It Is Not Drugs That Cause the Problems, It’s the Wholly Unwinnable War on Drugs

As a spliff fan, myself. . .

At a dinner party a couple of years ago I was lucky enough to be sat near one of my heroes, Roger Scruton — like being a couch away from Socrates at a symposium. But then, halfway through, the great man began sounding off on one of the two things he is completely and utterly wrong about (the other one being pop music): drugs.

By ‘drugs’, of course, dear, brave, brilliant Roger didn’t mean to include the alcohol he had been quaffing all evening nor yet the highly addictive yet legal nicotine death sticks of which the Fawn and I had partaken before dinner. What he meant was yer proper, actual, tabloid horror drugs: cocaine, ecstasy, LSD, heroin, and the deadly, evil ‘gateway’ drug they call ‘spliff’.

As something of a spliff enthusiast myself I thought this was a bit much. Especially coming from a man whose philosophy generally springs from the most rigorous logic and the soundest libertarian principles. And I was about to speak my mind when an elegant, distinguished fellow with a double-barrelled name sitting opposite did so for me. ‘When I was in the City I used heroin for ten years,’ he said. ‘It never did me any harm. Rather enjoyed it actually.’

Britain has a serious drug problem. The world has a serious drug problem. And the serious problem is this: we have collectively decided to make criminals of the billions of otherwise law-abiding citizens who wish to pursue the perfectly natural human instinct to seek occasional chemical or herbal escape from reality. We imprison people who shouldn’t be imprisoned. We waste money which would be better spent elsewhere. We increase crime, corruption and violence. We deny cash-crop farmers a living. We finance narco-wars. We enrich criminals. We destroy lives. The drugs ‘problem’, in other words, is almost entirely of our own making.

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3 thoughts on “It is not drugs that cause the problems, it’s the wholly unwinnable war on drugs”

  1. yaosxx says:27th August 2010 at 4:17 pmVery daring article James and on the whole spot on. Can’t thing of anyone else who would dare to write such an article in this way. Loved the ketamine/czarist ball episode!
  2. Dave Stocker says:30th August 2010 at 5:40 pmSpot on from me, too, James. In the TV documentary series you referred to, former Govt drugs advisor Nutt made a telling point. He said something like ‘[the government position] is clearly not about the science, it’s about morality.’ I have yet to hear a politician from either end of the political spectrum confidently articulate just which moral principle is invoked to justify drug prohibition. Could it be that pleasure ought to be earned thru’ hard graft, without shortcuts, or is it about protecting the vulnerable, or both, or something else? I’d like to hear what members of our new government would answer to a carefully-crafted question along these lines.

    As I understand it, evolution is about the interaction between the individual ‘organism’ and the ‘environment’. Recreational drugs are increasingly part of the contemporary ‘environment’, and should perhaps be considered as an evolutionary force. Those who don’t handle them respectfully or are taken over by them will simply die, and it shouldn’t surprise us.



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Worrying about Pop Stars Who Don’t Do Drugs

Why the hell am I blogging about the Brit Awards? Because my wife wouldn’t let me watch Generation Kill! or Ross Kemp: Return To Afghanistan, that’s why. Just as well we did watch the Brits though, because this year the usual cheese-fest of girl bands and chart singles you’ve never heard of was interspersed with moments of pure brilliance.

First big excitement: our friend Florence Welch from down the road, who used to be our babysitter, getting the prize for best newcomer. Her band Florence And The Machine is great – particularly her Kiss With A Fist single – and she’s going to be deservedly huge. And she’s actually nice with it. Really nice. Go Florence! Go!

Second big excitement: The Killers’ Brandon Flowers. Crikey his speech when he gave the Outstanding Achievement award to the Pet Shop Boys was good. Guess it’s what comes of being a sweet Mormon boy: you don’t drink, you don’t smoke, you don’t do caffeine, you never ever pollute your brain with intoxicants or stimulants or fun-ulants of any kind. Result: you’re a pop star who can still string a sentence together.

As my friend Danielle Nay rightly points out, though, he seriously needs to get a new jacket. That military-style one with the feathered epaulettes has had way too many outings. Also, much as I admire – and envy – his drug-free articulacy, I still think there’s something basically wrong with pop stars not taking drugs. Bono especially. I bet he doesn’t take any drugs any more and he really ought to. Incredibly strong ones that prevent him from ever, EVER lecturing us on politics. Or making another pop record. Or doing anything, in fact, except living in a Syd-Barrett-style cupboard in Dublin or Ougadougou or wherever – and minding his own business.

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