Is taking drugs immoral?

Melchior

Taking History Too Far
Over here nonseq said, in response to my characterising drug use as 'criminal but not immoral' with the following:

nonseq said:
Using drugs is not immoral?

Buying drugs means sponsoring a whole system of exploitation, hate, violence, murder, rape. It means destroying individuals, families, economies, countries. It means funding violence and stimulating repressive laws and police actions. Funding dictatorial regimes, Birma for example. It means destroying the environment, for example, xtc labs often dump their chemical waste in nature. It means funding the weapons industry..

I could go on with my rant..
Now it strikes me that this is primarilly a problem with drug laws, or with capitalist modes of production, not with drugs themselves, and that it treats a neutral thing as being responsible for they way it is produced and marketed. Not to mention that it tars all drug use with the brush of cocaine and heroin.

You could argue that my arguement is similar to arguing that 'guns don't kill people, people kill people'. And to a point you'd be right, but the difference is that guns are designed specifically to kill or wound. Drugs are designed (to the point that you can call them so) to get you high.

So I still regard drug use as a perfectly moral thing to do.

Any thoughts?
 

johneffay

New member
The concept of 'using drugs' is so abstract as to be morally neutral. Of course what, I assume, you mean by using drugs (getting twisted) is categorised by some people as misusing them which does carry negative moral connotations.

However, I think that in order to morally assess drug taking, it has to be contextualised, e.g. taking heroin is not necessarily immoral, but if your addiction leads you into a lifestyle which is detrimental to those around you, then it probably is immoral (although some people would say that addiction is a sickness, which would remove it from the realm of moral actions).

The argument you quote about bouying up the horrors of the drug trade is not a very good argument against taking drugs, but it is a strong one in favour of taking drug production out of the hands of criminals. After all, I could come up with a similar list of problems with the petrochemical industry, but nobody would seriously suggest that was an argument for total abstention from the use of petrol.
 

henrymiller

New member
The argument you quote about bouying up the horrors of the drug trade is not a very good argument against taking drugs, but it is a strong one in favour of taking drug production out of the hands of criminals. After all, I could come up with a similar list of problems with the petrochemical industry, but nobody would seriously suggest that was an argument for total abstention from the use of petrol.
wouldn't they? it's a *pretty good* argument agin taking drugs, i would have thought. certainly the way otherwise scrupulously fair-trade coffee and organic meat types have no problem with using cocaine has its grimly funny side.
i'm not very interested in drugs, so i suppose for me the choice between i) not using drugs and ii) 'taking drug production' and distribution out of the criminals' hands is an easy one.
 

johneffay

New member
Reply to henrymiller

The petrochemical example was the the first thing that came to mind. Perhaps a better analogy would be that because some clothing is produced in apalling conditions is not a reason for not wearing clothes, although it could be an argument not to buy clothes produced under said conditions. It is certainly a strong reason for protesting about the conditions under which some clothing is made.

My basic point was that it is absurd to say that something so general as 'using drugs' is immoral. That doesn't mean that buying smack from the mafia does not have consequences which could lead it to be characterized as an immoral act, but what about buying cannabis from someone you know who grows it?

I don't know any fair trade coffee drinking cocaine users, but would probably abuse them if I did. I have heard people justify buying smack by claiming that, whilst the distribution, etc. is obviously appalling, at the very basic level, they are supporting the poor farmers whose only potential source of income is opium poppies. I'm not saying that I support this argument, but I don't think that opium production need nescessarily be immoral.

Finally, it should be remembered that pharmaceutical multinationals are hardly models of ethical probity. Does that mean that I should not take analgesics for pain relief because, in so doing, I am 'sponsoring a whole system of exploitation'?
 

henrymiller

New member
yeah, it's the easiestthing in the world to hate on drug-users when you use legal drugs, i freely admit. obviously there *is* some kind of argument from necessity, but not a strong one. drugs make you act like a twat, which is close to being immoral ;)
 

jack_yggdrasil

New member
just for the sake of argument, would it really be that hypocritical to buy fair trade products (which incidentally, i've heard can cause more harm than good) and use cocaine? i mean it's not as though they have (and reject) the option of buying fair trade chang...
 

