”) is often a primary fuel for self-destructive behavior patterns.  We are told from a young age that drugs are bad. We put bad people in jail. Caging people who engage in non-violent, personal drug use is yet another message from society that drugs are bad. If it wasn’t bad to use drugs then our prisons would be less crowded, and that would be good.

When people inevitably use drugs many apply the messages learned from society to evaluations of self.  The logic is simple to follow: Doing drugs is bad, I do drugs, therefore I’m bad.  What if kids learned that drugs have value?  Then, when a kid most likely ends up trying drugs at some point (86% of people try alcohol), s/he won’t feel like a bad person for doing so.  That might be good.

When a pattern of thinking is learned young and reinforced for years it becomes engrained belief.  Self-fulfilling prophecy is well-established in scientific research. People act in ways that confirm their views of themselves.  If I believe that drug use is evidence that I’m a bad person, and I’m likely to act in a way that confirms my views, that means I’m more likely to engage in behaviors that reinforce my belief that I’m bad.  Not good.

Making the Case: Drugs are… Good!!

What if there was nothing inherently bad or wrong about drug use?  What if, on the contrary, there is a strong argument to make that there is something inherently good and right about drug use?  Well, for starters, about 1/2 a million people would be released from cages that they never deserved.

In addition to restoring freedom to those wrongly incarcerated, a strong case can be made that drugs are magnificent aids to existence.  Modern medicine is largely based around and dependent upon drugs.  From anesthesia, to antibiotics, to fertility, to cancer, to HIV, to depression, to addiction, drugs are frequently a key to effective treatment.  Using more drugs could prove vital in efforts to improve addiction treatment.  Maybe the time is long overdue to help people learn to use drugs effectively rather than telling them to just say no, and that if they don’t just say no that they’re bad.

Many would argue that the message Drugs are Good is a dangerous one.  On the contrary, what if the message that Drugs are Bad is one of the most dangerous messages we can send?

The idea that drugs are bad implies that a world without drugs would be better and safer, and that too is a dangerous message. A world without drugs is far worse off and more dangerous than a world with them.  Drugs cure disease.  A new drug may potentially cure ebola.  Drugs facilitate the exploration and broadening of consciousness.  Drugs help prevent, treat, and ease the pain of untreatable illness.  Without drugs human life expectancy probably would not have more than doubled in the past century.  Drugs spark creativity, stimulate brain growth, improve attention, focus, productivity (at least for those who drink coffee!).  Drugs help some people relax, unwind, and have fun.  Drugs help some connect with others and the world.  Medication (drug) assisted treatment (MAT) reduces opioid overdoses – and the idea that drugs are perhaps good might help facilitate MAT’s much needed, wide-spread implementation.

A strong case can be made that drugs are generally good, and as with anything, problems can arise with excess. Excessive drug use and addiction are fueled by undeserved guilt that stems from the message that drugs are bad, not by chemical hooks that hijack the brain. Many drug related problems may be reduced and eliminated by changing our thinking about drugs. When openly considered there are many strong points to support the claim that drugs are generally good. However, the case in support of the message that drugs are bad may be beyond the point of resuscitation.