We’ve been told to “just say no” to drugs. We’ve been warned. We’ve been prosecuted and imprisoned and rehabilitated. We’ve been cajoled and counseled and criticized. Yet we haven’t been convinced. At least not enough to change our deadly ways.
We’re a nation of drug addicts. And our addictions are killing us.
In the first decade of the millennium, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, for the first time in recorded history more Americans died from drug-related complications than automobiles. Drugs have overtaken everything else as the leading cause of accidental death.
This is a stunning development in light of the tens of billions of dollars we’ve devoted to our failed “War on Drugs.” From a return-on-investment standpoint one would expect at least a nominal lessening of the drug scourge, a dip in the line graph. Instead, the more resources we exhaust, the worse our results. We continue to consume drugs as though they were peanuts, and the dismal results, the numbers say, are approaching epidemic proportions.
If the first four paragraphs of this essay upset you — and they should — please read the next sentence carefully. Of the tens-of-thousands of deaths documented in the CDC study, not a single one was attributed to marijuana.
Not 1%. Not .5%. Not even .01%. None.
As reported in the Los Angeles Times, the chief culprit in drug-related deaths between 2000-2008 isn’t a gentle flower that grows in your backyard. It’s prescription drugs –the stuff that comes from legal pushers called doctors and distributed through retail networks called pharmacies.
Deaths from cocaine and heroin are on the rise. But commonly abused prescription anti-anxiety and pain drugs are involved in drug-induced deaths with greater frequency than cocaine and heroin combined. Ativan, Klonopin, Valium, and Xanax-related deaths spiked 284% in the past decade. Since the 1950s, when they started replacing barbiturates for the treatment of anxiety, insomnia and seizures, these dangerous synthetic killers have been successfully marketed by Drug Cartels called “pharmaceutical companies” as the easy answer to our mental problems. Except they’re killing us.
The most commonly prescribed (i.e., legal) drugs in America are pain pills: OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, Norco, Dilaudid, Methadone. Treatment admissions for abuse of these highly addictive synthetic killers are up 500% over the past decade. Michael Jackson’s physician is currently on trial for killing the pop star with a surgical anesthetic. I myself lost my best college friend to a Vicodin overdose. He wasn’t the foul stereotype of a strung-out drug addict cooking up heroin in a filthy basemen hovel and robbing old ladies of their purses. He was the New Drug Addict, a nice Jewish boy from Scarsdale, New York, with a thriving business, a Venice Beach condo, and a persistent backache. He got hooked on pills acquired through a doctor’s prescription and died in his bed as his girlfriend, who mistook his labored breathing for heavy snoring, slept in the living room.
The chief medical benefits of cannabis sativa and cannabis indica (otherwise known as pot, weed, and grass) are pain and anxiety relief. Marijuana is non-toxic. It’s impossible to overdose on marijuana. And yet, as you may be aware, our federal government classifies it as a Schedule One controlled substance with no medical benefit, even as the legal and socially acceptable poisons we procure from our socially acceptable pushers kill us more frequently than our death-boxes-on-four-wheels. We have a serious drug problem.
In the great state of Oklahoma, home of the brave climate change denier Senator James Inhofe, a woman (a mother) was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison for selling an undercover officer $31 worth of pot. This kind of absurd injustice occurs every day in America, where we criminalize one drug (the stuff you can grow next to your tomatoes), legalize another (the stuff you get from Rite-Aid), and fetishize another (alcohol) during our sporting events and family celebrations. We have a serious drug problem.
Just as producers of tobacco products have successfully bought off legislators and regulators, who allow them to earn sensational profits while they kill their fellow citizens, pharmaceutical companies have successfully “lobbied” the government to support massive marketing campaigns in which their toxic products are portrayed as good for us. The truth is the exact opposite. We have a serious drug problem.
We teach our children to fear a common plant while we simultaneously pump them full of pills for every malady known and imagined. We have a serious drug problem.
We also have an elegant solution available to us. Unfortunately, it would require a society-wide level of independent thinking that most of us, narcotized by our televised sports and singing competitions, aren’t capable of. It would require rejecting nearly a century of powerful and pernicious propaganda. It would require tearing up our prescriptions, cleansing our livers, and calming our anxious minds and aching bodies in a salutary bath of nature’s gift to the human brain.
We have a serious drug problem: Too many of us accept the criminalization of cannabis.