Well, we can talk about history and science
until we're blue, we're not going to change the fact
that we have a problem with things that get you
high. Maybe we could start with why people get
high in the first place.
So, lets say youve got a loved one with a
serious drug problem. We've all been told to watch
out for the classic signs of drug abuse- distant or
erratic behavior, excessive secrecy, lower
performance levels at work or school, money
problems- the list is quite long and there are many
organizations spreading this knowledge around the
world. That's a good thing. No one can deny that
recognizing a serious problem is a critical step
towards helping someone. There is no inherent
problem in this idea.
The actual problem is that we are at the
search and rescue point of someone's life when we
get to the 'classic symptoms' level. Another cause,
however small, has been overlooked. If the real
problem isn't big enough to be an obvious cause,
then the behavior that attracts our attention is
seen as the problem itself. Lose your job? Messy
divorce or break-up? Stressed over your finances?
There are myriad social and family crisises that
people can relate to and see as a CAUSE for
drinking or getting high too much. Since they know
that 'such-and-such' is the cause, they will readily
see that helping to solve that problem is part and
parcel to stopping the abherrant behavior.
For example, if I've known you for ten years,
and you've never been a heavy drinker, I will be
alarmed if you are suddenly drinking margeritas
all day whenever I see you. The more I see you
drinking harder liquor, the closer I am to telling
you that I think you are an alcoholic. If I don't ask
you what's wrong, I'm likely to simply blame the
alcohol and only try to make you stop drinking.
Suppose, though, that I know up front that
you have just been down-sized out of a job that you
have had for twenty years or more and you and
your family were now facing a rather bleak future.
( Only a couple of million of us have been there,
eh? I mean this year.) Logically, my focus will be
on helping or encouraging you to find a new job. If
I know you and care about you, I'll try to help you
think of a new career if necessary. I will try to give
you the venting outlet and the shoulder you need
to lean on. Nobody will begrudge me this
compassion towards you. Everyone will agree on
the cause of your drinking, so they will also agree
that solving it may stop you.
You, see, understanding the cause is the real
Let's try the same scenario, except you didn't
lose your job. Let's say you do something that you
rather enjoy at a company that also does
something you really love. Something you're great
at. You're trying to work your way up the ladder to
your dream job, which requires skill and creativity
that you have, but can't show at your present
Let's further complicate matters by giving
you some co-workers that treat you like hell. And
how about a boss that keeps taking credit for the
things you fix and writing you up for mistakes he
or she causes. The company is constantly hiring
younger less qualified people for the position you
want and you quite often have to clean up for their
mistakes, again with no recognition. Now let's add
the icing on top- a growing family that needs you to
make more money, kids that need to see you grow,
too, and a group of friends and peers who are
enamored by the fact that you work in your field at
all, telling you that you've got it made.
Chances are that your peers are totally
unaware that it's even possible for you to be
depressed. You are tired of being told to 'relax' and
'forget about it because you're 'so lucky'. You are
afraid to admit how concerned you are because you
don't want to alarm the family, and your friends
are not coming around or calling too much because
you haven't been much fun, lately. Your 'personal
support mechanism, for all practical purposes, does
I, your friend, have let all of this slip by right
under my nose and now, to my horror, I find
several empty tequila bottles in your car. Since I
know what a powerful drug booze is, and I don't
know what's really going on, I now assume that
alcohol has gotten it's hooks in you and that's why
you've been so moody and depressed. That's why
you've been irritable and your job performance is
suffering. You are an alcoholic. Plain and simple.
All I have to do is get you to stop drinking and
everything will be OK.
At this point, I am so wrong that it stinks to
Stopping you from drinking will not rid the
company you work for of the problems that have
plagued you. Calling yourself an alcoholic will not
make your boss start giving you credit for that big
project you worked seventy hours on last week.
The truth is, the old 'you can only change
yourself' line doesn't work if I belittle or dismiss
the negative effects of people beyond your control.
I can't change the other person, so the crucial
point comes when I decide how I'm going to
console you . 'Oh, the hell with him' or 'you let it
happen' means 'you're on your own'. 'Relax, it
will all be fine' means 'I think your imagining it.'
The only valid solution is to overcome or avoid the
real problem. If I help you figure out how to stop
the idiot bothering you, or how to get into another
department, or even how to get work in your field
at a better place, I stand a much better chance of
seeing the tequila bottles vanish.
It is possible to do no wrong, yet be wronged,
to do no harm, yet be harmed. It is also possible to
be blamed or to blame oneself for those wrongs,
Regret is probably the most underrated
emotion of the whole lot. It forms the huge dinner
plate for all the crow your ego is going to stuff you
with. Stress and gravy on the side, with fresh
disappointment (and croutons), smothered in a
lovely guilt-sauce. Does this sound like an all-too
familiar banquet to you?
