The Therapeutic Goods Administration’s, (TGA)s’ Schedule 9 or “Prohibited Substances” schedule is listed for and defines substances, “which may be abused or misused.” Some of these substances include psychedelics like DMT, (which is produced in the body), Amanita muscaria and Psilocybin (both types of magic mushrooms.) These drugs have documented use in ancient religious rituals throughout the world, some of which are still being practiced today. Lysergic Acid (precursor to LSD) is also included, along with all cannabis species, and heroin, the street version of morphine. These substances are placed in the prohibited schedule based on their potential to be “abused and misused,” according to the TGA.
Categorising these drugs makes no sense on the basis of their “potential for abuse”, as any substance that is ingested has the potential for abuse and misuse. Anyone who uses cold medicine has the ability to mix their pills with alcohol, or sleeping pills with energy drinks, which Queensland NRL players allegedly mixed before a state of origin game. Most people will use their prescription medication, alcohol, or any other drug responsibly, but a minority will abuse drugs no matter what category they are scheduled, whether it’s schedule two through to nine. The rationale of scheduling based on a drugs “potential for abuse,” and not rescheduling other drugs that actually have been abused is hypocritical.
Now let’s look at the commonly used and accepted drug, alcohol. Alcohol is widely available, regulated, marketed and glorified, but it is also highly toxic. It’s reported LD:50 rate, or the median lethal dose for 50% of a test population is 13 shots. In 2011 the US National Institutes of Health said cannabis has no known LD:50 rate. Alcohol is abused and misused on a daily basis, and is the cause of impairment that leads to several irresponsible and violent acts that cause harm to oneself or others. Despite its violent record, no one is arguing for it to be illegal again, and neither am I. The TGA’s principles of scheduling states; “Poisons are not scheduled on the basis of a universal scale of toxicity. Although toxicity is one of the factors considered, and is itself a complex of factors, the decision to include a substance in a particular Schedule also takes into account many other criteria such as the purpose of use, potential for abuse, safety in use and the need for the substance.”
The TGA states that “toxicity is one of the factors considered,” so why then is cannabis, which has no known LD:50 rate considered a schedule 9 drug. Alcohol is more toxic and lethal than cannabis, yet is widely used and accepted. If toxicity is a factor considered as the TGA says, then alcohol should be rescheduled immediately based on the TGA’s own scheduling principles.
Let’s now look at alcohols’ purpose of use. People use alcohol to relax after a hard day or week at work, at social gatherings, at dinner etc, and do so responsibly in moderation. But there are others who’s purpose of using alcohol is to “get absolutely smashed” or “wasted.” Do these sound like safe or rational purposes for the use of alcohol? These purposes cross over with the second reason which is potential for abuse. Purposes for use like “getting smashed” lead to abuse of the drug, so should their use of alcohol count as abuse and misuse? If so, why hasn’t the TGA rescheduled alcohol to Schedule 9 for its potential for abuse and misuse? People who use cannabis recreationally can do so moderately and responsibly, and the effects of the drug are dramatically different to alcohol. A 2003 article titled “Drugs of abuse and the elicitation of human aggressive behaviour,” published in the Journal of Addictive Behaviours stated; “alcohol is clearly the drug with the most evidence to support a direct intoxication-violence relationship,” while “cannabis reduces the likelihood of violence during intoxication.”
The next section covers safety of use. Alcohol’s main ingredient that intoxicates a user is ethanol. Ethanol is a highly flammable poison and lethal when ingested in high doses, the crazy thing is we use ethanol in fuel for our cars. This therefore cannot be a safe substance when misused. Another major safety concern regarding the use of alcohol is the number of tragic deaths that have occurred related to alcohol intoxication and violence. These cases have lead to laws being passed in Sydney to stop alcohol related violence. There are constant ad campaigns about the dangers of alcohol and the consequences of abuse. There is also more education and more avenues for people to turn to curb their drinking, that unfortunately is not the case for other drugs such as cannabis. Wouldn’t just one death from either overdose, or violence – which cannabis produces the opposite – be reason enough to reschedule alcohol as a schedule 9 drug? Clearly not, as no one is asking for it to be rescheduled or curbing their sales of the harmful drug. One argument is, why should the irresponsibility of a few ruin the whole thing for everyone else? Which is the same argument for the use of cannabis and other “hard” drugs. The other safety concern is the practice of binge drinking. Binge drinking leads to abuse of the drug through overdose, and causes potential liver damage or even death to the consumer. Binge drinking can hardly be considered a safe use of the drug alcohol, in fact quite the opposite.
Finally we look at the need for the substance, what need is there for human consumption of alcohol? Studies show an increased risk of cancers (liver associated with moderate drinking), older studies associate alcohol with lower risk of heart disease. Even though some studies show positive health effects in some areas, no doctor is prescribing alcohol to patients for these illnesses, there are other, more deliberate pharmaceutical drugs available to them. On the other hand, the need for cannabis is wider and more urgent than the need for alcohol. People are suffering and dying from terrible diseases and illnesses that cannabis has the ability to help cure and/or relieve pain, while alcohol is sometimes the cause of these illnesses. Cannabis is more than just psychoactive THC, with a number of plant species containing hundreds of active ingredients essential for several health conditions. With the right breeding, strains can be produced to contain lower levels of psychoactive THC, and higher levels of non-psychoactive CBD (Cannabidiol), which can help treat a vast number of diseases such as cancer growth, artery blockage, blood sugar, immune function, inflammation, nausea and the list goes on. Other active ingredients assist in treating illnesses including those aforementioned, all the way to depression, anxiety and pain relief.
Most people use alcohol for relaxation, recreation or health and do so responsibly, but there are other people who use alcohol for the wrong reasons, which leads to tragic endings. The points I have presented clearly show that the TGA’s scheduling model is irrational. If they were consistent, the TGA would reschedule alcohol into schedule 9, as it breaches all of their principles of scheduling through its, A) high toxicity, B) reckless purpose of use, C) abuse, D) unsafe use and E) the minimal need for the substance.”
I believe I have outlined a genuine argument for alcohol being rescheduled as a prohibited substance, based on the TGA’s own model, but that is not my goal. I’m not asking for the TGA to reschedule alcohol, although it would make them logically consistent. I’m asking the TGA to reschedule cannabis, re-evaluate all other so called “hard drugs”, and put an end to this nature of fear of illicit drugs. I want to see drug policy based on evidence and logic, not irrational fear.
Through proper education and training we have the ability to change societies view of drugs, to teach the truth of prohibition, it’s consequences, and to reschedule drugs based on evidence and logical consistency.
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