Straight Talk About Drugs Doesn't Circle The Truth

The voice of reason is challenging all of our preconceived notions about drugs and drug users.

It's hard to believe that the war on drugs, which is costing us $40 billion dollars a year, is based on a lie. The lie, according to Jacob Sullum, is that we are incapable of using drugs responsibly.

What's even worse is that we're afraid to tell each other the truth. We certainly don't tell our children the truth. "Just say no to drugs." That's what we tell them.

Jacob Sullum is the voice of reason when it comes to telling the truth about drugs, all drugs, legal, illegal, and prescription drugs. "Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use" is a matter of fact discussion about drugs and drug users.

Sullum interviewed real people who admit to using illegal drugs. And, you know what? The vast majority of them are respectable, responsible members of society who go to work, support their families, put dinner on the table for their children, shovel their sidewalks and cut their grass.

I'm gratified with the way he painstakingly describes the properties of each specific group of drugs, the potential side effects of those drugs, and the relationship between the context of use and the effect of the drug on the user.

People have always, and will always, use drugs to alter consciousness. A cup of coffee in the morning to get a jump start on the day, a beer or a glass of wine to help relax at the end of the day, a cocktail to loosen inhibitions at a social gathering; most people think it’s okay to use drugs for relaxation and for entertainment, as long as they don't drink and drive. That is, of course, if the drug of choice is legal.

The responsible use of alcohol is condoned. It's legal and it's rational. Many parents introduce their children to a glass of wine with dinner on special occasions, and it's not uncommon for a toddler to get sip of daddy's beer. But if the drug of choice is illegal, the most responsible users (and according to Sullum, there are many more of them than we think there are)
are not to be respected by the law or the churches.

Many of us don't think of alcohol as a drug because it's legal. But alcohol is every bit as much a mood altering drug as Cocaine, Marijuana and Ecstasy, to name a few. Sullum suggests that we apply the same moral distinctions to 'other' drugs that we apply to alcohol.

Demystifying other drugs the way we demystify alcohol can empower our children to make healthy choices based on facts. Without honesty, and facts, our kids are left to their own devices for learning about the forbidden fruit, frequently in unsafe environments.

Certainly all drugs can be abused. The truth is, however, that people who regularly abuse drugs are by far, the exception, not the rule.

Kudos to Sullum for the courage to take on this ominous task. I commend his integrity, his incredibly thorough research of the cultural, religious, legal and social history of drug use. I am impressed with his unbiased reports on the religious admonitions and sanctions of drug use, and the admonitions and sanctions of experimenters in medical and social science

The best thing, however, the best thing about Sullum's book, "Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use", is that it's an elegant example of critical thinking. If you have no interest in the whole question of drugs and the use of drugs, or the war on drugs, read this book simply for its eloquent demonstration of a critical, non-judgmental treatment of the subject.

    —M. LaCourt

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