Jacob Sullum Speaks on Voodoo Pharmacology in Dallas

WikipediaWikipediaTonight I am giving a talk on "Voodoo Pharmacology" at a Dallas Liberty Forum event. Drawing on material from my book Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use, I will critique the idea that certain psychoactive chemicals take control of people and compel them to do evil, a belief that reinforces support for the war on drugs. Details:

Dallas Liberty Forum, sponsored by the Libertarian Party of Dallas County

Texas Land and Cattle Steak House

812 South Central Expressway, Richardson, Texas

7 p.m.: dinner and various speakers

8 p.m.: Sullum speaks

8:45 p.m.: Q&A

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  • some guy||

    We learn a little more about anonbot every day...

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    BATH SALT FACE EATERS II: REVENGE OF THE NOSELESS

  • Ted S.||

    Nah; they can just remake Cat Ballou.

  • sarcasmic||

    Refreshments will be provided, but alas no alt-text.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Isn't the White Zombie reference enough?

  • ||

    8 p.m.: Sullum speaks

    Bow down peons - Sullum Speaks!

  • Ted S.||

    Speaking for 45 minutes, no less.

  • ||

    Paid extra.

  • Rich||

    And ... it *seems* longer. ;-)

  • SIV||

    I'd love to attend. Unfortunately, I'm a lot closer to Port Arthur than Dallas today.

  • Fluffy||

    I think the other "voodoo" area of anti-drug theory that needs to be attacked is the entire concept of an "addiction".

    Changes in the brain chemistry of people who use stimulants or narcotics were, for a long time, held up as conclusive evidence that drug use utterly took away the will and made one helpless to resist their siren call.

    Unfortunately for this theory, public health practitioners eager to ban additional substances and activities have gone to the well too often, and now want to use the same "brain chemistry" voodoo to convince us that things like shopping and using the internet are also hopelessly addicting and render poor, hapless "users" powerless to resist.

    But if shopping and cocaine affect the brain in essentially the same way, the proper conclusion is not that shopping is hopelessly addicting. It's that cocaine isn't really that bad, and the people who claim they can't control their use of it are just fucking losers who need to pull it together.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    and the people who claim they can't control their use of it are just fucking losers who need to pull it together

    No, you monster! We must use the full power of the state to protect those people from themselves! We are only one law away from utopia!

  • Fluffy||

    Me: "People with poor impulse control who find something they really, really like will do it with no thought for the future until they run out of resources and are forced to get a fucking grip."

    The State, using Darth Vader voice: "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!"

  • sarcasmic||

    Saying that these people are losers with poor impulse control means that their addiction is their own fault, and that's not fair! It's not fair that most people can use cocaine without it taking over their life, and that a small minority cannot! Not fair! It must be the cocaine's fault! It must! The truth isn't fair! Not fair not fair not fair!

  • Fluffy||

    "People with poor impulse control who find something they really, really like will do it with no thought for the future until they run out of resources and are forced to get a fucking grip."

    It's funny how this one sentence can explain drug addiction, compulsive gambling, shopping, and internet usage, alcoholism, adultery, plain old laziness and procrastination, and obesity.

    Maybe you could improve it slightly:

    "People who can't anticipate the future will always choose to do stuff they enjoy until the near-present consequences of doing so outweigh the near-present benefits."

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    "People who can't anticipate the future will always choose to do stuff they enjoy until the near-present consequences of doing so outweigh the near-present benefits."

    That's my personal definition of stupidity. If I were to design a psychometric assessment (IQ test in laymens' terms), it would be designed to test long-term planning and if one can put off a pleasurable outcome for the opportunity to have even increased pleasure in the foreseeable future.

  • Rich||

    *** rising intonation ***

    What about kids in the hood who think they'll die before age 20?

  • Heroic Mulatto||

  • Rich||

  • General Butt Naked||

    I think yer right, fluff.

    One side effect of that is people in the substance abuse industry strictly pushing what I like to call the "totally unrealistic zero-tolerance recovery".

    You know, where you take someone who's been getting intoxicated for years then expect them to abstain from all intoxicants for the rest of their lives, then wonder why your success rates are abysmal.

    I think, without any real proof, that addiction is more about impulse control than the chemical magically turning a good kid into a worthless larceny-prone zombie. If we can teach people how to control their impulses, they could get high every so often without throwing their lives down the shitter. Which, despite the scare stories, is how a vast majority of users of ALL drugs operate.

