Is it "wrong" to get high at all?

Hello all, I am very curious about something; and I know from experience you’re the best people to ask.

I was wondering today, if there was a new (imaginary, ok?) drug that categorically could not harm anyone, but was a lot of fun, would it be illegal? (say it was cheap, and non-addicting too.)

Of course it would, because this is America, (where I am) and we don’t approve of getting high.

Which got me to wondering — since what passes for discourse about drugs always focuses on the physical harm that drugs do, this issue is neatly avoided. But I suspect that, even if something was completely harmless in every way, people would still somehow feel that it was wrong. And I’m not clear on why.

I’m not talking about driving a car or flying an airliner high. That should always be illegal, just as it is to do these things while drunk.

But, given that, what is the qualitative difference between, for instance, magic mushrooms and alcohol? Is it wrong to take mushrooms but not to drink? Why?

I never heard of a mescaholic. I know people who have smoked dope to excess though.

Heh, “mescaholic.” Good one.

I’m assuming you’re talking about grass. That is true, some individuals smoke grass to the extent that it is undeniably a detriment. Be interesting to know what percentage of marijuana smokers that is.

All the same, some individuals drink alcohol to excess, to the extent that it is undeniably a detriment. But think about it… in our current culture, alcohol is okay, mushrooms for instance are not. What exactly is the qualitative difference that makes the one okay and the other not? Is it because it is just plain wrong to get high?


Tradition. Alcohol is as old as human civilization. Some other intoxicants may have a pedigree as long, but none as wide: virtually every culture has discovered fermentation, while psilocybin, mescaline, cannabis, and other substances tend to be more regional.

By qualitative difference I assume you are talking about the effect of the drugs. There are qualitative differences there, but I don’t bother making that much distinction between weed and alchohol in a single experience. The after effects, and the effects of long term usage are different. As an example, long term overusage of marijuana does seem to de-motivate people, while with alchohol it starts to destroy your organs.

It’s not wrong to get high, but many people don’t like the idea of ever numbing their senses, or their brain. Others don’t want to do anything even slightly unhealthy. I think the moral objection to getting high arises from problems of overuse, and in some people, any use.

It’s never been limited to the physical harm it causes users. Even in the 19th century when the Temperance movement against alcohol started to give way to the Prohibition movement nobody was arguing that alcohol was bad because it made people feel good nor was their focus on the physical harm it caused to the drinker (though that was mentioned). The thrust of Temperance/Prohibitionist workers in the public discourse was the economic cost including crime, poverty, the break up of families, prostitution and other drug use (saloons were often dens of inequity even discounting the drinking). I’m sure you’ll be able to find a few people who think pleasure for pleasure’s sake is wrong but that’s not why most Americans are against drugs these days. I pretty much hear the same 19th century arguments applied to cocaine and marijuana that I read about alcohol.

Right. Overall, humans don’t find it wrong at all to get intoxicated. As a species, we are very much in favor of it. We just have varying cultural notions about which intoxicants are appropriate, and not for any particularly good reason.

Getting high has been part of most cultures, at least some animals naturally indulge in this too (catnip for one). It is a time of self discovery, or a social activity. In that there is nothing wrong with getting high. As with anything else it’s how you use it. Does it become excessive to the point it is detrimental.

One aspect of modern society is we have gotten away from the natural sources of what we use to get high. We refine, and make hybrids to yield more and produce synthetic materials - this is what causes a disconnect from the natural experience of our ancestors.

Tell that to people in Nazi Germany trying to help out the Jewish people. Throwing up the word legality gives far to much power to the state and takes reason and common sense away from the people who the state serves.

One issue, is that society has been pretty good at appropriating our natural instincts: my environment may be very different from the one we evolved in, but my desire to get laid, have the respect of my peers, be comfortable etc motivate me to be a productive member of society (OK, there are higher-level motivations too).

But if there’s an instant happiness pill, it could break all that and suddenly you have a large proportion of people doing the absolute minimum to afford the pill. And caring less and less about things like long-term goals or society as a whole.

(However, I’m personally in favour of (controlled) legalization of most drugs.)

Well, by “qualitative difference” I was thinking morally. Because the presumption/implication, underlying but unspoken, is that we in our moral certitude have outlawed that which is “immoral,” and what is not outlawed is not immoral. I’m just wondering what the criteria are for that.

And I know people who consume food to excess.

I question your premise, as I can think of several “substances” that metaphorically fit this description (e.g. music, chocolate, TV).
And, as others have noted, the reasons why some substances are legal and others are not often has as much to do with history, tradition, or culture as it does with an unbiased assessment of how harmful they can be.

