At the extraordinary session held from 19 to 21 April 2016, the UN General Assembly acknowledged the failure of the "war on drugs". I wanted to find a paradox to create a philosophical problem on the following topic the repression of drug use: debates and issues from the French topic I was given to reflect about (la repression de l'usage des drogues : débats et enjeux).

Here is a definition of a philosophical problem by the French Association of professors of philosophy of public education:

What is a philosophical problem? Vast question, that it would be right to problematize. Can we answer it without philosophizing, and can we philosophize universally? In other words, is there a single definition of the philosophical problem? Does the way in which problematization is conceived in philosophy imply a particular philosophy? If this were not the case, one would expect to almost agree, because this definition would come under the observation. Now it is precisely a fact that philosophers do not agree on the nature of the philosophical problem. But if the conception of the philosophical problem is philosophical, there are as many as philosophies. This risks degrading the philosophical problem into a false problem, because its formulation would already contain its "solution" (implied by the particular philosophical framework within which it is formulated). A problem which, in its formulation, engages a certain philosophy, would be less a problem than a similar problem, an appearance of a problem. But the opposite would also be embarrassing, because a problem that would not lead to any solution would not it be rather aporia, the observation of a blind spot of thought, the statement of the limits of philosophical reflection? - from appep.net consulted 5-7-2019

I wasn't sure to use drug or narcotic term for the French word "stupéfiants". I used the first one as far as it seemed more generic.


Drugs are substances that have physiological effects on the consumer when ingested or otherwise introduced into the body. "The end result is that the experience of using the substance is so pleasurable, relaxing or energizing that it triggers your internal reward system, making you want to repeat that experience again and again." one can read on luxury.rehabs.com. Some say activities can be drug but they won't fall in my reflection. In our context drug use is most of the time illegal. Using drugs may be in different ways. One can have a recreational use, another may be an addict, other like may use it to foster their creativity or as experiences like Henri Michaux and Mescaline or Gérard de Nerval to write Aurélia. Other may only use drugs to sell them, the drug dealer, but I would call it drug traficking.

Repression is the process of punishing people doing a prohibited activity and impeding them to do it. It is different from legalizing something use. It can be by law enforcement by the police but it can also be arbitrarily. In our case, the repression of drug use had several aspects such as preventive actions but also the drug war: designed to drastically reduce the supply of narcotics, the mobilization of important military and police means did not produce the desired effects.

Debates and issues about the repression of drug use are everywhere as drug has no geographic or social boundaries. The main drug issue is addiction. If drugs like heroin, cocaine and alcohol couldn’t cause dependence and addiction, the issues of substance abuse and ban from societies might not exist. The main debates seem to be about decriminalization and setting up of shoot room.

I'm not very happy with my definitions as I don't feel like they help me to build a paradox.

Paradox building

I thought about the next two contradicting truths:

If the debates tend to be oriented to decriminalization, it creates a risk of losing awareness that it is a public health problem. Yet if the debates also tend to take care of this public health problems such as setting up of shoot room to help drug user to do it responsibly, but maybe these centers would be another issue as incentives.

Therefore the paradox lead me to this question:

What debates make it possible to go beyond a counterproductive repression without favoring the development of a public health problem?

I'm not sure my paradox is strong enough ...


See if you can do something with these three types of "wrongdoing":

1. Things I do to myself: These would relate to issues surrounding the integrity of my right to determine what happens to my own body, crimes of use and acquisition...

2. Things I do to other people: This may involve practices such as supply of inferior/substitute product. Or infringement of principles such as willing buyer willing seller.

3. Things I do against the public interest: Think safety: drunk driving, standards and regulatory... Or state crimes like tax evasion and illegal trade.

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