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Friday, April 13, 2012

Mind-Altering Substances and the Fear of Understanding

"Death comes at you no matter what you do in this life, and to equate drugs with death is a facile comparison."
-Jerry Garcia

The idea that the mind free from chemicals is the best mind is at the heart of societies ingrained fear of drugs. The idea that a person is born with "normal" chemicals in their brain and outside ones should only be administered if there are deficiencies is a very conservative bent on the mystical organ of human thought and cognition.

The altering of neurophysiology is something to be explored by the brave psychonaut.

If a doctor can prescribe strong narcotics for physical and mental illness as slight as not being able to sleep, why not be able to try and make the spirit more whole by exploring the inner reaches of the brain and soul. If the average human can only harness 10% of their brain power then why should we make war against the use of chemicals to explore that 90% of the unknown. If space and the deep sea are both considered "final frontiers", why shouldn't the unknown super-computer held up by our chicken-neck be considered one as well?

Why would something native cultures use, like DMT-based Ayahuasca in South America and peyote buttons in Central America, to have spiritual experiences be shunned as archaic and backwards and pagan?

The Hallucinogenic cactus, Peyote
If there was a hallucinatory rite in Christendom would our ideas about these chemicals be different? I would say drastically so.

If Jesus had a taste for the potent hashish or opium I'm sure the bias of the Christian world would sway people in a different direction as far as acceptance of drug use.

It's not to say that all drugs are spiritually useful, even a firm libertarian might cringe at my ideal that all substances should be legal from consumption.

The simple question to ask yourself is "Would I shoot heroin if it was legal?" Most people would probably answer no to that question. But some would certainly try it, and it is in my mind an inalienable right for someone to have the freedom to do so unless their use or abuse of the drug affects others directly. Why should governments dictate what we put into our own bodies?

Instead drugs like heroin are used as foils to the drugs that pharmaceutical lobbyists and doctors prescribe to us that may act just like heroin (Oxycontin) or speed (Adderall), and in fact contain the same chemicals as illegal street drugs. But prescription drugs are hoisted onto a pedestal as "safe" even though no doctor is immune from misdiagnosing a condition, and of course the FDA would never let a dangerous drug slip through the cracks because the company producing it spent a billion dollars to do so. So our children are given speed and their parents are given narcotic sleep aides to sleep for the entire night. And the line separating "good drugs" from "bad drugs" is carved into stone.

Studies are beginning to reveal that prescription drugs can be far more deadly and addicting than illegal drugs, and coke sales don't profit Phizer. It is estimated that over 75% of college students use prescription ADD/ADHD medications like Adderall (amphetamines) and Ritalin (Methylphenidate) to help their studies.

Another argument for the legalization, regulation, and taxation of drugs is the purity factor. When I was in elementary school the D.A.R.E. (Dare Abuse Resistance Education) officer scared us by telling as "we wouldn't know what we were getting" from a drug dealer. Years later I laugh at the prospect of getting marijuana that is tainted at all, it is easy to spot any sort of inconsistencies with real marijuana. And most people can identify marijuana easily. But hard drugs are an entirely different story. Coke and MDMA can be cut with any number of things; other drugs such as speed, or baby laxative and more harmless fillers.

The average high school student cannot identify common cutters in their Ecstasy, the booming drug of our generation. The raver is a mainstream youth image, electronic music fills the radio stations 24/7. The younger people are just emulating the experienced ravers they here about and see at concerts. They take our lead into drug use. When I was in high school prescription painkillers were new on the scene and easy to get, but now "rolls", "skittles", and "beans" are all over my old high school. 

The times are changing. Snorting "bath salts" is all the rage. Fake marijuana like K-2; a direct result of the prevalence of the most hated weapons of the law; the drug test, is flying off the shelves as the DEA pushes it up the noses of monkeys to correctly classify, and ban, these synthetics as fast as possible. In a sense, a plant has been outlawed only to be replaced by a more dangerous synthetic substitute directly as a result of U.S. drug policy.

And the financial benefits of legalizing, regulating, and taxing drugs that generate billions of dollars annually are obvious. Take the cash from the black market and use it to fund our bloated government, that could lose the cash infusion.

Peoples' initial reaction, carefully crafted by our government, to drugs is an authoritarian one. The government can't tell me not to own a gun, but evil drugs?! No one should be able to enjoy them at all. The FDA is probably the most treacherous federal agency besides the IRS/DEA potent tandem that crushes everything in its path.

The one fact that undermines the drug war the U.S. government insists on fighting is this: people want to alter their consciousness, and the enforcement of law is barely an afterthought. Every drug bust leaves a dealer's competitors with a higher demand for their product. The laws of economics trumps the laws of society almost every time. Until it is less profitable for a kid in an urban ghetto to sell cocaine than get a "real" job, the drug war will never be over. Demand will never die for drugs in the U.S. or the world.

But why is this seemingly unquenchable desire for humans to experiment with chemicals viewed as dangerous? Surely holistic medicine is the result of centuries of experimentation with various healing methods. Experimentation with cause and effect is the basis of science as we understand it. Ask any scientist how he came to his or her breakthroughs in their field, they test and experiment and repeat until they find a suitable result. Science brought us drugs like LSD and MDMA anyway, so why deny that progress in civilization leads to an increasing dialogue on drugs, as drug companies crank out newer, more effective prescription drugs to help us sleep, get erections, and focus on work.

It is also prudent to mention that almost all now-illegal drugs have roots in legal medical practices and remedies. Not even a hundred years ago cocaine and heroin were both available over-the-counter in drug stores across the country. The reason the practice failed in the early days was the public was not educated to the risks of the ingredients in the remedies. Surely a well-regulated and taxed drug industry would involve labels and classifications of every single type of drug available.

The point is a basic one; how can on one hand our government put some substances out of our reach and with the other force feed us other, sometimes more addicting and volatile and less-researched than the "street drugs" they replace?

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