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As to the Question of Getting High

(drugs #1)

 

Oh, boy. This is the toughie. The big one. The
controversial one. The serious one. The rebellious
one. The issue of the century.

Drugs.

I find it quite amazing how far we have gone
from one extreme to the other in just over a hundred
years. The far reaching successes of science and
technology we’ve seen in the many areas of
industry and education have not, by and large,
improved our understanding of the relationship
between drugs and society. I think most people
will agree that we have a problem with drugs. I
think many will agree with me, that ignorance is
at the heart of it.

Nobody has exclusive rights to ignorance. It is
‘Public Domain’. Anyone can be ignorant if they
want to. Everyone can also be objective and
demand facts as well. This is difficult when it
comes to drugs because it is no longer a simple
issue. It is a medical, legal and moral issue. Now
that there are three camps to argue about it, we
are assured that the problem will never go
away.

Why am I so pessimistic about this? Well,
I’m going to tell you anyway. I know that once an
issue has been divided into more than two
arguments, it is almost never resolved. The idea
that one aspect of a problem outweighs the others
gives all sides the fuel to carry on indefinitely.
Nothing has ever achieved this stalemate quite
like the ‘War on Drugs’.

Part of the problem is the that using the
general term ‘drugs’ has mixed pharmaceuticals
and inebrients together in the public’s mindset.
This causes a huge grey area for abuse and
misunderstanding.

There used to be a clear distinction for the
average person between getting a buzz and getting
well. Traditionally, these seven semi-natural and
organic substances have served as non-lethal,
‘safe’ inebrients;

Beer/Wine (alcohol below 30%),
Coffee & Tea (caffeine),
Coca leaves-unprocessed (cocaine level similar to caffeine),
Cocao (chocolate),
Hashish (cannibis/hemp)
Tobacco (nicotine).
Sugar (glucose) (I’m not kidding!)

I know, you're going to tell me that sugar is
not a drug, and I must be on one of the others to
even say so. Well, when was the last time you ate,
oh, say, a handful of basil and oregano for a quick
energy boost? No? How about a handful of
chocolate chips? Gummy bears? How long does a
box of candy last in your house, as opposed to, say,
a tin of paprika? As every 5 year old proves every
day, sugar is a powerful drug. Above all other
spices, it’s hold over men, money and politics
through history rivals any modern drug cartel.

What the others all have in common is the
fact that the part that gets you high is dwarfed by
the amount of natural elements that fill your
stomach or tire out your throat long before a
lethal dose can be ingested. However mild, these
things give you a rush, even if you don’t get
‘high’. All of them, even chocolate (usually made
with sugar), as any true chocoholic will admit.

This brings up the another aspect of that grey
area of drug opinions- the mixing of outright
lethal drugs with non-lethal drugs at all levels.
The moral issue rules this side of the argument,
and with it, the legal side as well. All lethal drugs
are not exclusively illegal because they are
potentially fatal. Oddly, most illegal non-lethal
substances are crimes because they get you
high. It’s just a matter of how high it gets you.
The beliefs that any form of inebriation is wrong
because, well, it’s bad, or right because, well, it’s
cool, combine to make a delightfully permanent
conflict. Science has little to say because it cannot
win for either moral side. It is therefore only
useful to support the extreme cases the for
others. Since there wills always be all levels of
beneficial or harmful substances, science can
never offer us peace in this arena. Our mess is
one of the mind. Society’s mind.

I would like to offer an unsupported, generalized
and unresearched (therefore argumentable)
hair-brained theory as to how we got into this mess.

Let’s start with a little off-the cuff history.
Throughout time, people all over the world have
gotten buzzed on something or other. It’s just a
matter of how and on what and why they
were partying.

