PEOPLE have been getting high for thousands of years, and there's nothing that will stop them.
They seek out different states of mind for different reasons - they want to experiment or escape or feel pleasure or avoid pain.
Poor old Wacko Jacko chose legal drugs - lots of them - and he wasn't alone.
People are endlessly inventive. They will always find a different sort of poison to self-medicate with. If they can't get alcopops, they'll get cheap wine.
If they can't get cheap wine, they'll make moonshine rum.
If they can't make moonshine rum, they'll drink something else.
If people can't get speed on the streets, they'll run a car through a chemist's window and steal cold and flu tablets and make their own.
They'll smoke plants they find in their back yard or help themselves to a parent's medicine cabinet.
Or if they have the time and the money they'll doctor-shop - like Michael Jackson reportedly did - and get myriad bottles of colourful pills made to bring you up or pull you down, and they will concoct their own special way to get out of touch with reality.
They always have.
People have been getting high for as long as they've been making music and it's about time we stopped thinking of drug taking as a dirty disgrace and start treating it as a public health issue.
Opium, cannabis and hallucinogens have been important parts of trade, of history, of religious and spiritual enlightenment.
Some of our best musicians were addicted to drugs or used them for inspirational flights of fancy. Poets, writers and philosophers - from Keats to Shelley - took opium.
Society is full of functioning drug users who look at gritty black-and-white ads telling them that speed will make them dig up the skin on their arms and feel nothing, because that is not them.
Drugs are not some pure evil.
They are chemicals used for various ends by a wide range of people.
Sometimes, those people are in dire mental straits and need all the help they can get to deal with their inner demons. Sometimes, people mess around and try a few things, then move on and have a productive and useful life.
The effect of drug addiction on a person's life can be devastating.
So can binging. Anyone who has had a serious hangover with all its shaking anxiety and pervasive toxicity, knows alcohol is a drug - and a depressive one at that.
Emergency specialists will tell of the toll the serious amphetamines take - the violence, the wild and unwieldy aggression.
But most of them also say alcohol is worse, that it is the bigger evil.
Drugs have a long and rich social history, but they have become a moral battleground.
While we condemn these drugs on the one hand, declare war on them, compete to be the very toughest on drugs that we can be, we allow other drugs to become a normal part of life. We normalise the pills and potions made by those other drug lords, Big Pharma.
Governments have to be seen to be doing something.
So they do something. They act tough on illicit drugs. But it's not proving to be the right thing.
Prohibition of alcohol did not work, and neither did zero tolerance. It's pointless and expensive to try banning drugs.
The only realistic approach is to work out the point at which it starts destroying lives and impacting communities and tackle that.
We need to listen to the people who are studying why people are ruining their own lives with drugs - whether they are drugs bought from a stinking back alley or a man in a white coat.
What is it in people's lives that drive them to self-destruct on alcohol or on Demerol or on ice?
Society has categorised drugs, but the categories they have chosen are moral, not medical, and that needs to change.
By TORY SHEPHERD
June 30, 2009 08:30am