Re: Drugs - what makes them do it?

From: Damien Broderick (
Date: Tue Jan 11 2000 - 20:46:47 MST

I use or have used a fair number of legal, prescribed or over-the-counter
drugs to modify asthma, headache, arthritic inflammation, digestive
problems probably caused by the latter, antibruise goo, etc. No
mood-improvers like SSRI but I'd give it a shot if I didn't worry abt the
side effects. Very rarely a toke or two at a party if it's going around.
When I was a kid, I used a fair bit of legally prescribed amphetamines,
just the ticket for jump-starting an essay or short story or just plain
having a good time at a party. Can't get it legally now, so I don't;
probably would be reluctant for health reasons anyway. So my personal
experience of `drugs' doesn't tell me much abt the sorts of chemicals that
govts ban, or what it's like to use and get pharmacologically trapped by them.

On the other hand, my legal use of speed gave me some sense of how abruptly
the mental switches can be thrown. And I suspect medicos (by and large) and
other highly self-controlled inner-directed types are profoundly alarmed by
this fact. You can reset yr mood, usually in parallel with others, at a
sporting event, at the movies, etc, or just by reading a funny or
frightening book - but these events are either coordinated within a broadly
socialised setting, or mild and easily broken. `Drugs' tend to be those
chemicals that zap you hard, whip you into a divergent state that quite
visibly interferes with `standard' inhibitory self-control (even if that's
just by making you nod off in the street with a needle in yr arm, not a
pleasant sight to conformers like me).

And even those highstakes achievers who manage a habit are likely to
oscillate (as legal drunks do), to go unpredictable. Westciv technocracy
doesn't care to have such people in positions of leverage (even though many
are, of course). What's more, we have this background, if frequently
hypocritical, maxim that everyone gets treated identically; so if a lawyer
or surgeon is caught using, and can't use the old boy net or other method
to escape court notice, they have to be slapped to demonstrate the fairness
of the system.

But my guess is that it's the way `drugs' make people jagged or torpid or
in some other way appear like green monkeys in a troop of grey monkeys that
causes the hostility. SSRIs or valium readjust you, or numb your wilder
side, so they're okay. E? Dunno. Too exultant? Dope? Too louche? Still,
I've been waiting for Huxley's soma to be made mandatory for decades now,
and it doesn't seem to be happening. Maybe they don't have the formula yet.

I think the tendency, though (certainly in Oz), is for authorities to grow
tired of the mess and waste and stupidity of the `war' and move slowly
toward (i) containment-of-harm strategies like safe injecting rooms, and
(ii) slackening of laws against mild relaxants or mood shifters.

Damien Broderick

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