Addiction in public health and criminal justice system governance: neuroscience, enhancement and happiness research

Genomics, Society and Policy 2 (1):92-109 (2006)
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Abstract

Present regulations and prohibitions relating to psychoactive substances rest upon socio-historically contingent and hence arguably irrational foundations. New evidence bases located in post-genomic genetics and neuroscience hold the potential to disrupt them through demonstrating a lack of congruence between the regulations and prohibitions and the alleged and actual harms. How far might we use such knowledge to drive policy? What limits, if any, should be placed on our choices, and what attempts to influence these may be seen as acceptable? This article seeks to address these questions in relation to criminal justice system and public health governance of psychoactive substance use. It will explore the implications of justifications employed in both areas to restrict free choice on the grounds of harm to the self and to others. The central argument made is that the current categorisation of psychoactive substances as lawful or unlawful is likely to become disrupted as the result of several separate discourses which converge over psychoactive substance use: enhancement, cognitive liberty and the degree to which subjective experiences of pleasure, well being and happiness might enable us to improve and maintain our health as individuals and that of society as a whole. In my view, the strategic deployment of concepts of addiction which has enabled the public health and criminal justice systems to be able to share governance over psychoactive substance use is likely to become destabilised by these discursive developments. In that policy in the United Kingdom and elsewhere now draws upon happiness research, while reformers advocate freedom of choice over means of enhancing our states of being, a new focus upon the rational evaluation of psychoactive substances governance seems plausible

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