Paraphrasing James Brown, we all want to feel good and, as we all know, taking drugs makes us feel good and/or better. Consequently, we all take drugs. We ingest, inhale, swab, smear, and shoot or have someone else shoot into us, a wide variety and large number of drugs: aspirin, alcohol, codeine, caffeine, nicotine, procaine hydrochloride (Novocaine), tadalafil (Cialis), nicotine, sertraine (Zolof), fluoxetine (Prozac), benzodiazepine (e.g., Valium), acetaminophen (Tylenol), zolpidem tartrate (Ambin), beclometascone (asthma inhaler), morphine (Kadian), benzoyl peroxide (e.g., Brevoxyl), and, according to a quick Internet search and Blue Cross Blue Shield’s recent and, of course, changing list of covered drugs, there are more than 303,580 prescription and over-the-counter uppers, downers, stimulants, hallucinates, and other sorts of inducers and palliatives for feeling good and/or better. It’s OK to be a junkie!–that’s how we feel good and/or better.
Nicotine, although it gets a rather consistent bad rap, is good for some people. In an article titled, “Can Nicotine Be Good for You?” psychiatrist Anna Fels writes: “nicotine is like most of the medications I prescribe. Nearly all involve risks . . . and . . . [f]or some patients a medication can lead to . . . improvements. . . . One persons pharmacological boon is another’s pharmacological debacle. What left my patient calm and serene [nicotine] gave me a shaky, unsettled feeling. I walked in the park for an hour before sitting down in a cafe and ordering a class of wine. I needed something to steady my nerves”.
Some drugs are taken irregularly (e.g., Novocaine for a tooth filling); others (such as alcohol and Prozac) daily or 2-3 times daily. Most people in the overdeveloped world are steady users of, say, 10 or more feel-good-or-better fixes. It’s OK to be a junkie! Taking drugs is natural to the human/animal condition.
The so-called “drug problem” is the consequence of of establishing, in addition to prescription and over-the-counter drugs, a third category of chemicals, called “illegal”. Whereas prescription and over-the-counter drugs are legal, thus permitted, and (without denying prescription drug abuse) regulated. The third group of synthetics is deemed illegal, thus prohibited, and because–as we know from the 18th and 21st amendments–prohibition of drugs does not work, fixes in this category are unregulated; ergo, “the drug problem”.
There’s no solution to “the drug problem” in the sense of stopping people from using illegal, prohibited, drugs. Prohibition doesn’t work! America’s War on Drugs doesn’t work!
We need to realize, as Will Self writes in the London Review of Books, commenting on Roberto Saviano’s, ZeroZeroZero: “humankind’s involvement with intoxication is best summed up by the T-shirt slogan: “Drugs Are Not the Answer: They’re the Question, and the Answer Is Yes'”. Recounting Saviano’s description of the globalized, corporatized, cocaine black market, Self writes: “Once it’s been stated that world demand for cocaine continues to outpace supply, and governments persist in their futile efforts at interdiction, then in an important sense you’ve said it all–because there’s only one possible way forward, one way to put a stop to all the killing all the social fragmentation, economic disruption and spiritual degradation. . . .:`total legalization'”.
There are problems that come with legalization of drugs, as evident by the prevalence of alcoholism and under-age drinking in countries, such as god-blessed America, where booze is legal. And there are addictions, overdosing, health issues, as well as regulatory costs, in Europe, Canada, Colorado, and other places where marijuana, heroin, and other soft and hard drugs are decriminalized or legalized. All solutions have problems; it’s always a matter of which problems are the best ones to deal with.
One problem with the legalization of nicotine/cigarettes and other tobacco products is addiction by young people, causing premature deaths from lung cancer and other tobacco-related diseases. One solution? Raise the legal age for cigarette sales. Some states and cities have already done this. Regulate! “The biggest reason to raise the legal age to 21”, The New York Times editorializes, “is to reduce young people’s access to tobacco when they are more likely to become addicted and when their brains are still developing”. Exception should be made for the men and women in America’s military who, because they’re not too young at 18 to die for the only nation conceived in liberty, should have liberty to use tobacco products at 18.