November 01, 2008

BBC Radio 4

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Illegal drugs can be good for you

Wednesday 29 October 2008 (rpt: Saturday 1 November at 22:15)

The scientist and writer Dr Susan Blackmore argues that drugs can be good for you. She says most of the problems of drug abuse are really caused by drug prohibition. It would be much better if we decriminalised drugs and taught young people how to use them properly and safely instead. She says that our society doesn't take the "dangerous wonder" of mind-altering chemicals seriously. As a psychologist Susan wants to understand the mind. She has experimented with hallucinogenic drugs because she wanted to learn "how to face demons and terrors, how to let go of self, how to explore the further reaches of human experience." She wants a society in which adults are free to take drugs for their own reasons: for comfort and delight, to ease pain, to inspire insight or creativity, and even to face death. Just as we can distinguish between alcohol use and alcohol abuse, so should we accept that there's a place for positive drug use.

Panel: Dr Axel Klein A lecturer in the study of addictive behaviour at the University of Kent, Dr Klein has a particular interest in the cultural contexts of drug use, the interplay of drugs and crime, and the development of drug policy at national and international level.

Dr Ken Checinski A psychiatrist and senior lecturer in addictive behaviour at St George's University Hospital, Dr Checinski has both clinical and academic expertise in the effects of drug abuse.

Sarah Graham Sarah Graham has a Priory Professional Diploma in Addictions Therapy. She works for the charity In-volve – counselling children in schools. Previously, Sarah worked in the media. She faced her addictions in 2001 and is an expert in holistic treatment models and communicating with young people. She advises Frank – the government drugs service and The Recovery Network.


I was only half listening to this but Susan Blackmore's argument sounded balanced and well thought out. To some extent I'm inclined to agree with her. The argument for decriminalising, or legalising, drug use has been put before. If it was legal and controlled there would be no need for the blackmarket and crime might drop dramatically. By controlled I mean from a health and safety point of view - quality would be controlled.

Of course, there would still be those who would abuse substances and cause themselves and others problems but there always will be. The crime that goes with drugs and selling would reduce and the sub-culture would evolve and change - hopefully for the better.

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