Randy Watson

New member
They would have to recognise that their demand-led attempts to shift the market did not apply to this product. Given their (presumed) overarching intention is to stop the exploitation of producers in less developed nations then their only option at present is to abstain.
 

dominic

Beast of Burden
rather than move this conversation over here last night, i instead pursued the point over on the original thread . . . . so now i've just "copied" nonseq's remarks and my response to them over here -- hopefully all that follows won't be too hard to read . . . .

nonseq said:
But most drugs are illegal in most places therefore produced and distributed by criminal organizations. Buying from them sustains them and thier devastating effects.
so we should legalize drugs and let phillip morris take over the business?

i.e., people of course realize that if you legalize drugs then hustlers will be made redundant???

nonseq said:
I meant destroying families for example in Colombia in the case of coke. The families of kidnapped, murdered people etc, families in destroyed countries with no future for the kids but working in coca fields, constant risk of getting murdered or raped by terror squads. Parents in jail, kids living on the streets. Drug traffickers shot down or cokeballs opening in their stomach killing them, peasants bombed by the U.S. etc etc
isn't this more a function of poverty and imperialism?

why do you see drugs as the root of all evil? -- i.e., why not eliminate money instead

nonseq said:
What about crack babies
that's govt propaganda recently debunked

nonseq said:
and structural chaos and misery in ghetto's
poor people weren't miserable before the 20th century???

i.e., let's say that drugs first get widely disseminated in western societies circa 1950

(i.e., i don't think heroin and marijuana were all that common in 19th c., barring a few poets and the like (errr, and cowboys smoking green down in texas) -- but correct me if i'm wrong)

and what's so bad about taking drugs to relieve the misery of one's days?

(or assuming that your material condition is not miserable, then to relieve the sheer boredom of your existence?)


ALSO: isn't "structural chaos" more the result of capitalism either setting up shop OR abandoning shop in such areas?

nonseq said:
Check out the documentary on the dvd of Cidade de Deus.
i think the "city of god" a wonderful, first-rate film -- but i still don't agree w/ your arguments

nonseq said:
The rich are living safely in Europe, snorting coke, and have never even given it a thought what they are paying for. Not the coke, it's cheap. They're funding guns, death squads, corruption, kidnapping, dictators and so on. Western decadence is fuel to the destruction of third world countries.
this is entirely too simplistic an account

nonseq said:
Is the destruction caused by cartels really the same level of misery as the life of a girl in a free trade zone making Nike shoes? That should also be changed of course, but do you really think it's comparable?
cartels exist b/c men lust for money and power -- if they weren't fighting for control of the drug trade, they'd be fighting for control of some other trade

and why do cartels have such power in some countries?

(1) absence of the rule of law (and culture of law)

(2) weak states -- which is closely related to point 1

errr, i suppose i've just set myself up for a badiou-style rejoinder against the rule of the law and the normality imposed by strong states?

nonseq said:
Of course it's all infinitely more nuanced and complex
indeed

nonseq said:
but the general point will remain: buy drugs and you're destroying a lot more than your own health.
drug use is destructive of one's health only if done in excess

therefore, the point is so general as to be very nearly trite = buy anything and you participate in the destruction of a lot of things

(none of which is to suggest that i'd advocate smoking a couple joints a day -- though i guess it's fine if works for you and doesn't hinder your projects -- nor would i deny that drugs are part and parcel of a hedonistic and mindless mass culture)

MOREOVER, the taboo and criminal significance of drug use allows for social exchange w/ people you o/w might not come into contact with or get to know -- i.e., not everyone who uses illegal drugs takes advantage of such opportunity -- and yet enough users do that it's safe to say they lead more interesting lives than straight people who keep to their "own kind"

drugs, music, religion = the great levellers, the mediums of mano a mano understanding = everyone's the same when they're high on cocaine = breaking down everyday identities

you call it immoral, i call it good
 

dominic

Beast of Burden
johneffay said:
although some people would say that addiction is a sickness, which would remove it from the realm of moral actions
errrr, i think k-punk could make some compelling points here against the tendency to "medicalize" everything

i.e., even if it's the case that drug abusers have some kind of dopamine or serotine imbalance, such an explanation only defers the question, i.e., why do so many people in modern society seem to have such imbalances???

also, i've always found burroughs compelling on the subject of how people become heroin addicts -- i.e., it takes quite a bit of work and determination to become an addict in the first place -- an almost willful surrender whereby you go to the trouble of shooting up everyday for a month, such that you can then achieve addict status

if you only do heroin once or twice and then walk away, then you really haven't tried hard enough and so you won't become an addict
 

dominic

Beast of Burden
johneffay said:
The argument you quote about bouying up the horrors of the drug trade is not a very good argument against taking drugs, but it is a strong one in favour of taking drug production out of the hands of criminals. After all, I could come up with a similar list of problems with the petrochemical industry, but nobody would seriously suggest that was an argument for total abstention from the use of petrol.
yes, but you do seem to making an argument in favor of putting the drug trade in the hands of exxon or phillip morris

i.e., if you legalize drugs, just whom, precisely, do you think's gonna make all the money = multinational corporations
 

King Ink

New member
Distinction between morality and taking drugs

Whether an individual choses to use drugs and/or abuse drugs bears no relation to morality, insofar that he does not encroach on the freedom of anyone around him. I think drugs are great when taken in moderation (i.e. not abused.) I find that they can produce great feelings of euphoria and happiness and all of those great things, again, so long as they are not taken in excessive amounts. Taking drugs and morality are completely separate realms. I would say that our bodies are ours to do with what we wish. I might add that this is based on somewhat of an aetheistic take on morality and that I believe morality requires of us to only do the things that we promise to do or 'sign up for' (usually called contractarianism.) That is to say that I believe that there is no superior, law-giving diety whom we must obey.
 

nonseq

New member
Melchior said:
this is primarily a problem with drug laws, or with capitalist modes of production, not with drugs themselves
Maybe, but I’m talking about buying drugs here and now, not in a hypothetical situation of legalized fair-trade harddrugs.