Wine is well documented in the Bible. There is
evidence that the ancient Egyptians made beer.
There was ‘mead’ and of course, your various
fermented milk brews and the like. All these
things delivered alcohol without the fatal threat
carried by a bottle of 80 proof whiskey. They all
had enough real foodstuff to make one tired or
full long before the alcohol could reach a fatal
level. Chances were you would become slow,
listless or heavy and overtired if you drank too
much of these things. The sheer hardship of life
and it’s daily chores could discourage that. At
least until the distilling process made total
drunkenness immediately available without the
wait and without the stomach filling mass carrying
the alcohol and extra-poundage. Wasn’t that just
a peachy use for a nifty piece of science?

Folks have been smoking things for a very
long time. The ancient Mayans smoked cocao. The
settling of America was based largely on the
tobacco found here. (It very soon became all the
rage in Europe) Native Americans were smoking
tobacco, and I believe I’ve heard they smoked
other herbs as well. And of course, people have
smoked hams for centuries. (Sorry.) Tobacco
is the only organic substance I know of that seems
to be strictly for smoking. It has to be because of
the buzz, which, if you’ve ever smoked a freshly
dried and rolled up leaf, you know is intense. I
believe Walter Raliegh was put into the Tower
because he wanted too much money to go back
and get more stash for the Queen. (I can see her
smoking a huge pipeful of tobacco on the throne,
and saying ‘Great stuff Walt. Can you, like get
any quantities?’) So it would appear that America
was colonized more or less so that Europeans
could have their own cheap source of good dope.

The eastern Hookahs (waterpipes) of lore
were mostly filled with hashish. My understanding
is that both hashish and tobacco have been
popular smokables in the middle east. This
introduces the issue of hemp, or as we know it,
marijuana.

The hemp plant has got to be, historically,
the most useful and important crop intentionally
cultivated and spread by man. The stalks are used
to make rope, linen, cloth, paper and God knows
what else. The seeds are used to make fuel oil, the
leaves and flowers to a lesser extent, tea, and
hashish from the flowers. Since the plant was
grown for a long stalk, leaves and flowers were
few. They all had to be removed from the
harvested plant. Because seeds were useful, the
flowers had to be de-seeded. Obviously someone
learned that these were male and female plants,
and only the females made seeds. Sooner or later,
someone had to figure out that tea made from the
plants that made seeds gave you a buzz. (Many
traveling medicines shows in the old west
mixed hemp tea or oil and such with alcohol and
anything else to make their ‘elixirs’.) As far as
I’ve read, Hashish (‘Hash’) in the Middle East is
the only form of hemp that was made to be
smoked prior to the 20th century. I’ve read
stories of sailors shipping tobacco to Europe
smoking ‘hemp tobacco’, which consisted of the
dried remains of the stripped hemp that the sails
and rigging and lamp oils were made from. The
sailors would mix it with their allowance of tobacco
(dope) as a way of ‘stretching their stash’ for the
voyage home. We modern Americans are the first
to see all hemp relegated solely to the role of
smoked inebrient. We are the first to outlaw any
form of it. Our interpretation is not shared by the
entire world.

Coffee and tea deliver, as we mostly know,
caffeine. Anyone who drinks these guys on the
strong side will tell you that there is definitely
some kind of buzz going on. What many people
don’t know is that the coca leaf does the same
thing. In South America, where a great deal of
coffee comes from, the most popular hot beverage
was ‘matewan’ tea, made from coca leaves. It
dates back as far as can be. It is the morning
equivalent of our cup of coffee or tea. You could
taste it, except that some clown figured out that if
you soak the leaves in kerosene and filter the
kerosene through a cheesecloth, you can bake the
paste you scrape off into one of the most useless
and lethal of substances- cocaine. But then, who
wouldn’t want feel like they drank 25 pots of
coffee for twenty minutes and then crave it again
immediately, forever?

