Cannabis: addiction, public policy, metaphysics

rom Mr Colin Brewer

Sir: Your correspondent David Partington (Letters, 8 March) says that "The last thing we need is another intoxicating substance unleashed on society". As someone who treats both alcoholism and illicit drug abuse, I have sometimes said to alcoholic patients that if they cannot stop drinking, they should seriously consider changing to a less damaging recreational drug such as cannabis or even heroin.

Alcohol remains our main problem drug and is directly responsible for a large amount of violent crime. In general, this is not true of heroin or cannabis. The Victorians were right to observe that "There is more violence in a pint of whisky than in a pound of opium".

Many regular cannabis users drink little or no alcohol and the same is true of many heroin addicts. For them, their drug of dependence - however undesirable that dependence may be - is at least an alternative to alcohol and not an addition.

Until the Americans imposed prohibition on a largely reluctant world around the time of the First World War, the attitude of most governments was that if people wished to amuse, intoxicate, or even destroy themselves with drugs, it was not the government's business to intervene. The country did not fall apart in consequence and while I don't advocate complete laissez-faire in these matters, I do wish that somebody would found a Society for the Restoration of Victorian values in Drug Taking.

Yours etc,

COLIN BREWER

Medical Director

The Stapleford Centre

London, SW1

8 March

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