Depending on where one stands re conspiracy theories, the fact that many man-made chemicals were usually in the hands of the military and secret services as experimental mind-controlling weapons before filtering down to civilians as recreational drugs could be seen as confirmation that ‘The Man’ knew all along that it would be far easier to let the people destroy themselves by allowing them to believe they were getting one over the authorities. The permanently illegal status of the most popular recreational drugs definitely imbues a cavalier sense of flouting the law in those who purchase and use them, after all; and what better way to bestow ‘cool’ upon something than to ban it, knowing it will do your dirty work for you in the process?
I once heard the opinion aired that heroin didn’t flood into the most socially deprived and politically militant urban areas of Scotland until opposition to Margaret Thatcher’s Government was recognised as a potential problem; suddenly, an entire generation of possible agent-provocateurs was neutered by smack, thus negating the likelihood of any mass civil unrest. Hey, it’s a theory. One could also point to the way in which gin saturated the ghettos of Georgian England at a moment when the governing class’s fear of the Mob and anarchy provoked by the poor was at its height. Gin certainly subdued that, as Hogarth knew only too well.
Whether or not the infiltration of substances whose consumers instinctively exceed moderate dosages of into society is indeed a conscious ploy of subversive control by The Man is fact or fiction, the official line that Drugs are Bad seems destined to remain intact; and in some respects, this system upholds an equilibrium that leaves the user feeling he’s some social desperado living on the edge while the authorities continue to appeal to Daily Mail Man as the balance of power is maintained and both parties are happy. Bring peace to the War on Drugs by making all drugs legal and there’s no fun in it anymore for either side.
One of the problems with any drug that produces effects the user enjoys is curbing the user’s natural desire to prolong those effects by ingesting more. Why stop at a couple of glasses of wine when there’s a whole bottle in front of you that can make you feel even better if you drink it all? At one time, I used to occasionally have a spliff, but it was always in a social situation and social situations for me – even when I’ve been at my most sociable – have tended to be separated by weeks. I’ve had friends for whom rolling a spliff has been something they’ve indulged in upwards of half-a-dozen times a day; as a consequence, they’d spend the majority of that day stoned. That to me is diluting the pleasurable impact a drug can have if it attains the same level of a treat as a bar of chocolate had when I was a child. If it’s there on tap, it’s no treat at all, and trying to recapture the initial impact as one’s bloodstream becomes accustomed to the sensation through overuse means increasing the dosage.
With many drugs classed as ‘A’, the addiction of the user tends to arise from this futile recapturing of the original impact it had, like the heavy drinker who doesn’t know when to stop. The only real way to ensure such an impact hits every time is to use the drug in moderation, but that’s easier said than done, especially when the effects of the drug may be the only effects life offers that make life worth living. The pot of gold that constitutes the must-have accessories we are taught from an early age to aim for is for some a poor alternative to the ecstatic rush of a Class A drug, especially now that so many of that pot’s contents are far more unattainable – not to say unaffordable.
Outside of recreational use, the occasional calls for giving a drug like cannabis special medicinal dispensation on the grounds of its proven positive effects on sufferers of diseases such as MS tend to face the same response. The belief perpetuated by the powers-that-be and their media mouthpieces that cannabis, like all drugs, is evil always seems to override any intelligent discussion or sensible progress. We are taught to believe if we smoke a spliff it’ll be the first step on the stairway to crack, as though anyone who samples the apothecary’s forbidden fruit is incapable of not succumbing to chemical obesity. Granted, that can happen (as I’ve already pointed out), but that doesn’t have to be the case for everyone.
The news that a small minority of people in the UK who experience mental health difficulties have been self-medicating psychedelic drugs in tiny daily doses – so-called ‘micro-dosing’ – appears to have taken LSD full circle. Not long after it was synthesised by Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman in 1944, the US military and the CIA tested the drug on mostly unknowing guinea pigs before abandoning it as too erratic a method of mind control; psychiatric hospitals came to similar conclusions.
However, as soon as LSD slipped into the hands of artists and writers, who viewed it in a different light altogether, the blue touch-paper for the 60s counter-culture had been lit and the predictable outlawing of Acid in the US and UK fuelled its mystique further. Unfortunately, the over-indulgence of its guitar-strumming salesmen followed a familiar pattern and any talk of LSD as a beneficial substance for medical complaints was abandoned.
Considering the racket that is the pharmaceutical industry, perhaps it’s no wonder people have turned once again to the possibilities inherent in the drugs no drugs corporation will touch. A London-based psychiatrist named James Rucker has recently overseen a trial at Imperial College that treated clinical depression with magic mushrooms, reversing decades of aversion by the profession to psychedelics. He doesn’t endorse self-medicating micro-dosing, but perhaps only because he hasn’t yet tested the process under trial conditions. Amidst the usual fears aired as to the dangers of ‘taking too much’, it would seem some have discovered a means of administering a drug that works for them by trusting their adult ability to practice restraint rather than being society’s naughty child incapable of resisting addiction.
© The Editor