Drug legalisation is an Eldorado not worth exploring

The year is 2015.  I am supplying drugs to anyone I think needs them to feel better.  Sometimes they need amphetamine, sometimes heroin.  Older punters usually ask for “downers” every night to help them sleep.  For the youngsters, mind altering pills that make them feel happier are in big demand.  In some cases I know there is a chance these drugs could make these people very ill; in some cases too much could kill them.

The year is actually 2012.  There will be no legalisation by the next election.  Three years from now I’ll be doing what I’ve been doing since 2005; giving out drugs that are not legalised.  Then again what do you expect from a doctor?

Drugs are pretty much any agent taken for medical effect, one assumes this is beneficial.  500 hundred years ago a Swiss polymath (I’m in UKIP so I love Switzerland) called Paracelsus wrote that the only difference between medicine and poison is the dose.  He founded pharmacy and ended the drug legalisation debate.

Codeine is one of the most common painkillers, as is paracetamol.  Ritalin is a drug to improve behaviour and cognition in children.  Fluoxetine is an antidepressant.  I have seen all cause serious medical problems.  Paracetamol is almost harmless below a certain dose and above that, trust me, your liver will not love you.  It is available over the counter.

Codeine is addictive and sedating. People crash cars on codeine, seen that too.  It is prescription only above 8mg.  Ritalin treats ADHD yet its effects can cause stroke and hypertension that can do serious harm.  It is only available through a specialist.

Diamorphine, or heroin, is incredibly powerful.  It is very effective and will happily kill you in overdose. What is the dose for an overdose?  I don’t know.  The problem is nature herself is a militant libertarian.  We are all different and handle drugs in a different way.  What will ease my pain may well kill your grandmother.

Diamorphine is far more powerful than codeine.  It is a logical fallacy to licence drugs that are weaker and safer and less addictive (obviating free will by definition) than those that are legal but only available on street corners.

The same argument goes for Ritalin and amphetamine, or speed.  It is the same again for Fluoxetine (Prozac) and MDMA (Ecstasy).

I have always struggled to understand how boring life must be for those who wish to use mind altering plants to escape reality. Whether its cannabis or mushrooms or some odd cactus, it just seems a bit Neanderthal to me and a bit sad too.

It seems all too predictable for students to indulge in this rebel behaviour. You know, the type who think Rage Against The Machine is rebellious, or washing is rebellious, or tofu is rebellious, or Che Guevara is rebellious as is being rude and not shaving.

Give me a break!  It has proven impossible to ban these trippy plants so removing laws against them would be pragmatic if we dealt with the problems that arise from them more effectively.

Reminding people (punishing them) more assertively for the consequences of being “bombed out” would be a far more consequentialist approach.  For children that use drugs please note I have no doubt that their drug use is a consequence of a great many factors in their upbringing.  Drugs for any of us are often a symptom rather than a cause of many ills: this is the rule for children.

The licensing of drugs is not to limit the freedom of individuals.  As a doctor I can assure you almost no patient does what they are told all the time.  Stop drinking, stop smoking, stop eating those cakes like some crazed truffle pig…nope, doctors are very aware of their lack of omnipotence.  In this respect we know our limits!

Instead licensing of drugs is our small part of fulfilling our Hippocratic Oath: First, do no harm.  Drugs can be harmful; not always but sometimes. The problem is because we are all individuals with different physiologies and psychologies so we cannot guess when and to whom.

For those who long for the euphoria of the magic plants, off you go into the woods.  I wish you all the best and certainly no harm: I am not joining you.

Those who wish to legalise any little pill they choose should think again.  As a doctor for over seven years I still get worried using these on other people.

As libertarians we so often rush throw out the baby with the bathwater as our God given right.  Sagacity is the natural partner for zeal for it gives it credibility.

Legalising drugs, stronger than those that we dare not allow without a licence, is a fallacy.

If we did this for antibiotics, we’d have resistance levels higher than inIndia.  We’d certainly have more serious antibiotic associated infections.  Anyone for thrush in their throat or plutonic diarrhoea that could make your bowel burst?  Again, I’ve seen it all.

Licencing through the MHRA allows safe control, assures purity, allows for safe treatment of inevitable side effects and allows judgement not to treat those at highest risk of harm.  Legalisation gives none of these.


  1. This piece presents a solid argument, however, it fails to properly address or counter the libertarian notions of liberty it seeks to overturn. Sure, it is much safer to have an educated health professional prescribe drugs and an objective third parties conducting trials to determine their safety. Who wouldn’t agree to that? Like the author, I don’t really understand the thrill in using recreational drugs and avoid such activity, largely because the risk is not worth the reward. Unlike the author however, I believe in the libertarian notions of self ownership and non-aggression. Every person has an inalienable right to their life and their body, meaning they can do with it as they wish, as long as it doesn’t infringe on the rights of other. The author fails to either prove that I, and every other reasonable human being, do not in fact own our bodies or to show that an individual’s choice to do drugs infringes on the rights of others. Without proving either of these things, the author is therefore advocating for the state to initiate force against peaceful citizens. This is in conflict with the non-aggression principle. The idea of a benevolent, all-knowing state using violence against people in order to protect them from themselves is blatant statism. Using state control of certain drugs as an argument for state control of others is nonsense, as it assumes the state has a legitimate right to regulate such things. The whole argument is built on the unproven premise that the state’s right to one’s life supersedes that of the individual. This is a great article to convience a free people why they ought to avoid these drugs, but it falls short of adding anything to a debate on political philoshophy.

  2. There is a compound based on cannabis that has been developed, licensed and marketed for certain medical conditions.

    It is called Sativex. It is, compared to many drugs or raw cannabis, very expensive. I do not endorse nor criticize this product per se but its development makes for an interesting read vis-a-vis this debate.

  3. Licensing does allow your point. Please note however that the same licensing requires the drug to be safe.

    That is determined objectively by randomised control trials that are rigourous and must be funded.

    This approval, by peer committee, would almost certainly not be given. there would be no funding for such a trial justified by society.

    The consequence would only be a highly centralised, large corporation would be able to lobby and fund such a trial, funded by long term proceeds from drugs.

    Given the motive for high taxes on inelastic goods deemed harmful to us, such as alcohol or tobacco, such legalisation and push to license recreational drugs would oblige a profit seeking (rent seeking?) corporatism.

    For a libetarian this is self defeating but essential if we follow the same principles as for any other (non-recreational) drug.

  4. ‘Licencing through the MHRA allows safe control, assures purity, allows for safe treatment of inevitable side effects and allows judgement not to treat those at highest risk of harm. Legalisation gives none of these.’

    But so does legalisation, no? Surely by private means of following sector rules and not by forcing consumers to buy off street corners, you can ensure a quality product?

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