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July 27, 2008

How a Mistaken Drug Policy is Distorting Reality

The below-the-fold story on PTSD on the front page of this morning’s SF Chronicle indicates how both Psychiatry’s and the VA’s unproductive approach to the condition has resulted from relentless enforcement of a flawed drug policy. That such an aberration could occur so easily and completely over the span of a mere four decades is still a bit shocking to me, but recent history confirms that similar aberrations are neither unprecedented nor uncommon. Unfortunately, the outlook for a quick or easy recovery doesn’t seem all that good, but we are, after all, in uncharted waters.

To cut to the chase, the notion that cannabis (“marijuana”) can’t possibly possess “medical utility” became an article of faith for policy hard liners almost as soon as Nixon’s drug war became both our domestic and International drug policy in 1970. Doctrinaire support of that policy has been unabashedly emphasized by Congress to all federal agencies with essentially no recognition of the degree to which biased “research” inevitably becomes counterproductive and misleading. The same cognitive gap between Science and Religion was first brought into the open when the observations of Galileo confirmed the informed speculations of Copernicus that Aristotle's Astronomy required some correction and incidentally suggested that Papal Infallibility might require a bit of rethinking as well. Thus began the modern conflict between authoritarian deductions based on religious thinking and the inductive logic of Science relying primarily on empirical observation. The basic argument concerns the power of the state: what’s the most reliable basis for governing human political units? It’s really a conflict between logic and feelings that is rooted in how our brains have evolved as cognitive organs and how the accumulated culture created by all that cognitive activity should be interpreted.

We seem to have reached a point where population and other pressures are forcing us to choose, as a species, between several familiar alternatives we are clearly unwilling to give up and some frightening new uncertainties we are loathe to consider.

What we must also consider is another possibility: if our faith in a Creator turns out to have been misplaced, our prolonged denial may have already resulted in a choice.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at July 27, 2008 08:01 PM