That brings us to the real danger in the whole
mess. We have learned how to ruin virtually
everything on the planet in some way or another
through the misapplication of science for profit,
control or morality. The world has known for
centuries that opium is addictive. So why invent
morphine? Morphine proved to be ten times as
dangerous and addictive. So why invent heroin
on top of it? Profit and ego run hand in hand to
make these kind of blunders world-wide realities.
You start with the idea that you can chemically
remove the addictive properties and leave the
beneficial pain relief or medicinal value intact-
even stronger- and therefore at a greater profit.
After all, it still comes from the opium poppy,
which grows cheap!!! The folks who isolated these
things never dreamed that the very element they
were trying to control was the single addictive
substance in the plant.

Now we know how inebrients work. They
stimulate endorphin production in different areas
of the brain. We know that addiction happens
when someone becomes overly accustomed to
higher endorphins of one kind or another. We
also know that the brain can end up shutting some
of these guys off if the dope dosn’t come in. We
are figuring out that stress and pressure or
emotional trauma put a strain on endorphin
production. That is, after all, how the brain tells
us that we feel good at all, not just if we are high.
We’re learning, scientifically, how the stuff really
works, and we're making some headway.

We have, however, crossed many dangerous
and unnecessary bridges to get here. We have
learned how to concentrate dangerous substances
to point of fatality for the sake of a buzz. Imagine
shooting battery acid straight into your heart-
that’s cocaine. Imagine thousands of soldiers
strung out on morphine from treating their
wounds ending up addicted to the it's failed
replacement, now a black market bargain. That’s
heroin, my friend. Imagine some chemistry buff
experimenting with a few test tubes and some
plants and such until something makes the room
spin. You can find half a dozen of these ridiculous
inventions at most any all-night rave. We have
alot to learn.

I don’t just want to bitch, and I’m not in
either extreme camp. I don’t believe all
substances should be legal or illegal based on the
fact that they get you high. Then again, I’m not
too wild about poison, either. I would like to offer
my ideas on how a few things might be changed to
help the situation.

First, I think light beer is a bad idea. From
my observance, the number of people that just
like the lighter taste and don’t drink more are far
outnumbered by people who now drink 6 to 12
beers a day. 3 or 4 regular or import beers would
have normally put them to sleep. I think light
beer has contributed greatly to increased
alcoholism.

Secondly, I think that tobacco is in entirely
the wrong hands in America. If Americans want to
stop the rampant addiction to cigarettes and the
resulting cancer, they must protest through the
marketplace. Like light beer, light cigarettes
simply make tobacco too easy for someone who
otherwise might never touch a smoke after one
puff on a cigar. Pure tobacco is too strong for
many people. Those who smoke cigars or pipes
(who generally don’t inhale) and those who ‘roll
their own’ are rarely smoking the equivalent of
twenty to sixty smokes a day. We’ve made this
drug so docile that anyone can become addicted to
it as part of everyday life. I believe that American
business, production and marketing tactics are
more to blame for our tobacco problems than the
plant itself. The plant didn’t tell us to chop it all
up, stems and all, chemically soak the nicotine
out, and then spray it back on with some sugar
and asbestos to make it burn right and of course,
some ammonia, for flavor. Walter Raleigh
certainly never envisioned a cigarette so weak a
child could inhale it. We can only make tobacco
safe by cleaning it up at the cash register. If
smokers buy 3 packs of all natural smokes
instead of a carton of lights, maybe they’ll smoke
less. Force the sellers to sell what you want. They
don’t have as much choice as you think.

With regards to to illegal drugs, I believe that
reclassification is in order. I would like to see any
drug that can be immediately fatal be strictly
controlled and illegal to make, sell or distribute. I
don’t believe that getting high, or evenly stupidly
getting high on something lethal should make you
a criminal. The emphasis here should be on the
poisonous nature of the substance. Not the
moral objection to the euphoric effects.
Unfortunately, since hard liquor remains legal at
the poisonous level, I fear there is little chance
this could happen.

The next classification I propose would be
intoxicants that cause public disturbance or
endangerment. If a person eats a peyote button, a
mushroom or some LSD and begins reacting
wildly from the hallucinations, I believe the
person should be liable for any disorderly conduct,
damage or injury caused during the inebriated
period. Not thrown in jail just for having taken that
drug. Until people can agree on a safe and
responsible way to ingest hallucinogens, I believe
they should remain controlled and at most, a
misdemeanor to sell or traffic.