Remember what I said before about 'only a
couple of million of us'?
I was being conservative.
The human ego endures because the brain
has a special reward system that gives us the nerve
to go on. It releases this reward in differing
amounts everytime we do or achieve something
good. As mild as a pat on the back and as deep as
pure bliss, it's basically (refer to that 'doctor' crack
awhile back) the same thing making you feel good
everytime you feel good.
Yeah, that's right, endorphins. Your brain
pumps these little buggers out whenever some
proper stimulus comes along. Enjoyable contact
with other people, favorite things, places, smells
and sounds (especially music) can all generate
endorphin production at varying levels. But, how do
you know when you're brain is kicking them out
and when it isn't? What are we really talking about
We're talking about that great rush of joy you
feel when you watch a child unwrap a present you
gave them. That woozy feeling of disorienting glee
that consumes you when you're in love. It's that
deep sense of well-being you feel after finishing a
job you're proud of. That giddy feeling when your
team wins the cup. Scientists have a name for it.
Sounds familiar? Well, it should. It's one of
the 'buzzwords' (pun intended, sorry) that has been
floating around drug education programs
forever. It's typically the way that the booklets and
such describe the buzz the drug gives you, as in-
'the effects of marijuana include increased appetite
and intense euphoria'. They always made it sound
like euphoria was this bad thing that we were not
supposed to feel. Like we were supposed to watch
out for it or something. ('If you find yourself
feeling a little too good about yourself, you may be
on a drug. Do not drive. Go home, lay down and
listen to some blues.')
So we come to the paradox of the whole idea of
getting high. The ego needs euphoria. To get it, the
brain must be producing endorphins. The ego is a
bit of a whore about the deal. The ego does not care
too much about why the brain is producing
endorphins, it just wants the brain to keep going,
increasing that euphoric fix that makes it grow
stronger. It will scan your brain for ways to get
that feeling. If things get bad enough, it will
consider any substance the brain has memory of
that it can compell you to find. After all, there are
only two reasons anyone gets high on anything.
The first reason is they enjoy the euphoric
experience. There are many different kind of
endorphins and different receptors to generate
their production. That's why everyones' behavior
with different drugs and drinks can vary so much.
This is the starting point with most people who try
any drug. A person with a stable, positive
environment to help stimulate endorphin
production in all the normal ways will be able to get
high occasionally and forget about it as easily. The
only question is, are they smart enough to keep to
non-lethal options like beer, wine, pot and tobacco?
You, see the really hard stuff overwhelms the body
with endorphins, more than the body can produce
normally. That's how a stable, upright person
becomes a heroin addict.
The other reason people get high is simply
'unhappiness'. Stress, depression, loneliness,
regret, disappointment, apathy and fear are all
forms of extreme 'unhappiness.' These emotions
are a signal to others that endorphin production is
way down in this individual. In a perfect world,
someone who cares would notice these things and
try to find a way to help eliminate the unhappiness
in question. In a perfect world.
Um, in our world, it's not exactly like that. In
our world, people live their whole lives keeping
their dreams bottled up inside them because of the
criticism and derision they get from their peers,
who don't consider them 'the type' to do 'that'. In
our world, a person can be hired for their artistic
skills and work for ten years without ever drawing
anything for the company, even as they hire other
artists to do it.
In our world, a million natural highs are
blocked everyday by a million man-made idiocies,
stresses and jealousies. We are already low enough
to lie to each other in the most conniving and
despicable of ways. We already steal each other
blind at the drop of a hat. We are capable of every
kind of physical abuse of each other that can be
imagined, even the ultimate crime- murder. All
these sins and ills have dwelled within us centuries
longer than the knowledge of 'heroin' and
'cocaine'. These are the most heinous weapons
mankind can wield on itself, and it has done so
constantly over erverything from land to love to
power to possesions.
It's no wonder that when something as strong
as heroin has set up a ridiculously high amount of
particular endorphin production, the ego goes for
anything in the arsenal to keep it up. This is
already way late in the game here. When the ego
has exhausted your actual means of staying this
high, it will search out theoretical ways to achieve
it. If your moral foundation is not strong enough,
your ego will readily list crime and violence as valid
options. If you have any rationale inside you that
ever justified such an action, your ego will easily
spin that into a legitimate reason to steal or worse.
Remember, the ego simply wants gratification.
It wants to know- 'this is me, I feel great, I'm a
good person, It feels really good when I do that,
ooooh, I'm really good at that!' and 'gosh, they like
me, they really-(sorry Sally). Your ego is the part
of you that makes you feel good about yourself.
Like you matter. Like you have a reason to be
here. Like something you love is worth pursuing
with all your heart.
