Drugs are drugs, and some of the most dangerous drugs are legal – and are partially as dangerous as they are because they’re legal. While drugs like cocaine and heroin can quickly lead to serious neurological side-effects, hygiene issues, and heart problems, cigarettes and alcohol are two of the world’s leading causes of cancer, while the current opioid crisis was fueled and arguably started through prescription opioids, and alcohol-related deaths continue to out-perform almost every other drug in terms of fatality. Which drug kills even more people than alcohol does? Tobacco.
An estimated 88,000 people die every year from alcohol-related deaths, and an estimated 480,000 people die annually due to tobacco, including over 41,000 deaths through second-hand smoke. For every death, another 30 people are left alive struggling with smoking-related illnesses, including smoking-induced cancer, heart disease, lung disease, obstructive pulmonary disease, and more.
In comparison, the great opioid crisis that has gripped the country’s attention and has been claiming headlines throughout 2018 has killed roughly 33,000 people in 2015, while steadily increasing since the 90s.
Indeed, drugs are drugs. To understand the full impact that drug use and addiction have on humans, we need to explicitly eliminate misleading double standards and see beyond the veil to realize that all drugs have the potential for dangerous misuse and fatal consequence, and that all addicts ultimately need medical help and the attention of professionals to get through this part of their life.
Why Legal Drugs Are Legal, and Illegal Drugs Aren’t
Tobacco is ostensibly legal due to the fact that cigarette lobbies are incredibly powerful, and cigarette companies are some of the most powerful in the world. There is no other explanation. Or is there? Indeed, while cigarette companies do hold a vast amount of power, they are probably not the reason why many governments have not reinforced a serious plan to completely curb or even eliminate cigarette smoking – there are millions and millions of smokers in the US. Outlawing tobacco would likely lead to an epic backlash and civil unrest.
Nevertheless, banned it should be. Cigarettes offer no health benefits, nicotine is a highly addictive drug that has often been cited as being one of the hardest habits to kick, and tobacco kills more people than fast food and alcohol.
Cigarettes should be, by all means, completely illegal – and in some shape or form they are, as not all tobacco products are totally kosher in various parts of the world, and in certain countries, harsher measures have been taken to prohibit the proliferation of cigarettes, such as by banning outdoor public smoking.
Alcohol is equally useless for one’s health, but at least we have some precedent that explains why outlawing that a bad idea is as well. In theory, both cigarettes and alcohol shouldn’t be allowed. In practice, banning these drugs would only make matters worse, creating entire criminal enterprises, illegal importation, and inviting the dangers of several varieties of illegally produced and potentially fatal alcohol making their way onto the black market.
The only exception by which legal drugs are potentially helpful is the category of the prescription drug. As much flak as prescription painkillers have received in the last few years – with good reason – opioids are still useful for the treatment of massive acute pain and terminal pain. It still makes you feel numb and happy like nothing else, which certainly helps after a physically traumatic event rips through your insides.
Other addictive prescription drugs include anti-anxiety medication and ADHD medication, or depressants and stimulants respectively. Depressants help calm down someone with anxiety, helping them catch a well-deserved breather and lowering their inhibition, so they’re less likely to worry about any given number of things. Stimulants, on the other hand, are very different a drive up a person’s heart rate, making them feel focused and motivated, much like an extremely powerful cup of coffee.
These drugs are typically not prescribed at quantities that allow for addiction and wholesale distribution, but due to teens stealing pills from their family or buying them illegally to study/party, they’ve become popular as an illegally-acquired albeit technically legal high, separate from the usual drugs found at parties, such as MDMA (ecstasy) and cannabis.
A Depressant is A Depressant
Drugs like alcohol and Xanax are extremely similar, which is why they should never mix. Taking these two together is potentially fatal, if not very potent, because they both do a similar thing in the brain thus leading to an additive effect.
This is why alcohol is most people’s drug of choice when they’re worried, because it can help you forget about your fears and inhibitions and instead do whatever first comes to mind. Both alcohol and Xanax are similar but weaker in comparison to older, stronger depressives, include tranquilizers and illegal barbiturates.
A Stimulant is a Stimulant
Cocaine, methamphetamine, and amphetamine work in a similar fashion as well, although cocaine is sourced from the coca plant, while amphetamine and methamphetamine are entirely synthetic, produced both in high-tech super labs as well as in an addict’s kitchen somewhere, albeit with highly varying levels of quality.
Stimulants pose great risk to the heart and brain, increasing the risk of a heart attack and stroke. Adderall, as addictive as it is, is also a major issue especially in academic circles as a way to compete for better grades by staying up and focusing.
An Addiction Is an Addiction
At the end of the day, an addiction is an addiction is an addiction – regardless of whether it is an opioid dependence or an alcohol use disorder, a physical dependence to a dopaminergic substance is a very dangerous thing that is very hard to treat, and often takes years to overcome.
Addictions take lives, and they don’t discriminate, killing people from all walks of life, leading them to their deaths in any age group, skin color, or socioeconomic class.
But addictions are also treatable. By getting help and getting into a sober living home or residential treatment facility, you’re securing a better future for yourself.