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+3 votes
I don't consider marijuana part of this since I don't consider it bad.  But what will keep drugs like cocaine, meth, heroine, etc. from becoming a major problem like being abused and distributed? Who would prevent it and how would the society go about treating the problem?
by (220 points)
"I don't consider marijuana part of this since I don't consider it bad"


surely you know that "legal" (to some, therefore not "bad") drugs cause far more death, bad health and unhappiness than all illegal drugs. those legal drugs include: alcohol, tobacco, coffee, sugar, prescription meds, etc....  what exactly makes one drug "bad" and another not? its health effects? its behavioral effects? in an anarchist "society", would you choose to tell others what they can and cannot put into their bodies? or even what is "good" or "bad" for them?

i know *many* functioning addicts. why would being an "addict" even be considered a problem, if the addict is not impacting others as a result? is nicotine addiction considered "substance abuse"?

perhaps i misunderstand the question, or its framing.
i guess the real crux of this question is (hyper generalized and boiled down to anarchy101): "but who will take out the garbage?".

individuals, solely and in concert when desired, would assumedly deal with undesirable behavior (or situations) in whatever ways they choose to. there is no single answer, since that would imply a fixed, rigid system - not unlike what exists today. the context of each situation would hopefully influence the actions taken by those involved.

being somewhat proactive with people you care about seems like a good idea for meaningful relationships. but in general, why would you give a shit what anyone else wears, eats, drinks, smokes, fucks, sings, etc...  unless it impacts you directly. geez, i thought all the vegan vs non-vegan, straightedge vs non-straightedge, scenester stupidity got dumped in the early 2000s. moralism gets 86'ed.
"Who would prevent it and how would the society go about treating the problem?"
If someone is preventing it now, they aren't doing a great job. Also, I'm sure people would have volunteer rehab centers. I agree with funkyanarchy, people's morals have been influenced by the law for generations.
I am an anarchist, and I have been snorting meth(started out smoking, but it lasts longer to snort it) for over a year regularly. I haven't since June because I am trying to become a truck driver. My plan is to drive truck to save up to buy land and move off the grid. Truth be told, its been harder to stop smoking pot than to stop snorting meth. I pretty much went cold turkey on the crystal but I've broken down and smoked pot exactly 3 times since June. I had to stop for the hair drug test, once I pass I plan to use drugs again, but my rule will be NEVER while I'm working, only at home.


I'm a believer in responsible drug use, moderation and perspective is key. Notice, pretty much all addiction stories share the same central theme "i needed to escape life, i was miserable in life." Maybe the drugs arent the problem, maybe its using drugs to cope. I believe using drugs to cope with anything serious runs the risk of addiction, and if you use drugs all day every day you will get addicted. I would get spun out for 2-3 days every 2 weeks. That was my ritual. I rarely ever used more than that.

Notice im using my real name. For the past couple months in my sobriety i have been trying to destigmatize supposed "hard" drugs.

@funky: idk, does any use of the words "good" and "bad" constitute moralism? I mean, while the writer of the thread didn't do so in a very specific, descriptive way, there are some pretty huge differences between marijuana, coffee, ect. and heroin, crack, meth, because you couldn't smoke enough marijuana or drink enough coffee to give you the type of problems that the other ones have.

rs666: for me, it is the context of the use of those words that would indicate moralism, not simply the words themselves.

of course there are differences between all substances, how they are used, and their (often quite different) effects on different individuals. and some seem to have more dramatic effects - on most folks that i know, anyway - than others. but does that make the substances "bad"?  (that would be moralistic to me). or does it indicate something about the usage of the substances and by whom?

excessive coffee use has caused heart attacks and strokes in many people; or at least been determined (medically) to be a major contributing factor. the use of marijuana is considered high risk for individuals with certain conditions - particularly heart conditions. on the flip side of your equation, i have known at least a dozen completely "functional" (according to the predominant measures of capitalism and mass society) heroin addicts.  your differentiation seems far too cliche for me.

why does one feel the need to describe some drugs as "good" and others as "bad"? to paraphrase andrew weil (in "from chocolate to morphine"): there are no bad (or good) drugs, only bad (or good) relationships with drugs. of course i would probably use different terminology, but i think the point is spot on.

