PLEASE keep in mind that my future diaries won't be controversial opinion such as this. But it's important for you to know who I am and what I think. Perhaps the fact that it's controversial is one reason I am posting it at 2am. Perhaps the other is it took 4 hours to write.
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Are Drugs Bad?
It seems to be a simple question, right? "Drugs" are illegal, and they clearly ruin lives. So they must be bad, right? Well, quite honestly, my opinion is a resounding "NO!"
That might seem a bit shocking, and it really shouldn't be. Let me ask you another question. Are guns bad? I imagine some of you would say yes, and some would say no. The reason some would say no is because guns alone do nothing - they can't be bad if they do nothing. They are a tool, and only in the hand of someone do they become, as some people would say, "bad." Guns may appear to be for just one thing - to kill - but that isn't the case (in an ideal world, at least.) For example, the police use guns - at least they try to - to disable, ideally to save lives. This power is often abused, which is a very relevant point to make in this analogy. But drugs are not guns.
What is a Drug?
A drug, according to the medical definition, is a substance that alters the way your body is functioning. Sounds like a pretty broad definition here, no? Doing something as simple as taking a step alters the way your body is functioning. But drugs are very different, and unique, in that they are a substance, something you put into your body via various methods, often orally, that can change the way your body functions in so many different ways - essentially infinite different ways - providing an extremely powerful device, or tool. It's this instant ability to change yourself that creates the problem with non-medical drug use, and I will get in to that further when I tell you my story. But drugs aren't just for recreation. They are used for medical purposes - miracles such as penicillin (which technically isn't really a drug according to the clinical definition, but that's besides the point,) which can save lives. Drugs can save lives, allievate pain and physical suffering, and even assist with mental illness. I have some major issues with the mental illness part, in some instances and uses, but that's for another diary. And then there is "recreational drug use", right? Medical and recreational? Apparently not.
Drugs can be used for religious purposes, such as Native Americans for example who used a meriad of psychotropic substances for spiritual enlightenment, and the Rastafarians who used marijuana as another example. [Note: The Rastafarians brought a case to the supreme court arguing their religious freedoms entitle them to use marijuana. The supreme court shot them down, arguing that the consitutional right of freedom of religion doesn't trump the law.] Who are we to tell these cultures that they are wrong on a matter such as religion and spirituality? Many users of these so-called "soft" drugs would argue very strongly that they are not doing what they are doing for recreation.
Drugs can also be used as a tool, such as caffeine for example. People certainly don't use caffeine for recreation - it's not fun - they use it as a tool and to enhance their lives. Cigarettes would also fit in to this category (split, though, perhaps.) Many other drugs, which can be used for recreation, can also be used for enhancement and as a tool. For example, cocaine, which unlike caffeine most definitely can be used for recreation, for fun, can be used as a tool, such as a stock broker or college student who needs it to get through their careers or classes. I am not going to argue that doing so is OK - but I will argue that it is, much like a gun, a tool - and one that is feasible to be used responsibly - although it's a slippery slope, and another thing I will address soon enough. Whether it's OK or "bad" or whatever - they can be used as a tool regardless.
One only needs to read "recreational drug use" the talk page for the topic on Wikipedia to see just how difficult it can be to try to slam everything with a label. We, as a society, feel the need to label everything, in order to pretend we understand it and decide what category ("bad", "evil", "good", etc.) it falls in to, and it all ties together. Doing such things also causes stigma and preconceptions, such as calling marijuana a "recreational drug" reinforces the (invalid) notion that it has no medicinal value.
Let me give you another example on the overly broad definition: for example, is sugar a drug? It is a substance that alters the way the body functions. But there is a difference, and that difference is that sugar is a natural substance that the body needs. So we try to subcategorize and make up definitions that aren't really all that accurate, which ends up leaving us with "medical treatment" and "recreation." That is, if we start using the standard definitions.
