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Utilitarianism and Drugs

A key issue that is seen in media today is the legalization of certain drugs. There is a way to approach the issue, from a moral standpoint, on the use of drugs and whether or not it should be legalized. To solve this moral dilemma, a person can simply use and apply the concepts of utilitarianism. When deciding on whether or not something is considered to be a moral problem, it’s extremely important to differentiate the assumptions that people have made to support their claims.

The situation that is being examined is utilitarianism and how it would view the problem of drugs.

First when looking at this issue, a person must use what utilitarianism’s use to identify the problems with drug use, and then there must be a solution to resolve the moral issue. The approach to solving this moral issue from a basis of utilitarianism is very simple. The good is that which maximizes utility for the most amount of people on average; this concept is the average utility.

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The opposite would be that which hinders or leads to what is known as the less average utility and then it is seen as being morally bad; even if it is unintentionally viewed in that light.

With all of this being said, a person must then define the word utility to better understand these concepts. The use of the simpler form of the definition of the word utility is most appropriate for this case. According to Jeremy Bentham, it can simply be defined as, “happiness as a necessary component for well being, and it follows that the rules dictating those behaviors or policies that increase the maximum utility will be on par with the increase of happiness as it relates to well-being on a morally relevant basis.

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” Since defining what utility truly is, it is necessary to look further into the problem at hand, which is the moral issue of drug use. Going further it is very important to distinguish and clarify utility from hedonism. Hedonists would say overall that the pleasure a person obtains from taking something that us considered a toxic chemical that stimulates the brain into a state of euphoria, might argue that the affects are more pleasurable than negative with the side affects that might occur from usage.

If this is correct, the drug would not be considered a moral issue at all, and that if people are willing to try and experience these euphoric drugs, that they would be overall more pleasurable which would be considered morally good. Whether or not this is defined as morally good, solely rests on two assumptions of the problem that would no longer be considered a wrong.

The assumptions are that we as a group of people, must distinguish the overall average utility as the main element of the moral evaluation, and people have defined it not only as something that increases our level of pleasure and reduces our levels of pain, but something that also deals with mental states at a simple and subjective level. Since defining what the assumptions are and the overall elements of the moral evaluation of how people are defining drug use, to truly understand the “problem,” there must be a dissection of the problem from the perspective of an individual and the perspective of society as a whole.

With this dissection of the problem, the solution will follow. With the individual in mind, identifying the physical effects is easy to do, but identifying the psychological and mental effects are very difficult, so it makes it harder to define whether or not drug use is a moral problem; at least from the perspective of traditional utilitarianism. A person must identify the consequences, in relation to maximizing utility, and whether or not the substances are bad for an individual and society as a whole, and they also must decide whether or not the consequences are good.

When identifying a problem such as this, a person must look at the problems faced by the one who is using the drugs and the use of drugs on society. The drug users perspective on the use of illegal substances is that it creates wide range of problems that ultimately depend on the degree of his/her addiction. If a person finds themselves addicted to an opiate that is very potent, such as heroine, the only examination left would be to further the moral decay of that person’s character and the consequences that follow their individual utility or the utility of the society.

With substances that are obviously not as dangerous such as alcohol, nicotine and marijuana, they do not have the same effect as something that is so extremely addictive, so a person must ask themselves how would a person address the issues from a utilitarian perspective. From the utilitarian perspective, it might be said that the person who uses these substances is forcing himself or herself to accept negative consequences of their behavior that are unquestionably effecting his or her own utility by diverting their attention from other more important areas of their life.

A utilitarian might address the fact that the drug user us pursuing their own pleasure, but nonetheless they are neglecting their other interests and all other pursuits that are fundamentally important to the growth of the individual and that everything else is suffering due to the consequences of their actions. In addition, these less destructive drugs can be seen as a negative choice if it is causing an individual to choose these things over other moral responsibilities. A good example would be a parent going out to purchase marijuana, cigarettes, or alcohol instead of taking care of the needs of their children.

In this case, more than just the individual is affected by the consequences of his or her actions. If a person is dependent on the one who is using these drugs and it is negatively affecting their life then they are harmed in the process of their consequences. The toll it takes on the community and the family in general must be taken into account, especially the utility role each person plays and to truly understand the stress that is applied to the individual who is using drugs.

Now that it is addressed that there are more people affected by the actions of the drug user than just their self, it is appropriate to extend the problem to that of a societal standpoint to understand that it goes beyond the realm of the individual. This proves that it is societies problem, especially since it affects other people, sometimes minors who have no choice because they are placed in a situation that they have no control of. The use of drugs is also accompanied by those who are involved with dealing the drugs, those who traffic the drugs, and those who manufacture the drugs.

