Men's Articles

Drugs And Addition

The twin spectres of drug abuse and addiction have haunted human society since it became self-aware. No culture on the planet has avoided facing the dilemmas they constitute. From the opium den of the 19th Century to the Prohibition speakeasy, from the acid test of the 1960's to the crack house of today, drugs have played a major role in defining the subcultural and countercultural influences in society.

Even licit drugs, such as caffeine and nicotine, have the potential for abuse. With the likelihood that drugs will be around for a good while, yet, communities and individuals alike must wrestle with the basis of the drug phenomenon, asking questions which seek to explore not only its physiological but psychological and social ramifications as well.

One of the primary considerations of what defines a drug is its physiological effect. Loosely defined, a drug is any substance which can cause a direct physiological or psychological change in the body. This includes aspirin, caffeine, alcohol, sleeping pills, vaccines, marijuana, and cough syrup.

Since this definition is a rather benign one, the more malignant drug problem is usually referred to as drug abuse or by considering the term "drugs" to refer to those commonly viewed as likely to be abused (narcotics, alcohol, et cetera). The former convention does not seem to draw conclusions about the moral value of a drug, but rather of its administration.

The latter convention, by limiting the meaning of the term "drugs," seeks to condemn all of those to which the term refers. An example of this latter usage is in the "Just Say No To Drugs" campaign (which does not refer, of course, to such substances as vitamins and aspirin, but to those drugs which have the potential to ruin a person's life, like cocaine and heroin).

A drug (in this restricted sense of the word) has the potential to cause profound effects in the mental and physical states of those who take it. This loss of mental control while on a drug, and the alteration in physical capacity (in coordination, for example) are a large part of why drugs can be so dangerous. In addition, a number of them actively damage tissues in the brain, lungs, liver, and elsewhere in the body, making them a double-edged sword.

Some of the more insidious ones not only diminish one's mental and physical capacity and damage body tissues, but also lead to addiction, creating a vicious, and often fatal, spiral downward into a personal abyss. These kinds of drugs, such as cocaine (and crack, a form of cocaine), narcotics (such as heroin), alcohol, and others are perhaps the most dangerous to the individual and the community.

In addition to physiological effects, it is the psychological influence which a drug may have which constitutes the distinction between a penchant and a habit, or between an occasional desire to experience the influence of the drug and being addicted to it. In addition to being an individual dilemma, the problem of drug abuse and addiction is one which must be addressed by the community at large.

For the social optimist, it seems evident that, somewhere between the liberal cries for legalization of drugs and the conservative call for stiffer prison sentences, a viable answer to the problem of drug abuse and addiction exists. If this is so, however, one might be forgiven for concluding that it yet awaits discovery.

In conclusion, it is worthwhile to make an observation to those who suspect that they may have a problem with drugs. Life is too short and precious to spend it in slavery to a drug. If you are addicted, or think you may be, get help. It may save your life.


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