5 Answers

+3 votes
If the fact that the substances will fucking kill you is not enough of a deterrent, then I don't see how further deterrents like prison will do much to change use rates. As a straightedge anarchist, I see the self-destruction in intoxication culture as something to overcome through challenging the dominant social order, its meaninglessness, alienation, stresses, and strict schedules that force people to rely on uppers and downers.

As far as tackling the harder drugs, anarchists in different countries are already involved in developing autonomous clinics, needle exchanges, and community rehab options, and some take direct action against those who distribute or profit from meth and heroin, as shown in Exarcheia in Greece where the police have pushed hard drugs into the neighborhood to destabilize it (similar to the US moving crack into the ghettos to destabilize them) but people have come together to expel the distributors. Some anarchists have burnt down meth labs. And on the other end of the spectrum, there are many anarchists who use hard drugs, and some of them desire to continue to do so and should be left alone so long as they're not harming others. I would think though that successful anarchic cultures would have norms of strong intentionality, since anarchy implies a culture of consent, toward initial use of addictive substances rather than having people just casually pass them around.

Most of the issues that come from drugs arise from social conditions where we live pointless lives devoid of meaning, and seek (often self-destructive) external bandaids to our predicament. Anarchists directly challenge those social conditions.
by (8.9k points)
Great answer, ALC !
"since anarchy implies a culture of consent"

alc, could you explain what you mean by that?

i assume you include sugar, tobacco, caffeine, etc as addictive (and often quite harmful) substances. and there are also addictions and intoxicants that are not (ingestible) substances at all, but activities (eg, extreme sports, physical domination of others, etc). i have a bit of a visceral reaction to the broad condemnation of "intoxication" as self-destructive (if i misunderstood you, my bad). it can be, for sure, and far too easily in this world. but to me it makes sense to distinguish between factors like:

- the desire/need to feel intoxicated (and where that comes from)
- the substance or activity used to intoxicate oneself with, including what is involved in obtaining it
- the effects of being intoxicated, both immediate and longer term  
- to what extent any of the above impact - and are impacted by - others in one's life

[which reminds me: the term "substance abuse" seems utterly incorrect. the substance is not being abused (unless it is likewise vegetable abuse to like eating healthy veggies). if anything is being abused, it is oneself - making "self abuse" a much more applicable term.]

i myself have seen far too many friends and family destroy their lives due to unhealthy addictions. but every individual has their own way of dealing with the shit in their lives, and what is destructive and unhealthy to one is exactly the right medicine for another. i have seen this first-hand, numerous times, with both heroin and prescription mood meds in particular. though i personally have never seen anyone that seemed "better off" to me as a result of meth or crack use.

i strongly agree that the society/culture we live in creates conditions very conducive to the need/desire for "escape" or the like. that is how i see "vacations" and "travel" and the other various ways that folks who are entrenched in modern society seek to (over?) enjoy the beauty and unpredictability of the natural/wild world that their daily life is essentially devoid of.
Funky@:  i like how you tie vacations into substance abuse.

I saw something once about a group in ontario that took street addicts on extended camping trips up in the forests.  They didn't push any agenda or enforce a no-drugs policy - if you took your shit with you, you could use it, as long as you didn't cause trouble for anyone else.  The first three or four days were rough as the people acclimatized, and a lot of them had underlying issues as well as the latent paranoia necessary to survive on the street in a city.  But then they all rapidly decompressed, and became ... well, human, as they weren't allowed to in their acustomed lives/roles.  Not that they were 'cured', or any such shit; but they could deal with their surroundings, and the people with them, and their relation with the substances they were using to deal with the shit in their head.

