Psychology Lecturer invited to join Oxford Union drugs debate

GCU Lecturer in Mental Health Psychology Dr Phil Dalgarno has been invited to share his expertise on drugs with the Oxford Union at one of their historic debates.

He received an invitation from the Oxford Union President Ahmad Nawaz saying it would be an “honour” if he could join them in their debate on the motion ‘This House Would Legalise Drugs for Personal Use’.

Dr Dalgarno said he was delighted to join the Oxford Union, whose membership is drawn primarily from the University of Oxford, to debate the legalisation of drugs for personal use later this year.

He added: “For nearly 35 years now I’ve been working in the field, attempting to open meaningful debate round this thorny topic and so obviously I’m really pleased that my work is increasingly recognised both nationally and internationally.”

Dr Dalgarno has a particular interest in altered states of consciousness, and both the positive and negative aspects of psychoactive substance use. He completed his PhD, ‘Principles of non-problematic drug use’, in 2006.

Before moving into teaching in 2008, Phil was a researcher for 20 years and was involved with a number of funded projects investigating primarily the non-medical use of substances such as cocaine/crack, MDMA, Ketamine, cannabis and heroin, among others. He has authored or co-authored a number of peer reviewed publications on the subject.

Phil is currently the Chair of the Ethics Committee for Psychology, Social Work and Allied Health Sciences (PSWAHS). He is also a member of The Scottish Drug Policy Conversation (SDPA) steering and advisory committee, and an associate member of the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ISCD).

The Oxford Union was founded by a group of students in 1823 to protest against the University’s restrictive rules surrounding the discussion of religion and politics. It remains a place where students can make their voices heard.

Throughout its history, the Oxford Union has played host to world leaders including US Presidents Reagan, Nixon, Carter and Clinton, Sir Winston Churchill, iconic figures such as Albert Einstein, Malcolm X, the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa, and musical stars such as Sir Elton John to Shakira.

The basis for the Oxford Union debate will be: “In waging the ‘War on Drugs’, have we been fighting a losing battle from the beginning? Despite a general relaxation of attitudes towards recreational drug use, legal prohibitions are still in effect in most jurisdictions.

“Do states have the right to dictate which of our decisions are noble, and which are nefarious for us? Would regulation reduce the risk of unforeseeable side-effects, or give people a carte blanche to abuse addictive intoxicants?

“Where some studies have suggested empirical benefits to the use of certain drugs, others have traced links between dependency and poor mental health, and would legalisation lead to increased rates of use? Many have criticised enforcement of restrictions as racially motivated or as exacerbating class conflict, while others have argued the state is simply protecting us from becoming our own victims.”

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