Some will overdose, some will get sick and some will want to go home, But the vast majority will get what they paid for … a hellava’ good time. Yeah, yeah, I hear you - drugs are bad, drugs can hurt you - but so can anal sex but that act is performed at least a million times a year without a lot of complaints.
Funny enough, the same people who complain about others having anal sex also complain about drugs. You know the type I mean. Arrogant, conservative, self-righteous, self-important, self-appointed guardians of all things moral. They use jargon like “family values”, “personal responsibility”, “do the crime … do the time” or remind us that things were different in 1956. They were once called wowsers.
[noun] Austral./NZ informal - a person who is publicly critical of others and the pleasures they seek; a killjoy
One common mistake made by wowsers / the media / the government / anti-drug zealots / the police / moral crusaders etc. is lumping all drugs together under the one umbrella. You often hear the police blame someone’s actions on being “under the influence of drugs” or the media describe erratic behaviour due to drugs. On Channel 7’s, The Force - Behind the Line, I heard one police officer describe a suspect as showing typical signs of drug use - hyperactive, extremely restless, nervous and pinpoint pupils. What drug causes that? The victim was caught with speed which explains most of the symptoms except pinpoint pupils are typical of heroin use not speed. Amphetamines(speed) make your pupils bigger, not smaller. This is a classic example of how all drugs are lumped into one category.
But, all drugs are not the same. Some people perceive them to be like different kinds of liquor. e.g. whisky, beer, wine, cognac. They all look and taste differently but the effect is the same … you get stoned. Drugs though, offer a rich variety of effects, some of which can be compared to activities in the physical world. Jumping out of an aeroplane might thrill the adrenaline junkies but it doesn’t even come close to what first hooked a heroin addict. Being as cool as James Bond involves years of practice, exercise and training but why bother when a line of coke can give you same confidence? What about sex? Option one - Seven years in India learning the Karma Sutra, four years of attending the gym followed by two years of studying Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts or even A Couple’s Guide to Automobile Repairs. Option two - an ecstasy pill.
Another common misrepresentation is that unhappy people turn to drugs to dampen their emotional pain. That’s like saying all drinkers “hit the booze” to “drown their sorrows”. Of course, most drinkers indulge in alcohol because it’s enjoyable and it’s no different with drugs. And which “drugs” do they turn to? I find it hard to imagine that someone with a great burden on their shoulders will turn to ecstasy to block out the world. Or someone with suicidal tendencies overdosing themselves on pot in a half hearted attempt to end it all. I turned to heroin after the death of my wife when booze wasn’t killing me quickly enough or dampening the unbearable sorrow I was feeling. Before then, I had only used drugs like speed to enhance my night out or to experience the trippy pleasures of mushrooms, LSD and dope. The point is, I turned to a particular drug like heroin, not ice, weed or cocaine. Who knows what might have happened if I took up LSD instead of heroin?
What attracts people to different types of drugs? My experience is that people want certain drugs for different reasons. Alcohol is for socialising, dope is for chilling out, speed/ice/cocaine for partying, LSD/mushrooms for experimenting and heroin for multiple reasons. But according to many sources like the media, it’s irrelevant because … drugs are bad, mmkay!
This blanket approach to drugs has been enforced around the globe for the last 100 years. Now when any new drug appears on the market, it gets slotted under the “drugs” umbrella without any scientific examination or analysis of it’s social effect. Ecstasy(MDMA) is a classic example of how an over zealous organisation like the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) ignored all input from medical / scientific groups and pushed for a schedule I drug classification. This was despite a court ruling that it should not be banned, advice from medical experts and the successful trials that showed it to be a possible treatment for PTSD, depression and other disorders. The DEA used it’s special authority granted by the government to override the court’s decision, ignore scientific advice and make it’s own judgement. MDMA was banned and classed as a schedule I drug.
US Schedule I Drug:
(A) The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.
(B) The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
(C) There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision
Many countries including Australia now just mimic any scheduling decisions made by the US and the UK. Not surprisingly, the only exception is when they lower the classification of a drug. It would have been interesting to see what happened if Proposition 19 in California was passed and cannabis became legal. If the example of how Australia managed the classification of UK legal highs or MDMA is any thing to go by, then we are doomed to retain only stricter scheduling of drugs but ignore any changes that reflect a loosening of restrictions.
But it’s not just government classifications that get the blanket treatment. The scheduling of drugs is also driven by how society views these substances. And this is where the sensationalist media and political rhetoric comes into action. These potent forces have been pumping disinformation into us for decades and now much of the public believes their spin. And why wouldn’t they? Just mention heroin or crack and watch instantly as normal, rational human beings turn into judgemental, irrational zealots. Try pointing out the facts and watch as disbelief overrides all evidence and reality. Listen up to the amazing array of myths that will used to attack your “extremist” views. Why is it is so damned hard to expose decades of propaganda from the government, anti-drug nutters and the media.