All of these things whether acknowledged or not are contributing factors to other illegal activities such as robbery, theft and violence that are contributing factors to the negative affects of drugs. These illegal activities are what is contributing to a society and most of the people involved in these activities will end up in jail and rehab programs. It becomes societies problem because society is going to have to figure out what to do with all of “drug users” and how they are going to solve the criminal activity aspect of everything.

What society has in place now is a problem that only drains government resources, allows and promotes criminal activity and were running out of space and resources to deal with the multitude of problems that has been created by all of this. Society has only dealt with the problem in the sense that it has dealt with drug use only in the aspect of it being illegal to consume, possess and traffic. The situation on drug use would change a considerable amount if substances that were currently being deemed as illegal were legalized and not view as something that is only associated with criminalized activities.

Society or governments who are saying these substances are illegal don’t see the value in legalizing them to create an industry that could thrive exponentially. From a utilitarian standpoint, the problem with doing so is that one must rely upon empirical data and historical evidence to understand the speculation. A utilitarian must view how drug use would affect society as a whole once it would become a legal substance and whether or not it benefits society as a whole and does it maximize the utility of the substance for everyone who is affected by it.

Data must be collected to fully understand what would be an appropriate approach to figuring out a solution where the consequences wouldn’t burden the utility and would actually promote the approach as well as the utility as a whole. Finding a resolution in general will be very difficult. Furthermore, the problem with legalizing drugs is that is assumes that drugs in itself are not morally bad and that overall drugs are neutral substances that have no major negative or positive affects on the rest of society. The view is strictly one that is individualistic even though a utilitarian perspective could be used for reasoning in this situation.

This individualistic view is not one that can be used to resolve the problems that are debated for drug use. Moving forward with the idea if drug use itself, whether they are legal or illegal, the greatest determination is to figure out if they are beneficial for the utility and then society must come to a resolution that fully addresses the problem with both sides information in hand. What the utilitarian must considered before making a proposal towards either side is what kind of historical precedents surround drug problems and the ways they are dealt with modernly.

There are obviously some problems that have not been addressed and the utilitarian must accept that the treatment for users, possessors and dealers is considered inadequate, as the problem gets worse. A solution that is utilitarian based might resolve the problem and is something that should like a combination solution that involve both physical rehabilitation as well as justice that aims to assist those who are recovering from an addiction, which allows the addict to be removed from society while productively undergoing a process to recovery.

This situation would allow the society to reincorporate productive and useful members of society out of those who were struggling, allowing them to reach their maximum levels in a sense of capacity and potential. A system such as this one would incorporate psychological and medical aspects of their physical addictions and it would provide counseling and treatment and the rest of the time should be devoted to constructive physical labor. These programs would also consist of educational seminars to assist the addicts in learning trade, skills and knowledge to assist them in their transformation into a productive member of society.

The labor-oriented aspects of the rehabilitation programs would serve as both punishment and constructive time to help maximize the utility of the person. The laborers would be performing small, mediocre tasks for important projects so there would be no risk of sabotaging the overall project. This group would serve as a new source of labor for society benefiting and improving the infrastructure and would allow the laborers to pursue other projects, giving them the chance to possibly return back to society as a normal citizen.

Not only would they have these chances to better there life through society, but they will be given a second chance to do so free of their addiction and they would be doing society greater good overall. The programs overall would be very laborious and intensive, but instead of having all these offenders sitting in prison cells where their behaviors would most likely get worse because of their particular surroundings, the atmosphere they would be in would be completely drug free and sterile.

Each minute they are under surveillance using the latest technology so that every move they make can be monitored in real time. All of the subjects will be hair tested on a weekly basis to ensure that they are not gathering any substances to ensure that the program they are in is successful. The duration of their stay should be determined by a board of law enforcement officials as well as their mandatory sentencing time. Then and only then can they be introduced back into society.

The cost of these programs will be high, but the overall outcome for the individual’s chance of recover and should outweigh any costs of rehabilitation. Statistics will then verify whether or not these programs are successful. This is a solution and an appropriate approach from a utilitarian perspective to drug problems. In the case of drugs, philosophy, especially utilitarianism, can be applied and utilized to obtain and rationalizes solutions and resolutions to real world problems such as drug abuse.

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Utilitarianism and Drugs. (2016, Dec 11). Retrieved from

Utilitarianism and Drugs

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