Note: I am not advocating drug use. This is an informative article aimed to educate the readers on drugs by showing how stigmas develop, provide scientific evidence from studies and research into the danger and addictiveness of drugs and provide a foundation as to my view on drugs for future articles.
If you are continuing to read, please do so with an open mind as you will likely read things that will surprise you. Evidence is provided but may contradict your current views and knowledge.
Drugs. Whether you love them or your hate them, they are here to stay. Peoples views on drugs come from a variety of places including drug education at school, media articles, religious beliefs and word of mouth from friends personal experiences.
The most two common anti-drug arguments are:
- “Drugs are illegal. They wouldn’t be illegal if they weren’t bad.”
- “Drugs are bad. See what they did to that person on the news?”
Legality is an interesting thing. In Australia, it is legal, although highly unethical for people with stakes in oil to be part of environmental protection agencies. In Victoria, only licensed electricians are allowed to change lightbulbs.
This is an absurd law, and there are many others just like it that can be found in almost every countries justice system. The legal system has also let out prisoners prematurely, only for them to commit rape and murder and end up back in jail for good.
The legal system needs to be redesigned from scratch, with proper logic, current evidence and ethics to be the foundation for the new system. Until that day, I’ve chosen to base my opinions on my own research, logic, morals and scientific evidence rather than legal status.
Legal vs Illegal
It’s interesting to note that the prohibition era in the United States of America caused more harm than good. Here is a list of negative effects of the criminalisation of alcohol. They include higher organised crime rates, strain on the justice system and countless cases of physical harm.
Conversely, the decriminalisation and of drugs in Portugal has seen reduced drug use, reduced deaths and new HIV cases (caused by sharing needles), and reduced strain on the healthcare and legal system.
The quality of drugs can also be controlled, monitored and taxed so the government makes money and people will be ingesting chemically safe drugs. Currently, many people ingest chemically unsafe drugs that are mixed with harmful chemicals made by the illegal suppliers.
Some Background Information
Before we get in to how stigmas arise, I’m going to clear a few things up.
The types of users:
- The Recreational User – uses a drug (legal, controlled, or illegal) with the primary intention to alter the state of consciousness (through alteration of the central nervous system) in order to create positive emotions and feelings.
- The Addict – a person who is addicted to an illegal drug.
There is a huge difference between addicts and recreational users. It’s interesting to note that due to the lack of education, experience and stigmas, that recreational users are often seen by non-users as an addict, or someone who will inevitably turn in to an addict. It’s also interesting that the same people (generally) don’t see alcoholism as a major problem, or on the same level as drug addicts, when by definition alcoholism is the addiction to alcohol.
The Harm of Drugs
Contrary to popular belief, alcohol and tobacco are among the most harmful drugs. This study explains the data found below. In a nutshell it states alcohol is the most dangerous due the aggression it brings out, which increases the likelihood that people will commit a crime.
In alcohols defence, it also states that if heroin and crack cocaine were more accessible, they would probably rank higher than alcohol, but with current data these are the statistic. Tobacco isn’t dangerous in the short term, but it’s ranked so high because of the long list of long term impacts in can have.
In countries where the healthcare system is funded by tax-payers, the admission of users into the emergency department of hospitals has a negative effect on the economy.
This study not only confirms that alcohol dangerous, but shows an increase in alcohol related emergency room visits on the weekend, most of which are due to traumatic injury.
This study shows the breakdown of 198 patients by substances taken that led them to end up in the emergency room. In 73% of patients, only alcohol was abused, most frequently chronically (71%). In 13%, there was only illicit drug use, and in 14% alcohol abuse was combined with illicit drugs including cannabis (54%), cocaine (41%), amphetamines (39%) and opiates (39%).
Of course the above study is localised and a small sample, so here, here and here are some more statistics to back up the fact, not claim, that alcohol is a serious contender for the most dangerous drug.
How addictive are they?
One of the most interesting things when it comes to drug education is the lack of information on how addictive specific drugs are. The assumption is then made that all illegal drugs are extremely addictive and eventually everyone that uses will be ‘hooked’.
The reality is that when ranked by dependency ratings, alcohol and tobacco, two of the most available and dangerous drugs both physically and economically rank 6th and 3rd respectively. This comprehensive article explains it all in detail.
