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Date: Tue, 28 Dec 1993 10:59:28 +0000
From: "Dr R.H.Hammersley" 
Subject: Drug use and personal growth (Re:Values)
Sender: Drug Abuse Education Information and Research 
Message-id: <01H704J726KY935F6T@YMIR.Claremont.Edu>

I'm interested that no-one has provided an arguement that personal
growth is a GOOD THING. If it is self-evident then it may be one of the
cornerstones of our culture(s). As substance use seems to be another,
perhaps there are connections? Taking personal growth for granted, I
agree that substance use delays this for many people, especially those
who become severely dependent. But I think that drugs can sometimes
enhance personal growth. This is not often researched, but here's some
evidence of various kinds.
(1) When I did interviews in jail, several criminals said that cannabis
had led them to modify their behaviour. Previously, on alcohol or
heroin, they had been violent, impulsive and inconsiderate. Having
discovered cannabis (sometimes, for drinkers, in jail) they had calmed
(2) Many hallucinogen users report occasional experiences which
enlighten them, give them insight into themselves, or change their
lives. If this happens in Church, an AA meeting, or naked on a
mountaintop, then its a GOOD THING, so why not when tripping? Before I
am berated for this, I admit that one of the sad discoveries of the '60s
was that an idiot who takes drugs often becomes a stoned idiot.
(3) In our research on Scottish Cocaine users (references on request)
we found, as have other studies, that many 'instrumental' non-dependent
cocaine users used it to make them more creative, outgoing and
talkative. This was particularly common amongst Scottish women users. Is
drug-induced assertiveness bad? Or, perhaps the skills acquired high on
cocaine can be transferred to non-intoxicated situations?
(4) Baumrind (in NIDA monograph 56, 1985) found that some early teen
experimenters with cannabis were mature and high-functioning youth, who
were curious and able to manage their experimentation, rather than
inadequate, inappropriately precocious or otherwise problematic.
(5) Preble and Casey's classic points about the "junkie" being a
high-functioning and skillful individual in a ghetto context remain
valid. How many crack dealers make a nest egg then quietly move on to
become respectable business people? I know of several cannabis dealers
from the '70s in Scotland who are now highly respected and successful
legitimate business people, having acquired their start-up capital from
(6) We have evidence (Forsyth, Hammersley & Lavelle, Br J. Criminology,
1992) that drug dealing tends to occur in Glasgow's most deprived areas,
attracting buyers from all over the rest of the city. These buyers make
the deprived areas' "drugs problem" very visible -- in fact they
exaggerate it or downplay the problem elsewhere -- but buyers also bring
large amounts of cash into those deprived areas, which would not
otherwise flow in. This must stimulate the local economy, if in a
distorted and amoral fashion. Pull out drug dealing and what is left? At
least in some areas of Glasgow, there would be no economy left except
  To finish, as a psychologist I note that theories of drug use as
dysfunctional have not greatly helped our understanding of it. Perhaps
drug use is often functional in unacknowledged ways?
Richard Hammersley
Senior Lecturer, Behavioural Sciences Group
University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, Scotland, UK --- Please note change of address

Phone (041) 339 8855 x 4041 or 330 5016. FAX 330 5074