If you go to the doctor with a broken arm, the doctor will not only put your arm in a cast, he or she will also prescribe you painkillers. Treating the symptoms of a injury or illness is standard medical practise — nothing to shout home about. There is, however, one type of pain we don’t treat with medicine. And that is emotional pain.
Alcohol, sugar, heroin — the desire to rid oneself of emotional pain by external means has been ever-present in human history. It’s part of the human condition. I do not believe there is an answer to addiction without first discovering more ways to temporarily treat the symptoms of a person’s distress whilst simultaneously treating the causes.
The treatment of emotional pain and brain illness has undoubtedly been held back because the prohibition on psychotropic drugs has hindered research. Whilst that prohibition has lifted slightly in recent years, the accompanying stigma around drug use has not. There even seems to be a kinder perception towards people who use party drugs like ecstasy and cocaine — who can blame anyone for wanting a good time, right?
Drug users who prefer heroin and alcohol are perceived so differently from party-drug users and I believe this is due to what those users are trying to do with their drugs. These are the drugs that stymie emotional distress. For users, these are a temporary escape from a reality they do not like. To want to escape reality is considered a character flaw but noone can ever give me a good reason why excusing oneself from one’s own pain isn’t a valid temporary choice.
Even though everyday painkillers are thought to numb emotional anguish as well as physical pain, I doubt you would be prescribed these for emotional pain if you were an otherwise healthy individual. It is 2018. I do not believe that it is impossible to create a non-addictive drug specifically designed to numb emotional pain without getting the patient high.
There is only one major reason this drug is not yet available from your local pharmacy: the moral taboo against using external drugs to treat emotional pain.
If we are serious about treating addiction comprehensively and ridding the world of prohibition — this is the final frontier.
I was recently asked to list my three least favourite government policies. As you can imagine, this was a tall order… But I’ve managed to narrow it down.
Governments kill in times of war but it’s never clear that they have reached their aims from an IR perspective. Apart from the the death and destruction there’s the awkward legislation that follows in times of war. Wars are expensive, your taxes rise to pay for them and they don’t come down once the war is over. Your civil liberties get eaten up and you never get them back. There is still legislation in this country which was made in World War One and is not getting repealed anytime soon. There are both selfish and selfless reasons to opposed war. The killing of innocent men, women and children and the fact that 10 years after Iraq they are still groping our b*llocks at the airport – nobody wins.
2. Agricultural Policy
I suppose we should be grateful that we have agricultural markets at all since we have food and people in North Korea don’t. But distortions in the agricultural markets in the form of trade tariffs, subsidies and regulation (although I do appreciate that this is slightly simplifying things) are the reason some people on this planet still don’t have food despite the fact we have the capacity to produce more than enough for everyone.The food system isn’t free/fair and, sadly, the many meaningful efforts to make it more fair (e.g. Fairtrade) simply amount to more distortions.
Agriculture is one of the biggest polluters. Were the markets not so stilted I’ve no doubt that people in cities would be eating a greater variety of fresher produce grown in carbon neutral, pollution-free, super-efficient vertical farms by now. More importantly those who previously had no seat at the table would be able to eat at last.
3. School Policy
School choice, or lack thereof, is one of my biggest pet peeves. Not only that but schools in England are oversubscribed and over subscription is a problem you can solve very easily. Privatise all schools. Give parents vouchers so they can send their children to the school of their choosing. Government vouchers give poor people what rich people have – choice. New schools rise to meet demand and all schools compete for higher quality and better value for your voucher. You would slowly see greater plurality and innovation in the education sector.
So there you have it. What I consider to be the worst of it!