The argument goes something like this: people who use drugs, particularly those of color, have been vilified. The vast majority of them, however use drugs and are fully-functioning adults. Drugs can actually help us become more open-minded people. Rather than just decriminalizing drugs, they should be legalized.
Some states have already begun to decriminalize certain amounts of certain drugs, namely marijuana, though in many other states recreational use of it is already legal. In Oregon, hard drugs like heroin have been decriminalized, with those caught with it simply fined 100 dollars. The state is trying to couple decriminalization with addiction treatment program, though there are already doubts that it will be effective, particularly considering the limited resources of the state.
Some say legalizing and regulating drugs would be safer for the user and reduce crime. But when you legalize something, you condone it. That’s why the growing rhetoric about hard drug use is pro-drugs. That’s why gay marriage is now embraced, and if you’re against it, you’re a bigot. That’s why it is hard for many Westerners to understand that alcohol is a drug and can be harmful even for non-alcoholics; it is allowed, it is normal.
“Drug Use for Grown Ups”?
While the case of drug use is pretty much closed for us, we follow Islam because we believe it is right, in all cases, and that a non-Muslim’s life would be better for it. So it’s worth looking at some of the problems with drug legalization. Make no mistake, this is not just something that stoners are saying on the internet; this is rapidly seeping into popular culture, and it’s being touted by individuals who are considered to be well-respected within society.
Along with the changing laws, there are some new books that have come out this year that have further opened this conversation on drug legalization: Dr. Carl Hart’s Drug Use for Grown Ups and Michael Pollan’s This is Your Mind on Plants (his focus on psychedelics and opiates is what is relevant here).
The basic idea: Adults should have the choice to consume what they want. We have been close-minded about drugs when they could potentially help us be better people and open our minds.
Dr. Carl Hart—a professor of psychology working at Columbia— demonstrates the level of absurdity society has now reached. He loves drugs, he informs us in his book. Hart tells us that he has been snorting heroin for five years and loves it (he also likes cocaine and MDMA). His casual language is meant to challenge the reader to see heroin use as something as ‘normal’ as alcohol is for much of the non-Muslim population. It seems like a waste of time to entertain such garbage ideas, but the media seems to be open to it, and the laws have already been changing, so there’s reason to have a bit of concern.
It’s not really a surprise that Hart would love heroin (that’s kind of the problem with drugs; people enjoy the temporary hiatus from life too much), but he goes further to claim that heroin has made him a better, more compassionate person.
What does that even mean? It’s hard to see the compassion when the very drugs he loves are tangled up in corruption and often grown by farmers under duress and out of desperation (Hart tells Joe Rogan he loves Afghan heroin and Columbian cocaine). As with all products that we consume literally and figuratively, from chocolate to clothing to smart phones, it’s not just about the consumer’s happiness level.
His “better person on heroin” comment is almost as laughable as his recalling of a comment that one of the workers at the Swiss heroin clinic made to him about her patients, who love heroin: “How can I be against love?” Wow. It’s a real slippery slope with that kind of mindset. Let’s pray this woman isn’t ever in charge of dealing with child porn makers and rapists.
This woman’s comment aside, the Swiss heroin program that he loves so much was created as a means to address a drug use problem. Alongside with partially getting rid of a portion of the drug market from the streets (users are now administered heroin from the clinic), it appears to be the reason that heroin use in Switzerland has actually declined.
Heroin is legal by prescription in Switzerland, meaning certain users can get it in the clinics (e.g. if they have been a user for at least two years and have been unable to get off the drug). Making it legal in this case is part of “harm reduction,” meaning that in providing them with regulated heroin, there is less of a chance they will be harmed even more by other dangerous ingredients added to street heroin. The key word here is “reduction.” They don’t say “harm elimination.” Heroin is still harmful, unlike what Hart posits. Think about it. If the clinics had caused a significant increase in heroin users, would they keep the program in place?
If heroin, cocaine, etc., are legalized in the way Hart wants, where you can go into a store and buy it, it doesn’t matter how much regulation ensures a pure, harm-reduced product. We’re then condoning the use of a dangerous drug.
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Hart can bring forth his research and show us that many people can be highly functioning adults on heroin. How adult of him is it to check out from reality? How possible is it for him to be spiritually connected to God while high? It seems that isn’t his concern about that, but imagine a world where his way is the norm. Adults walk around high and disconnected, but don’t worry, they’re more compassionate!? A`udhu billah.
