This is something that has been on my mind a lot lately: There is such a contrast between the scrutiny and criticism that come along with illegal drug use, from psychedelics to heroin, and the total acceptance of many other harmful substances that are praised, glorified, and even pushed in our society just because they are legal, such as caffeine and alcohol. What makes one substance a drug suitable for degenerates of society only, and the other a socially acceptable — almost requirement — of society?
To put it simply, it’s the media and the law. Because some are illegal and others aren’t, we view them differently, especially the unquestioningly law-abiding citizens of this world. Who can honestly say they don’t use drugs? Not many. Maybe someone doesn’t smoke weed, but do they drink? Do they avoid alcohol but drink soda every day? Who wakes up every morning and has a coffee? Do you take an aspirin a day? Believe it or not, these are all addictions and all a form of drug use. Just because some are illegal and some aren’t doesn’t change the fact that they are all drugs to begin with.
Drugs Are a Part of Life
It is safe to say that drugs are a part of our everyday life. We all use them, if not always to the same extremes, but on some level I believe most of us can understand addiction. The big question is, how did some drugs become illegal, while some remained acceptable to society? Alcohol is responsible for FAR more deaths than other illegal drugs each year, not to mention violent behaviour, yet is the drug most heavily promoted and encouraged in our society. it really makes you think, doesn’t it?
I have friends who claim they do not do drugs almost as if they are superior because of it, yet have no problem getting completely wasted on the weekends. Why is there this double standard? We are taught that drugs are bad in school, but are we taught about how alcohol and prescription pain medications can have equally, if not worse, devastating effects on your health and life? Legal drugs are often thought of as medicine yet illegal ones are “dangerous substances.”
Check out this clip below from Dr. Carl Hart as he outlines his perspective on drug use, illegal drugs, and addiction. He puts these concepts together quite nicely.
According to Dr. hart, 10-20% of people who use drugs will struggle with drug misuse. This means that 80-90% of people who use illegal drugs are not addicts. They don’t have a drug problem. Most are responsible members of society. They are employed. They pay their taxes. They take care of their families.
Has the System Been Designed This Way For a Reason?
In our society it seems we have compassion for people who use legal drugs, but turn our backs on people who use illegal drugs. Why is this? Both users are using to escape from pain, either physical or emotional or both. Some people self-medicate, and some people let the doctor prescribe the medication. Is there a real difference? Should these illegal drugs be made legal?
What About Substances That Are Illegal That Can Heal?
Perhaps the most frustrating part of this whole debacle is the fact that there are some substances out there that have a tremendous capacity to help people struggling from disorders ranging from depression, anxiety, post traumatic-stress disorder, and believe it or not, addiction, yet these substances are generally defined as illegal by the Controlled Substances Act. Because of this, gathering funding to study these substances and implement their use is exceedingly difficult.
Fortunately, however, thanks to organizations such as the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and John Hopkins University, we are seeing some amazing results in the study and treatment of various mental illnesses involving psychedelic substances such as psilocybin, ayahuasca, and iboga. Read more about this here and here.
What do you think? Are those struggling with addiction less worthy because their drug of choice happens to be an illegal one? Or do they deserve the same compassion, understanding, kindness, and treatment as those who happen to be addicted to drugs that are considered legal?
Perhaps our drug policies should come from the approach of public health and not criminal justice. The more you see yourself as a drug user or someone who does have addictions, whether legal or illegal, the easier it becomes to have compassion for those who are struggling with drug abuse, legal or not. Once you are able to do this, you’ll soon be able to see that it doesn’t make sense to arrest people for simply using or possessing drugs, and that it is time to end the failed War on Drugs.
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