So-what exactly is a drug?

We’ve noticed more than once how certain elderly journalists, writing for a largely elderly readership, are furious advocates of bans on substances which they deem o be “drugs”. Yet somehow drugs favoured by their readers-alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, usually-are always deemed to be “not drugs at all”.

Yet caffeine is very much a drug, by any consistent use of the word. As this article by Emma Beckett for the Conversation[1] makes clear, it’s just like any other stimulant. It acts on the same receptors in the nervous system as other stimulants. It affects the same sorts of neural pathways. Like any stimulant, it “borrows” energy for you now, to be paid back later with a deep “down” phase. What’s the difference?

You see, gentle reader, it’s this word “consistent” that we keep coming back to. It works in science, in law, in art. Even Philosophy. Because thinkers from St Augustine to John Rawls agree that a society is only stable if it’s based on justice. Treating everyone the same and all that. We’d be the last to deny that certain psychoactive substances such as heroin and cocaine are highly addictive. So are alcohol and nicotine. We are quite prepared to believe that all can effect profound physiological and psychological damage. If you want to be consistent, you have to ban them all.

But be prepared for the consequences.


[2] St Augustine De Civitate Dei (On the City Of God) 413

[3]John Rawls A Theory of Justice 1971

#drugs #justice #prohibition

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