April 02, 2008

From Frank Smith:

Re: The evolution of drug abuse (March 21): I worked in the field of education, treatment, prevention of drug abuse for many years, and did research on the subject.

Your article asks, “Why do people abuse drugs?” It’s a question that I’ve heard for four decades, at least, posed by the parents of teens, by civic and community activists, by officials, etc.

Applying Occam’s Razor, the simplest answer is the one that few seem to consider: People do it mostly because it feels great! (At first, anyway. )

There are other reasons. Social reasons, for instance.

People don’t do it because they live in the ghetto (though that’s why they are most likely to get prosecuted for it), because there’s a dearth of healthy activities, because no sports are available, because they’re unhappy in their lives, etc., etc.

Of course there are drawbacks to using. Some substances make some people nuts. Some seriously disturb the natural rhythm of the body. Some deplete vitamins. In our society, perhaps the worst is that many of these drugs are illegal and the consequences to one’s life are therefore staggering.

In Kansas the State Senate recently passed a bill to make selling loco weed illegal. Now why anyone in their right mind would buy this garbage is astonishing. It’s terribly hard on the nervous system, potentially fatal, and you can get it for free on the side of the road. But now commerce in this crap has been incorporated in the drug war. Woo, woo.

Save us from the savers.

I haven’t used an illegal drug since 1962, long before most current users were born. I haven’t smoked, drank alcohol or coffee, etc. , in many decades. But society needs to take a deep breath and think about the corner in which we’ve collectively painted ourselves in response to hyperbole and hysteria.

A good question to be put to researchers is to ask why almost all mentally ill person smoke. Actually, they are obviously self medicating with a terribly addictive substance. But what exactly does tobacco do, that so many homeless persons, for instance, are willing to spend much of their time picking up aluminum cans by the side of the road so they can buy cigarettes? Is there some component that reaches some part of the brain that eases their anguish? Can that chemical be replicated in a form that doesn’t produce cancer, COPD, heart disease, etc. ?

It’s a lot harder question than, “Why do people abuse drugs.”

Frank Smith
Bluff City, KS


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