THE POISON GARDEN website      Arum maculatum berries on a Cannabis leaf 


This free script provided by JavaScript Kit

Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Sunday 19th June 2011

Another report is published saying that current policy on ‘drugs’ is flawed and “doomed to failure”. But, this is not another in the growing number of reports saying that prohibition isn’t working and a radical change in policy is required to reduce the harm done by substance abuse. This is a report from Kathy Gyngell for the Centre for Policy Studies, the right-wing think-tank.

Though reported as news by the BBC and others it appears that there is nothing new, at all, about this report since its main objective is exactly the same as the United Nations has been seeking since the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. That is a ‘drug free world’.

More recently, some within the UN have acknowledged that this is an impossible ambition and, some of that ‘some’, have even tried to suggest that the UN never said that a drug free world was achievable. But, in 1988, the UN held a ‘Special Session of the General Assembly on Countering the World Drug Problem’ with the slogan “A Drug Free World - We Can Do It!"

The idea that you can put a complete end to the use of psychoactive substances, or, at least, those that have been deemed to be unacceptable, is based on a completely false understanding of why people take these substances. In my view, (I’m not medically qualified so this is my interpretation of how the human race functions), the desire for such substances is part of an essential process for the survival of the species.

amanita muscaria, fly agaric

You only have to read the stories on the Amanita muscaria, fly agaric, page to realise the lengths human beings will go to in order to achieve intoxication.

To survive, human beings have to do three things; eat, reproduce and protect and provide for our dependants. In order to encourage us to undertake these activities we have a reward system that makes us feel good when we eat a satisfying meal, engage in the sex act or apply effort to achieve some end like providing a shelter. Like everything going on in our bodies, this ‘feeling good’ response is the result of complex chemical reactions. Psychoactive substances reproduce those chemical reactions so that it is possible to achieve the feeling of reward without engaging in the activity.

There is no known way, at this time, to remove the possibility of those ‘reward’ chemical reactions and, if you did, you would also remove the incentives for human beings to survive. Thus, there will always be human beings who want to find the easy way to these reward feelings and any policy based on eliminating the use of ‘drugs’ is, therefore, bound to fail.

Ms Gyngell’s position is that drug policy should be trying to end the use of drugs entirely so her views of the operation of current policy and her proposals for changes in policy are fatally flawed from the start.

Current drugs policy, it seems to me, is based on the supposition that society should intervene in how individuals choose to lead their own lives. This interference is justified on the basis that the way they choose to live has detrimental effects on society. And, in a prohibition system that link between addiction and harm to society is inevitable. But, the way to reduce the harm to society is not to pursue the impossible dream of ending drug use completely.

There has to be an acceptance that the lot of some people is to be addicted to something like heroin. Drug policy needs to pursue three strands; to reduce the harms drug-users do to society, especially in relation to things like property crime, to use education and the provision of incentives (in terms of involvement in useful roles in the community) to reduce the number of young people who feel that psychoactive substances are the only way to feel happy about themselves and to reduce the harm users do to themselves.

This third requires an acceptance that some users will never be completely free of their need for drugs so the best that can be hoped for is to control their use and make them fully-functioning members of society. Some will say that ‘drug addicts’ can never be fully-functioning but that misses an important point. I have no idea how many fully-functioning heroin addicts there are because they are fully-functioning but I am sure they exist.

For Kathy Gyngell and her like, drug treatment, such as methadone replacement programmes, can only be called successful if it leads to complete abstinence. For pragmatists, getting someone’s habit under control without them needing to commit crimes is enough to be going on with.

Ms Gyngell knows how to trigger public reaction and her headline comments on her new report are about the £3bn a year ‘wasted’ on harm reduction measures because she knows that, in the present economic situation with public spending cuts starting to bite, getting the public irate about ‘waste’ is a good way to get her views accepted.

The optimist in me hopes that, by opening a debate about the cost of current drug policy, Ms Gyngell will find that the public calls, not for a saving of £3bn a year from abandoning a policy that is making some improvements in society by reducing the property crimes committed by heroin addicts, but rather for the up to £17bn a year that it has been estimated could be saved by replacing prohibition with regulation.

The pessimist, however, sees the Prime Minister willing, on a range of topics, to offer concessions to his right-wingers as the price of retaining their support for the present coalition.    


