The Top 10 Things I Know About Drugs

By Lunar Loops · Jun 3, 2006 · ·
  1. Lunar Loops
    Interesting article from :

    The Top 10 Things I Know About Drugs
    By Tony Newman, AlterNet. Posted June 2, 2006.

    We have to learn how to live with drugs -- because they aren't going anywhere.

    I know a lot about drugs and the drug war, both personally and professionally. Drugs have had a positive and a detrimental impact on my life. I have laughed, played and found inspiration while intoxicated. I have also struggled, fought and cried because of my addiction to drugs.
    I have spent the last six years working for an organization that is working to reform drug laws. I have read thousands of newspapers articles, had thousands of conversations and spent thousands of days thinking about drugs. What follows are the top 10 (plus one) things I have learned from my immersion with drugs and the drug war.
    1. Drugs are everywhere. Despite a $40 billion a year "war on drugs" and political speeches about a "drug-free society," our society is swimming in drugs. Cigarettes, sugar, alcohol, marijuana, Prozac, Ritalin, Viagra, steroids and caffeine. The vast majority of Americans use drugs on a regular basis. People always have and always will.
    2. Different people have different relationships with different drugs. My wife is someone who can enjoy an occasional cigarette and only smokes when she drinks. I am an addict who cannot control my cigarette problem. If I have one cigarette, I will end up smoking a pack a day. Some people have serious problems with alcohol and can't enjoy even a single drink. I can handle alcohol and enjoy a drink or two some nights, leave it alone on others, and I rarely have negative experiences with it. Different strokes for different folks.
    3. People use drugs for joy and for pain. Many people enjoy using mind- and body-altering substances. How many of us enjoy having some drinks and going out dancing? How many of us enjoy a little smoke after a nice dinner with friends? Many people bond with others or find inspiration alone while high on drugs.
    On the flip side, many people self-medicate to try to ease the pain in their lives. How many have us have had too much to drink to drown our sorrows over a breakup or some other painful event? How many of us smoke cigarettes to deal with anxiety or stress?
    4. Drug abuse does not discriminate, but our drug policies do. Rush Limbaugh, Noelle Bush and Patrick Kennedy remind us that drug addiction does not discriminate. Unfortunately, our drug policies do. Ninety-three percent of the people incarcerated under New York's draconian Rockefeller drug laws are black or Latino, despite equal drug use among blacks and whites. Treatment for the privileged, jail for the poor.
    5. Relapse happens. Anyone who has tried to quit cigarettes knows that relapse happens. I have unsuccessfully tried to quit cigarettes 15 times. While we know that drug treatment is more humane and more effective than prison, it is not a silver bullet. Many people will quit, relapse and need support to quit again.
    6. Smoking five cigarettes is better than smoking 20. Using marijuana is better than using heroin. Many well-intentioned people think drugs are terrible and abstinence is always the answer. I believe that progress can be made, even if someone continues to use drugs. My 70-year-old landlord is a pack-a-day smoker. After some serious health problems, he is now down to smoking two cigarettes a day. This is progress. Some people who have struggled with heroin have been able to quit heroin, but still use marijuana. Our criminal justice system and many in the abstinence-only treatment world would view this as a failure and send the marijuana smoker to jail. I say congrats on giving up heroin. Keep it up.
    7. Drug abuse is bad, but the drug war is worse. Locking someone up in a cage for using marijuana or some other drug when no harm has been done to anyone else is cruel and inhumane. People who prohibit clean syringes to reduce the spread of HIV have blood on their hands. Denying financial aid to students who have a drug offense is counterproductive. Many of our country's laws are more harmful than the substances they are trying to combat.
    8. Prohibition doesn't work. Prohibition is responsible for most of the violence associated with drugs. We tried to prohibit alcohol in the 1920s. It did not get rid of alcohol, but it did create a black market for hooch, and empowered and enriched violent gangsters like Al Capone. Marijuana and cocaine are not responsible for the drug war shootouts. What is responsible is the fact that both are worth more than gold because they are illegal. It is the underground trade of these drugs that causes people to kill each other over the right to sell them. No one is shooting anyone else over a Budweiser anymore.
    9. Drugs and the drug war touch most families. Almost every family in America has to deal with drug addiction or the war on drugs. Millions of people have a loved one behind bars on drug charges. Many millions more have struggled themselves or have a loved one who has dealt with addiction to illegal or legal drugs. By declaring a "war on drugs" we have declared a war on ourselves.
    10. We have to learn how to live with drugs, because they aren't going anywhere. The drug war has been waged over the last 30 years. Currently we have 500,000 people behind bars on drug charges. We spend $40 billion a year, and despite the decades of war, incarceration rates and money spent, drugs are as plentiful as ever and easily accessible. We have to accept that drugs have been around for thousands of years and will be here for thousands more. We need to educate people about the possible harm from drug use, offer compassion and treatment to people who have problems and leave in peace the people who are causing harm to no one.
    *Bonus point: The public is ahead of the politicians. The majority of Americans supports treatment instead of incarceration. Californian voters passed Proposition 36 in 2000. Since its passage, more than 60,000 people have received treatment instead of jail for their nonviolent drug offenses. Eleven states have approved medical marijuana for sick and dying patients. It is the timid politicians who are resistant to change. We need to continue to demonstrate to our leaders that we want an end to the war on our families. If the people lead, the leaders will follow.
    Tony Newman is communications director for the Drug Policy Alliance.

