image by: Chris Potter
As medical science advances, the development of new drugs, along with increased understanding of oldies but goodies, "just say 'no'" will become ever more dubious advice. But what answers can we find in the world of drugs?
Let's be frank. Even if you feel Ronald Reagan was history's greatest president, "Just Say No," a bit of drug-war propaganda coined by his wife, was sheer idiocy. Sure, some drugs are damn bad for you, but valuating all drugs based on the government's unscientific designations is as ludicrous as imagining that the best way to keep kids from messing with stuff that might do them harm is as simple as providing them with a three-word phrase.
Today drugs are a bigger part of American life than ever, as scientists re-evaluate illicit substances and invent new ones. As a result, an increasingly pertinent question is: Should I take drugs?
Of course, you already do. Caffeine is a drug. Alcohol is a drug. Ibuprofen is a drug. Acetaminophen is a drug. Anesthetics are drugs. You, my friend, are a drug user.
Of course, "drug" is just a human-made subdivision of ingestible substances. Nature doesn't say, "This is a drug. It is unlike other things you might put in your body, so you must legislate it specially."
The question of whether to take a specific drug, then, is no different than the question of whether to take a specific foodstuff. And really there are only two considerations worth their salt: Is it healthy? and Will I enjoy or otherwise benefit from it?
As we all know, the answers to those questions do not always match up. When it comes to nutrition, the conundrum is well covered. Ice cream tastes better than broccoli, but I'd do well to ingest a greater amount of the latter. But despite the amount of nutritional knowledge out there, there is still hearty debate about what you should eat and what you should avoid. (Consider the varying views on carbohydrates, eggs, dairy, meat, and GMOs.)
Drugs is even less familiar territory for most. It's a realm that's been dominated by prejudice and propaganda. Government has actively misinformed the general public for reasons having nothing to do with what's actually in your best interests. Big business has done the same.
The scientific community, however, tends to have far fewer ulterior motives. While there are bad apples in any bunch, scientists generally just want to find out what's what and then get that information out to the rest of us. And something we're hearing increasingly from scientists is that a lot of what the powers-that-be have taught you about drugs is bunkum.
When it comes to marijuana, that message is reaching critical mass. Despite the federal government's classification of cannabis as a Schedule I drug—i.e., illegal for all purposes because it has "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse"—over the last three decades the medical community has increasingly promulgated the medical facts.
Today, the majority of the American populous believes you should be able to use marijuana for any reason—medicinal or otherwise. And with evidence that marijuana lowers your blood pressure, inhibits the formation of the plaques responsible for Alzheimer's disease, and may actually increase lung function, maybe you should.
But scientists are saying that maybe you should think about doing full-blown hallucinogens, too, especially if you're having trouble with depression or addiction. That belief was memorialized in two separate studies (on LSD and ketamine, respectively) published in the same week in 2010. More recently, CNN reported on the potential benefits of psilocybin.
On the other side of the coin are currently legal drugs that have doctors questioning whether they're worth the associated risks. One of the most common targets of this sort of medical second-guessing is statins, a class of drugs that has proven effective in lowering cholesterol. While in 2013 statins were the newest darling of the medical industry ("On Tuesday the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology issued new cholesterol guidelines that essentially declared, in one fell swoop, that millions of healthy Americans should immediately start taking […] statins," a New York Times editorial reported), a long list of negative side-effects known at the time has been augmented since then.
Whether you should take drugs—whatever they may be and do—is not always a straightforward question. There are exceptions. Who, for example, questions the wisdom of getting a dose of Novocaine before getting a filling? But as with anything you put in your body, you would do well to get a decent dose of knowledge before taking a dose of drugs.
But keep in mind that governmental drug policy has been created and propagated mostly by people with neither personal nor investigational experience with drugs. So with a growing portion of the scientific community telling you that much of what you've heard may be wrong, there may be times when you should just say yes.
About the Author:
Except for a four-month sojourn in Comoros (a small island nation near the northwest of Madagascar), Greggory Moore has lived his entire life in Southern California. Currently he resides in Long Beach, CA, where he engages in a variety of activities, including playing in the band MOVE, performing as a member of RIOTstage, and, of course, writing.
His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, OC Weekly, Daily Kos, the Long Beach Post, Random Lengths News, The District Weekly, GreaterLongBeach.com, and a variety of academic and literary journals. HIs first novel, The Use of Regret, was published in 2011, and he is currently at work on his follow-up. For more information: greggorymoore.com
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