THE DEBATE ON DRUG LAW REFORM
Gregory K Pike, Director, Adelaide Centre for Bioethics and Culture
Most people have been affected at some level by drug abuse. Many have close family members, relatives, friends or acquaintances who struggle with an addiction. Those with the addiction can cause a lot of grief to others but are nevertheless loved. They are often charming, sensitive, intelligent, complex individuals who can also behave appallingly. Those who love them are often placed in a terrible predicament. How to work for the best for someone who seems to be self-destructing? It cannot be good to abandon someone to their addiction, but neither is it good to harshly punish them or magnify their struggle. Paths to recovery are often slow, complicated by a range of deep psychological and perhaps physical issues, and require a commitment to what is genuinely in the person’s best interests. There are no easy answers, just the reality of messy human behavior, messy relationships, all interwoven with joy and sorrow.
Sensible policies about mind-altering substances must start with a realistic account of the reasons why and how people use them and how that fits with human dignity and flourishing. Naturally following from this will be an honest account of any putative contribution to human fulfillment and an equally honest account of all of the potential harms that might result from their use in any given manner. And this must include harm to individuals who use as well as to the whole community.