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 down. (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 drugs. (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 welfare. 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 GPWA04@uk.ac.gla.udcf --- Please note change of address Phone (041) 339 8855 x 4041 or 330 5016. FAX 330 5074