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Substance Abuse

Information : Online Articles

substance abuseHumans have used a variety of substances for a variety of purposes for millennia.   By far the majority have been used for medicinal purposes, but others have been used to induce altered conscious states or for recreational purposes like tobacco smoking.  Some substances can be used medicinally at one dose or to induce euphoria at a higher dose.  For example, morphine is an effective painkiller at modest doses yet can induce euphoria at higher doses, and heroin is closely chemically related to morphine.  Many, if not all of the substances that are used for non-medicinal purposes have the potential to become addictive.  Addictive use of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, and hallucinogens is well documented and causes enormous problems in the community.  In addition, even one-off experimental use of many of these substances has the potential to cause serious harm, including death.  The central ethical question is whether it is justified to use a substance to alter one’s consciousness in the knowledge that life and limb may be put at serious risk.  Related questions include the meaning of addiction and the damage it causes to human freedom, as well as how best to treat someone who has become addicted.  Some of the longer term effects of these substances are still the subject of much research, the outcomes of which are likely to influence how people behave.  A related ethical question is what the public policy approach should be for lawmakers.  How far does individual freedom extend?  Is the state entitled to be paternalistic and protect people from their own bad choices?  Should the goal be to weigh harms against one another and attempt to minimise them, or should it be to focus on prevention first and foremost?