Melchior said:
and that it treats a neutral thing as being responsible for the way it is produced and marketed.
People are responsible for what they knowingly pay for. Everybody knows that if you buy drugs, you are funding criminal activity, which more often than not means violence, corruption, inequality.

Melchior said:
Not to mention that it tars all drug use with the brush of cocaine and heroin.
I specified this in my second post in the other thread: drugs supplied by criminal organizations.

Of course there are degrees of negative effects depending on which kind of drugs, where from etc. The price of Amphetamines from the Netherlands pays for smugglers, dealers, corrupt cops. The price of Amphetamines from Burma in addition pays the violent dictatorial system. It is an incontestable fact that buying amphetamines originating from Burma means funding the dictatorship. Your little pill will pay for a small part of this violence and oppression. Now add to this the fact that drugs trade worldwide amounts to astronomical sums of money.

Melchior said:
You could argue that my argument is similar to arguing that 'guns don't kill people, people kill people'. And to a point you'd be right, but the difference is that guns are designed specifically to kill or wound. Drugs are designed (to the point that you can call them so) to get you high.
I’m not talking about the effects of drugs on users, but the violence and inequality funded with drug money.
 

nonseq

New member
King Ink said:
Whether an individual choses to use drugs and/or abuse drugs bears no relation to morality, insofar that he does not encroach on the freedom of anyone around him.
I agree. But, for example, buying Colombian coke does encroach on the freedom of the people ruthlessly killed by Colombian militias funded with your drug money. Same with Birmese amphetamines etc.
 

johneffay

New member
dominic said:
i.e., if you legalize drugs, just whom, precisely, do you think's gonna make all the money = multinational corporations
Which is the case with most commodities of course. Still, compared to the activities involved with the criminal cartels, multinationals would be the lesser of two evils and presumably henrymiller's mates would have the option of getting fair-trade cocaine to go with their coffee...
 

nonseq

New member
johneffay said:
The argument you quote about bouying up the horrors of the drug trade is not a very good argument against taking drugs, but it is a strong one in favour of taking drug production out of the hands of criminals. After all, I could come up with a similar list of problems with the petrochemical industry, but nobody would seriously suggest that was an argument for total abstention from the use of petrol.
We certainly don't need drugs as much as petrol in the current system. While even the need for petrol is debatable on the longer term, it's not feasible to abandon petrol today. But that does not mean we cannot influence what our petrol money is used for. Large groups of people did boycott Shell for trading with apartheid-based South Africa..

But basically taking drug trade out of the hands of criminals is impossible in the current world-political climate. So buying drugs or not comes down to a question of morality: do you want to fund all this violence?
 
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nonseq

New member
johneffay said:
My basic point was that it is absurd to say that something so general as 'using drugs' is immoral. That doesn't mean that buying smack from the mafia does not have consequences which could lead it to be characterized as an immoral act, but what about buying cannabis from someone you know who grows it?
Agreed, I also said this in my second post in the other thread. Homegrown cannabis is fine with me.

johneffay said:
I have heard people justify buying smack by claiming that, whilst the distribution, etc. is obviously appalling, at the very basic level, they are supporting the poor farmers whose only potential source of income is opium poppies. I'm not saying that I support this argument, but I don't think that opium production need nescessarily be immoral.
It is immoral to me, in the current situation I don't think opium farming is the only potential source of income of farmers. If you look at Afghanistan, under the Taliban they were the largest opium manufacturer in the world. Then, after the regime change, most of the opium production was stopped. I don't know what their new jobs were, but I think there are many plants that could be grown by these peasants.

johneffay said:
Finally, it should be remembered that pharmaceutical multinationals are hardly models of ethical probity. Does that mean that I should not take analgesics for pain relief because, in so doing, I am 'sponsoring a whole system of exploitation'?
This is a false analogy, I think. You don't need recreational drugs as much as medicines right?
 

johneffay

New member
nonseq said:
This is a false analogy, I think. You don't need recreational drugs as much as medicines right?
That's true, but it would make morality based upon need which would be a very tricky path to negotiate, because you would then have to entertain the possibility that addicts were less immoral than other purchasers of illicit drugs because they had a genuine need for them and yet addicts are likely to spend more bouying up the drugs trade than occasional users.

There's also the question of using the products of pharmaceutical companies for recreation...

Actually I agree with just about everything you have said. My initial response was to Melchior's characterization of your argument which was far less nuanced.
 
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