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What is drugs education really about? If drugs education were really about harm-reduction then we would objectively compare what science tells us about the effects of various substances since scientific research is undeniably the best method of determining the relationship between various causes and their effects. In this article it is argued that most drugs education in Britain fails to accurately communicate the truth about drugs by becoming unknowingly embroiled in a highly questionable, ambiguous, and complex mission of moralistic social engineering. Drugs education is dishonest, it misleads people, it is biased, and fails to represent the complex histories and realities that surround the issue of the individual’s relationship to mind-altering substances.

For the most part: drugs education, as it stands, works under a very different modus operandi than simply educating young people about the scientifically demonstrable facts about the effects of drugs. Drugs education as it is currently practised is the result of a complex set of interacting dynamics: the socially constructed taboo surrounding drug use and altered states of consciousness, the fact that many of the teachers will be largely ignorant to the realities of drug use, many of the teachers will have a knowledge-base largely gained through their own (frankly, limited) drugs education secondary education, many of teachers will themselves have used recreational drugs in the past and are not at liberty to be honest about it (due to the aforementioned taboo), an increasingly questioned overarching paternalistic political agenda encapsulated in the somewhat revealing term “The War of Drugs”, the endless double-standards surrounding what substances and activities (legal or otherwise) are deemed “too harmful” to be permitted, the list could go on. The elephant in the room undermines much of these drives though, and that elephant is the scientific research about the harms (and benefits) of various drugs.

In illustrate the extent of these conflicting factors, I would like to ask you to have a look at the graph below.

Graph clearly depicting the objective harms of controlled substances

Source: Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs

 

Now the source of this graph is none other than the government’s own scientific experts: Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, November 2010. It illustrates clearly a number of truths that are somewhat unpalatable to many drugs educators in Britain:

  • Alcohol is, seemingly, more harmful than all other drugs: yet it is a drug that is socially accepted and most of the teachers themselves have used.
  • Cannabis is safer than alcohol or tobacco
  • Both the status of a given substance’s legality or illegality and current drug classification system(Class A, B, etc.) have virtually no bearing on the scientifically demonstrable harms of the substances in question.

Now each of these points is worthy of great exploration and thought: but let’s focus on the last one. If a student with much intelligence about them were to see and understand this graph, the graph showing scientific research, they would instantly see the arbitrary nature of current drug laws. That simple question “why?”, “for what reason?”: it would be enough to thoroughly undermine a “just say no” approach to this issue.

And there are other truths that drugs educators tend to be shy of broaching:

  • Many of the controlled substances have been shown to have medicinal properties, most notably cannabis and some of the “psychedelic” drugs.
  • When compared to high risk non-drug activity there is a clear double standard. The great Professor Nutt was, of course, fired from the aforementioned committee, for (amongst other things) stating that ecstasy is safer than horse-riding! Deaths from peanut butter allergies compared with deaths from cannabis use also serve to demonstrate this double-standard very clearly.
  • There is a clear double standard about attitudes to legal pharmaceuticals, psychoactive or otherwise, in terms of their harms (the P.R. term is “side-effects”) and the likelihood of those harms occurring. Compare, for example, the long list of side-effects for Fluoxetine (the anti-depressant better known as Prozac) to the effects of the responsible use of “magic mushrooms”: decide for yourself which seems more harmful!
  • That there is a difference between drug use and drug abuse.
  • That most drug users do not have their lives destroyed or seriously derailed in any meaningful way by it.
  • People take drugs to have fun.
  • Many of the teachers may have, at some point in their past, used a controlled substance. Their experiences may not have all been bad.
  • The fact that pretty much every one in our society is a “poly-substance user” when considering clearly how people use  alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, sugar, and psychoactive pharmaceuticals.
  • The history of the use of the drugs that are now illegal (“He who controls the past, controls…”?)

o   The use of “entheogens” and “psychedelics” in the students’ ancestors shamanic traditions

o   The potential spiritual significance of altered states of consciousness

o   The use of mind-altering substances by eminent peoples and thinkers of the past and their role in human creative enterprise.

  • The political and historical origins of our drug laws.
  • The complex political nature of drugs prohibition, related concepts such as “Freedom of thought”, “The Harm Principle”, or “cognitive liberty” are never really discussed in the context of drugs education.
  • The political nature drugs education as an agent of socialising and social-engineering.

 

To further challenge our current “just say no” drugs education practices is the vast sea of conflicting evidence students will increasingly be exposed to: drug information from “unapproved” drugs education sites, vastly more access to positive accounts of drug experiences, peer communications, wider access to “legal highs”, potentially enlightened parents, a culture of increasingly normalised drug use, and frequent positive depictions of drugs and “drug cultures” in films which, compared to two decades ago, seems to have massively infiltrated modern cinema at a somewhat suspicious rate.

Let’s face it, “The War on Drugs” is becoming increasingly controversial for a number of reasons; not least of all the recent American states that have ended cannabis prohibition thus rightfully claiming an enormous tax bounty in return! Far be it for teachers to perpetuate a political agenda that should be the subject of rigorous analysis and scrutiny. Far be it for teachers to tacitly comply with the deeply troubling political scheme that is drug prohibition.

