Sunday, 9 November 2008

Diary: It’s OK ... It’s Just Alcohol

DIARY: The more I research the more I start to notice how prevalent legal drug use is in the form of alcohol. It has all the characteristics of illicit drug use but somewhere we have accepted it as normal behaviour. You see drinking everywhere but probably don’t notice it as a form of drug use unless you actually look for it. Most of us do it ourselves but because it is only alcohol, we don’t get the same alerts going off as if it was an illicit drug. Take all the scenarios of illicit drug use and replace it with alcohol and you get a familiar picture. The ecstasy user who can’t go to a dance club without their drug of choice for the fear of not fully enjoying themselves. The cocaine or speed user who wants some confidence when going out to meet people at a party or pub including potential partners. A dope smoker who has a few pipes after work to relax. But replace the illegal drug with alcohol and you get an acceptable situation. How many young people would go to a nightclub or dance venue without drinking? Not many. You’re at a party but it doesn’t really fire up until you have a few drinks under your belt when you can approach people freely without too many inhibitions. Most of us have met someone romantically whilst drunk and is probably how most couples first hook up. It’s been a shit day at work and a few beers or glasses of wine in front of the TV is just what you need to wind down. All these are acceptable social behaviours because the drug in question is alcohol. The more sinister scenarios involving alcohol would have the government in a frenzy if alcohol was replaced with an illicit. How often have we seen people including ourselves overdosing on alcohol? Vomiting or unconscious, ranting incoherently and not able to stand, dribbling food whilst eating or unable to open a door. These moments are usually laughed off as just too much to drink. What about the intention to get drunk? It’s been a hell of a week at work or my wife left me, can be accepted as reasons to over indulge in drinking without any serious warnings from colleagues, friends or family. What would be the reaction from your work colleague if you said to them that you were going to get shitfaced tonight after a disastrous week at work and produced a bag of heroin? What if you get some bad news and say out aloud that you need a pick-me-up as you open your liquor cabinet and pull out a small bag with white powder or a hand full of pills. The reaction is not likely to be the same as if alcohol was involved. There is a common myth that alcohol is not a dangerous drug and even that one or two drinks is not like one or two doses of drugs. Ex US President, Richard Nixon said that having a glass or two of scotch did not effect you immediately compared to taking drugs that only had the purpose of getting high. This argument has been mimicked around the world defending the drinking of alcohol as a social event that has no mind altering effect unless overdone. The image of illicit drug users reaching an unacceptable high instantly is portrayed as vastly different to having a few drinks over a period of time during a social situation. This is just another myth that keeps alcohol legitimatised whilst damning any other drug that makes the law makers nervous. Alcohol effects the brain with 5-10 minutes of consumption and even one drink usually alters the mind. Also the need for a drink is just like other drugs that someone craves or desires. On the other hand, the simplistic view that all drug users get the maximum effect in one usage is just wishful thinking to keep alcohol separate from those demon drugs that ruin society. In reality, most drugs are taken over a period of time or don’t act instantaneously. I’m sure these people envisage a dope smoker for example having one bong and that’s it, then they act like they’re on acid ... spaced out and dangerous. The fact is, most drug use is administered like having rounds of drinks. The level of effect is controlled by the user and determined by how much they take and how often. The main point though is always missed by governments and the moral crusaders. People usually drink or take drugs because it’s really enjoyable. It’s can be exciting, stimulating, fun, intense, sociable, profound and any other effect that humans seem to enjoy. Whilst drinking is often associated with depression or some serious problem, it is universally accepted as mankind’s legal way of altering their mind without being classed as a drug. Almost like Huxley’s soma. In fact, a recent study found that those who don’t drink, are more miserable than drinkers. In typical form, government comments about alcohol and drugs is always cautionary including the almost mandatory confession of smoking grass when younger. Of course it’s not okay for us, the mere public to partake in drug taking but somehow it’s fine for the politician to experiment as long as they didn’t inhale, didn’t enjoy it, it made them feel unwell or they preferred to get drunk. Apart from cannabis, the drug that defies logic in Australia is speed. Methamphetamines or “ice” suffers an incredibly bad image in the MSM and is the flavour of the month for government drug hysteria rhetoric. Amphetamines though, which is a lower quality drug is rampant in Australia and incidentally is my favourite drug. Though I don’t take it much anymore, it has been responsible for many incredibly great experiences over the years. I admittedly had a problem with it but it was nothing like a heroin addiction. Getting caught up in a cycle of speed use is not pleasant but a change of scenery fixed my problem. For those others around me who often took speed, there was no long term problems and everyone turned out fine. It seems to be the equivalent of cocaine in the US and used randomly when a big night is in order. The hundreds of thousands of past users of speed must find anti-drug advertising laughable when they always show the worst case scenario as the outcome of tweaking up. Speed is an incredible drug and after the first taste, the risk factor becomes negligible. Like 99% of casual drug users, speed does not cause a problem and most people simply grow out of any regular use. The most damage is done from the copious amounts of alcohol that speed allows you drink. You can drink for days and never get completely drunk. I know I shouldn’t be crediting an illicit drug with enjoyment and I can hear the moans of not being responsible but nothing anyone says or writes can change the fact that people take drugs for pleasure. Why can legal drug companies promote getting sloshed on their product but admitting speed use is enjoyable is wrong? If you think about the damage alcohol causes compared to illicit drugs, an alien may wonder if the alcohol industry has some sort of hold on the world’s governments. Why would any sane government allow a drug as dangerous as alcohol be advertised to young people as a sign of success or allow a drug that is highly addictive to be available on every street corner? No wonder the alien is confused. Being a recovering heroin addict means no goodies for me including alcohol. Well most of the time anyway. Surprisingly the drug I miss most is alcohol, especially in the form of red wine. Since my addiction, my taste buds have gone to hell and now wine tastes like it did when I was 10 ... bitter and vinegary. I must admit that having a few drinks is a pleasure from the gods and alcohol intoxication is very nice indeed. The memories are still strong though as I sip on my soft drink each night. What does come from sobriety though is being able to watch how much others rely on alcohol for pleasure, relief, confidence, acceptance, status, depression, pain, partying, celebrating, romance, anger and the chance to have exciting, meaningless sex. The very things that are highlighted as the downside of taking illicit drugs.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am a lover of amphetamines but in the past six or so months I have lost 3 dealers who can no longer get it. I am upset about this but I am also being offered smack left right and centre. This is what I couldn't get before and now it is coming out of my ears. What the?

