Say the word “drugs” to one hundred people and you will receive a wide variety of responses, ranging from the overwhelmingly positive through to the totally negative. Everyone has an opinion about drugs, an attitude towards them and a personal story that underpins their view.
This is not altogether unsurprising as “Drugs” refers to a ubiquitous word (and substances), that play a vitally important role in shaping our society and have had a profound effect on the human species throughout our evolution.
So what do you think about “drugs” and their impact on our society?
Of course your visceral response will be the most interesting, and revealing. What is the first thing that comes into your mind at the mention of “drugs”- and naturally then, the next question posed by an enquiring mind will be “why? “.
Where the mention of the word might suggest recreation to one person, to another it might mean the difference between life and death. To some it may be a lifestyle choice, but to another it may mean choosing life. And to confuse the issue further, how can the latte drinkers in the café refer to the smokers on their break as addicts, without a hint of irony?
Perception is in the eye of the beholder and while some drugs may appear to have little use except to alter this perception, many others have become a daily part of our lives. Even to the point where we fail to recognise our implicit connection to them.
Imagine life without painkillers available in the home or dentistry without anaesthesia. What about if a coffee before work was illegal or cold and flu remedies didn’t exist. Imagine a hospital without medicine, a pub with no beer and a wild party without someone offering you a questionable substance. And where would the world be today without the “the pill” or Viagra?
There is no question drugs are an important part in our society. They have improved medical care, cured disease and increased our life expectancy. At the same time drugs also have an indelible effect on every generation’s expression of youth through music, creativity and rebellion. Strangely though, while the stories behind the discoveries of medicinal drugs and their contributions to modern medicine are often fascinating, society seems to focus almost solely on their impact on popular culture.
This impact is demonstrated by the incredible number of references to drugs throughout all aspects of popular music, literature and film. If you google “List of drugs (music/literature/film)”, there will appear a lifetime of listening, reading and viewing ahead of you.
Interestingly while music and (fictional) literature relating to drugs tend toward their creative relationship, Hollywood films also have the unique angle of crime and action genres where drugs (and the people with them) become the protagonists. The obvious classics in this genre are Scarface, French Connection, Easy Rider and Midnight Express.
However, if you want to enjoy remarkable stories about the medical development of drugs, check out Lorenzo’s Oil and Awakenings. For the more glorified contributions to recreational drug use there are the Cheech and Chong classics, and for a retro look, Reefer Madness is worth checking out.
So let’s face it drugs are everywhere, and if we look to the future they will be even more prevalent and used by a lot more people. Medical advances in performance enhancing drugs that delay the physical aging process or keep the mind sharp will be a positive development for an aging society. But with it will come a whole lot of questions over who, how and when we get to use them.
That’s why whatever your opinion, attitude or personal story might be, it’s always so important to actually take the time to understand more about drugs, how they work and what effects they have on the body. Only then can you make an informed choice as to whether they might be good, bad or ugly.
Watch FiST Chat 49: Recreational Drugs for more on this topic.