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Why animals eat psychoactive plants (boingboing.net)
264 points by sethbannon on Feb 10, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 174 comments

I’ve always found it fascinating that people don’t perceive socially sanctioned drugs as drugs at all. Saying “drugs and alcohol” to me is like saying “sandwiches and hamburgers”.

A person can drink a cup of coffee in the morning, smoke a cigarette on their lunch break, and drink a couple glasses of wine in the evening, and the only thing that keeps them from being called a “drug addict” is that these particular drugs are socially acceptable.

There are Yemeni families in California who get in trouble for possessing khat, a stimulant which in Yemen is not even questioned—imagine being a Brit and being told you couldn’t drink tea!

A friend and I had a good laugh recently after spotting someone had posted a rant on FB declaring (amongst other misinformed nonsense) that "if someone is addicted to drugs they deserve to die". In the comments underneath more people chimed in with "yeah, bloody druggies, they deserve it", and other similar sentiments. Then the original poster commented, without a hint of irony, "I know, who would want to do drugs?! I'm bad enough after 10 jaegerbombs, i can't imagine what i'd be like on drugs". 10 jaegerbombs!! First, that is undeniably drug abuse. Second, these people don't realise that level of alcohol is far more intoxicating and dangerous (perhaps also addictive?) than many of the hardest drugs!

How are people's perspectives so off with this stuff? I understand education tells people "drugs are bad mmmkay" but to be as cold-hearted as to think addicts/users deserve to die, while ignoring the massive contradiction in your own beliefs? It absolutely astounds me

It's drug abuse which poses problems at social and personal levels, not drug use.

Part of the reason is that they don't know how often they see people under the influence of drugs, because it's not something that will be paraded in front of someone who is clearly anti-drug - unlike alcohol - because of the legal risk.

So their image of drug users is drug addicts with so severe problems that they are "visible" in wholly negative ways, because outside of a few self-destructive people or activists, for the most part the only ones that will expose their use publicly, or to people who make it clear they are against drugs, are the ones unable to hide it.

I used to think all drug users were the kind of broken down addicts you occasionally see on the streets too, though I felt pity for them rather than express the kind of unfeeling anger you'r describing from that Facebook user.

That first changed over time as I over the years met more and more drug users who were fully functioning, and mostly entirely normal people (using drugs ranging from cannabis to heroin) and was forced to accept that not only were they not all broken down wrecks, but many of them were not even addicts. Including some of the ones using some of the hardest drugs.

Your story reminds me of my current GF, who is catholic. she had to "justify" dating me to her granny, who said something along "he is probably mkay, but atheist! have you lost your mind?" After meeting me, granny had to correct her perception and accept that atheists can be actually good people too :)

An ex of mine is catholic and black. The amount of scrutiny I underwent as a white atheist was quite amusing. And quite enlightening in some ways. One of her aunts still keeps trying to invite me to church, several years after we broke up...

This goes both ways. I've met many people who seem to be just as 'normal' as the people around them, but suffer from their behavior. Especially when it comes to alcohol, I've noticed that identical behavior over time can diverge: one person might just stop drinking as they grow up, while the other ends up being unhealthily dependent on their drinking. And the latter situation seems fine and might even go unnoticed by everyone... until it suddenly isn't (break-up, being fired, depression).

Once you see it this way, it's hard to stand in line at Starbucks and think "I'm not an addict." Everyone and their mother is addicted to something, it's just a matter of whether or not the authorities approve of your choice of substance.

Truth is we're humans and humans seek to alter their consciousness whether it be through meditation, prayer, exercise, spinning in circles or a through a shortcut -- a substance.

Unfortunately we're working against decades of misinformation and racism in this fight for our freedom to consume substances as we wish. It's unfortunate because I think there's a lot of medical value in a lot of the substances our government has deemed illegal.

More and more, I don't see addicts; I see people self-medicating for undiagnosed neurochemical imbalances.

Alcoholics are frequently people who don't realize they have anxiety disorders, and think they need alcohol to be calm. People who drink cup after cup of coffee/soda because it helps them to "focus" and "be productive" might do well with being tested for ADD. People with undiagnosed clinical depression get hooked on cigarettes way more often than other groups. Etc.

The famous Rat Park experiment showed that addiction is not nearly as common a thing, for neurotypical individuals living in an adaptive environment, as we assumed when we built our models of addiction epidemiology. Most addicts (sparing a few drugs like cocaine and heroin that create strong chemical dependence) are either not neurotypical, or in a mal-adaptive environment, or both. Fix the problem with the neurology or the environment, and the addiction becomes easy to break.

Why say undiagnosed? Maybe we ha've been and just prefer something less. Caffiene is easier on the body and mind than amphetamines.

People who have been diagnosed with something, and then pursue alternative lines of therapy, usually manage to use those alternative therapies responsibly, because they are actually thinking of them using the mental framing of "treatment for condition" rather than "fun recreational substance I seem to enjoy even more than other people."

A lot of recreational drugs are fine if approached in a medical context. Amphetamines, nicotine, MDMA, whatever—given appropriately-controlled dosing and a desire to achieve a therapeutic effect rather than a "high", one can consume these substances in a long-term fashion without addiction, and remain "healthy" or even "healthier".

It's the undiagnosed who are the problem. Since they don't think they have a problem (except perhaps a problem common to all human experience, or a problem with their environment—anything but an uncommon neuroendocrine ailment) they don't even realize that there's any other point than the "high" to begin with. They pursue these drugs because they seem really, really good: they get the recreational effects and they help with their problems! And then they get addicted, because they associate a recreational dosing schedule (rather than a therapeutic one) with their life getting better.

> People who have been diagnosed with something, and then pursue alternative lines of therapy, usually manage to use those alternative therapies responsibly, because they are actually thinking of them using the mental framing of "treatment for condition" rather than "fun recreational substance I seem to enjoy even more than other people."

Are you sure? Prescription drug abuse is rampant. And in my experience, most of these people do legitimately need the drugs they're abusing - but they also see them as "fun recreational substances." I've noticed this seems to be especially true for anti-anxiety medications and painkillers. People take them to treat their conditions and to enjoy the way the abuse of it makes them feel. I think the fact it's a legitimate prescription makes it "okay" since in their minds they need it and there's no harm in taking extra because of that.

Of course, then they run out of their prescription before they can refill it and then there's some miserable days (or shady transactions) ahead.

I'm speaking from extensive experience in Mississippi. Maybe it's different in wealthier places. I do get the sense those are are better off tend to adhere more to the correct dosing schedule, but I have no idea how to begin untangling cause-and-effect there.

As noted, some drugs do create genuine chemical dependence, even when you're trying to be responsible with them. Heroin is the default example, and is now mostly considered a recreational drug because of this (i.e. it is no longer considered safe to prescribe at any dose), but that recreational "market" grew out of what was originally prescription drug abuse.

The benzodiazepine class of drugs also has a chemical dependence problem, and serves as a good example of the medical establishment's reaction to prescription drug abuse. When prescribing a benzo-class drug nowadays, your doctor will work with you to create a dosing schedule that includes its own "taper-off" period (and perhaps secondary therapies to counter withdrawal effects) to avoid addictive potential. They will also try to find a drug which not only fits the effect profile they want, but which you can safely afford out-of-pocket, or they will attempt to get you on a manufacturer's discount plan, and so forth, to ensure you never encounter the "I can't get my dose this month, but I'm at the height of treatment and addicted so I have to do something else" problem.

In the modern day, just prescribing the drug instead of the treatment program as a whole is medically irresponsible.

> In the modern day, just prescribing the drug instead of the treatment program as a whole is medically irresponsible.

In that case, there are a lot of medically irresponsible doctors. I have never seen nor heard of a doctor that does that. And the problem is truly rampant from what I see here. Maybe people are doctor-shopping, I don't know. I do know that most of my non-professional acquaintances have prescriptions for something and nearly all of them abuse it. And to clarify, I don't mean "oh, I'm going to take an extra one because I'm feeling really anxious/in pain today", I mean "I'm gonna take six and get fucked up."

> to ensure you never encounter the "I can't get my dose this month, but I'm at the height of treatment and addicted so I have to do something else" problem.

FWIW, I pretty much never see this. They always find a way to afford their dose that month[1]...the problem is they run through it in 1-2 weeks. Then they either suffer, ask their friends for help, or more rarely find something more extreme.

[1] Fortunately there seems to be cheap generics available for most of them. I know a month's worth of kolonopin runs about $15-20; my ex was on it and she didn't have insurance.

I think I maybe have ADHD, (not just ADD), but medics REFUSE to even TRY to diagnose me, because of all the ADHD drugs abuse by students and obese people (in my country, Adderall actually entered the list of illegal drugs, because of its abuse to 'cure' obesity).