I find it telling that a number of charities are using the same approach to help combat veterans with ptsd (shellshock).  Those who go off away to war and misery suffer the same trauma, as those in our society who are most vulnerable.  (i should make a comment about civilisation harming those it sucks in as badly as those it casts out; but i can't think of anything pithy - fill in your pith here.)
+2 votes
as someone who has worked with addicts and addiction i will add to ALC's answer to say that when people have easier access to drugs there is much less of a tendency to become addicted. addictive habits are increased by making it hard to get drugs, causing people to binge when they get them, which increases the likelihood of addiction.

on a completely different branch of this question, addiction doesn't have to be the way it is now. addicts can be fully functioning people (and many are in this culture also), depending on what they're addicted to and how the culture treats them.
by (53.1k points)
Strongly agree, dot ! Not much to add since your answer sounded similar to what I say.
Dot:  about a decade ago, they were running a trial in Scotland (edinburgh i think) where public health nurses delivered heroin to registered addicts.  The amounts were fairly small, but the users could go find more if they wanted, and the nurses were doing health checks as well.  As dot said, once their supply was assured, many of them used just enough to take the edge off their addiction (or underlying issues) without bingeing.  Others were able to resume social functions, and take up volunteer positions or paid work;  (i'm kinda conflicted about this, but i feel people should engage in work-avoidance and illegalism as a conscious decision - not as an act of desperation.)
Do you know of any other similar programs, legal or otherwise?
i don't. but there have been many. this is old information to me (like decades old) and i haven't kept up. but it was quite compelling when i was learning about it. i think there was even information about it during prohibition.
a book that might have some info on this but is also just a book i really like was From Chocolate to Morphine. best book on drugs and drug use i ever read, by far.
Clodbuster, drug use was decriminalized 12 years ago  in Portugal. This means that users are not charged if they are found with up to certain amounts of drugs like haxixe, heroin, cocaine or even ecstasy and meth (above those limits they are treated as dealers). The results are quite good. Here's an article on the subject
+1 vote
most of those things are either forms of escape or painkillers in order to deal with boredom, anger and alienation in postmodern capitalism. Depenalization of course will do most of the job as far as ending the violence caused by the incentive of the high profits. An anarchist solution will also include expropriations of the rich drug traffickers and if any thugs with profit motives keep insisting on it after that (anyway not that likely) they will be dealt with through the use of collective force. After that a local community can very well decide to use the land previously used for heroin or cocaine and as such for industrial drug capitalism, for growing food and in other cases it might be better to dedicate those lands for reforestation.

Reconnecting as humans and shared as well as personal aesthetic experience will tend to discourage addictions. Then heroin can go back to being opium which is nice (and i like it) and if anyone wants it that person can grow it for personal use in their garden alongside fruit and vegetables. Also cocaine can go back to being coca leaf which is not particularly too addictive, unlike cocaine, and a part of andean indigenous cultures with many uses there. Another highly addictive drug, nicotine tobbaco can go through the same process.

As someone who tries to use drugs responsibly i tend to see meth, crack and heroin as mostly bad things who tend to exist more or less only for exploiting people, yet i don´t like telling anyone that they should not use them or that they are being bad people or something like that like the straight edgers tend to do and even worse the fascist ones who have gone around forcing through violence their personal opinion on others

But as far as things like ecstasy, marihuana, LSD, magic mushrooms, opium and peyote i see them as things that people should be able to use if they want and which can provide many benefits to one´s perception and relation with the world and well as in combination with other activities such as dance, sex, party and ritual. Also since they have been shown in serious studies to not be too addictive and even less addictive than alcohol.

Alcohol use also should be a thing of personal decision and also a thing that can go back to being produced for personal or group use by the users themselves. As far as bars i will think that the need for socialization should be done through non-profit motivated and self-managed social centres which will not need to sell alcohol in order to survive and as such that will end discouraging pathological and harmful alcoholism. Consumption of alcohol could also happen in those spaces but without the need for profits it will be less neccesary and unlike contemporary bars anyone could attend such places without being forced to buy alcohol or leave the place.

Also the straight edge hardcore fans and the fundamentalist christians can very well choose to create their "drug free" social center and there be happy thinking they are better than us drug users.