So where does the stigma come from?
The first thing we are taught about drugs is that they’re ‘bad’ and illegal for a reason. We then start to associate drugs with criminals and ‘lowlife’ people and as we get older, we’re taught about the negative physiological and psychological effects drugs have on the users.
This is taught in a shallow, unspecific way that makes the listeners think that if they touch drugs, they have a high chance of developing a mental illness or psychosis, or die. These are of course possibilities, as with any foreign substance you put in to your body, however they’re highly unlikely and based on factors such as genetic susceptibility to mental illness and current state of mind. Many legal medications can also have these severe side effects.
It’s interesting to note that because the governments class most illegal drugs in the same category as heroin and ice, that people assume all are as dangerous and addictive. Schools teach students using this information and they develop this common misconception, which has been proven false by the above studies.
A huge emphasis is made about illegal/illicit drugs and the negative physiological and psychological effects they have on the body. This is delivered with a negative bias and provides no information as to why people take the drugs, or how they can affect the person in a positive way, which many can.
The case studies used in schools are the most extreme cases of addicts, and we all know how illogical it is to base an entire argument on outliers. This further develops the stigma about drugs and their users. By the time we are of the age where drugs become more accessible, we have extreme images and stories engrained in our minds and are turned off by them. As I mentioned earlier, extreme cases are horrifying and inevitable and people must know what they are dealing with, but they are far from standard.
If I argued that no humans should eat peanuts, based on their being a small percentage of people who died, or nearly died from their allergies you would call me crazy. The same logic applies to arguing that all drugs are harmful.
It’s ironic how many students get diagnosed with ADHD and are prescribed with Ritalin, which can be habit forming, insomnia, headaches and nausea. On the same note, little is said about adverse reactions legal prescription medication such anti-depressants, painkillers, or other drugs such as Chantix, an anti-smoking drug that has been linked to numerous suicides can have. The reality is, all drugs, legal and otherwise can have negative effects that may vary from person to person, but many also have positive effects.
It’s interesting that most of the time you wouldn’t know if you were talking to someone that is a recreational user, because they are normal people. Instead of drinking, they chose to alter their state a different way. They are nothing like the extreme cases you see in the drug education class, but if they are open about their use, most people will look at them in a different light.
There was recently a story in which a young Australian says the ecstasy (MDMA) he took caused serious adverse health reactions, leaving him debilitated. While he may have taken a pill with MDMA in it, a more probable scenario was the other chemicals in the pill caused the problems, not the MDMA; or he may have mixed it with another unknown drug which when combined with MDMA had an adverse reaction. There are numerous articles to be found with similar cases, where the media draws massive attention to the dangers of specific party drugs without having the drugs tested to confirm the drugs in question, leaving the wrongly educated public to believe what they hear without research.
Friends can be a useful source of information when it comes to drugs, as they have first-hand experience with their effects, however many people take drugs thinking they are something when in reality they aren’t. Without proper testing, they could be taking something mixed with something else, or something different all together.
For example, a person may take a pill thinking it was MDMA, but it was MDA or speed. This will lead the user to associate that experience with MDMA, even though that’s not what they took. This can lead to negative experiences and misconceptions about specific drugs and their effects.
I used to have a huge, unjustified stigma against drugs to the point where I said I would never drink alcohol. I was a very judgemental person when I was younger. Eventually I cracked and had my first alcoholic drink just before my 18th birthday. From there I said I would never smoke marijuana because I associated it with all the drugs we were taught about in high school. I also didn’t want to try it because it’s often referred to as a gateway to other drugs, and I didn’t want to end up an addict.
After high school, I started a mechanic apprenticeship, a physically awkward job and had become a very stressed and anxious person. I had constant pain in my neck, back and hips and was getting deep tissue massages, seeing a chiropractor and getting acupuncture. All of these helped in the short term, but maintaining treatments was very expensive, and my job would reverse the effects of the treatment. I got to the point where I was ready to try anything.
I’d heard marijuana is a good muscle relaxant and mellows you out. Initially I was very hesitant to try it, but after some research, decided to do so for its medicinal properties instead of the high. I had a great experience and definitely felt a slight awakening where I became a little more open to ideas and less judgemental. I understand why we’re taught marijuana is a gateway drug, but I wasn’t interested in trying anything else after that.
