On drugs, alcohol, and addiction

by Jack Simpson

Being 17 and growing up middle class and white,  I’ve been exposed to a culture of altered states of minds. Before reading on further, it should also be said that this article is very much a collaboration of questions – questions I cannot answer – as opposed to the answers themselves.

For as far long as I can remember, there’s always been the exclamation from my mums  ‘you can have just as much fun sober!’. Although I do deem this to be true (most of my most memorable moments have been stone cold sober), I’m still left questioning one thing; Why do so many people, so regularly, love getting absolutely fucking wasted? Whether that being on alcohol, or other illegal drugs.

As long as humans have been around we’ve found ways to alter our present state of mind. From tickling toads with our tongues, to fermenting fruits and smoking herbs – it has been an integral part of human history and growth. With estimates that the global illicit drug market amounting to $400 billion per year, and hundreds of thousands of people around the world each year being imprisoned due to drug related crimes, I feel like more discussion of this topic is a necessity. Talking about drugs has always been an unprecedented taboo. I mean, even when I began to put my thoughts on this topic on paper, I was worried there’d be speculation that I was hooked on LSD or something.

I strongly believe given the blockade on recreational drug research, many stones are still left unturned. This only extends my curiosity. Is altering our state of mind a naturally occurring human tendency, or an innate response to our environment and our feelings?

Just take Western Society for example; alcohol is it the very core of our culture. You get a new job? let’s have a drink! You just lost your job ? Let’s drink! What is it that makes alcohol socially acceptable that prevents, not only the social, but also legal acceptance of drugs like Marijuana, Opium, LSD. Similarly to these drugs, alcohol alters our natural state. But against common perception, research (that has been legally permitted) shows the health effects of alcohol are much more damaging.

Yet alcohol remains A-OK in the eyes of the law.

After arriving at a pub for breakfast in Leeds City centre, I saw some pretty sad faces stumble in. It was approximately1 0am – the time at which places are legally allowed to serve alcohol.It was not a coincidence that the time alcohol could be served coincided with the men’s arrival. Now although I can’t assume, I presume that these old men weren’t in to have a good time, but rather to suppress there bad times. In hindsight, I can’t  help but see this exemplifying our drug laws. Helpless addicts, who are seen to have crashed into their position as consequence of their own actions, are cast out of our society, only to be thrown in prison and enter a cycle of addiction and conviction. Treating addicts like scum in our war on drugs does not solve the problem. It doesn’t even sweep it under the rug. The USA alone has spent $1.5 trillion on the war on drugs (whether this is really what the war was about is up for debate), and the rate of addiction has stayed the same. I’m no expert on governments’ welfare expenditure. But if my estimations are correct,  if $1.5 trillion  had been spent on increasing the standard of living in poor regions, then addiction rates would fall. Drastically.

My presumption, that happiness would lower addiction, brings me back to my initial question. ‘Why do we love getting fucking spangladeshed?’. If my supposition is correct, it’s to make us feel happy to take away or numb feelings of loneliness, depression and anxiety. However saying that, there are millions of happy people who take drugs, but there are also millions of sad people who don’t resort to drugs.

My conclusion is somewhat ambiguous in relation to the question. Although we all share 99.9% of the same DNA, why one person wants to get wasted differs to why another person might. Walking the corridor from actual reality to a dissimilar (often seen as a more exciting) state of mind has become ingrained into society – the reason each individual chooses to enter the alternative cannot be claimed as being the same for everyone.


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