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The great appeal of recreational drugs - alcohol included - is that they make people feel good.  Unfortunately, most, if not all, have unfortunate side effects.

What is needed are solutions - drugs, diets, behaviors - that fulfill the following criteria: [a]  make people feel good without the bad side effects, [b]  promote cooperation, energy,  [c] that  enhance skills and performance, that raise people's intellectual functioning.  

It is worth a huge amount -- maybe trillions of dollars in the long run -- to find these solutions and to propagate them across the world, in terms of increased productivity, reduced crime, reduced policing, and improved quality of life.

It is worth spending billions to achieve these solutions, both private and public money.

There is danger and risk in designer drugs. Strong controls are required to avoid the kind of events associated with LSD in the 1960s and 1970s. There are already numerous designer drugs out there, some much more harmful than others. Some may be even benign.

Possibly a lot of progress may be made through modifying recreational drugs that are already in use, to eliminate harmful effects and to boost beneficial effects.  Possibly a lot of progress may come through psychoactive medications already being prescribed.  Possibly progress may come from exercise regimes, from yoga, from tweaking diets consisting of already available foodstuffs.

Right now we are stuck in a completely stupid configuration where bad recreational drugs are made enormously profitable by prohibition, spreading crime and violence and illness both in the U.S. and in other countries, filling the jails with otherwise innocent people, and moving America in the direction of being a police state.

Much of the "war on drugs" has been fueled by a mindset that holds that we should achieve goals purely through our own natural endowments, and not through "artificial" aids.  I say that we should permit and encourage any non-harmful artificial aid that has beneficial effects.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Included in what needs to be addressed (12+ / 0-)

    are the societal reasons that people need/want drugs in the first place. One of the greatest of these is the need to self-medicate when nothing else is available. Conditions for people can get so bad that they believe there is no other means of escape, and self-medicating is a way to keep sane. Eradicating poverty, oppression, discrimination, inequality, etc. will help reduce the need to self-medicate.

    Without addressing what underlies the appeal of drugs it's impossible to address the appeal of drugs. I am no drug warrior and I do recognize and honor the desire to feel good, but that's not the only thing going on.

    An organ donor saved my life! Shop Kos Katalogue

    UID#39520 01/06/2005

    by Kitsap River on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 10:51:49 PM PDT

    •  Trank for everyone! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Proles don't care about social problems.

      "...we live in the best most expensive third world country." "If only the NEA could figure out all they have to do is define the ignorance of the next generation as a WMD..." ---Stolen from posts on Daily Kos

      by jestbill on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 11:16:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Exactly (3+ / 0-)

      A lot of people with no means to get health care and that suffer from mental health issues often self medicate to relieve the symptoms.
      I have a friend who suffers from chronic depression, and is also one of the long term unemployed. She smokes cannabis to relieve the symptoms, which helps, but she was a lot more stable when she had access to her regular prescription.

      If trees gave off WIFi signals, we would probably plant so many trees, we would save the planet. Too bad they only produce the oxygen we breathe.

      by skohayes on Sat Jul 19, 2014 at 04:00:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Still, simple enjoyment/recreation is a (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      katrinka, thanatokephaloides

      reasonable motive -- your caveat about escapism being a crucial one.  A lot really does depend on socioeconomic conditions; the US is a combined first- and third-world country.  The spectrum of drug use is huge -- perhaps almost as broad as the spectrum of, say, knife use (surgical instrument, letter opener, food prep, weapon).

      "Happiness is the only good. The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now. The way to be happy is to make others so." - Robert Ingersoll

      by dackmont on Sat Jul 19, 2014 at 07:34:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Many-faceted topic... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    katrinka, bunsk, thanatokephaloides

    Iain M. Banks's novels on The Culture provide an interesting glimpse of what your scenario might look like in a super-advanced, utopian society:

    "The vast majority of people are also born with greatly altered glands housed within their central nervous systems, usually referred to as 'drug glands'. These secrete - on command - mood- and sensory-appreciation-altering compounds into the person's bloodstream."
    All that with no side effects, of course.  Utopia indeed!

    With regard to the idea of proactively using exogenous means to achieve changes in consciousness, see also the Hedonistic Imperative, and see the Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics for an ACLU-like group devoted to the rights-based aspects of such usage.

