Debate over Drugs May Really Be About Sex

PHILADELPHIA, June 17 (UPI) — The debate on whether recreational drug use is morally wrong may really be about sex, a U.S. researcher suggests.

Robert Kurzban, director of the Pennsylvania Laboratory for Experimental Evolutionary Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, says the study compared two competing theories — the conventional wisdom in political science that sees drug attitudes as primarily coming from people’s political ideology, level of religious commitment and personality, vs. a theory driven by ideas from evolutionary psychology that drug attitudes are really driven by people’s reproductive strategies, or views on sexual promiscuity.


The researchers questioned some 1,000 people in two subject populations, one undergraduate students and one Internet-based.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, finds people who say they are more religious and more politically conservative tend to oppose recreational drugs in both study samples, but the predictive power of these religious and ideological items was reduced nearly to zero after controlling for attitudes toward sexual promiscuity.

“This provides evidence that views on sex and views on drugs are very closely related,” Kurzban says in a statement. “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, the predictions about people’s views on drugs in fact become quite a bit better.”

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