Saturday, while trying to finish a task for my startup, I took LOADS of caffeine, and it didn't work.

I suspected I might be addicted, and tried yesterday to not touch anything with caffeine.

Had horrible withdraw symptoms :(

And still can't work properly (I work in random spurts, usually I work more if it is a new or interesting task)

I don't know what country, but pro-drugs like Vyvanse are the best thing to ever happen to people who suspect they have ADHD. "Pro-drug" basically means "no high possible" and therefore "no abuse potential", which further means "being interested in this drug is not drug-seeking behaviour." (It also means "not easily converted back into its active metabolite by anything other than the appropriate liver enzyme", and therefore "chemists can't do anything to concentrate it without a whole huge bioreactor setup.")

Any doctor aware that an ADHD pro-drug treatment exists will have no problem diagnosing people with ADHD any more, because it's no longer a risk they're taking of potentially giving some addict their fix, or giving some drug chemist the raw materials for their next batch of speed. It's an awareness problem at this point; most doctors don't know about these drugs, and still think ADHD treatment is a scary place they don't want to go near. Psychiatrists tend to be more up-to-speed (heh), but even then it can depend on the country.

Strattera is the only ADHD treatment i have tried which i believe is not amphetamine based at all - It has been out for years and i'm not sure why it hasnt been as accepted as vyvanse.

Do you know if Vyvanse has different outcomes that typical adderall/ritalin? I know Strattera gives much different side effects for myself, but i have never tried vyvanse

Interesting info you gave.

I found Vyvanse recently became legal in Brazil, but it has two problems: First, still requires a prescription, and medics are not free, I cannot randomly visit doctors until one that knows about it (seemly it is still obscure here) heard of it and agrees to try to diagnose me. The other, it is ABSURDLY EXPENSIVE (28 pills is about half of a monthly mininum wage)

As for Strattera, Brazil officially ignore it, like if it don't existed, so you can import it without much consequences. Still expensive though :( (less than Vyvanse, but expensive)

EDIT: I feel sad that as a 27 year old that hates meds I will end taking meds like a 70 year old take (I already have to chronically use 2 meds... this will add another one)

I'm not sure what country you are in, but I'm in the US and I used to take Strattera which is not an amphetamine as far as I know, and is not controlled like adderall/ritalin/concerta etc.

Another commenter mentioned vyvanse which i haven't tried but have heard good things about - though i do believe that is still an amphetamine and likely controlled.

Try to kick out simple carbs (mainly sugar) from your diet, sleep well and start doing aerobic exercises like running, cycling, swimming. A lot of people reported improvement in their state - seems like exercise and better diet help balancing some neurotransmitter-related problems. Maybe you will be amongst the lucky ones that can fix it that way.

I did that a long time ago

For example I don't buy sugar, at all.

All my sugar intake comes from stuff that has sugar in it, like the occasional sweet chocolate...

As for exercises... I try, I can even do some months, but after a time they start make me feel extremely bored and I cannot even pay attention to them while doing them, so I stop.

After a while I start again.

The exception was Kung Fu, but I have right now no accessible decent academy.

I do a couple no-caffeine weeks every couple of months to detox, withdrawal symptoms occur each time during the first 2 days or so (headaches, feeling very tired etc). It gets better soon afterwards.

That's because we've somehow equated addiction with badness. When you read about opiates, for instance, the high addiction potential is called out as a major downside. Doctors get all nervous about it, try to prescribe little, don't allow refills, etc. Yet this is not the case when prescribed, say, antidepressants, which can be just as addictive.

What we need to do is realize that addiction is not a bad thing intrinsically. Sure, it has the downside of needing a supply of the addictive thing, but that might be a minor and perfectly reasonable price to pay. Just like popular medications that have a small chance of making all your skin die and fall off, or over time, frying your nerves and making you jerk around. Never, in my personal experience, have any medical personnel made a big deal about those side effects of "good" drugs like anti-psychotics, stabilizers, or anti-depressants. But mention "bad" drugs and they go nuts about similarly small tradeoffs.

I thought that one of the requirements for addiction was that you were willing to let the rest of your life go up in flames to get your next "fix." People definitely bandy about the word "addiction" for things that are somewhat less than that. E.g. not many people withdraw from those around them to get their next caffeine fix.

(It's worth noting that this doesn't necessarily apply to just drugs. WoW-addiction falls into this definition too.)

That has a strange bias then for people that are at trivial risk of having their life go up in flames. Howard Hughes, for instance, used hundreds of mg of morphine equivalent a day for decades. But being rich beyond belief, it's not like he'd ever encounter issues with supply. But most people, if told of such levels of use, would consider that an "addiction". It'd certainly be a strong physical dependence.

I think your conclusion is correct, but not a problem, precisely because concepts like 'addiction', as well as 'mental disorder' are contextually defined.

ADHD might not be a problem if you're living in a wild environment and roaming the woods as a primary activity. Schizophrenia might not be an issue of you live in a society where you're considered a 'seer/prophet' and taken care of by the community for your 'valuable' service. Heroin might not be an issue if you're filthy rich and happy with your lifestyle.

Practically speaking, of course society might value labeling any use of heroin as 'addiction' because it might be too rare for people to be able to live well while using. Similarly, I believe making alcohol a bit more of a 'drug' (as it is commonly seen) is not a bad thing because so many people, relatively, become unhealthily dependent on it.

I've become more and more convinced that it would benefit us all if we 1) let go of our somewhat arbitrary current definitions of 'illegal drugs' and 'addiction' (at least in 'common' conversation), and 2) keep in mind that the goal of criminalizing a substance or labeling someone as 'mentally ill' is to help people function in whatever society their in, and not an attempt to objectively define any of these things.

I have a lot of friends who by many definitions suffer from various 'mental problems'. Many of them function well because they chose a lifestyle, career, and social environment that suits them, rather than taking the path of medication. While this is not an option for everyone, I wish the mental health industry would spend more energy on this rather than simply 're-socializing' people through medication or therapy.

To be clear, I realize this is not a simple issue, and that for many people medication is a lifesaver. I also realize that the impact of incorrectly advising people on these matters can ruin lives. I'm not an expert!)

keep in mind that the goal of criminalizing a substance..is to help people function in whatever society their in

In 2015, I'm not so sure about that. The roots of America's cannabis prohibition are firmly rooted in bald-faced racism, for instance, with a side order of not wanting to annoy textile manufacturers.

I sincerely think that more harm is caused by any attempt to bring the justice system to bear on what people choose to put into their own body. Any objective analysis would come to the same conclusion - the fact that it hasn't suggests ulterior motives.

Smoking is losing a lot of its social acceptance lately and for alcohol, well, I think we all know what happened during the years it lost its acceptance.

I think alcohol is a horrid drug on the body, and I look back at the Prohibition Era and it looks like the average person breaking the law was just looking for a good time, but I have a feeling a lot where self medicating at the time?

Alcohol is a weird drug that affects so many parts of the brain; I don't think it's just coincidence that it's the drug of choice for so many people who have mental disorders?

I know for myself, when I had my breakdown in my late twenties--alcohol is the only drug that really seemed to make me feel normal(a least for awhile). I went to various Psychiatrists and was prescribed the usual regime of tri, and hetrocyclic antidepressants--none worked in the slightest in my case. I finally found Klonopin. Yea, it worked at first, but was not better than alcohol. I know Klonopin has a long half life, but in my experience the effects wore off pretty quick?

My point is I feel a lot of people abuse alcohol because the other drugs just don't work very well. I remember a Psychiatrist telling me I wish I could prescribe more Klonopin, so you didn't need to drink a six pack a day, but I can't. I'm afraid of the load on you liver. He was right, and I'm glad he didn't increase the dosage of Klonopin--I think? I really didn't have a say in the matter.

But the anxiety went on for years and honestly effected my life and career. I went on to become an Alcoholic.

I got to the point where I gave up, but didn't want to blow out my liver(I had a medical backround, and saw just how horrid alcohol was to the liver.) I saw someone die from liver failure, and it was Hell. It was beyond the worse misery I have ever seen, and it went on for days.

I knew I was a alcoholic, and Psychotropic medications were not helping me so I just decided to keep my drinking down to only the times I truly needed it(that meant no partying, no drinks at dinner, etc.) I was a drug I used to treat my symptoms. I stayed away from hard liquor. Just medicated with beer and wine.

Well years later--my career is toast, but I'am still alive. Most days were a pain in the ass, but I got through it, and had some good days. If anyone reads this who is suffering from an anxiety related disorder; I can honestly state that the my level of anxiety did get better with the natural aging process. If you are controlling panic attacks with alcohol--only drink enough to stop the paints attack. In my case 2-3 drinks would stop a panic attack if I timed it right.