    Even today, there's a body of evidence (much anecdotal, some peer-reviewed) suggesting that psychedelics -- used judiciously -- are already somewhat close to fulfilling your three criteria.  But that'd be for occasional, Insight-based, "transformational" usage, not an everyday thing, which is what you may be getting at.

    Let's hope the War On Some Drugs shifts to something more like what you describe, and sooner than later.  Yeah, dream on; but at least it needs to move from a criminal justice, enforcement-based model to a scientifically-based model emphasizing harm reduction.  (Which is one reason I'm not a big fan of a Biden candidacy; how could a self-aware person not realize that his wise and empathic comments about abortion equally apply to drug policy and responsible use.)

    But I really do like the idea of using psychoactive drugs to do actual good, since there's a lot of potential there, and it shifts the conversation away from the fearful, "Reefer Madness" type propaganda we see today with respect to the "softer" drugs.  (I'm not sure "harder" drugs have much to offer with respect to your three criteria, though.)

    BTW, LSD is only a semi-synthetic drug; it's just a simple prodrug of lysergic acid, which naturally occurs in morning glory seeds and other cultigens.  And responsible, informed use of psychedelics dramatically reduces the negative experiences we've heard about.  But that's true of most of the "softer" drugs.  For that matter, it's true of many of the "harder" ones at lower (and probably infrequent) dosages.  Q.E.D., with respect to your diary.

    "Happiness is the only good. The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now. The way to be happy is to make others so." - Robert Ingersoll

    by dackmont on Sat Jul 19, 2014 at 04:50:16 AM PDT

  •  I agree with the need to diagnose underlying is... (1+ / 0-)
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    I agree with the need to diagnose underlying issues. I SELF MEDICATED until the age of 36. I was diagnosed with ADD and now have 14 years illegal drug free!!! Life is good!!!

  •  End the failed war on drug users. (4+ / 0-)

    A trillion dollars wasted, constitution shredded, prisons choked with people who don't belong in jail, streets a battleground between heavily armed gangs and militarized police and more drugs, more available than ever before. TOTAL FAIL.

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Sat Jul 19, 2014 at 08:49:11 AM PDT

  •  The interesting thing is: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    thanatokephaloides, dackmont

    The reason why drugs work to make you feel different, is because your brain has specific receptors for those chemicals. Which means your body is able to produce those "drugs" on it's own, given the correct circumstances. Thus the possible future where altered glands are able to produce on command any feeling a person wants is not just possible but likely.

    Prohibition didn't work early in the last century, why people think it will work this time around is beyond me.

    "There is no instance of a nation benefiting from prolonged warfare." ~ Sun Tsu

    by coyote66 on Sat Jul 19, 2014 at 09:29:14 AM PDT

    •  Tolerance being the problem (0+ / 0-)

      ... i.e. biological tolerance, cf. Mokurai's comment below.  Making the stuff to bind to the receptor isn't so much the problem as how the receptor responds over time.  But "produc[ing] on command any feeling a person wants" is a problem well worth working on.  In Banks's Culture, people can not only do this, but can voluntarily initiate a gradual and reversible change in gender.  Banks's comments are highly pertinent here (itals added):

      To us, perhaps, the idea of being able to find out what sex is like for our complimentary gender, or being able to get drunk/stoned/tripped-out or whatever just by thinking about it (and of course the Culture's drug-glands produce no unpleasant side-effects or physiological addiction) may seem like mere wish-fulfilment. And indeed it is partly wish-fulfilment, but then the fulfilment of wishes is both one of civilisation's most powerful drives and arguably one of its highest functions; we wish to live longer, we wish to live more comfortably, we wish to live with less anxiety and more enjoyment, less ignorance and more knowledge than our ancestors did... but the abilities to change sex and to alter one's brain-chemistry - without resort to external technology or any form of payment - both have more serious functions within the Culture. A society in which it is so easy to change sex will rapidly find out if it is treating one gender better than the other; within the population, over time, there will gradually be greater and greater numbers of the sex it is more rewarding to be, and so pressure for change - within society rather than the individuals - will presumably therefore build up until some form of sexual equality and hence numerical parity is established. In a similar fashion, a society in which everybody is free to, and does, choose to spend the majority of their time zonked out of their brains will know that there is something significantly wrong with reality, and (one would hope) do what it can to make that reality more appealing and less - in the pejorative sense - mundane.

