I’m only a creative punter in one of those specialist healthcare agencies, but I can’t understand the fuss about drugs.

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

both categories.

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.

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