My worse years were the 90's up through around 2005. Back in the ninties I could get away with a little bit of alcohol on my breath. I couldn't imagine self medicating today--where alcohol is so demonized in many circles, and Cops don't take any sympathy. "Just lock him up even if even though he blew under .08 percent. He probally has something else in his blood stream, and through synergy, and our narrative, we can get a conviction?"

The Psychiatriactic profession has failed us. Very few drug companies are working on new Psychiatric drugs. No wonder people self medicate? What I find ironic is right now it is harder than ever to get SSDI for a Phychiatric disorder.

No I am not on SSDI, but would be homeless if I didn't get very lucky a few investments early on.(absolute blind luck on that money). I got lucky. I really should be homeless.

There are definitely some real issues surrounding what we can do for psychiatric conditions, but there are no easy answers.

Regarding 'self medicating', I'd say that it's more like palliative care. That is, it makes people feel better to some degree, but does not treat (and may actually worsen) underlying conditions.

While I can certainly understand the attraction of palliative care, I wish there was more that we could do for the underlying issues.

It comes from protestant tradition which rejects indulgence but values hard work. Good drugs facilitate the latter.

If weed were legal, I wouldn't use coffee, cigarettes, or alcohol. The ugly truth is, this is the case for a lot of people, and its quite well understood in the trillion-dollar coffee, cigarette and alcohol industries. I'd also be less likely to ask a stranger for industrial drugs to treat depression.

Plus, I could grow it myself for almost no cost.

Anything that upsets the economic and industrial consumption status quo is going to meet fierce and powerful resistance from those currently selling consumption every minute of their lives.

> Once you see it this way, it's hard to stand in line at Starbucks and think "I'm not an addict."

Except "addict" is a loaded term, which implies... well, unequivocally maladaptive behavior.

You seldom hear about people who lie to their loved ones about their hidden coffee stash, or steal from their child's piggybank to sustain their caffeine fix.

Because it is socially acceptable to be addicted to coffee. Plus you can buy coffee almost anywhere, and it is really inexpensive.

In a situation where coffee would be banned, we would in all likeliness see a rise in coffee smuggling, a drop in quality of coffee, and coffee addicts would face problem due to the illegality of the stuff : imagine that one day, your dealer is all out of coffee. That would cause a withdrawal syndrome. So people would keep stash of coffee, and other behavior charateristic of 'drugs addict'

> a situation where coffee would be banned, we would in all likeliness see a rise in coffee smuggling, a drop in quality of coffee, and coffee addicts would face problem due to the illegality of the stuff

More likely if caffeine were banned. If coffee were banned, those with a dependence (which is most likely on caffeine, not coffee) would substitute other sources. Like tea. Or soda.

(People might smuggle coffee if it were banned, the way they smuggle Cuban cigars into the US, but as a prohibited luxury rather than an item of dependence that there was no legal means to fulfill.)

I wonder if pedantry were banned, would we see a rise in darknet sites for posts like yours?

dragonwriter pointing out that there are economically substitutable goods to coffee, and that the prohibition would have to be much more generalized, is a straight-up good point, and you're not contributing.

I think he was just making a joke, one I thought was very funny.

> (People might smuggle coffee if it were banned, the way they smuggle Cuban cigars into the US, but as a prohibited luxury rather than an item of dependence that there was no legal means to fulfill.)

You do realize that caffeine is more addictive than cannibas right? If there is an illegal drug trade for that pot then I can't imagine people would just give up on coffee when it's harder to kick.

> You do realize that caffeine is more addictive than cannibas right?

There's no one accepted unidimensional criteria for addictiveness. Among the criteria generally used, some put caffeine more addictive than cannabis, some less (though all put both of them extremely low.)

> If there is an illegal drug trade for that pot then I can't imagine people would just give up on coffee when it's harder to kick.

If it is coffee, but not the addictive component caffeine) that is prohibited, and there are lots of other sources of caffeine, such a trade, I argue, would be more like the trade in likewise-prohibited Cuban cigars -- a luxury. Caffeine addicts would have a ready supply of alternative sources of caffeine and thus not really need the illicit trade, just as nicotine addicts do when Cuban cigars are prohibited.

It is more physically addictive, at least. I'm not so sure about psychologically.

Withdrawal from physical dependency of high doses of caffeine is decidedly unpleasant (with the potential for week long bouts of diarrhea, night sweats, uncontrollable shaking, fever and massive headaches, for example - from personal experience after going of pre-workout supplements with doses in the 400mg+ range of caffeine)

No. Lives are ruined by some drugs, and not ruined by others. No one has ever destroyed their lives with coffee, you don't read about people being mugged for coffee, and so on. Conversely, we have heard, countless times, of people with all the money and/or access to illegal drugs in the world (actors, doctors, drug dealers) absolutely destroying their lives with things like cocaine, meth, heroin. And not destroyed because they got caught (the illegal aspect), but because it became an all consuming pursuit coupled with grave health issues. I don't agree with our drug laws, but there is a reason we let children drink soda, and do what we can to keep them from injecting heroin. It's not just social acceptance (I happily stipulate that plays a role, but it is far from the main effect for many people).

Taxes, dude, that's what's missing in the equation. If coffee was taxed the same as alcohol or tobacco there would be an increase of piggybank cracking to buy the next coffe fix.

>You seldom hear about people who lie to their loved ones about their hidden coffee stash, or steal from their child's piggybank to sustain their caffeine fix.

I also seldom hear of people who lie to their loved ones about their hidden drug/alcohol stash, or steal from their child's piggybank to sustain their drug/alcohol fix. Really, I do often hear the same sad generic story which you refer to, but there are never any specifics nor any thing else that would prove it is actually as common as is purported.

You're right that the generic story isn't really attached to statistical data that would make it meaningful. However, if you want specifics on the story, it's my mother in law.

She could either pay the rent or buy alcohol. She purchased alcohol and was evicted form her home.

Living homeless in the park, she and her children didn't eat for two days. When she received money, she decided to continue forgoing food to spend the money on alcohol.

After over a month of homelessness, during an Indiana winter that was below freezing during the day and colder at night, she was offered private housing and food for herself and her children. The only catch was that she'd have to remain sober. She preferred the alcohol. My wife has permanent medical problems from sleeping in those conditions.

She didn't steal from her daughter's piggy bank to buy alcohol. She did use her daughter's social security number to apply for a student loan, then use the loan money to go on a bender.

Alcoholism isn't just a generic scare story told by DARE officers to keep kids from drinking. It's a real issue killing a real woman named Virginia.

> The only catch was that she'd have to remain sober. She preferred the alcohol.

This is a cruel joke that gets played on drunks. She didn't prefer the alcohol, she was/is addicted; and our society deals with addiction in probably the worst possible way. They may as well have asked her to jump over the moon. Rational people don't do that to themselves or their families. I didn't say that these things never happen. I said they are more rare than some would have you believe. I have my own horrible story in that vein (my father), but what I don't do is use it to pander to peoples' emotions in an effort to further perpetuate, or perhaps even expand the disaster that is the drug war. Addiction is an ugly unfortunate thing that exists, and as sad and regrettable as your wife's tale, and my father's tale, and the tales of others are; using these tales to support the continuance of, or the heaping of even more hardship (criminal sanctions) upon the susceptible/unfortunate/whatever is and always was the wrong thing to do.

My apologies: I wrote that post in a fit of anger and I wasn't careful in how I spoke.

You're absolutely right that the choice she was presented with was no choice at all. She prefered alcohol over housing in the same way that Stephen Hawking prefers sitting over walking. That was the point that I was trying to make - there are people who cannot make rational decisions on these matters.

As for the drug war, my wife has tens of thousands of dollars of medical debt because some bureaucrat decided that it's more important that my mother-in-law be punished for being an alcoholic than that a child might have a warm place to sleep at night. Punishing addicts makes as much sense as punishing cancer patients.

>My apologies: I wrote that post in a fit of anger and I wasn't careful in how I spoke.

Same here. Best regards.

I'm glad you've never had anyone in your life with a drug addiction. It is clearly something from which you have been withdrawn. Try your best to empathize with the people who match the clinical description of substance addiction as defined by the DSM. This isn't something about which people are simply exaggerating.

>I'm glad you've never had anyone in your life with a drug addiction. It is clearly something from which you have been withdrawn.

Thanks, but that's not what I said, you're mistaken on that account.

>This isn't something about which people are simply exaggerating.

The stories don't need exaggeration.