I smoked a few times few times that year, but wasn’t a regular user. Around a year later some of my friends moved forward with more ‘illicit substances’. MDMA, speed, mushrooms, LSD, ketamine and GHB to name a few. I didn’t understand the whole culture or appeal, and had the motto “I don’t need drugs to have a good time”. During this time, I’d drink to excess when I went clubbing, and didn’t think of alcohol as a drug or understand how harmful it can be.
I’d always considered myself a deep thinker, and one of my friends suggested we have a magic mushroom day. At first my answer was a straight up no, with no hestiation. After some thought I was extremely hesitant, but decided to research the effects of them. After I understood what they did and had read numerous trip reports, I decided to try them.
At that point in time, that was the most profound experience of my life. I’d definitely grew significantly as a person, but as it was my first time I was more amazed at everything than anything else, so I didn’t take as much away from it as the next time I did them. I remember developing a deep appreciation for the sky, animals and music and would often catch myself staring at the clouds.
Around a year later, my friend invited me to a music festival, where I had decided, after extensive research to try LSD and MDMA. I also tried ketamine with little research, but had seen many friends do it and trusted them enough to know it wouldn’t likely harm me.
That weekend became the most profound experience of my life. I developed more into the person I wanted to be, or knew I was all along and embraced it more than I had done in the past. I had dropped the façade I had made to fit in and started to not care about people’s expectations and negative/uneducated opinions about things I’ve researched. My friend had given me the ultimate gift. The path to self-enlightenment and self-actualisation.
Now I’m not saying everyone needs drugs to be comfortable with themselves and their place in the world, but I am saying that certain drugs, specifically the MDMA and LSD helped me see things from a different perspective and appreciate things that I hadn’t even thought about appreciating, such as the sunset, the clouds and peoples’ individual beauty.
It also allowed me to feel affection towards woman again; something I hadn’t been able to do since my relationship ended and it opened my mind up to things I had stigma against, and freed me from it.
I decided that I would see a psychologist to work on my emotional health (something many men, including my prior self, wouldn’t do because of their pride). The drugs allowed me to see issues I hadn’t begun resolving and I thought I should get a professional opinion.
From a psychological point of view, my experiences had a positive impact on my neuroplasticity, which was confirmed by a psychologist. I knew I’d been struggling to move on from a relationship, supressing my anxiety and allowing things I couldn’t change to make me anxious, but I wasn’t accepting of this until after the weekend.
I want to make it clear that I do not have serious mental health issues, and would have seriously reconsidered taking the drugs on them without research as to the effects they can have on a specific condition. They can help some, but they can make others more severe. DO YOUR RESEARCH!
All these things I was suppressing had physical effects on my body and I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue, and prescribed with anti-depressants, a common western approach to treating almost any health problem. I want to note that I was never diagnosed with depression. but because anti-depressants can possibly help chronic fatigue patients, I was prescribed with them.
Many people report that anti-depressants were horrible for their bodies and emotional health. The irony being that they’re legal, and many people report positive experiences using illegal drugs.
Since then I’ve been to one more festival where I experienced an even more profound LSD trip and emotions brought on by the MDMA. It was hands down, the best weekend of my life.
The LSD trip was very dense, and the time dilation made it feel like months had passed, which was hard to come to terms with. I had to process what felt like over a months’ worth of experiences all at once. The 2 things I took away from the festival and LSD trip were; the motto “the time is now”, and how beautiful woman are and what qualities I want in my future partner.
I had a small comedown that lasted a few days, but I think it was more that I was missing the friends I’d made at the festival. It felt very similar to the post-travel depression that everyone talks about when they get back from a holiday, but would disappear whenever I wasn’t alone. Not a bad trade-off for the positive effects have lasted a month and counting.
And here I am today, with a few experiences with certain drugs that can have positive impacts on emotional and mental health, a different person. Backed up by the personality test I took prior to my experiences found here. I changed from the architect to the protagonist as the experiences have led me to be more accepting, less anxious due to living in the moment, and generally happier, more appreciative person.