How sure is he anyway that his daily drug use (he tells Joe Rogan he uses drugs pretty much everyday) isn’t going to cause any bodily harm? It almost seems like a joke for him to tell us he’s not addicted while he uses them pretty much every day. Even snorting drugs in general—which he tells us he does—is physically harmful to the nasal passage. Is this some sort of sick joke he is trying to pull on potentially millions of people?
Pursuit of Happiness
The arguments being made and the language being used to normalize the use of all drugs is demonstrative of some of the fundamental problems with secular notions of freedom, particularly the idea that everyone should be able to do what they want as long as they don’t harm others. With drug use, this is particularly flawed because drug use can harm others (not to mention the bodily harm it can cause and the altered state it creates).
This pursuit of happiness that the “founding fathers” identified as an inalienable right is something Hart brings up again and again, in his talks, and in his book:
“I wrote this book to present a more realistic image of the typical drug user: a responsible professional who happens to use drugs in his pursuit of happiness.”
Sure, Hart’s drug use makes him happy. That’s what drugs do for many, and that’s why they use them. That doesn’t mean they’re not harmful to the user and to others.
Some people drink and drive and accidentally kill others. They may not be alcoholics, but their alcohol use was extremely harmful. Perhaps you could be on another drug and be unable to quickly respond to a loved one who needs immediate, emergency care. Where’s the compassion there?
The saying goes that my rights—my liberties—end where yours begin, but it seems that the same cannot be said for happiness. The “pursuit of happiness” is not the pursuit of betterment for all. If it were, would there be invasions of sovereign nations based on lies, all the while living relatively well at home? Would there be a sub-prime mortgage crisis that ends with the culprits being bailed out and still being millionaires while regular people lose their homes?
Surely there is a solution beyond allowing everything or allowing some and focusing on peoples’ need to be happy, always pushing them to feel, through flashy ads, through constant shopping deals, through fancy cars and houses, that they are missing something material. Perhaps it’s this whole pursuit of happiness that is part of why people use dangerous intoxicants. They’re missing something, they’re unsatisfied with their lives, they can’t get to where they want to be. They need to check out for a while.
If only they realized that the best way to counteract a lack of satisfaction and fulfillment in one’s life is through a strong connection to one’s Creator.
Drugs and Societal Degradation
Hart argues that most people can use drugs safely becomes even more questionable when considering the recent data from the CDC, which show that there was a near 30 percent increase in drug overdose deaths last year. Yes, circumstances like lockdowns did not help the situation, but the fact remains that these are drug overdoses. People use drugs to feel better, and while they should not necessarily be vilified, and while their difficult circumstances were likely overlooked, it seems fair to say they would have been better off without the drugs.
In his talk with Joe Rogan, Hart describes a study in which mice were put in a cage alone with water and morphine while others had morphine, water, a mate, and a running wheel. The rats that were alone overdosed and died from morphine. The others only use it occasionally, maintaining a balanced life.
His point in sharing was that humans can be like this too, so all the more reason to let adults choose and regulate their own use of drugs. The thing is though, even socialistic governments do not simply provide everything to citizens: friends, a house, a workout routine, food, etc. We are not domesticated animals or lab rats. Humans have to also work to make their lives balanced, and most importantly, we need our connection to our Creator. Getting high simply cuts that spiritual connection.
Drug enthusiasts and aficionados can claim that they have near religious experiences on mushrooms and that they’re in touch with nature (Michael Pollan describes to Joe Rogan that he saw his plants talking while high on psychedelics). Just what we need—adults spending their days seeing inanimate objects and the natural world anthropomorphized.
Anyone who has been around an addict for some time knows how incredibly destructive alcohol can be to the user, and to loved ones. While these drugs are not all the same; they are mind-altering substances that intoxicate and disrupt daily life. Time and money procuring and using drugs is time and money away from family.
How sad it seems to have to spend time even talking about this than, say, the extreme poverty that exists in a rich world. Hart is right about one thing—the poor conditions that many now experience have become peripheral to their drug use. Both should be taken into consideration. Ways of providing jobs, etc., should be discussed, helping to move them away from their use by providing meaning. Isn’t this, then, yet another reason that legalizing hard drugs should not be made legal?