War on Drugs, Dope, and Your Mum’s Concerns

For decades, world governments have declared a war on drugs for, as they put it, the good of their citizens. As we noticed, the war on drugs is ineffective. There are different kinds of drugs, from mind-opening psychedelics to junkie-beloved meth. History showed us how legal bans are only de facto limitations, and research tells us that along with the dangers of addiction, some drugs can have their merits.

You can get them from your friendly-neighbourhood dealer, an automaton at the main street’s corner, or the depths of the dark web. The word anticipated by university students on a Friday night and feared by middle-aged parents in front of television screens. Drugs.

The war on drugs basically entails means of prevention from using and selling drugs by making them illegal. However, this approach doesn’t solve the issue of drug addiction. One hundred years ago, the US government made a similar attempt to ban a “dangerous substance.”

The Prohibition

In the 1920s, Prohibition in the United States began. All attempts of selling, buying, or drinking alcohol were henceforth made illegal.

As women of the suffrage were gaining more influence in the Parliament chambers, they pushed for, among other social reforms, an alcohol ban in the name of public morals and health. They were supported by the Church, Women’s Christian Temperance Union being the main entity to back the Prohibition and the “drys,” much to the discontent of pub owners, the women’s abusive husbands, the beer industry, and other “wets.” [1]

As time told, this move wasn’t efficient. Banning alcohol eradicated neither questionable morality nor crime and intimate partner violence (IPV). Ironically, prohibiting alcohol didn’t stop people from drinking it too.

Bootlegging, or illegal alcohol trade, flourished in times of the Prohibition behind the back of then government officials. More than a few wisecracks made a tonne of money – and a name for themselves – through this shady business. One such person was Al Capone.

If you couldn’t buy alcohol off a sketchy bootlegger, you could make your own booze. Moonshine was yet another way to avoid the ban.

Prohibition of alcohol didn’t stop people from drinking and didn’t solve any problems – either related or unrelated to alcohol in itself. Similarly with drugs. A legal ban and the threat of punishment does nothing to prevent people from taking drugs.

Beer, wine, vodka, whiskey… Just like there different kinds of alcohol, there are also different kinds of drugs.

Pills, Powders, Sugar Cubes

Some make you feel relaxed, others give you visual hallucinations, still others wind you up. Because of the general lack of education, there are many myths and misconceptions about drugs. Moreover, they’re often discussed using the umbrella term “drugs,” without any understanding or distinction between substances and their possible merits and threats.

The key to preventing drug abuse and addiction is distinguishing between various drugs and regulating their use in a more complex way than just banning them altogether. Drugs come in all forms: some are synthetic pills, powders, and solutions, while others are natural psychoactive plants, such as marijuana or some mushrooms.

Big Pharma and the government in the US have their hands dipped deep in drugs anyway, hidden under the label of “prescription drugs.” Opioids such as Vicodin and stimulants such as Adderall aren’t too different from methamphetamine and other illegal drugs. It only proves that drugs can be regulated, certain people can make huge money off of it, and they can be helpful in treating various illnesses. [2, 3, 4, 5]

The truth is, conspiracy aside, is that pharmaceutical companies (along with the doctors responsible for prescriptions) make tonnes of money on selling drugs under family-friendly brand names and pushing their prices higher. [6]

However, keeping people in misinformation, demonizing illegal drugs and yet selling very similar substances for profit, both the US government and Big Pharma engage in a foul play on the very people they allegedly care so much for.

Simultaneously, the underground market flourishes. Without getting into too much detail and boring chemistry, let’s go through some of the most popular drugs you can get off your local dealer. Because you can, and many folks do.

Benefits…

Psychedelics such as LSD, mushrooms, and DMT cause visual hallucinations, along with other changes in perception. Depending on the dosage, the experience will get either stronger or weaker, and everybody’s experience is different. In smaller doses, for instance when microdosing LSD, they can work as mood- and productivity-boosters. [7]

In general, psychedelics aren’t addictive and are physiologically safe. Your organism’s tolerance increases rapidly, which means that if you wanted to get high on psychedelics a few days in a row, you would have to increase the dosage significantly every subsequent time. After four days of an acid-spree, you’d become completely insensitive to LSD and you’d have to take a break. [8]

Beloved by the hippies, with the right attitude, psychedelics can allow you to enter previously-unattainable areas of consciousness. They may lead you to a spiritual awakening, a transcendental experience, revelation of one’s meaning, and feelings of awe and unity. Such revelations are quite common. [9]

Another psychoactive drug with obvious medical benefits is marijuaha, which has gained positive publicity in recent years and has been legalized in a few places. Medical marijuana is used to treat e.g. epilepsy and anxiety. In countries where dope is still illegal, you can sometimes buy CBD products – weed without THC, which still lets you unwind but is devoid of any psychoactive components; it lets you relax without getting you high. [10]

If we considered having fun as a benefit, then there’s a plethora of “party drugs.” They give you energy and let you enjoy your time without the next day’s hangover (although you might experience comedown, lack of vital energy for one to three days, after using for instance coke). Such substances as MDMA, speed, cocaine, or even weed are quite common on the dance floor. [11, 12]

Speaking of hangovers, many drugs are far less harmful than alcohol or cigarettes. These two products are legal, yet they lead to tragedies every day: drink driving, various diseases, and bad tattoo ideas. Needless to say, cigarettes in themselves contain a very addictive substance – nicotine. [13, 14]

… and Dangers

Altough some drugs, such as psychedelics, aren’t so addictive, you can get addicted to virtually anything, including sex, sugar, caffeine, and KFC chicken wings. This is the obvious danger that one needs to take into account when doing any kind of drugs. Here’s the most addictive drugs, according to American Addiction Centers:

  1. Cocaine
  2. Heroin
  3. Alcohol
  4. Nicotine
  5. Methamphetamine

Yes, two of them are legal and regulated by governments – they have got exact numbers related to consumption of alcohol and nicotine, which allows them to monitor trends and have some insight into the sales, use, and abuse.

