Thursday, 24 April 2014

Joanna Moncrieff - ‘Angels and Demons’: the Politics of Psychoactive Drugs - on MIA

Joanna Moncrieff blog post on Mad in America - ‘Angels and Demons’: the Politics of Psychoactive Drugs.

"We are now paying people to take drugs they don’t like and don’t want, while we continue to invest vast sums of public money in efforts to curb the use of drugs that people do like and do want. Prescription drugs like antidepressants, antipsychotics and so-called ‘mood stabilisers’ are widely promoted as good for your health. But the history of prescription and recreational drug use is more intimately intertwined than most people recognise. Attempts to disentangle the two have created a false dichotomy – with prescription drugs, at least some of them, set up as the ‘angels’ that can do no wrong, and recreational drugs cast as the ‘demons’.

Distinguishing drugs in this way makes no sense pharmacologically, and does not help us to understand what effects they actually have. The regulation of drugs is driven by political imperatives to produce a population that remains productive, diverted and obedient. The masses must have their opium, but must not be allowed to be so free with their drug use that they infringe public order or undermine the efficient operation of the economy." ...

"In the early 1970s legislation was passed in the US and UK that attempted to put the genie back in the bottle. Amphetamines, along with other drugs like LSD and cannabis, became prohibited substances. Legitimate medical uses of amphetamines were restricted to narcolepsy and ADHD, and production quotas were applied. Prescription and diversion plummeted, but people turned to illicitly manufactured substances or imported drugs like heroin and cocaine. Meanwhile prescriptions for benzodiazepines continued to rise."...

"The regulation of psychoactive substance use is not necessarily wrong in itself, and every society will wish to preserve order and prevent the ravages that excessive drug or alcohol use can entail. We should remember that among those at the forefront of the campaign for Prohibition were women, sick and tired of the abuse they suffered at the hands of drunken husbands. The irrationality of current drug policy, however, acts as an impediment to the development of informed and responsible attitudes towards the benefits and dangers of psychoactive substances."

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