Pubdate:  Sat, 11 Dec 1999
Source: New Scientist (UK)
Copyright: New Scientist, RBI Limited 1999
Page: 54
Author: James Trissel


Your correspondents argue the toss over whether or not prescription drugs
should be available over the counter (30 October, p 56).

It is easy to dream up utopias brought about by wise laws. H. G. Wells, for
example, believed that society should be governed on scientific principles
by a group of experts. Alcohol and cigarettes in such a society would
almost certainly be banned, possibly to be replaced by far safer drugs such
as cannabis, thus reducing what Rob Colebrook calls the "phenomenal cost
... of easy access to tobacco and alcohol".

It's a nice thought-exercise. But in the real world, we know what happens.
Even the most enlightened scientific despotism would be spoilt by the
flawed humans who wielded the power.

What, then, should we think of the present law, which uses violence,
authoritarianism and patronising disregard for human rights, with no such
rational justification? What about its phenomenal cost?

Far from aiding science, the clumsy, wide-ranging restrictions placed on
drug use today make it harder to monitor side effects, often help distort
information because of the ideological bias of government sponsors, and
certainly discourage the search for superior alternatives to recreational
drugs. The sooner we as a society begin a serious, open discussion on this
matter, the better.

James Trissel

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