And that’s where the problem with war on drugs is crystal clear: they cannot be regulated now. Sure, the law enforcement’s job is to put drug dealers in jail and the government is supposed to help their citizens escape or avoid addiction, but the reality differs from theory. In the US, police officers are happy to enforce drug regulations, even for the pettiest drug-related crimes. In the last month alone (October 2020), almost 50% of all inmates in prisons had been charged for drug offences. The United States isn’t the only country with war-on-drugs focus though. People die in Mexico and the Philippines in enormous numbers, and governments worldwide spend billions of dollars on ineffective means. In China, war on drugs reached a whole new level. They don’t fuck around, and all drug trafficers and dealers are executed, while the gravity of the issue is taken quite seriously.  [15, 16, 17, 18]

Even though there technically is a war on drugs, it’s still easy to get addicted to them. Further problems are intertwined with addiction – losing money, brain damage, organ damage, family problems, and so on.

Here’s a trick when it comes to finances – it often happens that the stronger the drug, the cheaper it is. There is a huge demand for well-known drugs such as weed, so the prices on the underground market are high. Experimental drugs and synthetic substances created in some amateur chemist’s basement are cheaper, and sometimes you can even get them for free (if dealers have a new or mixed substance and want to see how strong it is, they give it out before they start selling). That’s when yet another issue comes forward – you can never be sure what you buy. In places where drugs are entirely prohibited, there’s no way to check beforehand if the weed you get wasn’t dipped in alcohol or some other poison (maybe by the smell, but it’s an art that takes an experienced nostril to master). It’s even more difficult with pills and powders. You can’t tell how much amphetamine was added to your MDMA or if washing powder isn’t the main ingredient of your “coke.”

The war on drugs does nothing but try to scare people without taking care of the actual problems that, in fact, can be tackled effectively. In the US, for the last two decades, the number of people dying of drug overdosing has been increasing. As a result, people die.

Other Way

Recreational use of psychedelics and marijuana can be beneficial to your body. A plethora of middle-aged parents experimented with drugs in their youth too and they’re well now, with families, mortgages, and television sets. I’m not trying to say that people don’t die from drug abuse or that there aren’t some hopeless weedheads out there wasting their lives away. [19, 20, 21]

Another question we ought to ask ourselves is: where exactly is the border between recreational use of drugs and addiction? But should this uncertainty prevent us from trying to regulate drugs through their legalization?

Yet at the same time, there’s people dying of obesity, cigarette, and alcohol use, but nobody bans McDonald’s or Coca Cola. The world is full of substances that are dangerous, even lethal, and are unregulated. Real-life examples show that, if regulated and taken care of properly, drugs – or at least some of them – can be used reasonably and recreationally.

In the Netherlands (what an obvious example, I know, but hear me out) you can go to a coffee shop full of marijuana joints. You can choose between weed that will make you more energetic and dope that will make you relaxed and sleepy. You can talk to the guy who will give you advice on how to smoke safely. Amusingly enough, recreational use of drugs and their possessions isn’t legal but tolerated, following a pragmatic approach, seeing a drug-free society as unattainable. [22] 

In that very same country, you can find smart shops, where you may purchase drug tests to check the quality of the drugs you bought. Let’s be frank – if somebody wants to buy drugs, they will do it no matter the legal regulations or possible punishment, so why not do our best to help them have a safe drug experience?

It goes without saying that it’s better to know what you’re getting and what you’re taking. In case of a bad trip or any subsequent health problems, you can tell the doctor exactly what the source of the problem is and treat it accordingly. Besides, jolly coffee-shop employees even look more trustworthy than scruffy dark-alley dealers.

What is more, is that the government could get a piece of that cake too. Now, all the money for drugs goes directly into the dealers’ pockets. If the drug sale was regulated, the government could – and would – tax it, boosting the economy that they so deeply care about, which would simultaneously be welcomed by the more conservative, business-oriented part of the population.

Lack of education is possibly the greatest obstacle. Those with little to no experience with drugs are often terrified by the sole sound of this word, reminding them of the obnoxious images they saw in “Beautiful Boy.” And those willing to experiment after seeing “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” have no idea what they’re doing and end up in hospitals.

History showed us that law doesn’t always solve the problem, and can in fact create other issues. We’re still a long way from saving people from addiction by thoughtful and responsible actions on the government’s side, who hitherto turned to escapism and demonization of drugs.

By raising awareness and changing the general outlook on drugs we can not only find another way of tackling society’s issues and addiction, but also benefit from the veneer of drugs’ benefits.

Published by Dawid Tysowski

[writer]

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