Obviously, there are drugs that can both be used for "recreation" (which in quotes, as used here, includes the other possibilities I have described,) as well as for medicinal purposes. The obvious example is opiates, which includes heroin. [Editor's Note: I don't think I made it clear in my previous diary, but there is no difference between opiates, including heroin, morphine, oxycontin(oxycodone/percocet), hydrocodone, dilaudid(hydromorphone), demerol, codeine(slightly unique in that it's a pro-drug, it's essentially just oral morphine with a ceiling), etc.) They all, except for a small group of exceptions which are in a slightly different category, have the exact same mechanism of action. There is no difference between them - EXCEPT - how they go about getting to that mechanism. How fast they get to it, how long they last, how "strong" their are, etc.] Heroin is not used in the USA for medicinal purposes, but it IS in other countries, including the UK (last I checked.) But many other opiates are. Anyway, the point I was making, is that opiates can both a cure and a cause of agony. They are used for both medicinal purposes and "recreational" purposes.
I want to take a small detour into the Controlled Substances Act briefly, as it follows this train of thought.
About the Controlled Substances Act (the CSA)
There is a miriad of drugs that can be used both for "recreation" as well as for medicinal purposes (reminder: recreation in quotes (as used in this diary) means recreation as well as all the other non-medical possibilities.) The Controlled Substances Act draws a distinct line in the sand between those with medicinal value and those without. It's called Schedule I and Schedule II. But let me first explain what exactly this act is.
The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (warning for paranoid users: DEA site link), furthermore abreviated as the CSA, is THE (federal) drug law. It was passed by congress and essentially initiated the so-called "war on drugs." It essentially superseeded all previous (illegal) drug laws and made this one massive all-encompasing law regulating any drug that has "recreational" value. All further drug laws passed merely amend this law, such as the DATA of 2000 mentioned in the heroin treatment diary. It stipulates all laws regarding illegal drug use, and sets up a system regarding how we prescribe and regulate medicinal drugs with recreational value. It created 5 "schedules." Schedule I are drugs that have no medicinal value and are simply illegal. It is very important and interesting to note that due to the shortsidedness of this legislation marijuana and heroin are placed in the same "schedule." It doesn't matter to them as long as they don't see medicinal value in the drug. Schedule II starts the drugs that have medicinal value, but have the highest potential for abuse, and it works up with less potential and less potential until it reaches Schedule V. In reality, there are only three real schedules. Schedule I - illegal drugs. Schedule II - medicinal drugs available by prescription, but in the eyes of the DEA are so bad that they require the harshest of regulations - and currently their crusade has grown so large that most doctors simply won't write Schedule II Prescriptions (pharmacies need to account for every single pill in their inventory for this schedule, FYI, and the DEA's crusade has recently been extended to pharmacists who simply dispense a prescription for what the DEA views as "too much".) Then there is Schedule III to Schedule V, which has little regulatory and stigmatic difference between them.
Schedule II mostly contains opiate drugs, barbituates (hardcore downers that are the most dangerous drugs known to man in any sense of the word, but are necessary, mostly in inpatient hospital settings), and the hardcore stimulants. (It also contains, get this, cocaine! Yep, cocaine has medicinal value - IIRC only as a topical cream although I could be mistaken as to other uses. I will return to this, as I said. Needless to say, you won't be seeing a prescription for cocaine anytime soon, and I wouldn't be surprized if it's upgraded sometime soon.)
Schedule III contains the "soft" opiates - only two, really, hydrocodone and codeine (in most preparations). It also contains the weaker barbituates, which are used to control seizures in the more severe cases.
Schedules IV and V contain a meriad of substances - benzodiazepines (common tranquilizers, which have a meriad of possible uses, but are very addictive despite what the drug manufacturers tell you,) other sleeping pills, soft stimulants, opiate drugs that work through different less-addictive pathways (you won't find these on the street,) etc.
That is all I have to say on the CSA for now, and I will return to it in a later diary. It was a bit of a detour, but still relevant nonetheless, and something I thought would be interesting. Back to our topic.
So, Are Drugs Bad?
