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11 April 2014

Friday Question Would the world be a better place if no one ever used recreational drugs or alcohol?
posted by Hugh Janus 11 April | 15:29
No - but with a proviso. Addiction of any kind wreaks havoc on the user and those around them. But in moderation, any kind of mind-altering substance can be a gateway to creativity and expression.
posted by Senyar 11 April | 15:34
I admit my exposure to the horrid consequences of both drugs and alcohol (i.e., ruined lives, criminal activity, deaths, grievous injuries, negative health effects) and my marriage to a long term recovering alcoholic biases me, but I'd tend to say yes, yes, yes.
posted by bearwife 11 April | 15:46
I think the world would be a better place if no one ever used the phrase, "no one ever."
posted by Hugh Janus 11 April | 15:58
It really depends on your definition of better. From a Zen perspective drugs just alter the already illusory aspects of reality, so your just stirring up shit till it looks better. It is still shit, however.
From a slightly less alien perspective, 20th century art would be completely different without pot, heroin and LSD. Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Louie Armstrong, the Beatles, the Stones, etc, would not have been quite the same without drugs. Steve Jobs credits LSD for early insights that stayed with him for life. Carl Sagan smoked pot. It's a very long list really.
posted by doctor_negative 11 April | 15:59
Hugh wins.
posted by oneswellfoop 11 April | 16:08
Whether it was better or worse, it's no somewhere that I'd want to live in.
posted by octothorpe 11 April | 17:11
posted by chewatadistance 11 April | 18:10
No! Some of us need a drink every now and again. Like ME.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 11 April | 19:50
I totally agree with Senyar on this one.
posted by gaspode 11 April | 20:00
And TPS :)
posted by gaspode 11 April | 20:01
I'd say yes. My brother would probably be alive today if he'd never drunk alcohol, and I wouldn't be cleaning up the disgusting mess that my former tenant left in the basement and be in debt because his substance abuse issues led him to live like a pig and not pay his rent. Do you really think any amount of art and creative insight can weigh against the damage alcohol and drugs do to people's lives?

But this is a false dichotomy. Plenty of people do partake of alcohol and drugs in moderation without issue, and eliminating that wouldn't stop those who take it to excess.
posted by Orange Swan 11 April | 20:32
About the same probably. The root of what drugs do is in the brain, not the substance. The absence of these particular substances would just leave room for other brain-doping social psychoses to take hold - like religious fervor, extreme experience, isolation/self-harm, and other forms of adrenaline-seeking or low-producing behavior. Societies differ with regard to use of intoxicants, but negative social outcomes develop in all of them.
posted by Miko 11 April | 21:25
Humans have had these things for about as long has humans have existed. Native Americans did not figure out how to make alcohol, but had plenty of plants to use for divination and other rituals. I am wondering out substance abuse played out in ancient cultures. It has to have been an issue, from the get-go, I surmise.
posted by danf 12 April | 09:29
I'm a firm believer that we all need some transcendence periodically. I've been stone cold sober for a just over a year now thanks to my stupid pancreas and I miss getting a little out of my head sometimes. Perhaps if our culture respected transcendence more, and allowed/encouraged safe, responsible usage to a greater extent we'd have fewer addicts and abuse? Maybe that's going too far, but I know I wouldn't want to live in a world without the options.
posted by richat 12 April | 09:54
I wonder what would happen then to social events in cultures where alcohol very much goes together with socialising. Like, say, the UK or the NL.
Would they become more stilted? Would there be less impulsive behaviour and more stable relationships f.i.?
What would be the rôle of the Dyonisic without a legal drug like alcohol? What would music festivals be like? Would more people resort to sports and exercise for transcendence of the daily routine?
Would people pull back from being so obsessed with work life because they wouldn't have an aid to let go of it when they're off?
So for me the question is what the collective benefits are of alcohol use apart from individual bliss.

Similarly you can ask yourself what society would be like if all drugs where legal.

