Legalizing Alternative Realities

When we started discussing addiction in class I definitely began to think about the politics of drug use and abuse within the context of the “War on Drugs”. More specifically I wondered about the legalization of marijuana and how opponents of the idea believe that it would lead to an increased addiction of the same.  Do you think this true? While research may show that legalization of the drug could potentially lead to increased admittance into hospital emergency rooms, have numbers of users and abusers significantly increased? What stumps me as I independently think about it is that alcohol (also a potentially detrimental drug) is legally used in most parts of the world. Alcohol abuse has in many instances been a motivator of violence, death, rape, and crime in general. As I have extensively read during the course of my thesis and in this class, I have also been made aware of the detrimental effects it may have on our brain. At the same time in terms of the benefits of this drug, it is true that if used in moderation, doctors recommend daily doses for patients with heart conditions. Thus we see both sides of the same coin- the pros and the cons of alcohol. Similarly in the case of marijuana, the negative effects on the brain are not to be ignored. Clinically however, Marijuana can be used as medicine because it helps to stimulate an appetite and relieve nausea in cancer and AIDS patients. I see a parallel between the two drugs with both displaying a capacity for addiction as well as potential redemption. Granted my thoughts and comparisons may be far from educated with regard to the biological and psychological effects of these drugs. However, I have to be honest that I find it difficult to understand why one drug gains a legal status and the other does not. I was particularly gripped by these recent statistics I found (they’re truly hard to believe in my mind!):

ANNUAL AMERICAN DEATHS CAUSED BY DRUGS

TOBACCO …………………… 400,000
ALCOHOL …………………… 100,000
ALL LEGAL DRUGS ………….20,000
ALL ILLEGAL DRUGS ……….15,000
CAFFEINE …………………….2,000
ASPIRIN ………………………500
MARIJUANA …………………. 0
—————————————-
Source: United States government…
National Institute on Drug Abuse,
Bureau of Mortality Statistics

Not to say I am a supporter of this legalization. I don’t even smoke it. All I am saying is I don’t know enough, but from the little I do know I remain in bit of  a mental quandary – why is there a ‘selection’ of one drug over the other. In reference to my previous post and the article on the Camba in Bolivia, does alcohol act more ‘selectively’ than a more democratic marijuana, as it seeks out its victims of addition? Is it the less universally addictive and hence the ‘safer’ drug?

Coming from a country where moral restrictions and conservative social laws are abound, I more frequently notice rebound cases resulting from prohibition. My friends who never drank on the whole just got far more messed up when they did secretly try it, than those friends whose parents introduced alcohol into their lives. At the same time, I cannot even imagine my parents ‘introducing’ weed to me and trusting me to never use it again. Why this double standard for a drug that holds statistics such as those above! Maybe I shouldn’t believe those numbers. Is this dual stance motivated by facts or worldly stigma? Both these drugs have the potential to transfer you to an ‘alternative reality’…but the question is, how do we decide if one of those ‘realities’ is more dangerous than the other?

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4 thoughts on “Legalizing Alternative Realities

  1. These statistics are very interesting. I wonder, however, how much we can trust them. What are these stats in relation to? Are they related to how many people die as a result of overdosing on these drugs? I wonder what the statistics look like for deaths that are related to use or dealing of these drugs? I feel like use would have different statistics. For instance, if someone was driving high and hit someone compared to just sitting in their house high. I don’t know…

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  2. Haha I like your comments at the end Darshini. I agree, I don’t understand the legality of drinking and smoking cigarettes when smoking marijuana is illegal. What is the big deal?

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  3. So my pothead friend (who also is a science nerd) sent me a link to this article telling the health benefits of Marijuana. I haven’t read the whole thing, but I was shocked to hear all of the potential benefits. Things like neurogenisis in the hippocampus… who knew. What do yall think??

    here is the link: http://www.jci.org/articles/view/25509

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  4. I wonder if the legality issue has anything to do with the amount necessary for “alternative reality” effects… for instance, culturally, people can drink a glass of wine or a beer at dinner and not show any effects of alcohol, but most people who smoke marijuana show more effects than that. That is, a typical “use” of marijuana results in altered mind, but not necessarily alcohol. That being said, the addiction rates are nowhere near parallel, and the altered state of alcohol clearly shows itself to be much more dangerous than that of marijuana.

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