There is lots of debate these days concerning the legalization of drugs, especially marijuana. These discussions and articles concentrate on the way it might improve the economy, to decriminalization resulting in fewer deaths along with a stop by the growth of HIV cases, to medical advantages of marijuana. You may expect someone who witnesses the issues and occasional devastation that substances induce to be firmly against legalization. This isn't necessarily the situation. In the end, consider alcohol and tobacco are legal, but they are listed as the most destructive substances to individuals and society currently. Then again, this might be a reason to not legalize other substances. In the following paragraphs the main focus isn't to focus exclusively on legalization, but on the motive for substance use, and how that's more essential than its legal status.
Inside a class I teach at FIU around the Psychology of medication and Substance abuse I'm often asked basically think marijuana ought to be legalized. It's my job to try not to express my opinion directly, but rather present and entertain discussion on the subject. But recently I was pushed to have an answer, and I replied: "I once read a superb book called 'Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Chronilogical age of Television.' What I remember most out of that book is when often we base our decisions on not enough information (when it comes to the book's perspective, according to television images. Take elections for example). So my favorite response is I probably do not have enough information to make an educated decision." However, according to Amsterdam and Portugal's experience with fewer problems due to decriminalization, it seems like it is a minimum of a practical option. Of course, if the U.S took that approach, there's first no guarantee it might go the same way, and secondly I would anticipate an explosive increase in substance use initially. The problem is: would be the rewards worthwhile?
Something that concerns me concerning the American people's substance me is the motivation. According to VH1's documentary on "The Drug Years" the first rise in marijuana and hallucinogen use within the sixties would be a consequence of trying to achieve enlightenment and a feeling of oneness and communion. This is evident in the images we've of this time: sit-ins, free drugs being provided at musical events, and wanting others to "turn-on" and experience the feeling of love and oneness that others were achieving which a psychology lecturer at Harvard named Timothy Leary was advocating.
Initially, that has been the purpose. But times have changed because the sixties, and let's be honest; even so the movement wasn't completely successful. We American's are an individualistic culture. On the continuum between individualism and collectivism Americans definitely fall on the side of individualism, which is defined as everyone looking out for themselves or their family first. This is in opposition to collectivism, where the group is cohesive, where the audience protects each other and the individual looks out for that group above their personal needs. Using these definitions, it is quite easy to state Americans are on the individualism side of the spectrum. The movement within the sixties (which in certain regards continues, witness "one human race" and "coexist" stickers) to help make the human race more united, and now more in tune using the earth and it is needs, isn't grand enough to alter the individualistic nature of this culture yet. And it is the opinion of this writer the individualistic attitude of the culture has altered the motivation of drugs initially used to enhance a sense of oneness and enlightenment.
My more recent experience with clients is the fact that these substances, especially marijuana, are utilized being an escape from reality. Lots of people find their existence boring, or worse, painful. Students (who I promised I'd give credit for the quote) named Christine Vera said "In a world that feels nothing, everybody wants to feel something," when asked why she believes people use drugs. This statement seems related to the boredom with life discussed above. Many have grown to be desensitized alive, and want more excitement. Without excitement, life is boring, so when life is boring, for many escape through substances becomes a viable option.
Although escape seems a motive much of the time (as reported by substance abusers entering treatment, by those who know addicts, or by those who also formulate personal theories to explain others' substance use) it's not always from boredom. Sometimes the person perceives life as too painful to cope with without using substances for relief. Substances, a minimum of initially, provide a feeling of euphoria. This is true of almost all substances, even though some seem more effective to different individuals. (For example, some enjoy marijuana although not other substances, others cocaine, others alcohol, and so forth). Some of those trying to escape pain have endured horrible life circumstances or, some horrible internal states (self-loathing, depression, or overwhelming anxiety, to name a few). Others began substance use innocently enough, but resulted in counting on it slowly, and today, due to the substance use, are caught within an endless cycle of substance use, further problems, further need to escape, continued substance use.
Aside from the escape motive you have the need to experience something new and various. This is often the case with hallucinogen use. It is rare that somebody would use hallucinogens to flee reality regularly. Hallucinogens generally render an individual unable to function in a normal manner for a period of time. When someone takes mushrooms, LSD, or other hallucinogens, they aren't generally trying to work, drive, or otherwise do much other than go through the "trip." In other cultures hallucinogens are used to facilitate enlightenment.
As said before, hallucinogens have been used by other cultures as a pathway to enlightenment. In many of those cultures, those familiar with the uses of hallucinogens were shamans, medicine men, or even the spiritual leader. This movement seemed to be true in the sixties, where a certain sect of people attempted to again connect with God or even the spiritual, often using hallucinogens.
This isn't generally true of hallucinogen use today. Today many young people are looking for a brand new experience. The abuse of cold medications (some of which in large doses create hallucinogen effects) is proof of this. This is especially true of the drug Salvia, only recently (July 2008) made illegal in this state (Florida). In other cultures, it is called "Diviner's Sage." But rather than using it for connecting with a spiritual sense, it is simply used for the knowledge.
Many substances initially produce a sense of connectedness between individuals. Alcohol has been referred to as a social lubricant, making talking and getting together with others easier. And marijuana is generally initiated with other people in the beginning. However, many turn to isolated use later. As well as if this isn't true, many simply get "high" with others playing video games or watching movies. The thing is, it's generally not taken for spiritual reasons anymore, but instead to create perceived tedious tasks more bearable in order to heighten the enjoyment of relatively passive tasks (hearing music, game titles, movies).
In certain states marijuana can be used for medicinal purposes, but the reality in this area speak for themselves. Marijuana helps those wasting from AIDS, those with cancer, and many other ailments that traditional treatment falls short in. This includes pain alleviation for many. Actually, prescription pain analgesics (opioid based drugs) are quickly becoming more damaging to their users (which in many cases are abusers) than all illegal substances combined. There have been more deaths in Florida recently from overdose on prescription drugs than all illegal drugs combined. There has not yet been a reported case of marijuana overdose.
There's a downside of these prescription uses however. A lot of my students who know individuals California (high seems to be the most "medicinal" utilization of marijuana) declare that many of their peers have prescriptions. One student reported that 8 from 10 of their friends in California possess a prescription. Headaches and anxiety as well as insomnia are considered to be reasons to obtain a prescription.
In conclusion, many reasons exist to decriminalize some, if not completely, drug abuse. The benefits seem essential in this point in time. But at the same time we are culture where people are often out on their own. And that we have grown to be a country and culture of shortcuts and reliance on pills to create our way of life tolerable, rather than the more natural and healthy (but requiring additional time and) solutions. Feel depressed, get a prescription. Want to loose weight, obtain a prescription or order weight loss supplements from the web. Additionally, a few of the communal and enlightenment reasons seem outdated and unlikely at the moment. Then there's the chance you will see a strong improvement in substance use if decriminalized. There's probably a lot more information available that both supports and denounces legalization or decriminalization.