The Confused Element: Drugs

Narcotic is defined as a drug that affects the central nervous system and causes a reduction in pain, a sense of well-being, and decreases in respiration, heart rate and blood pressure. It is sometimes used generically to describe abused drugs which are addictive (Bell, 2013). I take neither the position of the liberals or conservatives, drugs are neither inherently good nor bad, it depends on how you use it. Let’s look at the status on some of the drugs.

Heroin: a common analgesic narcotic drug (painkiller) that depresses central nervous system, long term usage can lead to physical dependence.

Methadone: Synthetic opiate, used as in heroin treatment programs to reduce heroin use.

OxyContin: FDA approved painkiller with similar effect of heroin.

A different type of drugs is known as hallucinogen, it is defined as a chemical which causes alteration in perception and thought (Martin, & Hine, 2014). Some common ones are marijuana and LSD, both have been found to show little to no possible physical addiction [1][2][3]

Depressants are another class of drugs that are more common than you think, it is defined as drugs that slow down or depress the central nervous system, such as alcohol and nicotine (Saferstein, 2012). Psychological dependence is common among this type of drug.

The final type of drugs are called stimulant, which are the opposite of depressants: they speed up activity of the central nervous system. The most common form is caffeine. which everyone drinks without any dependence. Cocaine is also classified in this category with little to no dependence (Saferstein, 2012).


Other illicit drugs outlawed are steroids and party drugs (e.g. MDMA) with no chance of addiction and adverse effects. (If one wishes to understand the specifics of the pharmacological effects of drug use then one could consult studies on neurological agents, which I shall omit at this point as the post isn’t about pharmacy).


It is common for libertarians to defend drugs based on the premise of crimes without victims should not be prosecuted. That much is true, however, their argument is without a philosophical base: Drugs are pathways for people to escape from reality because they alter our senses. Essentially, chronic users are escaping the reality rather than just having a good time, therefore long term speaking, it is not rational egoism if one suffers from the adverse effects of prevalent usage. Therefore, drug addiction should not be applauded. If drug use does in fact lead to violation of other people’s rights (life, liberty and property) then it cannot be used as a defence to justify the continued usage.

Drugs can also be used for good if one uses them properly. Narcotics are used to relief pain and ease suffering; Depressants can be used to treat anxiety disorders; Stimulants could be used to treat hyperactivity, depression, compulsion and regain concentration; Hallucinogen can be used to treat post traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and negate addiction of other addictive drugs. According to Jennifer Burns in Goddess of the Market, Rand herself was prescribed amphetamine  after finishing The Fountainhead  to help her combat fatigue. It is also a well known fact that Rand was addicted to nicotine (in an era where the adverse effects of cigarettes were unknown), however, given our knowledge today, we could consider smoking as a vice because it ignores one’s own life as our ultimate value (independence).  Two different drug usages had two different outcomes, should I condemn Rand’s smoking? Yes, because it IS irrational now, however, I do not think that we should ban people from smoking (at least when we could put the fact of privatizing air aside) because only the smoker is being harmed in the process, a  victimless crime indeed.


But objectivism is not a health advice column, drug use are personal choices. Few objectivists still smoke today. Hard drugs can destroy one’s mind, it would be entirely irrational to consume them. Rand was against prohibition but she was also fiercely against the mindless drug use:

It appears, however, that the progressive rich will be the first victims of their own social theories: it is the children of the well-to-do who emerge from expensive nursery schools and colleges as hippies, and destroy the remnants of their paralyzed brains by means of drugs. – Don’t Let It Go, Philosophy: Who Needs It?

Man-The nature of man, the metaphysical significant, important, essential in man- is now represented by dipsomaniancs, drug addicts, sexual perverts, homicidal maniacs and psychotics. – The Esthetic Vacuum of Our Age, Romantic Manifesto

Today we see the spectacle of old Marxists blessing, aiding and abetting the young hoodlums [of the New Left] (who are their products and heirs) who proclaim the superiority of feelings over reason, of faith over knowledge, of leisure over production, of spiritual concerns over material comforts, of primitive nature over technology, of astrology over science, of drugs over consciousness. – The Left: Old and New, New Left

Those drugged, fornicating hedonists do not know that man cannot live by toil alone, that pleasure is a necessity and that television has brought more enjoyment into more lives than all the public parks and settlement houses combined. The Anti-Industrial Revolution, New Left

Can I forgive Rand for not knowing smoking was bad? Yes. Can I forgive the mindless drug use the libertarians are spouting to “advance freedom”? No. But we can at least all agree drug use is not a crime in itself until it starts harming others.



Bell, S. (2013). A Dictionary of Forensic Science.  Oxford University Press.

Martin, E. & Hine, R.. (2014). A Dictionary of Biology (6 ed). Oxford University Press.

Saferstein, R. (2012). Forensic Science: From Crime Scene to Crime Lab. Pearson Education.


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