SAYING YES by Jacob Sullum


In Defense of Drug Use
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A sense of balance and perspective informs this critique of drug-use policy from syndicated columnist Sullum (For Your Own Good, 1998).

Frank Zappa neatly encapsulated the menace of drugs: “The compound itself is not a menace to society until a human being treats it as if consumption bestowed a temporary license to act like an asshole.” It is, writes Sullum, a question of use vs. abuse, excess vs. self-control: for every example of the berserk crackhead, there are far, far more examples of functioning citizens of the republic who enjoy the temperate use of psychoactive substances. Can drug use end in harm, disruption, anguish? Of course, as can excessive consumption of water. Are drug users lazy, stupid, irresponsible, even murderous, given to sloth, madness, lust, wrath, and gluttony? No more so than other members of society, suggests Sullum, if their intake is considered and suitable to their personal capacities. The recreational use of drugs to elevate mood and cheer the heart is ages old and unstoppable, he writes; the mudslinging and black-and-white condemnation of the anti-drug crowd will find no more resonance than do attacks on alcohol and caffeine. There is scant evidence, let alone proof, that drug use will make any one individual dangerous or lead to a life of addiction and debasement. Indeed, there is more evidence (as in actual numbers) to show that people tend to instinctively steer clear of more pungent drugs such as heroin, and that even in heroin’s case the drug can be used in a moderate fashion. Sullum easily pokes holes in the blatherings of a William Bennett and perceptively points out that many drugs are associated with outsiders and the disenfranchised, seen as they ever were as threats to the political and economic status quo.

Only those with an agenda will find fault with this compelling and judicious argument to allow for the temperate use of drugs by adults.

Pub Date: May 12th, 2003
ISBN: 1-58542-227-4
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: TarcherPerigee
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2003


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