Drug taking has moved from being outlawed behaviour, seen only on the fringes of society, to a widely accepted activity, even when illegal. In Britain, for all the talk of a “war on drugs,” no one ever tried to wage one. Instead, drug taking has become more and more legally and socially acceptable. We frame drug-taking as either a harmless diversion or, when taken to excess in the form of addiction, as an illness that needs to be cured. Regardless of the impact on physical and mental health, the hard truth is that self-stupefaction of any kind is morally wrong. Drug taking is pure self-indulgence. It prioritises personal pleasure and instant gratification in a way that wreaks havoc with any kind of ethical framework. If we don’t want to succumb to a culture of violence, greed, and selfishness, we should make sure that the moral argument about drugs is not pushed aside. Not even the most rabid advocate of legalisation would argue that more drug taking would be a good thing, so let’s have the courage to deter it by clearly saying: “it’s wrong.”
Peter Hitchens is an English journalist and author. His latest book is The War We Never Fought: The British Establishment’s Surrender to Drugs.
Chair: Ann Mossop is Head of Talks & Ideas at Sydney Opera House, and is co-curator of Festival of Dangerous Ideas.