Well, altering one’s conscious state is natural enough – even small children spin around to get dizzy. And everybody (even the staunchest anti-drug advocate) does it every day: eating something sweet to get that mild sugar rush endorphine buzz, caffeine in the morning to get going, sun-bathing, and things much more generic than that – in fact, alterations of conscious state in a way is what consciousness is all about; if there was something like ‘the’ conscious state, which, ideally, were to remain in some form of static equilibrium, we wouldn’t really be conscious of anything at all. So there can’t be any reason for considering getting high to be morally wrong coming from here.

However, there’s no drug that’s non-addictive – in fact, anything that feels good is addictive in some way. That’s what something feeling good means: that we want to experience it as much as possible. So we have here a decision that’s not made at the level of the individual, but rather, at the level of society; as has been mentioned, the ultimate feel-good drug might be the ultimate disaster for civilization: all ambition would be directed towards acquiring it. Of course, you could try to be clever and arrange things so that the results of its acquisition also happen to be what keeps society going – nature was clever in that way when she made sex the ultimate feel-good drug, ensuring that our ambition, whether we want to or not, is always directed towards the survival of the species in the end. The question is whether we could be as clever. Happiness, in the end, needs to be pursued in order to be meaningful. If it is ever truly attained for good, it ceases to have value.

No. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with it.

There are lots and lots of outside factors that make it undesirable for a societal point of view, but that’s a different question.

You’ll never find an answer for this. You’re essentially asking for a value judgment using undefined terms. At this time, consciousness lacks any meaningful definition, and no one can tell you what it means to have ‘right’ consciousness vs ‘wrong’ consciousness.

The best we can hope for is that some people will claim their invisible friend wrote them a operating manual for consciousness 2,000 ago, and since it doesn’t specifically say getting ‘high’ is ok, it must be ‘wrong’.

As for the legality of any particular drug, it will always depend on how the people in charge interpret it’s users more than any rational analysis. It’s not like they did a scientific study before they criminalized marijuana; it just made teenagers act like teenagers and minorities feel like they weren’t societal sewer waste, which wasn’t something the establishment at the time wanted. So if your hypothetical drug was something used by congressmen and CEO’s to unwind after a stressful day at the office or to make some hot intern action feel more pleasurable it would probably be accepted without question. If people with nose rings, spanish speakers and college students were the ones who enjoyed it, it would become the new defacto “devil’s lettuce” and the source of all societies ills. Old People and Politicians would run to message boards net-wide and decry the collapse of civilization, citing the non-existence of rape, murder, poverty, inequality, war and bad feelings in 2011 compared to the world of 2012 where kids are listening to that newfangled music and eating all those damn “HappySeeds”.

Actually, you’ve all pretty much told me what I wanted to know, which is that thinking people are at least aware of the cognitive disconnect between the premise and the facts, and they are not just espousing it without question.

I do find it faintly ridiculous that humans decide to outlaw something that was in all likelihood present on earth before we were.

Well in that case, **Miller **has it. Tradition.

well, they did find a kilo or so in a 2000+ year old grave

So obviously they were using for some purpose, whether it was medicinal, shamanal mind altering sacramental or just sitting around passing the duchie kurgan style.

And IMHO, alcohol is just as much of a demotivational as weed is. Get hammered, you tend to either get pissy and argumentative which isn’t good for working on projects, or depressed and gloomy, which also isn’t good for working on projects, or relaxed and happy, which isnt really good for working on projects.

Frankly, I do not see what the problem is if someone wants to just make enough to live - not everybody needs to be workaholic multimillionaires. If someone is happy with the roof over their head, the clothes on their back, food enough and weed, BFD. If you can live happily on a McJob, whooppeeee! Hell, for what it is worth, we have been taking steps to simplify over the past few years, scanning all our books to file, planning on keeping only a couple hundred or so, modifying the household goods to be more energy efficient, decreasing the number of cable boxed, eliminating single use stuff [does one really need a widget that does only one task? I can do the equivalent of crock potting in my sous vide cooker. Our outside grill can grill, rotisserie or even bake if I add the slab of firebrick from my kiln] Heck, my woodstove I picked precisely because it has 2 cooking burners on top, and a bake oven under the firebox. When the power goes off, or I have a fire built to warm up the house I can eliminate using the electric oven and cook my meals with the woodstove.

Freaking ‘puritan ethic’ is what screwed with this country - if it is fun, take it away from the servant classes, it will distract them from slaving away like good little drones. Feh.

Alcohol has a more powerful political lobby.

At least in my opinion, I don’t see a moral problem with mind altering substances so long as nobody is getting hurt.