So we get back to that "basic question." Are drugs bad? My answer was no, and I gave a ton of background information and some initial thoughts to help us get better in to this. First of all I wanted to make the basic point that drugs are a tool, a device, that is nothing until used. And they can be used in many ways. So obviously the blanket assertion that "drugs are bad" is blatantly incorrect. So then we came to "recreational" drugs (when used as such). Are "recreational" drugs bad? Well, not really. As I made clear, "recreational" drugs doesn't necessarily mean recreational drugs (again, when used as such.) Psychotropic drugs of many kinds (such as marijuana and "magic mushrooms" are mostly harmless in the long run and can be used, as considered by some people, for spiritual growth and enlightenment. Is that really the best way to go? Is it our place to really say, especially not knowing the specific situation? And that's very important - the specific situation. [Let me just say real quick that Acid is one very special exception to what I said about psychotropics - which is why I said "of many kinds" - in that it causes permanent changes to your psyche. Whether that is something you are prepared for is up to the individual to decide - which he may decide rightly or wrongly - I will explain.]
Let me get a little more to the point before I get too far out there.
Are Drugs Bad - The Important Point
The point is that drugs are not bad, and drugs are not the problem, and I will tell you why. This is a fundamental concept that many addicts fail to address. As long as they keep blaming their problems on drugs - instead of themselves - they will fail at recovery. People use drugs, recreationally (no quotes), in most cases, to fill a hole. That hole is different for everyone. It usually comes down to a basic lack of happiness - one that may have a genetic predisposition, as indicated by recent evidence, which I will add in an update. But it could be a miriad of different things, different "mental illnesses." I would strongly argue that those that have problems with drugs don't really have problems with drugs - they have problems with themselves. When drugs are used in this way they simply bring to the surface all that is underneath. YES, there are some drugs, such as heroin, which rewire the brain to screw it up even more - which is exactly why they shouldn't be using drugs in the first place. But contrary to popular belief, most people who use heroin do NOT go on to become addicts. Can you tell me why this is? I certaintly think I can. The only plausible explanation, seems to me, is that these people who do go on to become addicts have that hole that heroin fills perfectly. So they have found their crutch. Heroin also causes physical addiction - a major problem - and one with any rational though process wouldn't touch. But people do. Why? Because it fills that hole, whatever it may be, it solves that mental illness, whatever it may be, and their problems are gone - and such an extreme power of being able to control your ups (and they are some ups) and downs is simply irresistible to these people.
So are drugs bad? No, drugs aren't bad. Drugs, when used irresponsibly by people due to the problems they have, are bad. Drugs aren't bad. Using drugs to fill holes in your life is bad. And telling people that they (drugs) are the forbidden fruit is exactly the inticement these people need to give it a try.
I mentioned that heroin addicts have "found their crutch." Everyone has a crutch, everyone has an addiction. It's a necessary neurosis to get through this modern world of the absurd, to be a bit existential. Some people have healthy addictions, ones that make them happy in a normal and productive way. Some people do not - they are simply depressed, a condition that our society, including modern medicine, has really found no way to cure. So they turn to drugs. That is bad, and in this case, the use of the drug is bad. But, you might be thinking, drugs are REALLY bad in these cases. And indeed they are - they are one of the worst ways to fill holes in your life. One of the reasons for this is the instant gratification I mentioned way up there in this diary. In this society, there is nothing more tempting and fulfilling (temporarily) than instant gratification. But if not drugs, believe me, they will find something else. Sex, food, whatever. Yes, at face value, these things may seem more inocuous than drugs. But they are, in reality, not all that much. People who have major problems in their lives will bring these problems into their addiction, and whatever it is, it won't be pretty. Drugs are usually just the easiest way to do it for the worst off of us - the forbidden fruit, the instant gratification - it just all adds up to the perfect solution. This is why it is vital for those raising children to solve their problems instead of ignoring them. This is what happened to me, for sure.
And this turns in to a vital concept for quitting drugs. Until the hole is plugged productively, until the root of the problem that caused you to turn to drugs in the first place is solved, you will never get clean. And THIS is (but one reason) why I advocate maintenance treatment for heroin addicts. You simply cannot solve these problems overnight, and maintenance treatment gives you the freedom to do so without (in most cases) the issues of relapse and further decay down the spiral.
