Where does the negative attitude towards recreational drugs come from?

This is a great mystery, especially for the US situation: in terms of health dangers most drugs-takers run less risk of getting killed than those driving a car or those taking up dangerous sports. In terms of disruption to society the immense amount of money earned with drugs trafficking would seem to corrupt many societies (e.g. Columbia or the Surinam and even the US) and would seem a far worse problem. Outlawing drugs in this respect has proven to be very bad for many societies.

It is even very questionable whether legalising drugs altogether (with some regulations for advertising and the like) would lead to more drug abuse. Most people abusing drugs are people with a history of tremendous social and personal problems (low chances of jobs, desperate childhood experiences, etc.) and it seems quite likely that most of these would end up at the bottom of the societal scale, whatever their intake of substances. The fact that these people move from one drug to another, which is often used as an argument for the idea that the use of one type of drug leads to the use of another, hence says nothing about the causes of drug abuse. Dutch research, for instance, shows that despite a great reduction in the price of cannabis since the 70s has not increased consumption, and the Dutch do not have a greater than average problem with drug abuse (junkies).

Given the increasing trade flows, effective control on flows of drugs is failing anyway and seems a hopeless task. Add to this the fact that US citizens seem to pride themselves on urging others to take responsibility of their own lives; it is immensely puzzling why they should want to interfere with the consumption of those who want to take drugs. Indeed, other addictive activities, such as drinking, seeking power, sex, and chocolate eating (which, believe it or not, is also addictive) are not outlawed at all but seen as natural. The actual reasons for outlawing some drugs can hence have nothing to do with either the health of the users or the health of the nation as a whole.

Perhaps the underlying reason that some drug use is so frowned upon is that many have an emotional reaction to seeing others “cop out” of society by using drugs instead of competing for jobs and partners as others do. If this would be the case, drug use associated with lessened work commitment would have to be most frowned upon, which seems reasonably apt though not entirely (arguments supporting this statement: the legal substance of caffeine (in coffee) does not impede work as it makes you more alert and work-prone, whereas the illegal substances cannabis, opium, nicotine and relaxing drugs in general do seem to go against a work ethos. On the other hand this reasoning should imply that something like speed or XTC which makes you more alert should be legal substances, which they are not. Speed is quite unhealthy though, but the health risks of XTC are reportedly minimal). The negative attitude against drugs and especially its intensity is hence still a mystery.

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