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Addictions. Porn, Drugs, Alcohol and Sex. Don't prevent it, make it safer.

In 1926 New York, during Prohibition, 1,200 people were poisoned by whiskey containing small quantities of wood alcohol (methanol). Around 400 died, the rest were blinded. The methanol they drank was in the moonshine they had bought illegally. In fact it had been added by law to industrial ethanol in order to make it undrinkable. Prohibition existed to protect everyone from the 'evils of the demon drink'. However, people still wanted to enjoy alcohol. So bootleggers bought cheap industrial alcohol and attempted to distill it to remove the impurities the state had added, but the process wasn't regulated. The state was inadvertently responsible for the suffering - although it was easy for them to blame the bootleggers and to justify escalating the war.

This didn't stop the bootleggers. In fact it forced them to become more violent to protect their operations, and even less cautious about their production standards. Volumes of illicit alcohol, and therefore proportionately unsafe forms, increased, and the escalation of violence on both sides continued to grow. When prohibition was eventually abandoned, methanol disappeared from the supply chain, and other ways were sought to protect people from the evils of alcohol - with varying degrees of success. Basically the state realised it couldn't win, and worse, it was wasting increasing amounts of money and law-enforcement lives to stop something even the law-makers themselves enjoyed using in moderation.

Preventing us from indulging in things that might be dangerous for us, increases the chances of the very thing we are prevented from doing becoming dangerous.

Humans love to do things they love to do. We are driven by the production of the hormone serotonin. The more we produce, the happier we feel. And the more we crave to repeat the feeling, the bigger the risks we'll take to achieve it. 'So far, so good' - or the boiling frog analogy - is the justification that works, where hindsight and experience isn't available.

But our bodies play another trick on us. Whatever caused the production of serotonin - alcohol, drugs, sex, porn, winning (sometimes violently) etc - is required in increasing amounts to keep producing the same amount of hormone. The more you indulge, the more you need to indulge to get the same effect. Nature says 'that was easy, I need to make it harder'. Like comedy. A joke is only funny the first time you hear it. We like the comedian, but only if we hear new material.

Blame Darwin. We evolved as social animals. If everyone was constantly high/drunk/bonking/fighting, who'd be finding the food, making the houses, defending our homes, teaching our children etc? Treats are only treats if they are rarely enjoyed. Boredom is caused by previous excesses of serotonin. To alleviate boredom, we do what we know produced serotonin in the past, but most of that serotonin was produced not because it was fun, but because it was new.

So addiction is not just about finding ways to produce serotonin (and we've even found ways of producing it directly using psychoactive drugs), it's about constantly having to find new ways of stimulating its production.

Even addiction is addictive.

So back to the state and the laws we create to protect us from ourselves and from the people who prey on our addictions. Should we abandon all hope and let people do what they want to do, assuming they know what they're doing and the effect its having on them and society? The libertarian approach. Should we stamp down on activities that seek to exploit individual addictions? The socialist approach. Or should we be selective in how we regulate both addiction and supply, whilst hoping individuals can be trained to recognise and control addictive behaviours? The conservative approach.

The law (not a theory!) of evolution predicts we (prey and predators) will always find ways around regulation if there's an opportunity for gain (in this case, the production of serotonin for prey, and money for predators). And regulation, like a dam on a river, can be overwhelmed if the pressure from society finds ways around those regulations. The result of the dam being breached is worse than if it hadn't been built in the first place... except we need dams to prevent downstream flooding and to produce hydro-electric power (helping us produce more dams and other state benefits). So we put sluices or gates in the dam to drain off excess water when there's a danger of overflowing.

The mistake that Prohibition made was to believe that building a dam without sluices would permanently prevent flooding. Likewise banning recreational drugs only enables predators to feast on prey who are desperate for increasingly harder to produce serotonin.

When serotonin levels decrease with escalating dosages, we have two options. Go cold-turkey for a while to retrain our system to reduce the need for high dosages, or find new ways to produce it. Both require education and support. So if the state wants to do something positive with its funds to 'fight the war on ...whatever', invest in resources to achieve both these things.

And also more research is needed into what is actually 'harmful', and what is therefore 'safe'. This will mean better understanding about what we consume, how it's produced, and what's a relatively safe amount. Not just for individuals, but for society. And the supply of safe amounts is best controlled by a combination of affordability and the implementation of strict production standards. Not by abolition and criminalising users.

So it's clear in my mind that we need to decriminalise recreational drugs, and other relatively 'harmless' addictions, We need to control their production and supply whilst using their taxation to research their effects, police their production and control the volume of supply for the safety of minors and those who struggle to retrain their brains to reset their serotonin production levels - we call them addicts.

And where porn and the sex trade is concerned, the same principals need to apply. Sex addicts also need increasing amounts of stimulation and the discovery of new ways to deliver the same effect. So rather than allow trade in sex and porn to remain relatively unregulated, the state needs to manage it by better understanding it, controlling its legitimate supply (call it part of the entertainment sector), whilst seeking to protect the vulnerable (especially in Japan where all sorts of dreadful abuses are viewable online - allegedly - and are common).

This is all about personal freedoms and the responsibility of the state to protect us from their dangers. That's why I'm a conservative libertarian with social morals.



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