My response, and what I find offensive about these stories' use in pro-drug war propaganda, is that they are being used to pander to peoples' emotions in an effort to support the current dreadful state of affairs.

OK, we agree then! Clearly a heated subject. I've encountered numerous people that equate addiction to routine, and that was what I was speaking out against. My apologies.

No worries. I could have articulated my ideas better.

I hear variations on these stories at least half a dozen times a week at my alcoholism support groups.

>> You seldom hear about people who lie to their loved ones about their hidden coffee stash, or steal from their child's piggybank to sustain their caffeine fix.

Actually, this brings up an perfect example of the first poster's point. Smoking cigarettes was socially acceptable at one point. Now, it's considered a bad, unhealthy habit. I've known quite a of people who hide, or attempt to hide, their habit from their friends. And I'm quite sure that a good number of parents have taken money from their kids piggybanks to buy cigarettes.

My mum emptied my savings (I probably had about £5 in change) at the age of 7 to buy another pack of cigarettes. When I found out, she promised she would pay me back.

She never did.

You seldom hear about people who lie to their loved ones about their hidden coffee stash

Try Utah some time. Great place, interesting culture, and occasionally, secret coffee stashes.

Yeah I'm inclined to not use the word addict - maybe go with what DFW said about everyone worshipping

You can drink two glasses of red wine every day of your life and if you are healthy adult male of average weight, this will likely extend your life and improve your health. For a woman it is down to one glass. You can drink a glass of coffee or a cup of tea every day of your life and this will also probably improve your life and your health.

Trying doing that with cocaine or heroin. Actually do not try it because you will be addicted and have serious health consequences.

There are very few discrete things in nature. Like most things psychoactive substances have varying effects. But some substances have effects so different from others, they should be in a different category.

Someone might argue that sulfuric acid is just a more powerful version of lemon juice. But it's acidic effect is so much more powerful than that of lemon juice society quite correctly treats them as being completely different.

One of the 4 founders of Johns Hopkins Hospital was addicted to both cocaine and morphine and was able to remain functional while addicted for the rest of his life.

I think it's easy to mix up the effects of the illegality of certain drugs with the effects of the drugs themselves. Impurities and poor injection hygiene are probably a large part of the health effects of these two drugs currently, and they are a result of their black market status.

I'm not saying you should go out and pick up an opiate or coke addiction, just that the difference in effect is sometimes more a result of the war on drugs and less a result of the drug itself. Bathtub gin made people blind during Prohibition too.

I think the addictive potential of those drugs are overstated as well - most people who try heroin or coke do not wind up becoming addicted, just like having your two glasses of wine don't make you into a raging alcoholic. There appears to be a subset of people who are predisposed to becoming addicted to drugs, but that does not translate into "try heroin, become a junkie."

The basis of the drug war is not rooted in any sort of rational division of drugs by harm. Anti-opiate laws were enacted to target Chinese immigrants, anti-cocaine and marijuana laws targeted blacks and Mexicans, anti-everything else laws were enacted in the 60's in response to anti-hippie hysteria. If we really based things on harm, psychedelics and marijuana would be legal, and alcohol would be illegal - alcohol being a cause of more than twice the deaths in the US than all other substances combined, and is a factor in a huge number of violent crimes.

I don't think the Hopkins founder is a great example here. He did have some impressive accomplishments, but at least according to this article [1], you couldn't call him functional in the same way a daily coffee or wine drinker is functional. A modern-day Halsted would be fired from any hospital, even if cocaine and recreational morphine were legal.

I know there's more to your argument than "Halsted did it so it must be ok", but I think this is a useful point.

[1]: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/27/health/27zuger.html?_r=0

There are outliers and exceptions to lots of things, but that does not necessarily mean that therefore it's appropriate to extrapolate to the population at large.

When people say window washers should wear safety equipment do we also say, well, there have been cases where window washers have fallen ten stories and survived, in order to color the hazards?

There are also very many legal prescription drugs to which when people become addicted to them, lead to dysfunction. Just because an addictive substance is 'clean' and legal does not mean it's healthy for people to ingest at will.

Drugs are like gambling. They hardly bring any good and potentially bring lots of bad. Do you think it would be good to push opiates on the Chinese, or push MJ on Mexicans and blacks? Would that be justice? While we may agree that punishment is disproportionate, or unjust, ridding society of substances that incapacitate people to varying degrees, is not too bad a thing. Would we rather have an intoxicated population, one less capable of making everyday decisions even-headed?

Anyhow, your argument is beside the point. Japan has harsh drug laws and it mainly affects its own people, same with Cuba, Russia and other non-US puppet regimes, so it's not as though it's a uniquely american invention to subjugate classes or people no, rather, it was an attempt by social engineers to rid societies of what they perceived were ills which affected society.

> Drugs are like gambling. They hardly bring any good and potentially bring lots of bad. Do you think it would be good to push opiates on the Chinese, or push MJ on Mexicans and blacks? Would that be justice? While we may agree that punishment is disproportionate, or unjust, ridding society of substances that incapacitate people to varying degrees, is not too bad a thing. Would we rather have an intoxicated population, one less capable of making everyday decisions even-headed?

I'm a regular marijuana smoker with the occasional mushroom and LSD trips and I can say at least the latter is extremely common among my friends and even coworkers! None of us are physically dependent on these drugs and all function completely level-headed in our everyday lives as software engineers, lawyers, analysts, and more. Trust me when I say there is more than "hardly any good." There is always the potential for bad, with this and just about anything, and acknowledgment of this requires us to educate each other on the proper time, place, reason, and so on surrounding their use.

To _push_ those things on _anyone_ would be bad, sure. You should stop to consider that the associations you made with ethnicity and certain drugs is a result of the entire issue at hand! It's not simply that the punishment is disproportionate. It's that people are being criminalized for doing what others do every day, albeit in a different form that happens to be legal and socially accepted. The type of environment this creates is one where people are not educated on use and the production of these drugs is not supervised and not regulated, which is bad for everybody.

> They hardly bring any good

Good? Good for who? I would contend that most people's experiences of most drugs (including alcohol) are mostly positive. Mine certainly have been.

> Drugs are like gambling

I agree. In that the majority of people have some fun out of it, a small minority get addicted and need help, and legalization leads to massive tax incomes for the government.

A once-daily dose of cocaine or heroin is not likely to lead to serious dependence or health effects. So long as the dose and frequency remain constant, one should be able to ride that horse forever.

Americans have forgotten just how ubiquitous drugs that are now illegal used to be, and how often they were used. Amphetamines used to be commonly prescribed by doctors, for just about anything. Hitler used to take crystal meth daily, he was reported to have taken nine shots during his last days in the bunker.

I read an article recently about a guy who became addicted to smoking opium. He said it took a long time and steady increasing doses before he finally reached the point where he was addicted.

Even alcohol was much more widely consumed during the Middle Ages, as it was safer to drink than water. Provisioning notes from the time period reveal shockingly massive quantities.

> Hitler used to take crystal meth daily, he was reported to have taken nine shots during his last days in the bunker

Not exactly a glowing endorsement of taking the drug.

And he died soon after he took meth. Not exactly indicating responsible use.

JFK then? He made frequent use of the stuff.

According to rumors JFK used dexamphetamine. Probably Hitler also had access to the better amphetamines. Contrary to common belief meth is significantly different and nastier (neurotoxic).

There's a section of meth vs amphetamine on WP. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methamphetamine#Pharmacology - scroll to "Comparison to amphetamine pharmacodynamics"

A better example of useful drug dependence would be Paul Erdős.


> Even alcohol was much more widely consumed during the Middle Ages, as it was safer to drink than water.

Apparently this is a common view, but not one settled as correct:


> You can drink two glasses of red wine every day of your life and if you are healthy adult male of average weight, this will likely extend your life and improve your health.

FWIW, I've never had alcohol, but after reading advice like this in the popular press, I asked both my cardiologist and GP whether this would be a good addition to my life.

Both said there probably wasn't any harm in it if I was already doing it, but that they would not recommend starting, and that of all the things I could do that might improve my health, improving my diet and regular exercise were better choices (and less likely to have negative side effects).

(A urologist I saw actively advised against alcohol consumption, but that advice seemed limited to easing specific conditions).

YMMV, and doctors don't know everything.

However, did they tell you anything of substance when they said to improve your diet? Unfortunately, I know all too well that proper nutrition is tossed aside in medical school. Why? I'll tell you my hypothesis. I think it might just be correct. Proper nutrition would cause most people, especially those with chronic conditions, to get better very quickly and stay that way. Guess who would lose a lot of money if that happened? And guess who also has their puppet strings tied to most parts of the medical industry?

>Trying doing that with cocaine or heroin. Actually do not try it because you will be addicted and have serious health consequences.

