DRUGS. I bet the first thing that comes to mind for most people is “street” or illegal drugs, and then maybe pharmaceuticals. But drugs are EVERYWHERE and in LOTS of things. Caffeine is a drug. Nicotine is a drug. Alcohol is a drug. We have a very messed up perception of drugs in the U.S., and we let the government tell us which ones are ok and which ones deserve social ostracism and penalty with almost no resistance or thought.
We’re conditioned to think of illegal drugs as the most dangerous and damaging. We’re conditioned to look down on people who choose an illegal drug for recreation, even though drinking alcohol every weekend is a perfectly legitimate pastime. We accept that someone can use legal drugs and not have a “problem”, but immediately associate any illegal drug use with abuse or addiction. We imprison thousands of people for “crimes” that violate no one’s rights. But what’s really behind the decisions the government makes when it comes to these restrictions? The accepted assumption is that “they” have weighed carefully which drugs are most harmful and addictive and restricted them, while allowing us to freely consume those that are most benign. But is this the truth?
So is the government looking after our health? Are they responsibly making the deadly illegal, while allowing the freedom to partake in the safe? If you ate enough artificial sweetener you’d surely get cancer, and you can if you want to, because it doesn’t get you high. So the difference there is the nature of the experience, not health. Drano is deadly if swallowed, but you don’t get arrested unless you have fun while you’re damaging yourself. The difference between death by Drano and death by recreational drugs is that Drano only takes once, there’s no repeat sale, there’s no ongoing demand; that’s a money issue, not health. Cigarettes have lots of toxins in them that have NOTHING to do with the nicotine people are addicted to, and that everyone knows bring a horrible, expensive demise; yet for the most part, the government does nothing about it filling the air of public places. I’m legally restricted from sniffing a natural, unadulterated coca extract when I’m out on the town for a little buzz, but free to give myself Alzheimer’s or a heart attack by eating msg or hydrogenated oils. Almost every time I read some snippet of health advice for just about any ailment, among the suggestions I see “reduce your intake of caffeine”. Cramps, heart disease, sleep disorder, you name it. Ever see that drug induced spider web thing? Caffeine was the worst.
So what danger are we really being protected from? It doesn’t appear to be the danger of addiction “they” are trying to prevent, after all, we’re free to be addicted to alcohol and cigarettes. Why is it exactly that marijuana is illegal, but “they” make and sell (at a pretty penny) a synthetic THC? I’ve seen statistics that show more people addicted to legal pharmaceuticals than street drugs, so regulation is doing less than nothing to prevent addiction. Antacids can cause your body to start needing them on a constant basis. (Lip balm too…. bastards)
And don’t even get me started on the cost! It will have to suffice to say: $22BILLION and counting in 2009 alone, otherwise I’ll go on for pages. Just imagine what could be done with that money.
The government tells us that it’s ok to drink as long as you’re 21, not pregnant (by suggestion, not enforcement), and pay the taxes. Pharmaceuticals are ok as long as you pay a professional for the freedom to buy them. You can smoke a cigar as long as it doesn’t come from a country that the US is trying to economically harm. (Record screeching…) How do we know that marijuana and cocaine aren’t illegal for that very reason? If it isn’t a resource that belongs to the U.S., the U.S. economy doesn’t benefit as much as the country where it’s grown, and if it’s illegal, it can be easily stolen, uh, I mean “confiscated”. And we all know that “confiscations” happen a lot, and that includes drug money, lots of it. “They” tell you not to buy illegal drugs because you fund armies of bad guys in foreign countries, but you rarely hear that you run the same risk when you buy diamonds. …or gas.
The bottom line is that it’s about money and control, and politics too convoluted and behind the scenes to even dream of understanding. …and maybe some seriously misplaced religious values and the necessary accompanying hypocrisy.
Why is it that the government has any power at all to tell us what we can put into our own bodies and why? I don’t think I’ve heard an actual argument about why it’s ok to restrict the free will of a competent adult in this way. Just: “drugs are bad, um k”. The illegality of having, selling, or doing drugs is a violation of every individual (of mature decision making capacity)’s right to autonomy of their body.
I’m not saying let’s all go hog wild on drugs, actually, to me there’s no difference between drugs and the potential to hurt ourselves with addictions to everything from shopping to TV or pizza. We have lots of problems, and we all deal with it in our own way, and everyone has a different idea of fun. But there are some real benefits society could gain by treating all drugs, and truly all addictions, equally. For a start, eliminating an inappropriate social judgmentalism could only help us get along. The best benefit though would be having informed consent.
When you see a commercial for the next big laboratory medicinal breakthrough you hear “side effects may include headache, nausea, blurred vision, loose stool, dry mouth… if you have a history of liver problems…” etc. You have the right to know everything about a drug and its impact on your health when it is for medical use, and it is only our double standard about recreational drug use that prevents us from being equally informed. Research, and information help people make informed decisions about what they do to their bodies, and so far, it’s mainly only available for drugs controlled by pharmaceutical companies, or long-standing legal drugs. A large part of what makes illegal drugs so dangerous is that there’s no accountability for quality or adulteration. Ecstasy is a great example. People die from taking what they think is MDMA, which turns out to be some heinous concoction of chemicals they never would have taken if they had known what it was.
Another benefit would be a reduction of crime. Without getting into the years of debate over this I’ll just say: If someone hurts you while you’re doing something illegal, and you can’t ask the law to hold them accountable without incriminating yourself, they know it too. So who’s going to help?
People will always use drugs, or whatever, to change the way they feel when they want to. For fun, to alleviate stress, even for spirituality. The point isn’t about the damage or danger associated with drug use, because that’s everywhere; the point is that the only person who has the right to say if that damage or danger is ok is the individual. That’s why skydiving is legal, you just have to sign a waver. (adrenaline is a drug) If we ever want to become responsible as a society, we have to allow ourselves the freedom. It would be healthier, safer, and most importantly more appropriate, if politics and money were lower on our government’s priority list than protecting social rights, proper information and education.
To read all the things about our costly and immoral drug war that I didn’t say, go to drugwarfacts.org. Check out norml.org while you’re at it.