Wednesday, January 15, 2014

If You Get The Message, Hang Up

The recent legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington as well as in Uruguay are the early results of a shift in public opinion towards a more liberal approach to the drug. Opinion in the US towards marijuana legalization has been on a near-steady incline from 12 percent in 1969, to over 50 percent in 2013. It finally seems as if reasonable drugs laws are making their way into the legislator and are being passed by the voters. And just like opinions towards gay marriage, younger Americans under 40 overwhelmingly support marijuana legalization. It does seem as if full legalization might be possible, and perhaps inevitable in all 50 states (or at least all of the liberal ones).

I first smoked marijuana when I was just 8 years old. I first drunk beer when I was 16. I first took ecstasy when I was about 21. I first did coke when I was about 22. From my late teens until my mid-twenties I did more than just experiment with many illegal drugs; I had a full on civil union with them. But unlike some of my friends, I never got addicted. I recognized when the time came to stop. I had friends that never got that message. They kept going and going and going. They burned out and became addicts, spending most of their money on drugs; lying, cheating and stealing to get money to get high. I'm not sure what separates the recreational drug user like myself from the addict. I suppose it's a certain personality type. And so when it comes to drugs I agree with the philosopher Alan Watts who said, if you get the message, hang up.

I'm not at all anti-drug. I think many drugs like marijuana, coke and the psychedelic drugs can be helpful, but there are right and wrong ways to use them. Back in my early twenties when I was a pothead, I would get high with my best friend everyday. Our dealer stored some of his weight at my friend's apartment and so in return for that favor he gave us free weed. And so we smoked our brains out. Everyday. We'd smoke more and more until we got to that point where we smoked so much that we just couldn't get any higher and we'd smoke ourselves sober. This went on for years. Then I found an ecstasy dealer and I started popping E every week. I did my first line of coke at a party and a few years later later started doing coke several times a week. The coke I couldn't get for free however, and I soon began to notice that my money was disappearing into thin air right up my nose. That was part of the message.

At first coke was this exotic drug that the "cool" people did. Me and some college buddies would get together on Fridays and get drunk and then go out to the bars. We started adding coke to the mix as an enhancer, but given its addictive nature, it soon became the case where the coke was the main course. And so it became all about the coke. Drinking had become the side order. And not long after we started opting out of the bar hoping altogether. Why go out and spend money on pricey drinks at bars if we could spend that money on more coke? It seemed logical at the time. I even turned a friend of mine onto coke and he soon became addicted. As our tolerance grew we soon started running out of money, and arguments over who's share of coke was bigger and who would pay for the next round when we were fiending for it led to me eventually having to break off my friendship with a few people. I had gotten the message. And I had hung up.

The same is true for all drugs. You must always make sure that you are using the drug and the drug is not using you. Drugs like marijuana, coke, E, LSD, and mushrooms should be used only as an enhancer when you are already having fun. It should always be the case that you can have fun without them. If you recognize that you are becoming addicted - that the drugs are using you, and that the drugs have become the sole reason for why you're hanging out with who you are or doing what you're doing - then you must get the message and hang up. Psychedelic drugs can open up new perspectives, but likewise, once you get the message, hang up. There is no point in keeping the phone on once you've already received the message. When stimulants like coke have become the primary reason why you are being social, and why you are even going out - it's time to hang up. You've gotten the message, and the message is that the drugs are now using you. You are using the drugs the wrong way.

Now all this is much easier said than done of course, and many of us will have to learn the hard way. But we must be mindful of our vices and our tendencies to become slaves to the very things that we think we're in control of. I think liberal drug laws are the right way to go. It is an outrage that we put people in prison for using these kinds of drugs, but legalization comes with the responsibility of being an intelligent, knowledgeable drug user. The addicts shouldn't ruin it for everyone, but we all need to recognize when it's time to hang up.

So when it comes to drugs, I say:

Just say know!

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