Mina said...

Recently, there was an article about a morphine related death in an austrian newspaper. Like always, they only ranted about how bad morphine is. The person died from a combination from too much alcohol, benzos and morphine. But they only wrote he died from the morphine and not that the combination is dangerous.

They only blamed morphine in the whole article. In a little sidenote they said that the person drank about 10 beers a day. He was only 16 years old. (In austria, beer and wine are legal from 16 on). But they wrote about his consumption of alcohol, as if it was normal and didn't write anything negative about that. They only wrote negative about the morphine.

That's so twisted and dumb...

Terry Wright said...

Thanks Anon.
The wonders of an open market policy for drugs called prohibition. At least the right wing got what they wanted ... no government regulation.

Thanks Mina
It's just like in Australia where ice/speed is blamed for the violence even though the person in question has usually been drinking for days.

Tonia said...

Terry,

This is probably my favourite blog of yours. The socially sanctioned status of alcohol & it's use can be so damaging to peoples lives. Yet these same people often attempt to morally police those using other drugs. At the end of the day, everyone suffers.

On another note, I recently heard on ABC radio about yet another politician who'd done a 'I've been stoned-but it's bad' confession. It made me think, as did this diary entry, about K-Rudd's 'strip club' incident. Apparently, this incident is accepted because boys will be boys and (much less noted in various commentary) our now Prime Minister dismissed the whole ordeal by simply saying something along the lines of 'I was pissed'. So, what sort of message does that send to the young binge drinkers he's so concerned about?

Great entry!

Tonia said...

http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/one-mans-drug-is-anothers-cash-cow-20081121-6e33.html

Terry Wright said...

Thanks Mina.

I read the article you provided a link for. It's becoming more obvious to all about the disparity between drinking and drug use. I thought the Cousins issue might have died down when Howard was booted but I was wrong.