This only because heroin is illegal. Pure heroin is very gentle and harmless drugs. The worst you can get from pure heroin is constipation. While it may be unpleasant compare it to the effects of long term alcohol use which includes cirrhosis, serious heart problems, etc.

There is likely a continuum of risk associated with all of these substances, but our society thinks of them only in a binary fashion. X is ok, Y is illegal.

This becomes a problem when some teenager tries one and then thinks that "they've been lying to me about this", and assumes that everything goes. There are risks but binary thinking isn't the right way to manage them.

Not necessarily (getting addicted that is), or even likely


Some interesting studies in that article. Environment and personality has a dominant role.

Rats in boring cage will prefer the drugged water, but put them in a cage with toys and other rats to be social with then their use of drugged water goes down significantly.

And we've seen the same in humans. A significant percent of US Vietnam war soldiers were on heroin, but 90% quickly kicked the habit on returning home to a better place. Likewise for medical patients on temporary strong opiates.

Sure that % of people who do get addicted is significant and need support, but definitely a change in the way of viewing the issue.

> You can drink two glasses of red wine every day of your life ... this will likely extend your life and improve your health.

This is only seen in tests with small animals such as mice or rats. Please cite a source showing that this result is also seen in humans.

Mediterranean diet has been show to be healthier overall than the beer drinking diet of the north of Europe.

You're obviously not familiar with the effects of any of these substances. Plenty of people live normal lives taking opiates every day (in obviously large amounts due to tolerance). Likewise, alcohol is far from the harmless substance you paint a picture of, easily as damaging or more damaging than any illegal substance.

The point is that the only difference here is between social acceptability and social unacceptability. There is nothing inherent in heroin or cocaine that's more dangerous than alcohol (quite the opposite in fact, especially in regards to heroin and opiates). So no, these substances do not have effects so different from others that they need to be in a separate category. If they did, alcohol would be classified right along with them.

This socially acceptable/unacceptable classification is often mistaken for something else, in this case, a difference between the effects of chemicals themselves. That is, of course, as the powers that be want it to be.

Heroin/optiates are particularly interesting to me because of how huge the gap between the risk of pure versions of the safer opiates are vs. the risks incurred by addicts who end up shooting up street-quality heroin.

E.g. a common route to shooting up heroin that's often cut with anything from other drugs to 50% brick dust, or worse, is to start with strong prescription opiates like codeine or oxycodone (or, indeed, prescription heron - see below), become addicted, and rather than have healthcare systems treat this properly, risk having the prescriptions withdrawn if the doctor gets suspicious, get forced onto the black market, eventually find that too expensive, and try heroin as a far cheaper alternative (despite costs than can be tens to hundreds of times more expensive than the cost of medical grade prescription heroin).

Heroin itself is commonly prescribed as a safer alternative to morphine in some countries (UK for example) for things like post-op pain under the names diacetylmorphine or diamorphine - primarily because you need much smaller doses to get the desired effect with heroin than morphine.

There's pretty much no scenario where someone who is willing to risk injecting themselves with an unknown mix of substances of unknown purity, and the potential to include stuff like brick dust, bought at rates extortionate enough to drive quite a few into crime or prostitution, would not be vastly better off with easy access to a $10-$20/day medical grade supply (an amount in line with actual costs of medical grade heroin) of a drug that is safe enough that we regularly hand out prescriptions for just as risky substances solely for pain management (e.g. an ex of mine gets ongoing prescriptions high doses of tramadol and cocodamol (codeing + paracetamol/acetaminophen) for period pain - high enough doses that she avoids taking them as much as possible because she finds the effects deeply unpleasant).

I've pointed out before that I personally see anyone who still votes to continue the current legal regime for drugs as morally not much better than a serial murderer given the amount of deaths - and other suffering - these laws cause, even if you ignore all the misery around the illegal production and focus only on users.

So true. I am sure that after 100 years or so we will see these senseless drug prohibition laws and "war on drugs" in the same light as we see segregation laws now.

So many lives, even whole countries ruined due this nonsense.

David E.H. Jones pointed out that the socially sanctioned drugs have something in common: they all taste bad. Or at least, they have a taste that is unappealing to children, and then must be acquired by special effort. Coffee, tea, tobacco, alcohol: all taste pretty awful to a ten-year-old.

As far as I can tell that's true, but a lot of the taboo drugs taste awful, too. Psilocybin mushrooms taste like someone mixed stale almonds with household dust and a tiny touch of vomit. MDMA tastes like a mix of baking powder and metal.

The simplest hypothesis I can think of that explains this is that most things taste bad. We usually only eat the exceptions--the things that taste good. But we'll eat something that tastes bad if it gets us high.

> David E.H. Jones pointed out that the socially sanctioned drugs have something in common: they all taste bad. Or at least, they have a taste that is unappealing to children, and then must be acquired by special effort. Coffee, tea, tobacco, alcohol: all taste pretty awful to a ten-year-old.

That's certainly not true of all of the popular forms in which those (particularly alcohol and caffeine) are consumed by adults. Sure, most kids might not like black coffee or straight black tea (but plenty of adults take it with cream and sugar resp. milk and honey), but they've got very little problem with, say, Coca-Cola.

Coffee, tea, tobacco and alcohol are all "raw" products. Coca Cola was engineered to taste good. If all drugs were legalized I'm sure we'd get some excellent space cookies or strawberry flavored psylocibe products.

No, alcohol isn't a raw product, not even relative to the popular forms in which it is consumed.

Well first i'd question calling tea a socially sanctioned drug given how little caffeine it contains. (Also, most teas are quite pleasant tasting, if you use premium tea and make it correctly, which 99% of people do not)

Second i'd note that virtually all foods that aren't fruits or vegetables must be 'acquired by special effort', and that a large number of them are fairly inedible or bland until you prepare or cook them. And don't children generally dislike pretty much all foods? And especially healthful foods?

A surprising amount of foodstuffs can be classified as a drug. Not only does tea contain caffeine (in small quantities), but it also containes an amino acid, L-Theanine, which can cross the blood brain barrier and has psychoactive properties.[1] Some people like the effect enough to supplement it.[2]

[1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theanine#Effects

[2]: http://www.amazon.com/Now-Foods-L-Theanine-Veg-Capsules-60-C...

According to google, tea has 3mg/fl oz, while soda has 2mg/fl oz of caffeine.

Also, the people that I know who drink tea, tend to drink it by the pot, whereas most coffee drinkers I know tend to drink by the cup.

The caffeine in tea varies wildly depending on the processing, region, harvest, etc. Coffee is similar but of course on average it's something like 10x more.

When you drink tea you re-steep until the leaves lose flavor, and the other chemicals reduce in potency similarly. Coffee you re-grind for every brew.

Some sodas have twice that amount per ounce, and energy drinks have 10mg or more per ounce (just for reference).

Except sugar.

Not sure why this was downvoted, sugar was likely the first example of the commodification of drugs, and the beginning of a global drug trade....

Soda seems to taste pretty good to them.

A lot of drugs are unpleasant to administer. It's difficult to think of something more unpleasant than injecting yourself with impure narcotics. Weed smells and tastes awful; stoners end up liking the scent only because it's associated with the experience.

Also, I think it's pretty easy to make all of those taste good, with the exception of tobacco (and menthol cigarettes take the worst of the bite out of that, too). Sweetened coffee, flavored dip, sweet mixers to go along with vodka, etc.

I don't understand the argument. I'm pretty sure no illegal drugs taste good either, so what is the argument he was trying to make?

Plenty of alcopops / cocktails that will taste fine to a kid.

It's even worse, because the society-set standards demand of you to drink coffee every day, otherwise you will be seen as less productive than someone who drinks 3 cups a day.

I have worked with people that do not need caffeine to be far more productive than myself with caffeine. Also read research which claims caffeine only brings people with caffeine tolerance to a normal level of alertness, i.e. its counter productive to use caffeine frequently. Unfortunately I cannot fix the cause, lack of sleep, so I try to address the symptoms.

You're confusing intoxicants with stimulants. Noone accidentally ran over a kid or beat up his wife because he drank too many cups of coffee or smoked one too many cigarettes. Alcohol on the other hand...

edit: If you are going to say that cocaine is primarily a stimulatant, You can't even compare the harmful effects/addictiveness of cocaine with coffee or cigarettes.

True. 6,000 people died of cocaine abuse in 2006. Another statistic said 17,000 died in 2000 from all illicit drugs. Now surely moderate cocaine abuse is causing deaths in people who aren't known addicts.

But tobacco is certainly far far worse at 443,000 annual deaths. Occasional responsible use of hard drugs is likely not that bad for you.

