For Grim, most of these mistakes have roots in an elementary error, the inability to accept that “altering one’s consciousness is a fundamental human desire.” The craving to be more relaxed or more alert, more outgoing or more reflective, happier or deeper or even just sillier and less bored — in one form other another, this drive has always been and always will be with us, though many of us refuse to admit it. As a result, our political response to drug problems tends to be blinkered.

That’s why I’ve long been weary of the “disease” rhetoric surrounding substance abuse. It’s an attempt to disguise a moral judgment as scientific, clinical detachment. Anti-drug crusaders don’t want to have to acknowledge that people might willingly choose the joy of being high over the more subdued pleasures of being a responsible and respected spouse, parent, employee, member of the community, etc., thus the transparent attempts to pretend that people somehow catch drug addiction like a virus and continue with it even though they get nothing out of it. Bullshit. People do it because it’s enjoyable. Any response to drug problems that doesn’t take that basic fact into account will be blinkered. And how does the disease model explain those who actually do just quit cold turkey and walk away without looking back while others relapse repeatedly?

Of course heavy users will tell you that they hate what their life has become and they really want to quit, but why do we take that as proof that they’re being held captive against their will? People want contradictory or mutually exclusive things all the time. We want to lose weight without exercising or changing our terrible eating habits. We want to “save the planet” without making any drastic changes in our consumer habits or affluent lifestyles. The spectacle of people trying to have their cake and eat it too is so ubiquitous as to be unremarkable. Why is it so hard to accept that some want to be able to enjoy being high without having to suffer the consequences, either socially or physically?