There are many roles that governments around the world are taking with respect to legal psychoactive drugs
There are many roles that governments around the world are taking with respect to legal psychoactive drugs. In particular, “Canadian policies related to psychoactive substances have multiplied since the enactment in 1908 of the Opium Act prohibiting the non-medical use of opiates.” (Collin 2006). The Canadian government is putting forth many efforts to prevent, treat and control substance use and abuse with respect to illicit and licit substances but within this context, the legal psychoactive drugs of nicotine, alcohol and caffeine. Canada’s Drug Strategy is reflected in “four pillars: education and prevention; treatment and rehabilitation; harm reduction; and enforcement and control.” (Collin 2006). This initiative involves “numerous partners including federal departments, provincial and territorial governments, non-governmental organizations, professional associations and international agencies” (Collin 2006). Canada’s Drug Strategy “has proven to be a key component of initiatives undertaken to reduce the use of psychoactive substances and its related harms.” (Collin 2006).
Caffeine, a psychoactive substance has a stimulative effect on the central nervous system. (Marcone 2016). “A safe caffeine limit is generally regarded to be 300 mg, the equivalent of 2 – 3 cups of coffee” (Marcone 2016). “As more research is done with respect to caffeine’s influence on the body, the Government of Canada continues to regulate its use as a food additive under the Food and Drug Regulations” (Health Canada 2012). “As a result of this, a thorough safety assessment by Health Canada scientists must be done before any new uses of caffeine as a food additive is permitted” (Health Canada 2012). “Health Canada also states that when caffeine is added to a product, it must be declared on the ingredient list which allows Canadians to make informed choices when purchasing the product” (Health Canada 2010). “Caffeine is “generally regarded as safe” (GRAS) by the United States Food and Drug Administration.” (Marcone 2016). As a result, caffeine has been added to soft drinks and energy drinks which is controversial with respect to exposing younger generations to this stimulant. Regulations need to be in place especially for energy drinks as they “exceed the caffeine limit specified by US FDA for soft-drinks and cola-type beverages” (Marcone 2016).
Alcohol is a clear liquid made by “the fermentation or distillation of different grains, fruits or even vegetables”. (Marcone 2016). This addictive psychoactive substance “is a CNS depressant which temporarily decreases the activity or function of specific tissues and/or organs”. (Marcone 2016). However, in Canada, alcohol is handled more like a food as “alcoholic beverages are subject to the Food and Drugs Act, the Food and Drug Regulations, the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and Consumer Packaging and Labelling Regulations. Depending on the type of alcoholic beverage, other federal Acts or Regulations not enforced by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency may also apply such as the Spirit Drinks Trade Act.” (Government of Canada 2017). The Public Health Agency of Canada published a report on January 2016 outlining the impacts of alcohol consumption across Canada and to “increase Canadians’ awareness about the health impacts of alcohol consumption” (Public Health Agency of Canada 2016). According to the Chief Public Health Officer’s Report, “Approaches such as a regulated alcohol industry, policies on pricing and taxation, controls on sales and availability and minimum age laws help reduce the impact on Canadians, especially youth” but these approaches vary across the country (Public Health Agency of Canada 2016). The Canadian Public Health Association wrote in a 2011 position paper on alcohol the “tackling the problematic use of alcohol requires a combination of factors, including leadership and a broad base of support at all levels.” (Public Health Agency of Canada 2016).
Nicotine is produced in the roots of tobacco plants and is a legal psychoactive drug. (Marcone 2016). Nicotine crosses the blood brain barrier affecting the CNS which causes many physiological and psychological effects. (Marcone 2016). It also stimulates the sympathetic nervous system which affects many organs and tissues in the body (Marcone 2016). Chronic use of nicotine “decreases both the length and quality of life, being a major risk factors in heart attacks, strokes, chronic pulmonary disease, emphysema, and cancers of the lung, mouth, larynx and pancreas.” (Marcone 2016). “In Canada, the Tobacco Act was developed to protect the health of Canadians. This Act restricts youth access to tobacco product, protect people from inducements to use tobacco products and enhances public awareness of the health hazards of using tobacco products” (Health Canada 2017). “Health Canada regulates the manufacture, sale, labelling and promotion of tobacco products” (Health Canada 2017). “Health Canada works with many stakeholders both non-governmental, scientific communities, federal, provincial and territorial governments and international organizations such as the World Health Organization” (Health Canada 2017). “Through this, tobacco control laws were established with the Tobacco Act and the Non-Smokers’ Health Act being the primary pieces of tobacco control legislation in Canada” (Tobacco Control Laws date not found).
Even though caffeine, alcohol and nicotine are legal psychoactive drugs, government officials have taken some steps to safeguard people from their potential harms. As more research is done, more legal psychoactive foods may face similar guidelines. It has been shown that not all legal psychoactive substances can be created equal. Governments are challenged by allowing access to these ingredients while regulating them at the same time. It is clear that a balance needs to happen between the benefits and harms of both the substance and the regulation written to deal with them.