To be fair, the tobacco issue is due to the delivery method of smoking rather than the active ingredient (nicotine). On its own, nicotine is an addictive but relatively mild stimulant in normal doses. People desire it for the typical stimulant effects (energy, focus, wakefulness, appetite suppression) but as long as the predominant delivery method involves the repeated inhalation of carbon monoxide, lung-coating tars, particulates, and hundreds of other hazardous compounds, it comes with a terrible burden to health.

If everyone had been smoking coffee grounds to ingest caffeine all these years, I'd imagine there would be similar issues around caffeine. Thankfully, there are other delivery methods for nicotine which are more in line with those for caffeine but they are often prohibitively expensive (inhalers, gum, etc) or under a lot of pressure from tobacco companies and those who produce the gum, patches, and inhalers (nicotine vaporizers commonly referred to as "e-cigarettes").

I think that as long as people derive a benefit from nicotine (like caffeine) there should be a lot more support for these more novel delivery methods that don't involve the inhalation of burning leaves. You can argue that anything habit-forming is negative and undesirable but as with coffee or tea, people often find it worth the tradeoff of potential blood pressure issues common to stimulants.

I was referring to the fact that neither coffee nor tobacco impairs a person's judgement, or ability to function in society.

For example, Imagine a person who comes to work after smoking a cigarette versus a person who comes after smoking a joint.

Regarding cocaine deaths, that is despite the fact that cocaine is not legally available, and is very expensive whereas cigarettes are readily and cheaply available. Almost all the deaths from cigarette smoking happen to heavy users over the long-term (149,222 of deaths are between ages 50-69 and 250,000 are over the age of 70) when compared to hard drug use. Cocaine is highly addictive, and the fact is a good percentage of the population does not have the self-control to restrict them to "occasional responsible use" (As is amply evident in the case of alcohol)

To be fair, it is called a drug store. I think the reason we say drugs and alcohol is simply because alcohol was around way before we had a notion of 'chemicals which do harm to your body' kind of knowledge and alcohol has been an accepted beverage for millenia. It has been seen a vice, however, just like drugs, for quite some time.

Or the fact that mere use of a substance isn't the same thing as addiction/dependence.

Now, what stops them from being called a "drug abuser" is that their substances of choice are legal, so aren't subject to the use=abuse idea that applies to illegal drugs, but even illegal drugs aren't generally subject to a use=addiction idea.

Coffee served at starbucks is in much lower quantities and milder concentrations than what one would normally ingest or inhale in harder drugs.

They do boil tea out of coca leaves, which normally has a small amount of cocaine. It's only when it's concentrated, snorted, that it gives the temporary super high.

> Coffee served at starbucks is in much lower quantities and milder concentrations than what one would normally ingest or inhale in harder drugs.

A common dose of LSD is about 50-150 ug (ug as in micrograms). A Starbucks Grande Coffee has 330mg of caffeine inside. That is THREE orders of magnitude!

So, to sum it up: you can't compare dosages from different substances.

Also: 330mg is a lot of caffeine.

> “sandwiches and hamburgers”

I kind of get what you mean, but those are very different.

In what way? A hamburger is a sandwich, and alcohol is a drug. A hot dog is a sausage, too.

Sandwich isn't necessarily a hamburger though. Also, doesn't a hot dog refer to the whole package? That'd make it different from a sausage.

I find it sad that you're being voted down for having different cultural associations and definitions than another poster.

Americans consider hamburgers to be a type of sandwich. It can be confusing to people from other countries who don't consider meat in a bun (as opposed to meat between slices of bread) to be a a sandwich.

Yeah. I'm from Sweden and when I think sandwich I think of this: http://i.imgur.com/hJwtQ7N.png

Sorry to keep doing this, but I would say a bun is bread, too: “A bun is a small, sometimes sweet, bread or bread roll,” quoth Wikipedia.

> Sorry to keep doing this

I guess likewise, because while bun is a type of bread, bread doesn't, again, necessarily have to be a bun.

Of course not. I’ve been saying for this whole conversation that it’s simply odd, when X is a subset of Y, to use language that implies that X and Y are disjoint sets.

Whenever I hear or read stories like this, I can't help but immediately think about Terence McKenna's "Stoned Ape" theory of human evolution. Due to some of his other theories, I tended to not take much heed, but perhaps he was on to something?

Even the article says, "Siegel had been confidently told by his supervisor that humans were the only species that seek out drugs to use for their own pleasure" but later "Snacks of “magic mushrooms” cause monkeys to sit with their heads in their hands in a posture reminiscent of Rodin’s Thinker."

Very interesting nonetheless.

For the curious: http://www.lycaeum.org/~sputnik/McKenna/Evolution/

Thanks for pointing this out; I've never heard that idea before.

But I don't think it holds water. The ability to talk and invent happens across our whole species regardless of recreational drug use. That means the explanations are to be found in genetics and evolution, not psychochemistry.

But did it, always?

Could it be that the primitive humans that used these substances adapted better to their environment compared to their non-indulging peers, and we're more likely to be direct descendants of them?

Not saying you are wrong, or right, but rather that it would be naive to dismiss this idea based on some notion of genetics and evolution. At some point the choices we made as a species in the past comes directly into play with the natural evolution our genes and culture.

One of the more obvious ways in which drugs could have played a part in our evolution is, roughly stated, how the consumption of certain substances may have kept those individuals with more developed brains from going mad, or counteracted some of the disadvantages, allowing the trait to be passed on.

> That means the explanations are to be found in genetics and evolution, not psychochemistry.

Right, the point here is that perhaps the psychoactive substances aided our ancestors in making decisions or enlightening them(or straight up enhancing their senses) to withstand the test of evolution.

I'm not saying it gave them superpowers, but perhaps it enabled them to look at a particular challenge in a different perspective.

In fact, one of the data points that McKenna uses to base his theory on is that magic mushrooms increase visual acuity, making edges and outlines "stick out" more. This is a positive effect that could give some survival advantage to a primarily tree-dwelling creature that, due to desertification, must spend an increased amount of time on the savannah potentially being stalked by big cats, and could explain one reason why the apes would have sought them out.

It's a very interesting idea in which he invested a lot of time exploring. In the talk that I listened to, he opens by giving a disclaimer of sorts: he recognized that it's a far-out idea, but it is not an unsound one even though it lies pretty far away from the established narrative. He had a bunch of these "psychedelic ideas" and thought that it was important for people to keep coming up with them because they expand our understanding of what is possible. Sort of like psychedelics themselves, which is probably why he used the term.

Many writers used substances to create. How many geniuses did the same ? Erdos took amphetamines for instance.

Surely drug may increase creativity and/or intellectual bandwidth (in both good and bad ways).

I note that this is written by Johann Hari http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Hari

So? Does it change the value of this recently published article because of previous bad behaviour? Keep your logical fallacies to yourself.

Really? I mean really? Of course it changes the value of the article- articles written by unreliable sources are less valuable than those written by reliable ones. Or does it not matter as long as you like the message? If the CIA/NSA comes out and says "Oh it's ok y'all should totally get stoned" does that mean you trust them all of a sudden?

It's no wonder every decent novel about a dystopean society has some type or psychoactive available-everybody trusts their dealer I guess.

If it's truly an unreliable or incorrect source then you should be able to find your argument against what he's saying from his words and not from his person. It's a logical fallacy[0] for a reason.

[0]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem

Yes, really. Your argument is why people who have been to jail are unable to gain employment. People make mistakes.

To expand on your analogy, it seems to me he's saying that someone who embezzles money and goes to jail for it shouldn't be able to get a job handling money when he's released from jail. And I'd agree with that sentiment.

...well, it makes me question the particular style of the article given previous allegations against the author. This breezy style of journalism is sometimes too entertaining to be rigorous.

Like the quote attributed to an attendee of the Eleusinian Mysteries? that you felt “new, astonishing, irrational to rational cognition.” Where did that quote come from?

Its like nobody can ever improve themselves without being reminded that they were once 'bad'. This, I believe, is the crux for why progress is never made in society until someone gets up and says "enough is enough". We have no perfect martyrs.

Oh man, they become well employed (not paid) once they get to jail.

Yes. There is such thing as "reputation". Logical fallacy? What logical fallacy?

Another example of self-medication in the animal world is reindeer, which may travel many kilometers to eat fly agaric mushrooms: those red and white ones. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkCS9ePWuLU

I don't think the first sentence of this article still holds. In 2011, the UN convened a global commission on drug policy which stated: "The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world."


The Global Commission on Drug Policy was completely independent, it had nothing to do with the UN (unfortunately).

When did 'animals do it' become a justification for anything? Animals are violent, self-centered, racist, misogynistic assholes.

