Uppers and downers

Ever since middle school, the dangers of drugs have been burned into your psyche. Marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines and a plethora of other sparkles, crackles, zippers, dippers, polka-dots, candyflips and cock-a-doodle-doos have been demonized.

Ever since middle school, the dangers of drugs have been burned into your psyche. Marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines and a plethora of other sparkles, crackles, zippers, dippers, polka-dots, candyflips and cock-a-doodle-doos have been demonized. Yet prescription drug companies and companies that make “legal” versions of look-alike drugs make billions of dollars every year.

With millions of different drugs to chose from, how do we know which drugs are okay and which ones are going to drive you into such an intense psychosis that you live the rest of your life believing you’re a glass of orange juice?

Drug companies spend millions of dollars every year on lobbying in order to keep their products legal. Tobacco and alcohol lobbyists do their best to make sure lawmakers don’t crack down on substances, and according to USA

Today, pharmaceutical companies spent more than $758 million from 1998 to 2004 on political candidates—primarily republicans. Legal drugs are doing their best to stay legal.

Recently, a variety of “new” drugs have been introduced to the market. One example, “K2” or “Spice,” a marijuana derivative, claims to have the same effects of good old-fashioned ganja, but is undetectable on urine and blood tests. The drug has been banned by the DEA nationally, as federal law allows the organization to ban a product in an emergency meeting if it has potential to cause an “imminent public health crisis.” 

Another “new” drug that has caused conflict is “bath salts.” The drug is a powder or crystal form of stimulants, most notably Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV). The drug is said to produce a high similar to that of cocaine or methamphetamines. The upper has also been said to be hallucinogenic. The “bath salts” are sold under the “intended purpose” as plant food, stain removers or other clever purposes—some even with warnings against human consumption. But at around $40 per gram, they must be some pretty phenomenal plant food, stain removers or other.

The MDPV products have been sold online and have been readily available to customers in the U.S. Multiple reported incidents of addiction, violence and death have been related to the drug. One particularly interesting story related to “bath salts” involves a couple who took the stimulant and proceeded to stab their bathroom walls with knives in order to “save the people inside.”

While these drugs exist on the fringes of legality, there is also an entire economy based on legal drugs. A report released by independent financial analysis firm See Change Strategy reveals some shocking statistics on the American drug market. The national medical marijuana market is currently worth over $1.7 billion dollars, with over 24.8 million eligible patients nationwide.

Marijuana, the “gateway drug” we were all warned about in school, is readily available to millions of people every day, and is medically accepted as a treatment for ailments. Legal drugs such as Vicodin, Percodan, Percocet, DXM-based cough syrups and alcohol remain more readily available to the public at large—all of which, unlike marijuana, are shown to have addictive potential.

What makes one drug more legal than another? Why does marijuana continue to remain illegal in many states when drugs like alcohol, which causes thousands of deaths, are found in stores nationwide?

While it’s generally agreed that drugs such as heroin and cocaine are scary and dangerous, many fail to bat an eye at legal drugs that have similar effects. With these drugs available and easily abused, there is no doubt that problems associated with these chemicals quickly arise.

According to a study by the World Health Organization, the U.S. tops the list of countries that use the most drugs. With over 91 percent having consumed alcohol, 42 percent having smoked marijuana and 16 percent having tried cocaine, it is clear that our country is interested in drugs.

Our drug use is so prevalent that the money in your wallet is likely to contain trace amounts of cocaine—nine out of 10 American bills, according to a study by the University of Massachusetts.

So what do all these studies and statistics mean? More or less, it means that our country really, really enjoys getting high. Whether it be from the caffeine in the cup of coffee you need to wake up in the morning, the alcohol in a glass of scotch after work, or the nice big hit off of the crack pipe that you need to get to sleep at night, we all abuse a drug in one way or another.

With so many stigmas against illegal drugs, there is a cultural failure to realize that we all play the drug game. Some drugs are only legal because of the companies’ ability to lobby. With millions of dollars in campaign funding going to political campaigns, the only thing standing in the way of a drug’s legality is the money in its producer’s pocket.

While there are many deaths caused by illegal drugs every year, there are thousands caused by legal drugs as well. Drugs are dangerous—there’s no getting around that—so take into account the consequences of smoking that joint or popping that pill. Drugs can kill, and this ability should not be thinly veiled under their ability to heal.

Every substance has an effect on the body, so be aware of the effects of a chemical on the human body before you run off to try the new designer drug—you might end up naked in your yard in a fistfight with the police, or worse, dead. ?