I’m only a creative punter in one of those specialist healthcare
agencies, but I can’t understand the fuss about drugs.
There’s a bizarre moral duplicity in anti-drugs messages that is stupid
and counter-productive. For example, in the message, ’40 per cent of
kids will have tried drugs before they turn 16.’ So, what’s wrong with
It’s like saying 80 per cent of men between the ages of 25 and 35 have a
car. It’s a fact, pure and simple. The moral outrage just indicates that
the next generation is having a better time than their parents did then
or can now. It’s boring Ian Paisley-type ranting (papist plot, sodomite,
You can see the issue in the language we use that embodies the naive
idea that there are ’good’ drugs (aspirin, antibiotics, Gaviscon) and
’bad’ drugs (pot, speed, ecstasy, heroin). The same word, ’drug’, covers
So every time we hear about a drugs haul in Dover, we have to do a neat
linguistic lambada - it’s not going to be pounds 20 million worth of
Nurofen that’s been found.
We’re expected to accept the easy divide between good drugs (that normal
people take to get rid of bad things such as colds and headaches and
cancer) and bad drugs (that bad people take). Moral dilemma all wrapped
But what about Viagra, the erection enhancer from Pfizer, new on the
market and already the world’s best-selling pill? Is it a good drug or a
bad drug? Is it good when you take it to cure a disease (impotence, now
re-marketed as male erectile dysfunction) but bad when you take it to
get a hard-on?
If you judge the badness of a drug by the desire of people to get hold
of it (and that’s the model in the popular press), Viagra is a very very
very bad drug.
But that’s a deliberate denial of John Stuart Mill’s tenet that
individuals are the best arbiters of what’s good for them.
The fact is that both good and bad drugs are wonderful additions to our
repertoire of physical and mental existence - and the sooner the drugs
debate moves beyond the concepts of labelling them good or evil, the
better off we’ll all be.
I’d call that a decent communications strategy, and one the
pharmaceutical industry itself might consider taking up.