So are we!

What we learn from animals doesn't make it justified, but it might explain our own quirks. For instance, homosexuality is well-documented in animals, which is a neat counter to the position that sex is only "naturally intended" for procreation. And studying animal behavior may expose evolutionary reasons for said behaviors, which helps us understand and sympathize both with animals and with our fellow human beings. For the latter, it may lead to more effective treatment. For the former, it's just really funny. Because who doesn't want to see a drunk elephant or a stoned water buffalo?

The naturalistic fallacy should not be confused with a fallacious appeal to nature, a mistaken claim that something is good or right because it is natural (or bad or wrong because it is unnatural).


And eat their own shit, but hey, whatever floats your boat man...

We are a form of animal, in case that had escaped you.

I'm firmly on the "legalize drugs" side if only to get rid of the crime since that's more relevant to me.

That said, one of the "keep drugs illegal" guys from this debate (http://www.intelligencesquared.com/events/versus-drugs/) basically claimed legal drugs kill people. Tobacco is used by 1/3 of humanity and kills 5 million people a year. Alcohol is used by 1/4 of humanity and kills 2.5 million people. 1/20th of humanity uses illegal drugs, that includes people who claim to only use it once a year, and the drugs kill 0.5 million people a year. In other words legal drugs kill 10x the people of illegal drugs. So he extrapolates that if we legalize drugs real deaths by them will go up by as much as 10x.

He also believes after you legalize it the full force of big pharma and VCs and banks and big tobacco will be unleashed on promoting and marketing it. He claims you can google these plans and you can google the lobbyists talking to politicians about all the tax revenue that will come in by making it as big as alcohol etc.

I'm not saying I agree. I have no idea. The idea of it being promoted can be argued away by saying only the government will sell it. Maybe? Here in California there are plenty of shady stores offering instant consultation with a doctor to get your medical approval so you can then buy from them. The point being businesses are popping up. I have no idea what it would take for a giant company to decide to run this stuff.

Others claimed the crime deaths offset the drug deaths although if you check the stats they arguably won't be close. Even a doubling of drug deaths will be far more than drug related crime deaths.

You can also just claim you're more interested in a reduction in crime and even if more people die from drug related accidents. Of course if it's a reduction in theft related crime that's great but of course more intoxicated people could mean more unintentional deaths like drunk drivers?

Anyway, like I said I'm still firmly on the "legalize" side. This was just one of the first arguments against that made me pause.

There are lots of flaws in his argument.

For starters, from your account, he appears to be assuming that 90% of the potential market for illegal drugs stays away from them because they are illegal. We have good reasons to assume that is flat out wrong, by looking at Portugal (where use appears to have dropped after decriminalisation) for example.

Secondly, there's reason to assume that a substantial proportion of deaths related to illegal drugs (and lets just take the numbers you cite at face value) are a direct result of criminalisation. Heroin, for example, is a very safe drug when it is pure, in predictable doses and safely administered. It becomes massively more dangerous when it is impure - mixed with who knows what (brick dust being one common example..), comes in unpredictable doses with according risk of overdoses, and is administered with potentially unclean syringes, in unsanitary conditions (clean syringes, or low enough prices for people to afford sufficient doses for oral use would both make a huge difference).

There is every reason to assume that number of deaths per 100,000 users for illegal drugs as a whole would plunge if well regulated legal sources were available, combined with less judgemental health care options for actual addicts. We have clear evidence of this from heroin treatment, where programs to provide clean syringes and safe places to shoot up on its own provides drastic harm reduction, even when addicts are still dealing with the dangers of massively impure drugs.

Moreover, many of these drugs are only used as more easily obtainable (cheaper, often) alternatives to safer, more harshly regulated illegal drugs. E.g. shooting up heroin is often the "low cost" alternative to obtaining prescription opiates that are safe enough for routine prescriptions on the black market.

As such, legalising the safest drugs - including "hard" ones like heroin that are quite safe in pure forms - and treating addiction to prescription drugs like oxycodone as a health problem rather than cutting people off and pushing them to illegal alternatives, may be assumed to reduce the number of deaths from some of the genuinely highly dangerous illegal drugs or mixes by shifting use away from the worse alternatives.

Another reason it doesn't make sense to extrapolate like that is that even if the number of deaths from now-illegal drugs would go up 10x, what matters would be the increased total harm, and for that to go up 10x there would need to be no replacement effect. That is, if 50% of those extra deaths are people who would otherwise be abusing, and dying from, alcohol, then the actual increase in mortality would be equivalent to 5x as many deaths as currently.

But it's even more complicated than that: Some of the illegal drugs are demonstrably substantially safer than drugs like alcohol. Depending on the size of replacement effects, and the effect of legalization on relative popularity of different drugs etc., actual effect on overall harm could be vastly different.

This before you even start looking at things like crime reduction.

Consider that when looking at crime reduction, it is not just theft to finance purchase, but also outright war-like conditions in many of the places the drugs are produced. As in, army units being used to try to contain manufacture, and failing, with associated huge number of deaths.

> As a young scientific researcher, Siegel had been confidently toldby his supervisor that humans were the only species that seek out drugs to use for their own pleasure

This upsets me to no end. How do they know? People constantly proclaim that "only humans do this or that" which means "animals don't do that", which means... well, nothing, since "animals" is not really a relevant category. Animals is short for "living things that are not modern humans", and in order for any phrase starting with "animals" to be true you need to examine ALL ANIMALS.

A very popular French author from the 16th century (Rabelais) once said "rire est le propre de l'homme" (only humans laugh); this sentence is taught in school here in France and repeted constantly; it's considered both insightful and obvious (which is a contradiction in itself; what's obvious and undisputable shouldn't be very interesting).

I was told this as a teenager and always considered it a gratuituous affirmation with nothing to back it up.

Why wouldn't some animals like to get high?

I'm reminded of an incident when I was a kid, when a freeway in Sweden was closed because of falling geese.

They'd gotten drunk by eating fermented berries, so much so that apparently quite a number were unable to continue flying, or make a safe landing. Some cars were hit before the local freeway was closed (I don't think there were any human casualties; not so sure about the geese).

Of course that could have been an aberration, but as it turns out, in places where fermented berries or fruit is regularly available, animals do often explicitly seek it out.

This is also the delineator between humans and animals presented in Robert Heinlein's "Stranger in a Strange Land", and I had a knee-jerk reaction against it. It is NOT obvious to me at all.

I've seen my cats play 'jokes' on my dog. I've seen the squirrels tease her too by jumping down in the yard, then laugh-bark for minutes, taunting her from the the trees. Don't even get me started on blue jays.

I've repeatedly seen animals engage in behavior similar enough to laughter to make me doubt this claim or those making it.

That echoes statements that seek to prove homosexuality is unnatural since only humans do it—which is demonstrably false.

How often would gratuitous affirmations like that arrive in your schooling? Did they ever stop?

In my experience the French educational system is very formal and structured; also strongly focused on the chronology of the ideas it teaches.

I feel it pushes many inaccurate ideas to later (while staying on topic) challenge them formally. Would you agree with this?

i think youre right

theres one type of monkey that commonly scavanges for rotted fruit for its alcohol

>> Only 10 percent of drug users have a problem with their substance

My politics generally agree with the author's main point, but this statistic seems disingenuous. Surely the percentage varies significantly depending on the drug. I know plenty of people who smoke marijuana and don't have a problem with it. Yet the only people I've known who had problems with methamphetamine or heroine have all ended up hitting rock-bottom or dying. Granted, people are more open about marijuana use than those other drugs, so my observations are biased. But I'm skeptical of the author's statements in that regard... I haven't read the full article yet, but she doesn't seem to address this.

> Surely the percentage varies significantly depending on the drug.

It actually doesn't, which is one of the key findings of addiction research. The reason is that people don't abuse drugs because of the physical discomfort of withdrawal, but rather because they have a psychological dependence on drug use. And that psychological dependence is caused by things like previous life trauma; any given drug is just an interchangeable object that's being fit into a slot.

The one drug-related variable that is important though is route of administration. Because addiction involves linking an action with a reward, the faster a drug takes effect the more likely a user will form a problem with that substance. So basically in terms of addictiveness:

smoking > mainlining > snorting > eating > topical

This is why different drugs seem like they have different addictiveness potentials.

By this reasoning smoked marijuana is equally as addictive as nicotine and more addictive than snorted cocaine or orally ingested opiates (i.e. prescription painkillers). That seems pretty suspect to me.

That rule applies JUST within the same substance. And only generally, some exceptions exist for poor bioavailability due to absorption differences and particular metabolic pathways.

