Study Suggests the War on Drugs Might Really be a War on Sex

Why is there so much heated argument about whether the use of recreational drugs is morally wrong? A new University of Pennsylvania study suggests that the debate about drugs might reallybe about sex.

Published in the journalProceedings of the Royal Society B, the new study compared two competing theories about illicit drugs. Traditional theory holds that drug attitudes stem primarily from people’s political ideology, level of religious commitment, and personality; for example, their openness to experience. The new theory, proposed by the researchers and driven by ideas from evolutionary psychology, holds that drug attitudes are really driven by people’s reproductive strategies.

When the Penn researchers questioned almost 1,000 people in two subject populations (undergraduate students and Internet users) a clear winner emerged between the competing theories: differences in reproductive strategies are driving individuals’ different views on recreational drugs.

Researcher Robert Kurzban said that while many factors predict to some extent whether people are opposed to recreational drugs, the most closely related predictors are people’s views on sexual promiscuity. “This provides evidence that views on sex and views on drugs are very closely related,” he explained. “If you were to measure people’s political ideology, religiosity and personality characteristics, you can predict to some degree how people feel about recreational drugs. But if, instead, you just measure how people feel about casual sex, and ignore the abstract items, the predictions about people’s views on drugs in fact become quite a bit better.”

Somewhat controversially, the study also concludes that considering morality from the standpoint of strategic reproductive interests is a potentially useful way to understand why humans care about third-party behavior.

According to the researchers’ evolutionary model, people develop complex differences in their sexual and reproductive strategies. One key difference that creates strategic conflict arises in people’s orientations towards casual sexual activity. The relationships of people following a more committed, monogamous reproductive strategy are put at greater risk when casual sex is prevalent. On the other hand, people pursuing a less committed lifestyle seek to avoid having their choices moralized, forbidden and punished.

The researchers cite previous studies showing that recreational drug usage is often associated with promiscuity. This, they say, implies that attitudes against recreational drugs are part of a larger attempt to advance the cause of committed, monogamous reproductive strategies.

“Condemnation of drug usage might be best understood in the context of strategic dynamics, with individuals influencing moral rules in a way that favors their own competitive reproductive strategies,” Kurzban said. “We expect that this relationship between sexual strategy and moral stances will occur in other areas as well, such as attitudes toward prostitution, sexual education or abortion.”

– Article from Science A Go Go.



  1. undrgrndgirl on

    the overarching goal of the war on drugs is SOCIAL CONTROL…in any and every form it can take…

  2. persecutedinalberni on

    Those who use marujuana are generaly speaking freer people to begin with so it would be easy to say they are probably freer with their sex too.

  3. Bruce T. on

    I agree with the premise of this study but find it flawed just for the facts that the study group was very limited in, A: types of persons in poll, B: number of persons polled. (less than 1000, please!)

    I have found through 55 years of living on this little green ball that the most sexually repressed of us are the ones most opposed to legalization of drugs of any kind. Or liberalization of any other oppressive laws.

    My personal opinion is that all “drugs” should be legalized. I do not consider cannabis to be a drug, but a herb, and a medicinal herb at that!

    So many old friends and acquaintances profess to be liberal minded, but when getting to know them better later they are found to be less liberal when it comes to their personal relationships.

    IE: I can cheat on my spouse but if I catch her/him cheating on me, I’ll kill them both!

    A bit of drama there, but it is the way many men and women feel about their relationships with their partners. (Mostly men. I am a man so I’ve seen lots of it.)

    These are the kind of people that I have met that are opposed to legalization of drugs, have hate toward other races and have general dislike of anyone that thinks other than their way of thinking.

    In other words, people with closed minds.

    I have met many of them from my childhood years to the present. My peers as a child and as an adult as well. It seems that many people’s minds close at a very early age. I’m not sure why that happens but I know first-hand that it does.

    I pride myself as having a very open mind and attribute my attitudes to having a very happy family life in my formative years all the way up to the present.

    Many people have not had that kind of support through their lives and that may certainly have contributed to their less than positive attitudes towards freedom of choice for drugs, sexual orientation, etc.

    They say that ignorance is no excuse, yet ignorance seems to be prevalent in our society.

    Not only in the general populous, but obviously the “Special of the day” with our current government. Sad, but true, our government is trying to drag us back to the 20th century and entangle us in Nixon’s War on Drugs. That failed experiment with prohibition that was proven wrong with alcohol but still persists with drug prohibition.

    Will they ever learn?

    Bruce T.

  4. Anonymous on

    And don’t think that the production of so-called “objective” science is somehow divorced from maintenance of power. The distortion of scientific evidence for ideological and economic interests is quite commonplace. I wonder from whose coffers the money for this study originated?

  5. Anonymous on

    You’re right, and you’re wrong. Yes, the war against marijuana is partially a war in favor of alcohol. There’s a hole in your logic, however. If alcohol is damaging the brains of professionals who denounce marijuana, two things might result: first, they would be less aware of the dangers of marijuana due to declining intelligence; second, they would be less able to articulately defend alcohol. The people who lobby against marijuana aren’t necessarily stupid. And you’re overstating your case that alcohol causes irreversible brain damage. SOME forms of alcohol consumption do–i.e., prolonged alcohol abuse. I like to have some drinks. By your logic, I should be a braindead crusader dedicated to the eradication of cannabis. But I’m not. If you reject this odd biological argument in which stupidity resulting from alcohol abuse automatically makes people hostile to marijuana (which, you’ll have to admit, really doesn’t make that much sense) but look it from an economic perspective, it all comes together. Who has tons of money? The alcohol and pharmaceutical industries. Who gives away tons of money to politicians? Who has a vested interest in making sure that marijuana remains illegal? Hmm. Social and religious conservatives, aligned with unscrupulous conservative politicians, unreflectively internalize the flawed logic that drug users are dangerous criminals and a threat to the moral fabric of society. It’s not biologial; it’s ideological. It’s not biological; it’s economic.