F.i. in the NL the use of pot is legal for all intents and purposes. And mushrooms used to be the same.
I noticed that there's a social etiquette and - judgement to pot use in the NL in some social groups: any pushback that exists isn't for legal reasons. Nor for purely moral reasons. But heavy pot use is associated in large parts of society with behaviours that aren't socially widely admired: like inaction and oblivion. So heavy users aren't judged for being bad but for being weak.
To me it seems that our society developed antibodies to overuse of pot. A pushback mechanism.
I wonder if the same would happen if hard drugs where legal.
The general idea is of course that they're of the "not even once" category. I.e. that people are biologically incapable of controlling their use. That there's no way back.

Secular liberal people tend to bristle at staunchly religious people and their preoccupation with the controle of sex and drugs. I sometimes wonder whether these are largely ancient social antibodies. Especially the preoccupation with 'unregulated' sex and then again focusing most on females might stem from codified collective learning that a stable relationship used to be critical to successfully owning property and raising descendants.

These are all idle musings.
It would be much more interesting to look at societies that are different from us in this respect.
The US is different from the NL in the approach of pot use and adolescent (female) sexuality. I only know the NL first hand. But I'm struck by the role of pot use in US movies and tv series. Using pot is portrayed as a glorious radiant fuck you to the system of social obligations in way that seems over the top to a Dutchman like me. I'm thinking of American Beauty f.i. (Of course that can be just "story teller shorthand" for wanting to communicate that somebody is fed up and is ready for the conclusion of his story arc where he/she sees the old life from a new standpoint.)
In theory places like the Arab Emirates should tell us what a society without alcohol would be like. But then there's the correlation with ultra orthodox religion which muddles interpretation...

Ah well.


≡ Click to see image ≡
posted by jouke 12 April | 10:20
Miko has it. One can be addicted to sex, food or shopping, none of which can be banned.
posted by brujita 12 April | 14:10
I feel like I should answer this question when what I really should do is to take some kind of drug so I won't feel that way.

Is "recreational" in the mind of the user or the observer? Is it meant as a pejorative? Is pleasure a recreation? Is pain when I sought pleasure deserved?
posted by Obscure Reference 12 April | 14:26
It has to have been an issue, from the get-go, I surmise.

An issue, yes, but anthroplogically it's pretty interesting to see how different cultures have constructed the acceptable boundaries of mind alteration. In some it's carefully tied to religion/spirituality, and not acceptable outside that structure. In some, intoxication is associated with certain seasons or celebrations, and expected then, but suppressed at other times of year. And so on.
posted by Miko 12 April | 15:42
What bearwife said.
posted by Melismata 12 April | 16:28
I think we need more not less (legal marijuana, for instance). Life is hard. A little escape is necessary. Of course, you can take it too far, but putting people in jail for drug use is absurd (treatment, not jail). And making something illegal that people want just gives you Capone.

Isn't it interesting how physiologically we seem tailor-made for the effects of various drugs and alcohol -- a kind of symbiosis. And problems aside, what a mercy opiates like morphine are for serious pain.
posted by Pips 12 April | 16:45
Not for me.
posted by Splunge 12 April | 18:18
Isn't it interesting how physiologically we seem tailor-made for the effects of various drugs and alcohol -- a kind of symbiosis.

We respond to chemicals in the external world that most resemble our own brain chemicals. Otherwise, they wouldn't be able to plug into our neural receptors and they wouldn't do anything. Things that make us high make us high because they resemble something already within our own bodies' capabilities. Morphine, a great example, does something very like the body's own endorphins and fits into our endorphin receptors - that's why it has a palliative effect.
posted by Miko 12 April | 21:45
I don't know. I too have seen the negative side of alcohol abuse and the general negative effects it's use can have on people and families, but I'm not convinced that the solution is total abstinence as a society. I've also had plenty of good times having a few drinks with friends, so alcohol itself isn't the problem, nor is 'social' use of it. Other drugs, well the story is pretty much the same in general, I think.

It's more a case that some people don't seem to have the ability to regulate their own use to a safe level and, for those people, none is the only safe quantity to consume.

I guess, as a society, we've accepted that the cost of abuse is worth the positive aspects. Would we be better off if we refused to accept that cost? I doubt it. The freedom to destroy our own lives and those who love us is kind of in-built. If drugs didn't exist, we'd find some other way to self-destruct, I'm sure.
posted by dg 15 April | 16:56
Photo Friday : Places that don't exist any more || Two bunnies, one leaf. (SFW)