I'd like to mention another thing about addiction. Not physical addiction, which I addressed, and which is considered "the easy part" by addicts - and for a very good reason. It's not the physical addiction - it's the psychological addiction. And this psychological addiction is often partially a placebo effect. You have all seen the joke about the guy who is high off his rocker only to find out what he was smoking wasn't even real. Addiction, psychologically, is much of the same. You want to fill that hole. And if you haven't, if you haven't addressed the root of the problem, your mind will keep jumping to drugs, the only thing you know to fill it, in a way that is irresistable. And yes, in cases of drugs such as heroin, it provides real relief from those holes. But in many cases, also including heroin, it is at least partially a placebo effect.
Bringing it into drugs in general, If what you are told what you are given will solve your problems, believe me, it will in most cases, even if it's a sugar pill. Even heroin addicts given a shot of nothing, being told it's heroin, will occassionally identify it as heroin - especially if their physical addiction is minimal or nonexistant. No one wants to admit they are fooling themselves, believe me, I know it's tough - but it's simply a fact of life. This was made blatantly clear to me when I saw some of the stuff being sold on the street. Stuff that has some mild CNS (central nervous system) effects, but for sure, has no recreational value. Yet people don't seem to realize it! I will get more into this if asked.
Finally, I'd like to mention that drugs can be used socially with very little problems if any at all. Alcohol is the perfect example of this. It is also the perfect example of a drug that has significant problems associated with it's (improper) use - serious addiction with life-threatening withdrawals, negative behavior - including to society in general - such as violence, heavy use can be life-threatening in itself, I could go on and on. Yet alcohol is drank by the truckload day after day by social drinkers with no real problems. This only underscores the point that I am about to address: the root of the problem of people with drug problems. Heroin, too, can be used en masse by troops, such as in Vietnam, but when they came home, a vast majority (but not all) of them were able to drop their habits with little issue? Why is this? The reasonable explanation, seems to me, is that the root of the problem is gone - except in the cases of those who couldn't drop their habits.
Even heroin, believe it or not, can be used responsibly (relatively speaking) by addicts who just can't quit. There are addicts out there, although you wouldn't know them, that's for sure, that manage to - in face of their inability to go clean - use heroin as responsibly as humanly possible. I can point you to such people, but I would rather not do that to them.
So, to summarize, are drugs bad? No, they aren't. Using drugs to fill holes (which may or may not be genetic) is bad - and, unfortunately, in many cases, the user doesn't realize this is the case. Let me make it very clear: using drugs to fill holes is VERY bad. But if not drugs, there will always be something else. Yes, drugs can be especially bad when used to fill holes - no doubt about it. But prohibition only inflames this instead of solving the problem and helping to address the ROOT of the problem. Seems common in American Politics and culture, no?
Onwards to politics...
The Fear and Blame game: the Oh-So-Convenient Political Tool
This all comes down to the whole "war on X" game the (US) government loves to play, and quite to their benefit (in very crooked ways.) I have three words for you: label, blame, and fear. Label everything, because the unknown is scary, Blame something else for problems that you (or your society, or your government,) is at least partially responsible for, and invoke fear, fear, and more fear. I am sure you know what I am talking about. Ignore the root of the problem, as that would be just to frightening to address, and focus on something tangible you can blame for everything. The government has found this works miracles and allows them to do so many things they otherwise couldn't. With UN Mandated drug prohibition (thanks to the good 'old USA), the US can make drugs illegal everywhere - and use it as a reason to do just about anything anywhere. You become the global police, in the name of stopping "evil." We now have terrorism in place of drugs, and one would hope this could mean the end of the drug war - although certainly not under Bush. Not that terrorism is a better substitute - in fact, even from my perspective, it's far worse - as it can destroy our civil liberties and justice entirely.
I will write a whole diary on this, probably the next one or the one after that, as I said assuming I have an audience, but I wanted to just touch upon it, as it's very relevant to this diary.
My Story (names have been changed to protect the guilty)
I was going to write my whole story, but there simply isn't the room in this diary. If there is interest, I will devote a whole diary to it. But I will address the points that are relevant to this diary, at least. Either in the comments, if that is what is necessary, or I will edit the diary and add it here. In any case, as I said, I will devote a whole diary to my story, if you want to hear it. Believe me, there is plenty to tell.