17/04/2012 10:35 BST | Updated 17/06/2012 06:12 BST

Even Abstinence Based Recovery Would be Healthier if Drugs Were Legal

For many years, I did go to 12 Step meetings. While that's not a secret, some are surprised to hear it given my views on addiction. I was never a believer in most of what those fellowships preached, and people in the rooms were normally aware of that. Though I did flirt with the 12 Steps here and there, for many years I really went for the social support. Some of my best friends are people I originally met in those rooms.

I learned a few things about the differences between assorted 12 Step fellowships. Here, I will discuss one issue only.

In AA, the attitude towards one's alcoholism is very likely to be jocular. Not always, but people have little trouble admitting that they had fun when they were drunk. The point, in most AA stories you hear, is that the booze eventually stopped working. The idea is that it really did work for a while.

Yet in the 12 Step fellowships dealing with other drugs (NA, CA), you often hear the opposite. "I thought I was having fun, but now I realize that I wasn't". "I thought I had friends, but all I had were using buddies - no real friends".

Such extremist talk is simply inconsistent with reality - and the idea of not having fun when you think that you are is a bit of a stretch. Where does it really come from? Try: the illegal status of certain drugs leads to their demonization, and to the demonization of anything associated with them.

Consider how many AAs will tell you that if you can drink in a healthy way, that's fine. They might even offer you a glass of wine from their cabinet (though of course they won't join you).

Now, here's the real difference. The typical sober AA member has made peace with alcohol. He or she won't touch it, but that's no reason to despise the bottle itself (or what's in it). Coming to grips with your old demon, and making real peace with it, is clearly a healthier approach to recovery. This healthier approach is much harder for former cocaine and heroin users to achieve. Not because those drugs are innately worse than alcohol, but simply because they are illegal.

Moral of the story: even if you think that abstinence is the only solution to addiction, you should consider that healthy abstinence is very hard to achieve (and maintain) in a prohibitionist setting.

Legalise the drugs, and even the abstainers will have a chance at a much healthier, less resentful, and happier time in their recovery.