Drugs: it’s complicated

June 22, 2010

This is a follow-up post to my June 2nd post on mommy-blogger Kate Granju’s son’s death.

What do I really think about drugs?

It’s complicated.

I came of age in the late 1960s. Drugs were just coming on the scene in a big way. They seemed relatively benign and they were.

The pot we smoked back then was positively weak, compared with the pot farmed today with sophisticated methods meant to increase potency. Mescaline, peyote, LSD, quaaludes: these were the drugs college kids experimented with. Heroin and coke? Not so much.

Most of us managed to grow up without addiction.

But some of us didn’t.

And some were damaged. A fairly distant relative on my mother’s side fried his brain on LSD. He was handsome and vibrant, and then he was an empty shell. I don’t know what happened to him. He was a year or two older than me. They lived in Brooklyn. He’s probably dead by now.

Drugs today are stronger. There are more of them. They seem more pervasive. They’re destroying a whole ethnic group more effectively than genocide could. Hell, drugs are a form of unintended genocide. And they touch every socioeconomic level. But that’s another part of the issue.

Addiction is a problem for the living. A big one. But not for everyone. Just the addict and anyone whose life s/he touches.

I’m not sure that I completely buy the “addiction as disease” argument. But there may be no other explanation for the fact that one person can become addicted while 100 others do not. Or that many addicts can’t get clean even for any reason, even for the benefit of their beloved children. How does addiction reign supreme over a parent’s love for their kids?

I don’t know. I am not an addict. I can’t pretend to understand.

The addicts I know who are successfully clean are those who buy into the 12-step program 100%. They attend meetings frequently. They talk the 12-step “speak.” They replace their addiction with another focus and it works.

It seems to be the only thing that works. Because the addicts I know who do not buy completely into the program always relapse in one way or another.

I’m not sure how a program developed by a drunk in a fit of genius is the only thing that really works and therefore has spread into a worldwide movement. Addiction is a mysterious world.

Ideally, we’d stop addiction at its root. Assuming we could find it. For some reason we seem to think that educational programs work. Maybe it’s because we think we can’t do anything else. Anti-drug programs don’t seem to be putting much of a dent in the problem, though.

There are many reasons why, but I want to address just one.

One problem I have with anti-drug programs is that alcohol is excluded from the category.

And yet, I would bet that addiction to alcohol is by far the bigger drug problem. It’s legal. It’s more available. It’s cheap. It’s socially acceptable.

Ask any EMT or traffic cop about drunk driving. It kills. My former stepdaughter was hit by a drunk driver and is partly blind, deaf and in a wheelchair today because of it. You probably know of similar cases.

Ask any adult child of an alcoholic what it was like growing up. Or look at their lives now.

When I hear anti-pot activists say that most drug addicts start with marijuana, I think “they probably actually started with alcohol.” And yet alcohol isn’t maligned in the same way.

(Actually, they probably all started with milk…another argument altogether.)

Here’s something from the American Council on Drug Education:

Alcohol is the oldest and most widely used drug in the world.

Nearly half of all Americans over the age of 12 are consumers of alcohol. Although most drink only occasionally or moderately, there are an estimated 10 to 15 million alcoholics or problem drinkers in the United States, with more than 100,000 deaths each year attributed to alcohol. Among the nation’s alcoholics and problem drinkers are as many as 4.5 million adolescents, and adolescents are disproportionately involved in alcohol-related automobile accidents, the leading cause of death among Americans 15 to 24 years old.

Dealing with drunkenness and with alcohol-related accidents, crime, violence, and disturbances consumes more resources than any other aspect of police operations, while the health consequences of alcohol abuse add enormously to national health care costs. Illegal drugs can be more rapidly addicting than alcohol and may well have a more powerful effect on human behavior, but the high level of alcohol consumption, which is many times greater than the level of illegal drug use, makes it one of America’s most serious drug problems.

Why do we drink? I get that we like the taste. On a hot day, a cold beer is refreshing. A crisp white wine with a meal is a pleasure.

But most people who have more than one drink for the buzz. It’s bullshit when people who drink more than one say they love the taste of __fill in cocktail name___. We may love the taste of ginger ale but we aren’t compelled to drink three or four of them in an evening out. We aren’t going to have three scotches on a plane because they taste good.

We drink for how it makes us feel. We drink for the buzz.

So it shouldn’t be too hard to understand that drugs provide their own buzz or high. And users like that feeling. Just like drinkers enjoy our booze buzz.

One is socially acceptable. The other is not.

In the 1960s, we’d argue that adults had alcohol and we had pot: same thing, we said.

I’m not going to argue marijuana vs. alcohol today, although I think the studies are fairly clear that pot is a more benign drug than alcohol. Check out Safer Choice if you’re interested in that topic.

My point today is that we can’t talk about drug addiction without including alcohol in the category. We’re hypocritical if we ignore alcohol.

We need to address addiction in the broader sense and not simply demonize drugs.

Because kids know it’s not that simple and they just don’t buy it.

5 comments on “Drugs: it’s complicated
  1. Anonymous says:

    Why are we talking about DRUG addiction WITH OUT TALKING ABOUT ALCOHOL? I think you did a good job bringing alcohol into the conversation. Conversely what about CIGARETTES? Another hideous DRUG that is a killer that is LEGAL?

    Here are some hidden secrets about POT. IT burns 10 times stronger than cigarettes since you have to hold it in your lungs it causes cancers of the mouth, throat, lung and larynx. It is also believed to play a BIG PART IN AUTO ACCIDENTS…they do not drug test for pot for DWI or DUI I have that on good authority from the police I was a former news journalist.

    The point I would like to make is if you feel your life is SO BAD, SO DEPRESSING, SO ANXIETY RIDDLED you have to medicate with FOOD, SEX,ALCOHOL, CIGARETTES, GAMBLING,CLOTHES SHOPPING(you can become addicted to ANYTHING) well you have a real problem. You need to take charge of your life quit living in fear, face your demons and get some help right away. No matter how bad your life is we now have more therapy availalbe than ever…not just the 12 step programs. There is EMRD for Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome it is super effective. There is PSYCHOTHERAPY, YOGA, MEDITATION, HEALING GROUPS, PRAYER, SERENITY, FRIENDS, SUPPORT GROUPS.

    Time to get started do not be the next statistic. It really is hard when it is someone else, someone you love, a child, a mate a family member then there is little you can do since you can not do it for them. Then there is ALNON and other support for you.


  2. Anonymous says:

    EMRD is amazing! I had PTSD and after five sessions I was able to work through it and no longer have flash backs or any of the other conditions associated with the disorder. Anyone who is stuck in addiction, depression and anxiety should do some research on this technique it is HELPFUL. Every person I know who tried it benefited from it.

    It is a life saver!

  3. All good points. And addiction is always easier than doing things to help yourself feel better. It’s the path of least resistance.

    I’m interested that you brought up EMRD. Many years ago, a therapist did that with me and to my surprise it WAS super-effective.

  4. yeah. it was really kinda weird so when it actually worked, no one was as surprised as me. Glad it helped you, too.

  5. Tyler Flood says:

    I believe there are drugs that used in a correct way can be good as medicine. Marihuana for example, it can be good to treat arthritis and seizures.

    But I don´t see how other drugs like cocaine, LSD or other drugs could be good for people.

    I believe marihuana should be legal in my country, Mexico. But I don´t think other drugs should be considered legal

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