    This study is a part of a larger project to misrepresent cannabis in order to maintain a profitable arrangement and an ideological hegemony.

  6. Beatnuck on

    But the war against marijuana is really just the war in favour of alcohol in disguise. The reason why there is an appearance of stupidity is that those who are pro-alcohol tend to be brain damaged due to alcohol. Therefore, the professions which display the highest rates of alcohol consumption should also display the highest rates of alcohol-induced brain damage. Professionals for whom alcohol is a major problem include: politicians, police officers, prosecutors, and judges.

    Should we be surprised?

  7. Beatnuck on

    It is extremely interesting that all of the negative attributes of alcohol have been assigned to marijuana, even though all the scientific evidence proves that marijuana does not cause these negative effects, IN FACT,THAT’S WHY WE SMOKE POT INSTEAD OF DRINKING ALCOHOL IN THE FIRST PLACE.

    Alcohol causes violence, marijuana doesn’t. Alcohol causes risk taking behaviour, marijuana doesn’t. And alcohol causes promiscuity, marijuana doesn’t.

    But the reasons why marijuana is still illegal are that it causes violence, a loss of executive control, and sexual promiscuity!

  8. Anonymous on

    kill mark emery now

  9. Anonymous on

    Look, I DO agree that the war on drugs is silly. But simply questioning the intelligence of those who favor the war on drugs is a simplistic, unsatisfying explanation. Saying that people who support prohibition are stupider than those who are against it is unsubstantiated, superficial, and monocausal. It’s also not going to persuade a mainstream population that’s been brainwashed with the nonsense that it’s actually users of recreational drugs who are less intelligent.

    Another thing, if you’re going to use the “people who like the war on drugs are stupid” route, you might want to clean up your writing. First, that’s an egregious run-on sentence. You ought to have at least two sentences there. Second, don’t mix up “its” the possessive pronoun with “it’s” the contraction (e.g., “therefore this war on drugs was brought to ITS futile end”). As superficial as it might seem, people will not take you as seriously if you have poor grammar. They’ll also scoff at your pretensions to superior intelligence.

  10. Daniel Johnson on

    Like, who didn’t know there was some kind of neurosis/sexual conflict going on behind prohibition… next time I debate a cop and they go off into hyperbolic rhetoric, instead of trying to respond to it with facts like usual, I’m just going to go into a fake european accent and say “Now, tell me about your mother…”

  11. YukonJack on

    It is my contention that the prime denominator behind the war on drugs actually stems from a faction what has a lower IQ than those who would appreciate immensely if the end to prohibition was finally realized as inevitable and therefore this war against drugs was brought to it’s futile end.

  12. ray christl thc science freedom on

    tha caca conclusion.The methodology may show bias and nullification if that fecal thinking isn’t relevant.Create antithetical hypothesis to counterculture/oppose these findings with your deductive attempt.Great post of shaman supernaturalism that is the primary thesis of this Asian ministry in Phnom Penh,Cambodia.We see IBOGA treatment as primary to drug war addiction obsessive/compulsive prevarication/hubris proscription etc..Canada should use shamanic cleansing since apotheosis relieves stress,fear and self-guilt with REM catharsis. Miracle use of LOVE/sacred is the crime in this realm!Maldiablo is the christian lord???Allegro and the cross-Cryptic for Lygeia soma Queen?

  13. ray christl THC Ministry ASIA on

    synopsis or conclusion based on incomplete information and deductive research(e.g.anecdotal)suggestive hasty cause and effect.Let the scientists at PennU etc… to explore a relationship between primal procreation (primacy-alpha)motivation scenario with views of FEAR/phobia and philos/love about secondary primal drive (beta-subordinate)psychological motivation of Drug usage universal.I want to read what they say and see future study in evolutionary “bio-botany-brain of Brian” synthesis.Yes,look for bias in methodology,but this idea is enfant!?

  14. Lygeia on

    This is total crap. I second the first poster.

    In the 1700s in Britain, young girls would smoke or eat marijuana-laced treats, When they were high, they were supposed to pray to the spirit of the plant to show them the face of their one true love.

    (The prayer was:
    hemp seed I set,
    hemp seed I sow,
    hemp seed show me the face
    of my one true love tonight.)

    The War on Drugs is a genocide campaign against those whose resonate on the shamanic level and it is an attempt to kill off people because marijuana is medicine.

  15. Anonymous on

    What a load of bull. The fact that drug usage has so-called connections to beliefs about sexual promiscuity only shows a false correlation. It’s obviously connected to larger ideological issues than it does to strategic sexual behavior–hence the reason the researchers will find connections between beliefs about sexual behavior and other issues like prostitution.

  16. foam on

    and they pretend to hate anything that makes you feel good and they always have an excuse when they get caught indulging.

    Studies have show over and over that people who enjoy cannabis are better educated, better drivers, better in bed, better health!!

  17. Brian Kerr on

    This is total crap. It dosent have any thing to do with sex it is simply a moral issue. People who are right wing moralists will be againsed sex drugs and rock and role.