The war on drugs has been raging on since the Ronald Reagan administration. The ideology behind it is rather romantic. Protect the people by saving them from themselves. Is it really effective though? Or better yet, is it even worth the trouble?
I spent a great part of my younger years experimenting with various substances in my life. Cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana. Never anything major and never all at once. I found myself only being able to function with one vice at a time. Years later looking back, the substance that is labeled as illegal is the one I feel hampered me the least.
I began smoking Marijuana as a result of peer pressure when I was about 15. My buddies and I would roll a blunt, smoke it, listen to music and philosophize about life. Anytime a disagreement would ensue, we would laugh it off realizing how silly the bickering sounded. I quit a year later after becoming bored with it, but then began smoking again a couple of years later. The second time around was much of the same. Hang out, smoke and have a good time. I personally never had the inclining to go out and get violent. When there was no weed around, I never wanted to go out and commit a crime to attain some. It was simply something to easy the anxieties of day-to-day life.
I finally quit for good just before I turned 21 because it had become a habit. A crutch. When things got too stressful, especially in the loveless living situation I was in, I needed an escape. When I had a rough day at work, I had to light up. When I was in a foul mood, I had to smoke one to get out of it. I finally realized that it changed from something I would do socially to something I relied on. So I quit and dealt with my issues head on.
I started smoking cigarettes at the age of 18 roughly a year and a half after having open heart surgery, (edgy I know). At the height of my smoking I was up to just over a pack a day. I don’t know why either, I despised every last puff of those disgusting cancer sticks. Everyday hocking up phlegm, being out of breath after walking up a flight of stairs. Finally in the middle of one extremely dry and brutal summer in Arizona, I just quit in the middle of the pack. I would continue to have withdrawal symptoms every so often over the course of the next 5 years, but thankfully I never picked up the habit again. Especially since now I am witnessing a family member struggling with emphysema as a result of prolonged tobacco use.
I use to drink alcohol every so often during my High School years but it really picked up when I turned 21. I had some of my darkest days at the height of my drinking. I would be aggressive, depressed and overall not fun to be around. At one point I reached drinking a half of pint of 100 proof Vodka a night in between working full-time and going to school full-time. This time period lead me to find out I had sleep apnea as I would black out, while sober, during day-to-day activities. Driving behind the wheel or even doing something monotonous at work and next thing I know a block of time had passed and I wasn’t aware what had happened during that time. It would feel as if I suddenly woke up out of a dazed slumber. One time in particular I was driving down the road and suddenly I was 5 miles down the street and had missed my destination but well over a mile or two. I had no recollection of stopping at a light or switching lanes. I later learned that drinking causes your body not to fully settle while asleep. That mixed with the sleep apnea would cause my brain to go into auto-pilot and take micro-naps to make up from the lack of sleep. It took me years to slow down the drinking and even to this day I occasionally drink until it becomes a habit and force myself to take some time off of it. Alcoholism runs in my family and I’ve even lost a grandfather to compilations caused by alcoholism. Alcohol is America’s drug of choice and even though people constantly die from drinking and driving; or your occasional husband beats wife while drunk news story, no one is trying to place a ban on alcohol.
From my personal experience, the two substances I could pick up from any local corner store had much harsher effects on me and those around me. All in all I came to the conclusion that the problem may not be the substance but what was going on with me internally during each one of those incidences. In reality I think this is the case with everyone. It’s not the substance but the person and what is going on with them physiologically. Some people are prone to addictive behavior and it can manifest itself in a multitude of ways.
I read an interview recently where Russell Brand talked about his drug problems of the past and he surprisingly said something remarkably brilliant. For him, the drugs weren’t the problem but the solution because through them he learned that something was going on internally that needed to be addressed. It just so happen to be the drug abuse that shed light on the problem but if he hadn’t of done drugs, those problems were still there and would have surfaced through other means. Powerful stuff.
Many foreign nations have tried alternative options to fighting drug problems including decriminalizing them all together. Switzerland, Germany, the United Kingdom and many more countries in Europe have tried a heroin assisted treatment program. Instead of throwing heroin addicts in jail, they’ve used synthetic heroin to wean addicts off of the narcotics and have noticed drastic improvements. Portugal did a 10 year study after decriminalizing drugs and reported that problematic drug users had declined as while as crime and STD’s due to lower numbers of prostitution. They also noticed an increase in people going to rehab. Remove the social stigma of being a user of illegal drugs and people are more open to admitting they have a problem.
I won’t even dive deep into the abuse of prescription pills in America. I know everyone has seen a commercial about the newest pill on the market that your doctor can subscribe you to battle aliment A but in turn gives you side effects A-Z. Everyone has seen videos asking, “Have you taken Pill Blank and attempted suicide? You might be entitled for a large settlement.” How about when the FDA pulls Drug B off the market, even though said FDA is responsible for it being on the market to begin with. It even gets scary when you research how many school shootings have been at the hands of people “raised” on various prescription pills. There has been a ton of research into different ways you can harvest marijuana for more natural remedies to aliments, but meanwhile pharmaceuticals are multibillion dollar a year machine and through propaganda spread for nearly a century now many people still refuse to take medical marijuana seriously.
Getting back to the topic at hand, another issue with the war on drugs is simple; it doesn’t seem to be solving anything. Drugs have never been cheaper, stronger and easier to come across. The only thing the war on drugs has done is increased our prison numbers with many non-violent drug offenders. Add to the fact that private prison systems make money off of the amount of inmates housed and you have a whole other conflict of interest.
Now I won’t pretend to be a Sociologist and America’s a huge country with a system that has been run a certain way for a long time. I’m not saying to decriminalize drugs and tomorrow everything will be better. I’m simply stating that our way isn’t working the way we would like it to and maybe it’s time to make adjustments…
Shane Smith from Vice did an entire 7 piece series on how America’s war on drugs is actually increasing the power of the drug cartels in Mexico. Surprisingly Mitt Romney’s family, without his support, are the main one’s fighting the cartels. Check it out..