The idea is that the shorter it takes to get into the bloodstream/brain, the peak effects are stronger, and the downregulation of neuron receptors is more acute and lasts longer (therefore requiring redoses to activate them).

Any links to such research? It's hardly presented in a scientifically rigorous way, but take this for example: http://bakadesuyo.com/2012/08/whats-the-most-addictive-drug/. It supports the notion the delivery significantly impacts behaviour, but it also cites highly variable addiction rates - not a consistent 90%. Still Googling for better research, but suffice it to say I'm a bit skeptical of the claims...

> Any links to such research?

Not sure about primary sources, but the professor talks about the routes of administration in the Drugs and Behavior class that's available on iTunes. In terms of addiction rates, this is something that Carl Hart researches and has been talking a lot about recently. He has written a bunch of articles and given some TED talks on the topic.

In terms of quoted figures for the addictiveness of various substances, you need to look at whether the studies you're looking at correct for the characteristics of the users. E.g. people who use heroin are much more likely to become addicted to drugs, which makes heroin look more addictive than it actually is. There certainly is some variance between drugs, but it's relatively small... like 9% vs 13%, but not like 2% vs 90%.

> Yet the only people I've known who had problems with methamphetamine or heroine have all ended up hitting rock-bottom or dying.

Have you known anyone who hasn't had a problem with either of those drugs but still used them at some point in their life?

I would recommend reading TFA, the statistic isn't something the author made up, its from a leaked copy of a United Nations Office on Drug Control report.

For those interested in the statistic:

"Only 10 percent of drug users have a problem with their substance. Some 90 percent of people who use a drug—the overwhelming majority—are not harmed by it."

So, I've read TFA, I see no citation, and I'm still Googling to track down the original research. They may not have made it up, but they may have taken it out of context or omitted details.

>> Have you known anyone who hasn't had a problem with either of those drugs but still used them at some point in their life?

No, I haven't. That's why I'm curious about whether the statistic is uniformly true, or averaged, or what. I'm not saying they made it up, I'm saying I'd like to see more details about how they arrived at that number.

edit: for instance, let's say 90% of "drug users" are marijuana users. Okay, then I'm not surprised, but that would only speak to the danger of marijuana compared to other drugs. Or is it 90% of the users of any given drug? I'd be surprised about the latter. Coming from the United Nations is not a shining banner of truth and unbiased facts.

Found it:

"Globally, it is estimated that in 2012, between 162 million and 324 million people, corresponding to between 3.5 per cent and 7.0 per cent of the world population aged 15-64, had used an illicit drug — mainly a substance belonging to the cannabis, opioid, cocaine or amphetamine-type stimulants group — at least once in the previous year.

The extent of problem drug use - by regular drug users and those with drug use disorders or dependence remains stable at between 16 million and 39 million people."


Thanks - that report contradicts the quote in question. Their data shows that opiate consumption is relatively low world-wide compared to marijuana and other drugs, yet they state in the initial paragraphs that opiates are responsible for the majority if "problem drug users".

I don't think that's true. I think in most western countries the kind of people who end up taking meth are already people who have a drug problem, making the makeup of meth users be generally people with serious issues.

New Zealand has been particularly good at prohibiting the import of drugs like MDMA and Cocaine, which has made them prohibitively expensive. As a result, if you're a drug user you either smoke cannabis, take pills which are generally a mix of mephedrone and meth or just straight up take meth. There's no middle ground.

As a result the kinds of people who would normally take MDMA on a night out in London would take Meth on a night out in Auckland. I know a good number of young professionals who take it from time to time without it being a big part of their lives. Strangely the meth snorters stigmatise meth smokers in the same way a normal person would stigmatise a meth user.

Don't forget wasps!

Here in Denmark, some time in the fall -- when all the apples have fallen off the apple trees, and have been lying on the ground for a while, fermenting -- wasps (that will die soon, because the winter is coming) gorge themselves on these half-rotten, alcohol-rich apple leftovers.

So they fly around, intoxicated by alcohol, bothering everyone, acting very aggressive, which is a real pain to humans since it kind of hurts getting stung by them. It is kind of funny though. Drunk wasps.

The really interesting thing about this story, to me, is that many of the animals don't actually want to do the drugs unless they're put in situations that stress them out.

However, many humans seem to want to do drugs all the time.

Isn't this indicative that there's something fundamentally "wrong" about our society? We've set up a system where we constantly feel existential angst and want to numb ourselves to it.

> Some drug use causes horrible harm, as I know very well, but the overwhelming majority of people who use prohibited drugs do it because they get something good out of it — a fun night out dancing, the ability to meet a deadline, the chance of a good night’s sleep, or insights into parts of their brain they couldn’t get to on their own.

Just because 90% of drug users aren't being harmed, doesn't mean it's necessarily helping. If the mongoose is taking drugs to avoid facing reality, it is simply helping him avoid the problem at hand: his mate is dead. Ideally the mongoose should face the problem, and solve the problem (get a new mate and move on). As for other uses, most stimulant drugs provide false signaling. And this false signaling doesn't really have any positive effects apart from the false signaling (dopamine release) itself. And so what is left is for the false signaling to really cause harm to the 10% of vulnerable people who become addicted, creating an downward spiral of false signaling.

I also don't accept the argument that we should accept our own defects. Humans are genetically susceptible to cancer, depression, but that doesn't mean we should accept them and not fight it. Those are ailments that are easily seen as harmful though, unlike the false signaling of substance use.

That being said, most of what I said apply only to stimulant drugs like cocaine, ecstacy, meth, and not to marijuana or LSD.

I like how you just gloss over how one should "solve the problem". All they have to do is "move on". Well... perhaps drug use is a good way to move on. Drugs are part of reality, so it's rather silly to say they're only used to "avoid reality".

If I get cut in the leg, the doctors put me on morphine while things heal up enough. Am I avoiding reality? Should I just grit my teeth and be tough? For what benefit?

Likewise, if I cannot concentrate, doctors give me stimulants to help, and most folks view this as OK. But if I want to have an extra-fun night out and use the same medication, all of a sudden I'm a speed freak escaping reality?

And if I'm suffering mentally, why can't doctors give me the same morphine as they do for my leg?

How are drugs any more false signalling than doing other activities like seeking out a new mate, meditation or religion, or whatever other things you'd consider as "facing reality" and "moving on"?

You view it as taking drugs to "avoid facing reality". A less judgmental and, frankly, less jerkish way of putting it would be "stress relief." Because we are not a bunch of meat-puppet robots, able to turn off emotions with a blood-curdling scream of the lambda effing calculus. Combating stress is a positive effect. External signals that are internalized are not false, they are externally derived, and the idea of a blanket claim of negativity based on this idea that any avoidance is inherently a negative is wacky.

If you think the solution to a dead mate is to sack up and move on (and no, I'm not putting words in your mouth, I'm just getting at the inescapable conclusion of your line of thinking), I don't think you're particularly well-qualified to pontificate about either stress or grief.

(And I don't touch anything stronger than the occasional beer, I just don't like your tone or your presumption.)

Even you argue that 90% of drug use isn't "helping," the bigger problem that we have today is that criminalizing drug use makes it that much worse. The American Medical Association declared drug addiction "a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry" in 1987. Why then are we sending drug users to prison and ruining their chances for future employment? This only exacerbates the problem and is essentially a lifetime punishment.

We need to be treating it as a disease and a social problem, not a criminal one, with an appropriate and measured response.

It's hard to treat drug use as a social or medical problem because vilifying it is so tempting for evert aspiring moralist. It's as if there was a category of people who were addicted to demonizing addiction.

> Just because 90% of drug users aren't being harmed, doesn't mean it's necessarily helping.

Why would people use drugs that are not helping them? They avoid substances that make them feel bad. They use only substances that are helping them cope in some way or another. To say drugs aren't helping them is to dismiss their suffering and appetites for release.

do-not-agree. my example - after breaking up with girls, smoking pot make me come to terms with it rather quickly, gaining different perspective (ie that necessary step back that you don't have when deep in it). I see too many people dwelling in the past long gone, strong negative reactions when meeting previous lover etc (if one really moves on, meeting an ex is a "meh" experience no matter what happened... how many times did you see the opposite?). Curing grief, and I mean really curing for good, instead of being depressed has a net positive effect for me. If this thing would be completely legal, I wouldn't be destroying my lungs by smoking it, but apply some nasal spray, eye drops or similar with no side effects.

For the account - earthworms have endorphins too. But whether they dig for cannabis roots is still unknown. This needs additional research.

(UPD: see Nature. 1979 Jun 28;279(5716):805-6.)

So why do animals eat psychoactive plants? As far as I can tell, the article doesn't answer this question.

For relief of stress

Very interesting

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