Pro and anti drug

Because of a declared‘anti-drug’agenda in some political discourse (see war on drugs) a notion has developed that people, organisations or other stakeholders in the drugs field are either pro- or anti- drugs. This is unhelpful and causes unnecessary dispute and division. Framing drug issues in this way limits the capacity to discuss and debate issues and reach compromises and consensus. It is hugely limiting particularly within political and media discourse.

The use of substances can be regarded as normal and as a ‘given’ as it is present throughout human history and across all human geography (see abstinence). It is normal for substances to be used in ways which mean that any risk or harms are personally, socially and culturally acceptable. This is the normal way in which society addresses risk and harms – in the context, for example of the risks and harms from cycling, participation in sport, consuming foodstuffs etc. there may be some regulation and education and otherwise there is personal choice.

Problem substance use develops not from the existence of substances or even the supply of substances but from poverty, trauma, physical and mental health problems. (See poverty; see trauma; see adverse childhood experiences; see self-medicating).

There is limited evidence of the promotion of substance use by suppliers, except of course in the regulated advertising and promotion of legal substances – alcohol and tobacco. Drug dealers do not generally promote or advertise their products they simply find demand. Recently the development of online sales has led to products being described as ‘good’ etc but this ‘promotion’ is crude and ‘amateurish’.

The promotion of drug use is done through peer networks of people who use non- problematically or ‘recreationally’ and through cultures that develop around the use of substances; for example, the ‘rave’ scene and the increase in ecstasy use. Whether such cultures are a significant cause of substance use or merely celebrate substance use may be disputed.

The claim that those who provide or support the provision of harm reduction services are ‘pro- drugs’ actually makes no sense when harm reduction is viewed as the means by which all risk behaviours are addressed within society (see above) and substance use is acknowledged as a universal human activity. Likewise, the notion that people promoting abstinence as a means to address problem drug use are necessarily ‘anti-drug’ is unhelpful.