Just recently, Professor David Nutt was sacked from the the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), who are a group of scientists, academics and doctors commissioned by the UK government to advise on drug policy. His crime was telling the truth. Prof. Nutt was simply providing evidence that some drugs like cannabis, LSD, mushrroms and ecstasy(MDMA) are much safer, and that alcohol is far more dangerous, than the official government position or the public’s perception. The UK Home Secretary decided that maintaining flawed information about drug harms was more important than the facts so he sacked Prof. Nutt claiming he was out-of-line for criticising government policy. Can you imagine any other scientific issue that would prompt a government to dismiss the evidence and remain fooling the public with flawed information?
Professor David Nutt has since created his own group called, the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs. Last week, they published a scientific paper in the respected Lancet medical journal that measured the rates of harm from illicit drugs, alcohol and tobacco. The results showed that alcohol is the most dangerous drug in the UK, overshadowing heroin and cocaine. At the other end of the scale, mushrooms, ecstasy and LSD were well down the list. As expected, the report has caused a frenzy of newspaper articles.
Proper assessment of the harms caused by the misuse of drugs can inform policy makers in health, policing, and social care. We aimed to apply multicriteria decision analysis (MCDA) modelling to a range of drug harms in the UK.
Members of the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, including two invited specialists, met in a 1-day interactive workshop to score 20 drugs on 16 criteria: nine related to the harms that a drug produces in the individual and seven to the harms to others. Drugs were scored out of 100 points, and the criteria were weighted to indicate their relative importance.
MCDA modelling showed that heroin, crack cocaine, and metamfetamine were the most harmful drugs to individuals (part scores 34, 37, and 32, respectively), whereas alcohol, heroin, and crack cocaine were the most harmful to others (46, 21, and 17, respectively). Overall, alcohol was the most harmful drug (overall harm score 72), with heroin (55) and crack cocaine (54) in second and third places.
These findings lend support to previous work assessing drug harms, and show how the improved scoring and weighting approach of MCDA increases the differentiation between the most and least harmful drugs. However, the findings correlate poorly with present UK drug classification, which is not based simply on considerations of harm.
Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (UK).
What this report doesn’t cover though, is how these drugs would rate in a world without prohibition. By far, most problems from drug use is attributed to our drug laws. It’s the illegality of these substances that causes more damage than the drugs themselves. Heroin, for example is basically non toxic and can taken for decades without much physical damage. Cocaine, speed and GHB taken occasionally will not greatly impact on your health unless of course, it’s cut with drain cleaner. Smoking naturally grown cannabis in moderation will not usually hurt any adult who doesn’t have a history of mental health disorders. Popping an ecstasy pill (pure MDMA) every few months is not going send most people to rehab. Although moderation is the best defence against the potential, nasty side effects of illicit drug use, prohibition is the real culprit. Prohibition removes all the safe guards that could be included with regulated sales of these drugs. Prohibition puts the safety of drug users in the hands of criminals and dealers who offer no quality control or age restrictions. Even that junkie stereotype is purely a result of drugs being illegal. It’s not the drugs that make junkies look skinny, dirty and homeless - it’s the desperation from dodging police, being maligned by the public and that never ending search for money that leaves very little for rent, food etc.
For many, their deep-seated views on drugs are not going to change anytime soon. Most of the population has never experienced a world without drug prohibition and after a lifetime of misinformation and the constant drone of anti-drug sentiment, the demonising of drugs has been very effective. Separating substances into groups based on their harm might go a long way to educating the public and hopefully provide some sanity in the drug debate. We don’t want a repeat performance of Liberal hack, Chris Pyne dribbling on about pot and heroin being equally as dangerous. These theatrical performances might appease dorks like Pyne but they do nothing to keep people safe. Nor does the popular trend of outing one’s self as having tried pot at university but declaring it’s now unsafe to do so because of the latest research. Over the last few years, we have had Australia’s top politicians admitting to smoking the evil weed but warning others not to follow suit. Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott, Wayne Swann and Malcolm Turnbull have all made this admission but it took the current US president to actually come clean. When asked if he “inhaled” - a reference to former US president who said he tried pot but didn’t inhale - Obama said, “that’s the point, isn’t it”.
We have to end the “drugs are bad … mmkay” mentality. All drugs have specific harms when abused but some, more than others. Inexperienced people shooting up hard drugs is not a good idea but overall, binge drinking causes more harm than intravenous drug use. Dozens of night-clubbers taking ecstasy in it’s pure form will not cause anywhere near the carnage inflicted by boozers in the same venue. Smoking pot each night for years on end will only produce a tiny group of dependant users compared to drinkers who consume similar amounts to achieve the same intoxication. And contrary to popular beliefs, methamphetamines like ice cause a fraction of the violence that alcohol bestows on the community each week.
These facts need to be explained to the public along with the truth about legal drugs like alcohol, tobacco and prescription medication. Although it’s changing slowly, all illicit drugs are still seen as something that only desperate, low life druggies will consider while incredibly, booze is considered a safe alternative. The facts are out there but if our leaders and the media are not prepared to tell us the truth then the public will remain victims of deceit and agenda driven policy. We deserve better.