German MP Michael Hartmann was recently in the news because of his crystal meth use. The media was quick to compare Hartmann to other politicians who use other substances: the past marijuana use of Clinton and Obama, and the recent scandal around the crack addiction of Canadian mayor Rob Ford. The media also stresses that it is hypocritical that Michael Hartmann previously publicly opposed the use of cannabis. The media enforces the image most people have: all substance use is the same and equals addiction, low self-control and bad morals.
However, what I find interesting in this case is that Hartmann himself stresses that he used the methamphetamine to enhance his performance. He states that he only used low quantities, and that he wasn’t addicted. Police evidence and a psychiatric report seem to support this: no traces of meth were found in his private home, and he showed no signs of being addicted. If his main motivation was to enhance his performance, it isn’t hypocritical of him to oppose the use of cannabis. While methamphetamine is a so called upper, which can indeed enhance performance, cannabis is a downer, and is mostly associated with a decrease in motivation. Although for people with sleeping difficulties or chronic pain marijuana use also functions as an enhancer. Not all drugs are the same and Hartmann’s case is hard to compare with Ford’s, who admitted he was addicted, and whose behaviour got out of control (by his own standards) rather than enhanced by his crack use. Hartmann substance use was only discovered after a dealer named him, and not because his behaviour got out of control.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.