I had intended to write a fairly humorous post called “Sophie’s Scary Bong” in which I would talk about how Sophie corrupted me and reintroduced me to the pleasures of weed with her her bong, which is indeed a scary looking piece of equipment.
But then as we were discussing the post Sophie and I realised that in many people’s opinion you can’t really talk openly about this subject and certainly not with any sense of reality. We have friends in other countries who would never talk about the various substances they use for various reasons for fear that some kind of authority may be monitoring what they write. Perhaps they do…
So let’s start from the beginning. There is so much misinformation and hypocrisy about drugs. We grow up in a world where drugs exist in a kind of twilight world between reality and fantasy, between legality and illegality and between insanity and common sense. In some ways all drugs are ridiculously lumped together as if they are a single terrible thing; and then they are split up arbitrarily between good drugs and bad drugs. Good drugs are the ones that reduce pain and cure illnesses (unless that drug is cannabis, of course) the bad drugs are the ones which can do you harm but which have enjoyable effects like alcohol and tobacco (except of course that alcohol and even tobacco are still socially acceptable pleasures in most parts of the world).
Still, when we are young we are told that drugs are bad. Drugs are the province of bad people, weak people and criminals. Nice people don’t do drugs. But then we begin to read and watch TV and we discover that in some walks of life some drugs seem to be pretty much part of the furniture. It seems that everyone from Sherlock Holmes to Elvis Presley; religious shaman, scientists, artists and writers all use drugs sometimes. But of course that is in that other world of other people who we read about and see in the media; but it’s not “real”people, not “nice” people, not the boy or girl next door… And then, shock horror, we see that nice boy next door smoking a spliff and we hear that dear old Aunty Alice was once arrested for being in possession of some illegal substances. Our comfortable world where nice people don’t do drugs is looking rather fragile.
But still we know the mantras. If we try drugs we are going to become junkies, our skin will age, we’ll start thieving to buy more drugs, we’ll lose our minds and our souls and we’ll die young, broken and unloved. Yet we have a few friends by this time who use recreational drugs and they don’t seem to be depraved junkies at all. And then we are offered something in a nightclub, and perhaps we try it, and perhaps we don’t die and perhaps we feel great…
Now before you go thinking this is going to be a blatantly pro drugs post that is completely dismissive of the dangers drugs can involve; you are wrong. From personal experience I can say the worst thing that ever happened to me was drug related, and it was very bad and it took me quite a long time to recover from. I would not wish that on anyone. I have also had to stand by helplessly when some of my friends have been suffering due to their own drug addiction or the addiction of people they love. And yes, I have cried at a few funerals of people who died far too young mainly as a result of drug use. And yet I do still smoke cannabis. I have experimented with quite a few things and enjoyed many of them. I don’t feel any desire to take any other drugs at this time of my life but I don’t rule out the possibility that I might one day…
So can we have an honest and sensible talk about drugs? Could we say something that can help our daughter to make sensible decisions when these temptations came her way?
The first thing is that we are not going to be hypocritical. We both smoke cigarettes, we both drink alcohol and for most of our adult lives we have both been occasional drug users. To begin from any other perspective would be a lie that any intelligent young person would soon see through. Moreover, our limited experience of the twilight world of drugs is not unique at all; most of the people we know and associate with have very similar life experience. I would venture to suggest that the reality is that most people in the western world have more experience of drugs than it is generally acceptable to admit. For many people drugs are part of life in one way or another.
Our view begins with the obvious fact that drugs are not all the same. Every chemical substance we introduce into our bodies has different effects, different advantages and different dangers. Some substances can kill you very quickly, while other substances may never kill you but could still change you or cause damage. Some substances can cure disease and or reduce pain and suffering but those very same things could also kill you if you take too much. In view of all this it seems utterly ridiculous to lump all drugs together as if they are the same thing.
People need to make informed choices and that means information should be openly available and discussed. And discussion should always begin with honesty.
Our second point is that the criminalisation of drug use only serves criminals, in fact it creates a whole industry for them and removes any possibility of control or standardisation for legal authorities. Pretty much all the the organised crime in the world and a large amount of terrorism is completely funded by illegal drug mafias. Moreover, what possible good does it do to brand hardened drug addicts or occasional drug users as criminals? In what way does that help them to overcome their problems?
Where we live it is legal to possess a certain amount of cannabis for personal use so Sophie and I are not breaking any laws. However even here we are aware that not far down the chain of supply there must be illegal activity going on at an international level. We wish that were not the case.
Personally we don’t think cannabis is any more harmful than tobacco or alcohol unless it’s used obsessively (and that would apply to practically anything else you can buy legally). It makes us angry that in some places you could in theory be arrested just for possessing cannabis while the bottles of spirits in your cupboard would be ignored and seen as harmless. We don’t want to make this whole post about cannabis/marijuana but would like to note that this substance has many beneficial medical effects and if it could be farmed legally it could become a life saving cash crop in many deprived parts of the world. Again we are appalled at the stupidity of gift wrapping this entire industry to the criminal fraternity.
We’d like to make the point that for as long as humans have existed they have used substances with mind/mood altering capabilities for pleasure, for medicine and for religious/shamanistic ritual. It is nothing new. It is nothing inherently bad. It is something human beings have always wanted, needed and enjoyed.
No drug is bad in itself. But how humans use, control and administer drugs can be damaging, harmful (in many ways) and incredibly stupid.
As we said, not all drugs are the same. We have never used heroine but we have known people who have and it nearly always ends badly. Therefore, based on real life experience we would strongly advise people not to use or even experiment with heroine. However even in this case we don’t think criminalising heroine use helps anybody except the criminals. Here in Switzerland there are several schemes by which heroine addicts can bypass the criminal fraternity and get their fixes in a legal and controlled way. Controlled meaning there is help and support to reduce their heroine use or get off it completely. Isn’t that a better philosophy?
Between heroine at one end and alcohol and cannabis (and even caffeine) at the other end of the scale there is a vast spectrum of substances that can be classified as drugs. Some are naturally occurring things like mushrooms while others are man made chemical cocktails. All of them can do harm but all of them can also be pleasurable to experience; if that were not the case nobody would ever use them.
And the fact is people do use them whether they are legal or not. A lot of people. Perhaps even the majority of people.
We have a daughter who is the most precious thing in the world to us. Of course we want her to live a very long, very happy and very healthy life. We don’t want her to suffer any problems or any ill health ever. But we do want her to live. When it comes to the time that she has to make choices about drugs we want her to be able to make informed choices based on facts and honesty. We hope she will find plenty of ways to enhance her life and have fun without using any drugs at all. But we are aware that like us, she may sometimes decide to take some risks in the ways she lives and enjoys her life. We want those to be informed risks. We want her and all young people to grow up in a world where there is some honesty and clarity. A world where the adults she meets don’t say one thing while secretly doing the opposite.
A world where adults are free and empowered to make adult decisions.
A world where law and taboo don’t make it impossible to speak openly and honestly about serious issues. Where we don’t have to lie about our lives.
And in that world we think there would be far fewer problems and far less risk to health associated with drugs.
For all our children.