Here’s a clever parody of the way drug use is often portrayed in the media– the author applies similar treatment to alcohol.
Truth is, of course, alcohol and tobacco do far more harm to society and its people than the illicit substances. They may not kill through overdose the way fentanyl does, but they contribute to more deaths through accident and/or a host of serious medical conditions. Because they’re legal and widely accessible, more Americans feel entitled to use them.
There’s a lesson in there somewhere that might turn out to apply to cannabis. If anyone’s paying attention, that is.
Although taxation has proved effective in reducing alcohol consumption, and therefore the consequences of drinking, taxing alcoholic beverages continues to be a political hot potato. Why? Because business generates considerable revenue from alcohol sales. They don’t want to do anything that will discourage people from spending money on alcohol purchases.
Cigarettes are an even more obvious example. Scientists recognized way back in the 1920’s that smoking was a principal cause of escalating lung disease, including lung cancer. But smoking was already too widespread to consider prohibition. Thus began the long struggle to reduce use through education, cessation programs, and taxes. Of course, we still lose several hundred thousand people annually. But in a weird way, that represents progress.
With opioids, we’re witness to a cycle that I’m hoping against hope will not be repeated every thirty or forty years with a new generation of Americans. Here’s the pattern:
- First, Americans are advised that a drug which they were previously told was harmful actually isn’t. In fact, it’s largely safe. Perhaps even beneficial.
- As more people express interest in the drug, corporations rush to develop new products to meet the emerging demand. That feeds the supply. Competition for the drug dollar increases, and marketing efforts escalate along with competition.
- At some point, adverse consequences emerge, such as overdose or addiction. This suggests that the risks were vastly understated. There might have been warnings about that early on, but for one reason or another, the public (and the media) largely ignored them.
- Anyway, the harmful consequences escalate and become a cause for concern and public outcry. We begin to hear the term ‘epidemic’ used.
- Government responds with efforts to stem the tide. A race to develop new medications, for instance, for effective treatment.
- As new products hit the market, corporations charge the market price — translation: as much as the public can bear. Or in some cases, quite a bit more. That means a heavy emphasis on more marketing, to justify the price.
- Eventually the tide of the epidemic turns. This could be due to society’s vigorous response, or because users have died off. Also, potential new users are scared off by increasing awareness.
- Everyone breathes a sigh of relief that the worst appears over.
Meanwhile, society is in the process of reevaluating another drug, once believed dangerous, and concluding it’s actually safe and perhaps beneficial. More people seek it out for their own use…