Full Entries


Tuesday 25th October 2016
Saturday 20th August 2016
Sunday 6th March 2016
Wednesday 3rd February 2016


Saturday 28th November 2015
Friday 27th November 2015
Monday 17th August 2015
Wednesday 15th July 2015
Friday 26th June 2015
Thursday 25th June 2015
Thursday 30th April 2015
Wednesday 29th April 2015
Wednesday 11th March 2015
Tuesday 3rd March 2015
Saturday 28th February 2015
Sunday 22nd February 2015

November 2014

Monday 24th November 2014
Saturday 8th November 2014

October 2014

September 2014

Wednesday 24th September 2014
Monday 1st September 2014

August 2014

Tuesday 26th August 2014
Saturday 16th August 2014
Tuesday 5th August 2014
Friday 1st August 2014

July 2014

Sunday 27th July 2014
Wednesday 23rd July 2014
Sunday 13th July 2014
Sunday 6th July 2014
Tuesday 1st July 2014

June 2014

Wednesday 25th June 2014
Tuesday 24th June 2014
Sunday 22nd June 2014
Monday 9th June 2014
Wednesday 4th June 2014

May 2014

Monday 26th May 2014
Sunday 18th May 2014
Wednesday 14th May 2014

April 2014

Sunday 13th April 2014
Saturday 5th April 2014
Thursday 3rd April 2014
Tuesday 1st April 2014

March 2014

Monday 31st March 2014
Tuesday 25th March 2014
Friday 21st March 2014
Monday 17th March 2014
Sunday 16th March 2014
Tuesday 11th March 2014
Tuesday 11th March 2014
Thursday 6th March 2014
Wednesday 5th March 2014
Saturday 1st March 2014

February 2014

Thursday 27th February 2014
Monday 24th February 2014
Wednesday 19th February 2014
Monday 17th February 2014
Thursday 13th February 2014
Monday 4th February 2014
Monday 3rd February 2014
Saturday 1st February 2014

January 2014

Thursday 28th January 2014
Thursday 23rd January 2014
Friday 17th January 2014
Wednesday 15th January 2014
Monday 13th January 2014
Thursday 9th January 2014
Tuesday 7th January 2014
Wednesday 1st January 2014

December 2013

Monday 23rd December 2013
Friday 20th December 2013
Tuesday 17th December 2013
Friday 14th December 2013
Thursday 12th December 2013
Sunday 8th December 2013
Wednesday 4th December 2013
Sunday 1st December 2013

November 2013

Friday 29th November 2013
Wednesday 27th November 2013
Tuesday 26th November 2013
Friday 22nd November 2013
Monday 18th November 2013
Friday 15th November 2013
Thursday 14th November 2013
Sunday 10th November 2013
Thursday 7th November 2013
Wednesday 6th November 2013
Friday 1st November 2013

October 2013

Thursday 31st October 2013
Sunday 27th October 2013
Wednesday 23rd October 2013
Monday 21st October 2013
Friday 18th October 2013
Friday 11th October 2013
Wednesday 9th October 2013
Tuesday 8th October 2013
Monday 7th October 2013
Tuesday 1st October 2013

September 2013

Monday 30th September 2013
Saturday 28th September 2013
Friday 27th September 2013
Monday 23rd September 2013
Sunday 15th September 2013
Monday 9th September 2013
Tuesday 3rd September 2013
Sunday 1st September 2013

August 2013

Sunday 8th September 2013
Tuesday 3rd September 2013
Sunday 1st September 2013

Tuesday 27th August 2013
Sunday 25th August 2013
Monday 19th August 2013
Friday 16th August 2013
Tuesday 13th August 2013
Friday 9th August 2013
Friday 2nd August 2013
Thursday 1st August 2013

July 2013

Saturday 27th July 2013
Sunday 21st July 2013
Wednesday 17th July 2013
Monday 15th July 2013
Saturday 13th July 2013
Friday 12th July 2013
Thursday 11th July 2013
Wednesday 10th July 2013
Tuesday 9th July 2013
Saturday 6th July 2013

June 2013

Friday 28th June 2013
Tuesday 25th June 2013
Friday 21st June 2013
Thursday 20th June 2013
Wednesday 19th June 2013
Saturday 15th June 2013
Sunday 9th June 2013
Saturday 8th June 2013
Saturday 1st June 2013

May 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

January 2013

December 2012

November 2012

October 2012

September 2012

August 2012

July 2012 blog

June 2012 blog

May 2012 blog

April 2012 blog

March 2012 blog

February 2012 blog

January 2012 blog

December 2011 blog

November 2011 blog

October 2011 blog

September 2011 blog

August 2011 blog

July 2011 blog

June 2011 blog


The POISON GARDEN website is not connected with Alnwick Garden Enterprises Ltd and/or The Alnwick Garden Trust.