If you let them, hard drugs, can sweep into
your life like a cheap con-man and make you feel
like you've already got all that. More in fact, than
you ever dreamed. The sheer bliss of the buzz is
second only to the looming unknown danger ahead.
Soon you will surely be able to ingest enough
heroin to poison your blood, or enough cocaine or
crack to short-circuit your electrical system and,
well, stop your heart. Even death, though, does not
tell the real story.
We are all so wrapped up in the physical
horror of the crime and the moral tug-of-war over
the buzz and the physical dangers that we have lost
sight of the larger problem.
Life sucks for most folks.
That's the really tough part. There's no
blanket cure for that one. No miracle ointment.
Not a single one-size-fits-all solution on sale down
at the flea market. To believe there could be one
means you don't really know what's going on. Life
is far too complex. The best you can do to start is
to try to identify the basic elements of our strife.
To me, that would be at least the following;
fear, greed, jealousy, rage, apathy, ignorance,
dishonesty and insecurity. These are the aspects of
the ego that lead to the ability to do harm to
ourselves or others. I believe that most crimes and
serious drug problems are borne of one or more of
these bits of moral quicksand. From what I can
see, they all have only one thing in common- they
allow the ego to justify doing harm. Whether it's
shame over guilt or glee over gold, once the
threshold of allowing harm has been crossed, it's a
whole new ballgame.
This is where crime comes from, and this is
certainly where the abilty to bypass personal safety
for a buzz comes from. Moreover, the modern
world has become filled with the petty annoyances
and setbacks of these weaknesses at all levels of
everyday life. It's a wonder that more of us aren't
severe drug addicts considering the sheer amount
of crap going on all over the place. Read any paper
any day, and I think you'll agree, we have put
ourselves up against it. This is a major test.
So, now all this begs the question- what do we
do? You mean to solve it all at once? Don't make
me laugh. This one is a lot harder than that.
I'm afraid this time we are going to have to
actually grow up as a species for a change. We are
going to have to realize that our technology affords
us the ability to feed, clothe and shelter the entire
world at the American middle class level, yet a
single ignorant, greedy, jealous act of political rage
can destroy all of mankind.
No, this time we have to actually grow.
We grow by trying to learn as much as we can
about the world, so we will know what plants or
drugs have addictive euphoric effects, and maybe
we shouldn't be isolating and injecting that
substance into anything's body.
We grow by learning enough about society,
history, science and business that when someone
tells us their dream, we can ask 'have you figured
out a plan to get there?' instead of 'what, are
Most importantly, we grow by learning to
be proud of the fact that we did no harm- that
achieving honestly is the greatest ego gratification
of all. Ever had a crowd of people applaud you for
something? That light-headed feeling it gave you?
I'm, sorry, that was a buzz. A natural one. Time
has proven that people by and large find that
necessary endorphin production in the way they
treat each other and the pride they take in
themselves and their endeavors. Under these
circumstances, there is no real demand for a
stronger euphoric than a good beer, a fine wine, a
joint or a cigar. Even the occasional mushroom or
peyote button, with proper company and planning
could qualify as under the poison threshold. It's no
accident that these are the most traceable euphoric
substances in history.
It's our modern, stronger, pharmeceutical
drugs that have screwed everything up by creating
more and more lethal options with every new
generation. Blurring the traditional euphorics into
the picture and mixing them with lethal drugs is
bad enough, but then making some lethal drugs
legal and other non-lethal drugs illegal just
confuses everbody, eliciting righteous indignation
and rampant abuse rather than understanding and
moderation, or even outright avoidance.
If someone enjoys ingesting a non-lethal
substance, and they know the drawbacks of
excessive use, the protocol for when to imbibe, and
the respect for those who don't, I am
uncomfortable calling them a criminal because it is
a joint rather than a cigar or a glass of beer or
wine. Since these things traditionally are regarded
as something experienced for the pleasure of
consumption itself, like eating gourmet food or
sniffing roses, the buzz is kind of a bonus.
We mostly need to keep our kids from blowing
their childhoods trying to act grown-up by getting
high. We must enforce the danger threshhold by
determining the youngest age possible that the
concept of bloodpoisoning can be understood. The
danger threshold is critical because a kid who
knows that breathing stuff besides air into your
lungs means less oxygen to the brain, and that's
why people suffocate, is going to laugh like hell at
anyone who tells him to 'huff' something.
Also, never fail to remind your kids how
stupid a child looks with smoke coming out of their
At least this way we can get back to the way
that people were able to raise their kids
throughout the ages as they faced the same
problems- teach them the best you can and pray
As for all those wonderfully lethal drugs like
heroin and crack and ecstacy and such- just give
'em to those jerks causing all those other problems
that make us need or want a buzz that strong in
the first place.
Fear, greed, jealousy, rage, apathy, ignorance,
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