(PRWEB) January 13, 2003
It is common usage to refer to any consumption of illegal drugs as drug abuse. Anyone who sniffs cocaine or heroin, or who smokes crack or marijuana is commonly called a drug abuser or even a drug addict. But is it the legality of the drug that makes the difference between use and abuse, between being a consumer and an addict? Is everyone who takes an illegal drug an abuser or an addict? Three prominant health researchers argue in a paper published in the Journal of Substance Use that the answer to each of these questions is no. The researchers, who asked Âis recreational drug use normal?Â are Drs. Thomas Nicholson and John White, both professors in the Department of Public Health at Western Kentucky University, and Dr. David Duncan, the President of Duncan & Associates and an adjunct associate professor at Brown University Medical School.
Nearly 40% of all American adults, majorities of those between the ages of 18 and 25, and a majority of high school seniors have taken one or more of the currently illegal drugs. Can all of them Â roughly 87 million persons Â be considered drug abusers or addicts? Can a behavior be called abnormal when so much of the population engages in that behavior?
ÂRecreational use of illegal drugs is not only statistically normal but for most of the users it is clinically normal as well,Â asserts Prof. Nicholson. A number of community studies, including ones conducted by researchers funded by the fedeeral government, have repeatedly found that the majority of users of illegal drugs show no signs of any psychiatric problem indicative of addiction or drug abuse. "Just as the majority of drinkers are not alcoholics, the majority of illegal drug users are not addicts or abusers,Â he says.
ÂWhether we are talking about alcohol or cocaine, about marijuana or heroin,Â says Dr. Duncan, Âonly about 15 to 20% of those who continue to use after some initial experimentaion ever experience any sort of problem that would justify labelling their drug consumption as abuse.Â The majority suffers no harm from their drug use and causes no harm to others. The greatest risk drug use carries for them is the risk of being caught and punished under our drug laws and zero tolerance policies. ÂThe only exception to this seems to be the legal drug tobacco which proves to be addictive for most smokers.Â
ÂWe, ourselves, have surveyed over nine hundred illegal drug users who are happy, successful adults with stable home lives,Â says Prof. White. ÂUsing a mental health measure originally developed by the National Center for Health Statistics, we found no difference, on the average, between a population of illegal drug users and the general population, he added. ÂNot surprising,Â commented Dr. Duncan, Âwhen you consider that forty percent of the general population are illegal drug users.Â
ÂThe War on Drugs and the entire concept of drug prohibition is founded on the premise that some drugs are so inherently dangerous that no one can use them without suffering serious harm, often including addiction,Â according to Dr. Duncan. ÂThat premise is nothing but a prejudice. It is very simply false.Â
The paper, ÂIs recreational drug use normal?Â will be found in Journal of Substance Use, volume 7, pages 116-123.