In the end the call might be for the de-industrialization (and as such de-capitalization) of drug production through all these processes. That will mean less drug production on itself.
by (3.3k points)
edited by
+1 vote
Honestly, I doubt a lot of hypothetical anarchist societies would have even access to things like cocaine, heroin, meth...etc. The coca plant cant grow everywhere and I doubt there will be be enough people with enough motivation without some form of forced labor to mass produce the coca plant into cocaine, and then go on to process it, as it isn't that simple of a process. The same goes for heroin, as the poppy plant can't grow everywhere and one would need a huge field of it and probably some sort of forced labor to mass produce it. I don't find it as plausible for a bunch of people willingly working massive poppy fields to produce raw opium, refining it, and then converting it into heroin. Meth, heck, where would all these chemicals even come from to make it?

Your question seems to reside on the fact that all these drugs will still be massively produced as they are today and willingly by people in places like the middle east or south america. I find this extremely implausible.

I don't see why, as your question implies, you believe people in these anarchists societies would even have access to it. Do you know how to make these drugs yourself and have access to the materials to make it? What goes on now likely wouldn't be anywhere close to similar in some sort of anarchist world.

Just my thought on the matter and the question seems to assume that since abuse of these substances goes on today. Then in this hypothetical world, it will continue somehow.

PS: Why wasn't alcohol mentioned? alcohol is one of the more dangerous ones and is on par with heroin. Plus it's easy as shit for anyone to make for themselves
by (4.7k points)
this is really an aside, but...

" the poppy plant can't grow everywhere and one would need a huge field of it and probably some sort of forced labor to mass produce it"

why mass produce it? the poppy plant can be grown in many places and climates (some more difficult than others, of course), and individuals so inclined can grow poppies and produce opium fairly easily, without mass production or forced labor. which is kind of how i would hope most (if not all) things would be "produced" in any anarchist world i care to live in. autonomy and all that good shit.
Opium gum/tar is weak when compared to morphine or heroin. Morphine is like 10-15 times stronger than opium and heroin is like 20 times stronger than morphine. Morphine is relatively easy to extract from opium gum/tar, but only about 10-12% of morphine can be extracted from opium. Synthesizing the morphine into heroin is a more complicated process, but I imagine it can't be as hard as making dmt (dmt doesn't come from opium). You can also make codeine out of opium, but what's the point.

To make heroin or morphine out of opium poppy, that shit is gonna need to be produced on a large scale to have enough to use. Only a few mg of the gum/tarry substance comes out of the pod when it is ready and cut open. It is true, poppy plants can be grown in a variety of areas, just make sure you have to right one. :) I was incorrect on that matter.

If you're just gonna use opium, then you're right, you don't need a huge field of it. Like a 100-200 (not enough to make a somewhat sizeable amount of morphine) would be easy to grow. You can either make a tea (only like 3 pods needed) of the pods or slice them open and gather the gummy stuff for safe smoking later on.

I was answering more on the heroin part, not opium. You may want to keep any opium plants away from anarchopunkster due to the immorality of it. ;)
+1 vote
As discussed, a large part of the problem of drug use is the moral and legal stigma attached to it. The ideas that there are good and bad drugs, the harm caused by drugs being a profitable commodity, the functional difficulty in acquiring drugs economically and practically, the racism inherent in drug laws, these are all things that would not exist in anarchy as I see it. That said, I don't think "the problem" would go away entirely. Many people do drugs, only a small percentage do them in a way that is harmful to themselves and others. It is possible that the "addiction" is caused not by the substance, but by the interaction of that substance with a very specific brain. It's kind of like mental illness, I think people would still have cognitive, emotional, and neurological differences in anarchy. I think the numbers might be smaller (less trauma, which definitely changes the way brains function on a biological level) and the impact could be radically different.

Some links:
by (1.5k points)
strongly agree, shark. i would add andrew weil's book "from chocolate to morphine" to your list of links, as i think he articulates a solidly amoral, balanced approach to "drugs".

there are no good or bad drugs, only good or bad relationships with drugs. (paraphrased from that book).