      "Happiness is the only good. The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now. The way to be happy is to make others so." - Robert Ingersoll

      by dackmont on Sun Jul 20, 2014 at 12:45:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  About that "war on drugs" mindset (4+ / 0-)

    There are massive amounts of legal "medications" that do not meet your criteria for health. The side effects of many psychoactive compounds is a good illustration. While many of these agents have legitimate uses for people with major psychiatric conditions, the trouble is that use is driven up by advertising and sloppy prescription practices. Prozac and Xanax went through clinical trials for carefully diagnosed people with depressive and anxiety disorders, their use in the general population far exceeds the prevalence of those disorders. Antipsychotics are abused by physicians overseeing care for cognitive impaired seniors for the purposes of making them easier to manage in institutions. The list goes on. All drugs can be misused, but focusing on the potential dangers of recreational drugs is fundamentally hypocritical and arbitrary.

    As for your contention that psychoactive active substances are getting safer, it is only true if you look at safety in clinical trials for rigidly classified conditions. Actual prescription use does not follow those tight diagnostic requirements. In addition, safety is only tested for short-term use. Monitoring of side effects for long-term, chronic applications is not done in clinical trials. The FDA mechanism for post-trial monitoring is a joke thanks to the pharmaceutical company lobbying efforts.

    Even if substance abuse is harmful, criminalization has always done more harm than good. Translation: the war on drugs has done our society more harm than good by incarcerating people and the subsequent legal fallout. Jail and criminal records do far more harm than the drugs themselves. That makes the war stupid and downright evil.

    Much of the "legal" justification is based on flagrant dishonesty. Marijuana was listed as a Schedule 1 drug for political reasons by a malignant asshole by the name of Richard Nixon. The result has led to the destruction of many lives by our punitive society.

    You neglect the reasons people have the desire to change their mental state through drugs. I have spent a great deal of time talking to kids and young adults who feel they have no opportunities in life beyond mindless and exploitative slave wage jobs. The temptation to intoxication is great under those circumstances. If we expect people to care about everything that goes into their bodies, then we better make damn sure their reality is worth living; that is, provides some joy.

    We have a "completely stupid configuration" because of the authoritarian mindset of our political leaders. There is absolutely no reason to put people in jail because of drug use.

    Be radical in your compassion.

    by DWG on Sat Jul 19, 2014 at 10:57:27 AM PDT

  •  Trying to find safe analogues for psychoactive (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    drugs is a chimera that pharma has been pursuing for more than a century. The reason is that it is not the chemistry of the drug that is the problem, but the normal functioning of the receptors for all of the different neurotransmitters in the nervous system, and their effects on the rest of the body. Thus all opiates and anything else that can bind with and activate opioid receptors are necessarily addictive, and the same for nicotinic receptors, which are said to be worse on that point.

    Opium was a scourge in the late 19th century, including laudanum (opium and alcohol mixed). So the idea appeared that morphine, which was much stronger, would be an improvement. The reasoning was that you would need much less of it, so it wouldn't be as addictive. When that failed, they tried the same reasoning again with heroin. Oops. Methadone? Just don't ask whether people on methadone maintenance get addicted, so we can keep prescribing it and keep them out of prison.

    Nicotine in moderation isn't terribly harmful, at least if you take it without the carcinogens from tobacco, but it is claimed to be more addictive than narcotics and thus harder to quit. Any analogue of nicotine would be equally addictive.

    Anandamides including cannabinoids are far less addictive, but an essential part of the natural function of the versions produced in the body is to prevent formation of memory, which occurs naturally during some kinds of severe pain. All of the analogues do the same.

    Alcohol causes by far the largest number of deaths of any drug, both of users and people who just happen to be in range of cars or guns. Anything that could have a comparable desired effect of reducing some kinds of brain activity, notably suppression of inhibitions, would necessarily have similar effects.

    I could go on with all of the others that have naturally-occurring or synthetic analogues in common use.

    Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

    by Mokurai on Sat Jul 19, 2014 at 04:35:04 PM PDT

    •  "If one is good, then two must be better" (as if) (0+ / 0-)

      Really well-explained, and I'd double-rec your comment if I could.  I doubt that it's possible, in the foreseeable future, to develop psychoactive drugs that fulfill the diarist's three criteria AND are safe and effective to use continuously.

      And of course pharma companies are most interested in products that are to be used as much and as often as possible.  But for so, so many things.....

      "Happiness is the only good. The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now. The way to be happy is to make others so." - Robert Ingersoll

      by dackmont on Sun Jul 20, 2014 at 12:18:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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