Demon Drugs, Globalization and Belonging

by Donald MacPherson on July 2, 2010

There is good reason to sign the Vienna Declaration which was the subject of my last post, especially if you consider Professor Bruce Alexander’s analysis of the nature of addiction and his compelling examination of why we have it tragically wrong in our current war on drugs approach to drug addiction.

Below is Professor Emeritus Alexander’s speech on acceptance of the Stirling Prize in Support of Controversy, from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. The first part of the lecture, after the rather long and heart felt introductory remarks clearly articulates where we have come from in our thinking about addiction in the past 30 years and provides an excellent point of departure for reflection on new directions. In the first part of this lecture Professor Alexander provides one of the best explanations that I have heard about the danger of demonizing drugs as the major problem causing addiction and how that shapes societal responses – the demonization of drugs is an idea that cuts off all rational thought about the nature of addiction, is more akin to medieval concepts of possession by the devil and leads to improbable interventions that have little chance of success.

Bruce Alexander has been an leader in the field of drug policy for the past 30 years and continues to advocate for a change in our approach to drug addiction as well as the need to acknowledge that the recent growth of addiction globally is rooted in our economic system and the destructive forces of what he calls “hyper-capitalism”. His work is a great contribution to the movement for a more evidence-based drug policy for Canada and his continued leadership is important if we are ever to move beyond the out-dated approaches that are espoused by the majority of our political leaders.

“The Nora and Ted Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy was established by Nora and Ted Sterling, the founding chair of computing science at Simon Fraser University, in 1993 to honour and encourage work that provokes and/or contributes to the understanding of controversy. The Sterling Prize is awarded annually to a recipient whose work presents new ways of looking at the world, ways that are daring and creative.”

Dr. Alexander’s views on the problem of addiction are critical to our understanding of the importance of developing more sustainable, connected communities that mitigate against addiction and support individuals to develop a sense of place, belonging, individual competency and a sense of purpose. Bruce’s website: Globalization of Addiction is a significant contribution to the drug policy discussion and I hope you explore it fully.

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