I have what some consider an analytical mind. My mind is thinking about things all the time, not just things like paying bills or fixing a problem with the car, but phenomena I observe on a daily basis. For example, when I see light reflecting off the surface of water, I am thinking of the texture of the water surface and how it affects the absorption of light and heat which in the ocean could be a big deal. When I work with students and observe a certain behavior I contemplate the environment and genetics that led that child to behave in a certain manner. There is nothing that I see that does not evoke some cerebral response. I have learned to keep quiet about these observations so as not to cause people’s eyes to glaze over in boredom, but the constant assault of ideas never stops.
So, this morning I was lying in bed trying to force myself to get up and begin the day and I started thinking about the drug problem that has encompassed this nation and probably the world. So many people have died, and many are currently addicted with little or no help available. Families are being ripped apart every second from addiction. The pain and suffering that is blanketing our country is touching everyone. To think about a problem like this, one has to strip away all the obvious answers and look for some universal constant that explains why this has become such a large epidemic. First, and most important, drugs have always been a part of human behavior. From early man who realized that certain foods turn into alcohol if you do the right things, all the way to the Indians who learned that opium can be extracted from poppy seeds, a drug that allowed them to talk with the gods. The problem is not with the use of drugs but the quantity of drugs available! The Indians had to collect and process a lot of poppy seeds to make a small amount of opium and it was probably not that potent. In other parts of the world, making alcohol requires a tremendous amount of work collecting available fruits, processing them and allowing the product to ferment to an intoxicating beverage. Tobacco used to be more difficult to obtain and had far less available nicotine compared to modern tobacco. In other words, drugs were labor intensive and if you wanted to get high, you had to put in some serious labor. So, drugs have always been a part of the human experience.
Now, lets look at today’s drug scene. Pharmaceutical companies produce enormous quantities of thousands of types of drugs of which some are life saving, some help us deal with pain and some are abused. In a world where people lived by the golden rule this would not be a problem, but in a world permeated with greed, this can be an issue! Although we see an avalanche of ads on the media telling us of the altruistic nature of the drug industry, there is an ugly underbelly. Certain drugs that are produced by the drug complex are addictive and have been adopted and distributed by the illegal drug industry. If the pharmaceutical companies were truly good in nature, they would make every effort to curtail the non-legal use of these addictive drugs. This does not seem to be the case. Anyone who wants to can walk out your front door, or take a short drive and buy most any drug illegally! Yes, they tend to be expensive and that causes an all together additional problem which I won’t go into now.
Let me step back a few feet and add an additional factor to this scenario. Humans are pleasure-seeking creatures. It is the basic nature of our species to search for a plane of existence that is pleasureful. We do not like pain. We do not like stress. We do not enjoy feeling depressed. We want to be happy! Now one must realize that happy means many different things to many different people. If you have not noticed, our modern society has little interest in any of us being happy. In today’s world it is important to be on time, dressed right, pay the bills, raise children, drive on congested roads, smile most of the time and do what the boss tells you to do regardless if it’s correct. We live in a very stressful environment not designed in any way to make us happy. So now I can move on to my finale.
To lay this out simply, humans have relied on drugs for ritualistic ceremonies for eons. Today, drugs are readily available to anyone who wants them. As I said before, humans are pleasure-seeking creatures and we live in a society that does not meet our primal need of being happy. If you bunch all these things together and you don’t see the reason so many people want to get high or need to get high then you just wasted about five minutes of your time reading this article. Before any effort to battle an increasingly addicted population can be made, we must tackle the reasons people turn to drugs. As our society becomes more rigid and demanding, the use of drugs will continue to rise. It is a natural reaction to the stresses being placed on people, the more stress, the more drugs will be a part of the coping agent.
To finish up I would like to add that there are probably a hundred other factors contributing to this drug epidemic including parental models all the way to genetic predisposition, but all these factors, in my mind, pale to the fact that we live in a stressful environment where thanks to a greedy pharmaceutical industry we have unlimited access to addictive drugs. Unless we become a happier society and lasso in the drug companies, no amount of money or programs is going to halt the direction we are headed. The way I see it, we are in for a bumpy ride.