    Oh, and the new studies that come out every couple of months saying, "OMG! X releases the same chemicals as TEH COCAINE!" are fucking stupid. There's a fucking reason your brain has pleasure chemicals, they're to reward you for doing certain things that may have kept you alive 100,000 years ago*. Say, ummm, like eating a big fatty piece of meat. Not that eating a big mac actually does nearly the same thing as taking cocaine, or people would be in the bathroom of the club eating whoppers together. Just about any pleasurable activity is going to release dopamine... OMG SEEEE! IT HAS "DOPE" RIGHT IN IT!

  • General Butt Naked||

    *I'm thinking of the junk food studies that people always cite when talking about corporations getting us "LITERALLY ADDICTED TO THEIR CRAP FOOD". I bet if you don't eat for a day and have a rice cake, your brain would light up the same way, but that doesn't grab headlines(or show how evil the corporashuns are).

  • General Butt Naked||

    Shit, AM links up.

    This'll never be read.

    Dang I hate that. I usually have to leave early and barely get to the am links and end up commenting on the hidden "before the am links story".

    *he says to an empty room*

  • BuSab Agent||

    I have the same problem.

  • Acosmist||

    OK, so addiction isn't absolute. Now where's your point?

  • Fluffy||

    My point is that the philosophy behind prohibition schemes requires the item in question to be able to overcome free will.

    You have to remove free will to eliminate moral choice.

    If you don't eliminate moral choice, then you are forced to conclude:

    1. The people you think you're helping by banning drugs have already made a choice where they prefer the drugs to whatever you think they'll enjoy as an alternative.

    2. The people who suffer negative consequences because they choose drugs over other alternatives deserve what they get, so we should just let them get it.

  • sarcasmic||

    Externalities! What about the children?!?

  • Rasilio||

    Give them drugs too?

  • Fluffy||

    My point is that the philosophy behind prohibition schemes requires the item in question to be able to overcome free will.

    You have to remove free will to eliminate moral choice.

    If you don't eliminate moral choice, then you are forced to conclude:

    1. The people you think you're helping by banning drugs have already made a choice where they prefer the drugs to whatever you think they'll enjoy as an alternative.

    2. The people who suffer negative consequences because they choose drugs over other alternatives deserve what they get, so we should just let them get it.

  • ||

    until they run out of resources and are forced to get a fucking grip.

    That seems pretty consistent with the whole "you have to hit rock bottom to beat it" thing.

  • Fluffy||

    I think even "you have to hit rock bottom to beat it" over-romanticizes it because it makes it something that's "got" you that you have to "beat".

    "I had to hit rock bottom to beat it," just sounds like more of a glorious struggle than "I did drugs until I ran out of money and couldn't borrow or scam any more. So then I stopped."

  • Lord Humungus||

    I have a school friend who suffered from migraines. The doctors gave him painkillers - he got addicted to those. And then he started experimenting with heroin. And then cocaine/crack. Mixed H and C. Vicodine. Methadone treatment. Afterward he became an alcoholic.

    That was over the course of ~15 years. Now he's clean and doesn't allow himself to do a damn thing.

    He's one of the lucky ones - considering he didn't get HIV from sharing needles, never got jailed, or shot from a drug deal gone bad.

  • Rich||

    How are his migraines these days?

  • Lord Humungus||

    still gets 'em

  • Rich||

    Bummer, but better than going through all that other crap.

  • ||

    I think there is definitely something to be said for chemical dependency--watching anyone go through withdrawal is pretty painful.

    The problem is trying to equate bad habits with that kind of dependency. I can smoke weed every day, and I might not like the way the world appears to me when I'm sober, but that's nothing like the feeling of having my skin ripped off if I am suffering from heroin withdrawal.

  • ||

    Friend of mine drank every day for 15 years. He really enjoyed it. Then he got put on long term medication for a chronic condition that will never go away. The meds combined with alcohol cause liver damage. He took his chances and kept drinking.

    First time his liver function test came back showing toxicity he gave it up. He was pretty nonchalant about it. " Oh well, I guess I can never drink again. Damn shame.". He never touched the stuff again. No circle jerk treatment plans, no whining, he just quit.

    See Fluffy's comments above. That is by far the best explanation I have ever heard for addiction.

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