If you are an educator, and you want to show your students the truth about drug harm, you should start with the chart shown above. Explore the harms and benefits or drug use fully, be honest about its history, encourage debate about the myriad political issues surrounded in both “The War on Drugs” and the purposes of drugs education. If you are a truly responsible educator, when a student says “I don’t think I’ll ever drink alcohol, instead I’ll occasionally use mushrooms and cannabis because the scientific research demonstrates reduced harm in that choice.” You would leave it be.

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Cognitive Liberty UK

No drug that has been made illegal in the UK has EVER been decriminalised. Consequently, a massive part of the fight to maintain cognitive liberty is preventing new chemicals being added to the list of controlled substances.

Legal highs currently include a whole range of wonderful entheogens, alongside this is an ever-expanding range of new chemicals allowing experiences that previous generation simply had no access to. In many ways, this is a golden age: any psychonaut can order shamanic herbs, witch potions, or the latest scientific breakthroughs from the four corners of the earth with a view to exploring and expanding their mind.

In 2010 we saw mephedrone get banned, we can blame the government and the media, but in truth it was the then-users of mephedrone who share much of the responsibility. This article discusses what we can do to stop currently legal drugs being made illegal.

1) Keep it on the…

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Cognitive Liberty UK

It’s a class-A drug with some of the lowest risks/harms when compared to other drugs. It’s a class-A drug which therapists want to use to treat alcoholism, opiate-addiction and depression. Research has indicated again and again that it can be of great help to those dealing with the fear and anxiety of terminal illnesses. It’s most well-known effects are to encourage feelings of unity and love in relation to fellow man, to encourage religiosity and spirituality.

When we look at the motives people have for taking LSD, it should seem obvious that imprisoning them is a perversion of justice. People take LSD for spiritual revelation and healing, to bring about positive transformation in their lives. Whether or not this is a sensible approach to reaching those goals is an open question: but it should be clear that they have committed no moral wrong.

We are taking mystics and locking them up…

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Cognitive Liberty UK

Where the placebo effect refers to a perceived or actual improvement in a medical condition that results from a simulated medical intervention, the nocebo effect refers to the opposite.

The nocebo effect shows us that, even when no real drug or cause for harm is present, negative beliefs and expectations can lead to negative physiological, behavioural, emotional, and/or cognitive consequences. It demonstrates the very real effects of conditioning and negative suggestions.

The general consensus amongst clinical psychologists is that psychedelic drugs can cause damage when the user undergoes an extremely emotionally negative or traumatic experience as a result of them.

The purpose of this article is to suggest that the dominant discourses around psychedelics in the both drugs education and the mass-media condition individuals to have negative experiences whilst using them where they otherwise might not.

Both the mass media and the prevailing approaches to drugs education emphasise the risks of using the substances…

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Cognitive Liberty UK

Drug laws attempt to control what you can do with your mind and what experiences you are allowed access to. Drug laws are, quite literally, attempts at mind control.

Cognitive libery is much more than freedom of thought. To believe in cognitive liberty is to believe that the individual is absolute sovereign over their own consciousness. It is an extension of the concepts of freedom of thought and self-ownership. It is a reaction against the prevailing assumption that other people have the right to tell you what you can do with your mind and body in situations that carry only a personal-risk.

Terence McKenna writes:

“We’re playing with half a deck as long as we tolerate that the cardinals of government and science should dictate where human curiosity can legitimately send its attention and where it can not. It’s a preposterous situation. It is essentially a civil rights issue…

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A PSYCHEDELIC RESORT/LAB SEASTEAD

*An offshore village of concrete dome homes, on platforms interconnected by walkways, a dozen miles off the coast of Mexico (where the ocean’s only 20-30 feet deep) …

* Some of the domes are private residences, some are cabanas for visitors; some are labs for brewing psychedelics like LSD and DMT, some are mushroom farms; a couple are psychopharmacology research labs; one holds some sensory deprivation tanks

* No psychedelics are sold for use outside the village (to avoid conflict with governments of conventional land-bound countries)

* The first-phase business model is psychedelic tourism: Folks will pay to come hang out in the resort, soak up the sun, swim in the beautiful ocean, and take the locally-created psychedelics in a safe & lovely environment.  This “psychedelic tourism” will generate enough revenue to keep the village operating

*The second-phase business model is patenting of novel psychedelic psychotherapies—that have been found in the village’s research labs to have therapeutic value. Note that research on psychedelics has basically halted worldwide, due to legal issues.  So there is a huge amount of research into psychedelic-related psychotherapeutic substances, that is begging to be done but remains unexplored for legal reasons. Getting the patents ensuing from this research properly tested and approved for use in major nations will take some time, but once the approval comes, this could be a multibillion dollar moneymaker, as well as a beautiful thing for humanity.

For more on this- click here.

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