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  1. IHrtHalucingens
    Amen to that. Great article. Very sensible and true.
  2. raven3davis
    Hmmm SWIM thought the number one thing would have been

  3. KorSare
    I agree with all ten points made in the article, with an emphasis on the education aspect of drugs. The more unbiased, truthful information that people know, the better society will function with the presence of drugs, which as stated, is here to stay.

    And I agree, the drug war does waste a large amount of funding on wasteful prosecutions and enforcement of dumb laws.... however, I don't believe it has been a total loss. While it is true that with any outlawed substance, a black market develops, and the criminal activities associated with that market ensue - I think it is necessary to regulate and control physically addictive substances - cocaine, opium, and heroin falling into that category. And perhaps new laws should be written for hallucinogens or disassociatives, giving any persons under-the-influence and engaging in criminal activities absolutely no lenience from their crimes.

    I doubt that will happen anytime soon.

    But from the looks of it, it seems the world is headed in the right direction.

    Anyway, kudos for a good article.
  4. Queueing
    I used to be of the same mindset. Then I reached the age of reason.
  5. Riconoen {UGC}
    Awesome article. Put's the drug warriors in thier place thats for sure.
  6. jdrug
    Perhaps you can elaborate and/or clarify your point, because creating more laws and punishing more people for using drugs is a concept that seems to directly contradict points 7, 8, and 10. Are you saying "no leniency for people being under the influence" or are you indicating drug influence should be an aggravating factor when prosecuting crimes?

    It seems ridiculous to arbitrarily declare certain substances as "more illegal" than others and to send someone to jail for ingesting a substance. Where does it end?
  7. anj0vis
    very compact and good list.. cannot agree much more.
  8. stoneinfocus
    I, too, disaggree with the point of heroin being worse than MJ.
    if one needs h, why the hell shouldn´t he get it in a clean inexpensive way?
    It then wouldn´t have more impact on the users health than smoking MJ or smoking in general and the addiction-arguement is none, because it´s unconfortable but more a cosmetic byproduct, than a danger.
  9. grandbaby
    ^ I think his point lost a little in his straining to be concise and catchy. What he's saying, I think, is that since mj is not physically addictive in the way that heroin is, it's better for addicts who are trying to kick to be allowed to smoke mj with impunity rather than being incarcerated for either offence.... kind of a blurry point anyhow...

    I agree with pretty much the whole article. But sometimes I'm at a loss when "straight" media talk about drugs, because they tend to lump drugs all together and place an emphasis on addiction, which for most casual drug users is not a factor. There is usually little distinction made between the use and the abuse of drugs. "Drugs" are usually assumed to be illegal drugs, not the caffeine, alcohol and nicotine that fuel the straight workday. (Kudos to the author for noting two legal addictive and destructive drugs and treating them the same as other, illegal, drugs.) When he leaves readers with the final message about "treatment instead of incarceration" you must agree with the basic idea — keep drug users out of jail! — but wonder whether, under the kind of blanket reform that might — might — someday happen in the US, the weekend marijuana smoker would be sent to rehab, which is as ridiculous as sending a weekend (or even daily!) beer drinker.

    This is what it boils down to:

  10. El Calico Loco
    Drugs don't need to be regulated and controlled; deceptive and violent people need to be regulated and controlled.

    If someone commits a murder, they are responsible. Period. If they did so under the influence of ethanol or DXM (or reefer madness ;) ), then they are responsible because they chose to take the drug - without a sober sitter - in the first place. If someone engages in burglary or con-artistry to support their hopeless addiction, we may feel more sympathy toward them than we would toward another thief - but they are still responsible for their actions.

    My friend Swim has used lots of alcohol, DXM, cannabis, and psychedelic research chemicals. He's smoked crack once and meth twice. At no time in his life has he ever raised a fist in anger. At no time has he stolen anything from anyone. Hell, he can't even tell lies. It hurts him.

    Drugs don't make people violent...stuff like cocaine and alcohol just bring the Inner Child Asshole to the forefront. This egocentric little bastard is the secret shadow persona of far too many "adults." It's not the drug inside's the jerk inside them.

    (Swim's inner child is a happy, silly little bear who hugs people and makes them laugh.)
  11. sardoc
    SWIM thinks this was a great article and does agree with your points of view
  12. The Doors
    Good article, pretty much summarizes how most people that know that any drug can be used recreationally as long as done responsibly. It is also stating the positive and negative aspects that can come with drugs but overall all points are fair. Good read!
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