Feeling Good and Doing Better: Ethics and Nontherapeutic Drug Use

Louis Lasagna, MD
JAMA. 1985;254(7):969. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03360070115044.
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Physicians should not be put off by the "pop" title of this book because it deals with an important issue— whether the public should be freer to use drugs for pleasure or to improve their performance over "the norm."

The medical model has operated on the notion that drugs are fine for curing disease or alleviating the symptoms of illness but that bringing a person's functioning beyond medically defined levels of normalcy is not acceptable. Taking drugs for "recreational purposes" has generally been considered immoral, illegal, or both.

Our society is, to be sure, magnificently inconsistent about these matters. We tolerate alcohol and cigarettes but not marijuana. Athletes can train to the point where their bodies and souls scream for surcease, sniff oxygen, and consume any outlandish regimen of food, vitamins, and minerals but can be disqualified even for taking antiasthma remedies, let alone anabolic steroids or amphetamines.

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