Should drugs be decriminalised?

CapeTalk/702's Eusebius Mackaiser spoke to Shaun Shelly of Addiction Division, Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health at University of Cape Town, about the possibilities of decriminalising the use of recreational drugs.

Recreational drugs are mind-altering chemical substances that are used for non-medicinal, leisure purposes. Among them are methamphetamine, cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin, phencyclidine (PCP), MDMA or Ecstasy, and cannabis.

When asked how dangerous different kinds of drugs are, Shelly said that everything has inherent risk that can either be reduced or increased.

In the field of drugs, it is inherently policy that has made the use of drugs particularly dangerous.

Shaun Shelly, Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health at UCT

He says the problem comes when there is criminalisation of drugs, adding that he believes we've had centuries of non-problematic use of cannabis in Africa until the colonials decided to burn it.

I am not convinced with the argument that this drug is safer than that drug.

Shaun Shelly, Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health at UCT

Shelly highlighted alcohol as a bigger social problem, with greater public health implications than most drugs, in particular related to cost to the nation. It is legal and easily available and it is not considered a drug. For these reasons many people don't exercise due caution when using it.

Shelley argues that the disease model of addiction is not accurate and only 10% of drug users become addicts. The majority of people stop using after a period of time with no negative consequences.

CapeTalk/702 listeners called in to share their views on the use of drugs and decriminalistion of drugs.

Listen to the full conversation below:

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