The capacity to alter one’s own consciousness is an ‘implicit assumption’ of our daily life. It can be achieved through a very broad range of methods, from practicing meditation to the use of psychoactive substances, legal or illegal.
While the right to freedom of thought has been a historically neglected concept, an emerging literature argues that this freedom should be construed as entailing a right to self-determinate one’s own brain chemistry and consciousness –in other words, the right to control and alter one’s perceptions, thoughts, and thought processes.
This submission by IDPC and Instituto Ria shows that the alteration of one’s own consciousness through psychoactive substances –including through internationally controlled drugs like cannabis, mescaline, or LSD– occupies a central role in religious, spiritual, and cultural practices around the world, in both the Global North and South.
It also argues that the blanket prohibition of such practices, as established in the UN drug conventions and in certain national laws, constitutes an unlawful limitation on the right to the freedom of thought in two critical ways:
- First, because it is inconsistent with the available scientific evidence on the harms to individual and society associated to the use of drugs.
- Second, because it has a discriminatory nature, as it prohibits psychoactive substances traditionally used by communities in the Global South, while allowing for the alteration of one’s consciousness through substances that are central to the way of life of communities in the Global North, such as alcohol.