Lastly, I believe that marijuana, tobacco and
alcohol should come under common control.
(Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms ? Whose idea of a
joke was that!?!?! ) I believe that people should
be allowed to grow their own pot and tobacco up to
a preset amount, just as current law allows for
limited beer and wine production in the home. I
feel there should be very strict laws about
furnishing these things to minors, inadequately
supervising them around minors, and buying or
selling them in any way. (You know, bootlegging)
Then we could also return industrial hemp to the
American marketplace.

So, to capsulize, getting too high too much is
a bad idea. Getting uncontrollably high for the
sake of it is a very bad idea. Taking anything that
can kill you just to get high is a
MONUMENTALLY BAD IDEA. Making a
substance easier to consume makes it more
addictive. Making a substance illegal for moral
reasons makes more people curious enough to try
it. Blurring fatal substances into that picture
means more people will die. Putting people who
only got high in jail next to hardened criminals
does not help them nearly as much as you’d
think.

I’d like to propose a few try-at-home
solutions that I believe might help.

- Less sugar for the kids, and less
proccessing of everything you can imagine with
some form of it. There’s nothing wrong with the
natural sugars that abound in the world- we don’t
have to add the straight stuff to everything on the
planet.

- Advocate seperating non-lethal substance
issues from lethal drug crimes. Selling poison
should remain a felony. Getting a buzz should not.
Lethal drugs do not kill by making someone
simply, too high. People need to be aware that
overdoses are the result of outright poisoning- the
addition to the body of too much stuff that isn’t
blood carrying oxygen to the brain. Most lethal
drugs kill this way.

- If you catch your pre-teen child with any
kind of dope, round up all their toys in front of
them and head for the trash bin. When they
inevitably bust out crying,you can explain that if
they want to act like adults, they can’t be treated
as kids anymore. They are trying the stuff out of
curiosity, peer pressure and the sheer fantasy of
independance. Make the psychological price too
high for the kid. Lay it on thick enough and the
kid will have others quitting it, too. Put your mind
at their level and make it seem like a silly waste
of time. The more disciplinarian you make it, the
less chance you’ve stopped it.

-If you have a teenager and you are worried
about them (yeah, right, who isn’t?), just wait
until they’re out of sight, but within earshot, and
make sure they can hear you say what will
undoubtedly frighten the heck out of them;
“He/She acts just as dumb as I did at his/her
age.” If that isn’t enough, start telling hilarious
and outrageous stories about the losers you knew
in high school. Pick those that most mirror idiots
your kids are getting in trouble with. Don’t tell
them in some serious talk that so-and-so is bad
for you and then use the story as proof. They
won’t be hearing that. Let them hear the story as
you tell a group, or even better, let them overhear
you telling it. Sooner or later, the idiot in question
(or maybe another) will recreate your story right
in front of them, and your teen will ask you
‘whatever happened to ‘that guy’?’ Now the facts
will do their job when you fill out the rest of the
tale.

- The most important thing you can do to
stop rampant abuse of dangerous or addictive
substances is to satirize, humiliate and spoof these
habits as much as possible. Satire is the most
effective social weapon in the world. Look at what
it did to Polka music!!!! Nothing kills like the idea
that something is so bad it’s worth making fun of.
Remember, stress may entice someone to get
high, but peer groups, society and environment
combine to set the boundaries for what one can
get high on. Satire can force change through
humility, and spread prevention through disdain.
After all, laughter is the best medicine. Use it
liberally, and you will reduce the stress that
causes someone to look for such an extreme
escape. Endorphins are endorphins, you know.

Maybe we could rename it ‘The War on
Stress”.

Naaaaaaaahhh!!!!

 

copyright 2000 Pegwood Arts all rights reserved

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