Drugs: How Dangerous Really Are They?
WHEN four students at Kent State University in Ohio were killed by National Guard troops in May of 1970, an entire nation was aroused. Yet, that very weekend seventeen youngsters are said to have died from drug abuse in New York city alone.
The war in Vietnam has killed over 44,000 Americans. This has outraged many and caused tremendous civil strife. Yet, in that same period of time over 140,000 Americans are said to have died from drug-related causes.
Why no similar outburst of rage over drug deaths? One reason is that many youths, and adults too, now believe that drug use is not necessarily harmful or wrong. They say that not everyone who takes them is seriously harmed or killed. That is true. But this is also true: in most localities drug abuse kills and cripples far more people than bullets do!
What Is Happening
What is happening in regard to drugs has experts shaking their heads in disbelief. Why? Because of the fantastic increase in the number of people taking drugs. The word most often used to describe the situation is epidemic.
In Sweden during the 1960’s the number of new drug addicts doubled every two and a half years. In some recent years it doubled every twelve months! In the United States drug use has advanced like a tidal wave. Some estimates are that twenty million or more persons now have used drugs, with the rate of increase 7 percent every month! John Ingersoll, director of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, declared that it has “exploded into a problem of frightening proportions . . . mounting at a startling rate.”
Young and old, rich and poor, black and white are involved. Not long ago arrests included sons of the following: the late Senator Robert Kennedy; his brother-in-law Sargent Shriver; California Assembly Speaker Unruh; and New Jersey’s Governor Cahill.
New York’s Chamber of Commerce reported that drug abuse in the business world increased to a “startling extent” and has become an “ominously growing problem.” In Vietnam it has also reached “epidemic proportions” among troops according to eyewitnesses. It is even becoming fashionable among adults to pass around marijuana at parties as casually as they would cigarettes.
In many colleges the student who has not tried at least one drug is the exception. But no longer is drug taking confined to college. It is advancing like a forest fire into high schools, and now even into elementary grades. Edward Kelley, director of the Bureau of Drug Abuse Control’s New York field office, said: “Frankly, students are in such a mood today that they will smoke, eat, inhale or inject anything that will give them a thrill.”
Is all this drug use just a passing fad? Note the following:
“If you think the problem with heroin is serious now, you wait, because at the rate we’re going now, within a couple of years every high school and every college in the Country will be inundated by heroin.”—Dr. D. A. Louria, president, New York State Council on Drug Addiction.
“The use of illegal drugs is too entrenched on campus to be a mere fad. Most psychiatrists who have examined the individual motivations of students experimenting with drugs offer telling reasons why the problem can only increase.”—The Poisoned Ivy, by William Surface.
This agrees with Bible prophecy. Calling our times the “last days,” God’s Word foretold that people would be “lovers of themselves,” “without self-control,” “lovers of pleasures.”—2 Tim. 3:1-5.
However, some contend that even if drug taking is growing, it is not all that bad. They say that using drugs, especially the ‘milder’ ones, is not harmful, and point to marijuana as an example.
Marijuana is made from the leaves of the Cannabis sativa plant, rolled in thin paper, and smoked. Many claim that marijuana smoking is harmless. But that is what was once said about cigarette smoking. Now we know that cigarettes are killers.
Marijuana is classified as a ‘mild’ hallucinogen (a mind-affecting drug). It can cause a form of intoxication. And that is exactly why most people smoke it. They want to get ‘high,’ to ‘feel good.’ The very fact that a person feels ‘high’ shows his mind is being affected.
At first, smoking marijuana may not produce any pronounced effect. This often encourages persons to continue. They feel that the harmful effects have been exaggerated. But continued use can result in accumulated effects. Additional use may tip the balance toward marijuana intoxication. Stronger quality marijuana does it faster.
Marijuana intoxication includes some loss of coordination of the body. The pulse rate increases. There may be an abnormal lowering of body temperature. There is inflammation of the mucous membranes and bronchial tubes. When larger or stronger doses are used, vivid hallucinations can occur.
In tests of automobile drivers under the influence of marijuana many distortions were recorded. Some thought they were on a roller coaster. But the road was flat. One driver thought he was upside down. He also said that there seemed to be a pillow between his foot and the brake pedal. Some drivers said they had driven for a half hour. The actual time was only about three minutes. Their judgment was impaired no matter what they thought.
David Archibald, executive director of the Addiction Research Foundation of Ontario, said:
“There is no doubt about it that if 100 people use marijuana, some will suffer harmful effects. A certain proportion will get into fairly serious trouble as a result of using this drug . . . . If they are emotionally upset, marijuana will accentuate the inclination that the user has to depression and may produce depression. If an individual has a tendency to be manic [mad], marijuana may accentuate this tendency and produce a manic reaction.”
Where It Can Lead
A marijuana smoker will find it much easier to take ‘hard’ drugs than the nonsmoker. He comes into a circle of associates who use drugs and who are exposed to drug sellers. Through this association he is often influenced to experiment with stronger drugs.
In the past few years, what was once about 50,000 marijuana smokers in the United States has become about 15 to 20 million who use or have tried it. And the relatively few who took stronger drugs have become several million. The history of most users of strong drugs shows that they began by smoking marijuana. Thus Mr. Ingersoll says: “It seems reasonable to assume that if many individuals did not get involved with marijuana, they would never get around to using the more potent and dangerous drugs.”
During a school discussion, a young student said to a former ‘hard’ drug addict: “We feel we can stay with marijuana. We feel we don’t have to go on to the hard stuff. What do you say to that?” The ex-addict, a seventeen-year-old and one of twelve ex-addicts on the program, replied: “But that’s what we all thought. All of us. And you know what happened? We all got hooked, that’s what. We could stop. But we didn’t. And you won’t, so don’t you start!”
Tragedy of Strong Drug Use
Stronger drugs include LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), narcotics such as heroin, chemical stimulants known as amphetamines, and relaxing agents known as barbiturates. New varieties appear each year.
A pinpoint of LSD will take a person on a hallucinatory ‘trip’ that may last eight to sixteen hours. There is distortion of time, depth, vision, color and sound. The ability to make sensible judgments is severely impaired. Days, or even months, after the last dose hallucinations can occur.
An overweight man on LSD took a knife and began slicing fat from his body. He bled to death. Another man stabbed his mother-in-law 105 times. Later he did not remember that he had committed this murder. Others have been committed to mental institutions. A two-and-a-half-year-old boy accidentally took one of his mother’s LSD tablets. He was rushed to the hospital in critical condition. Many have injured themselves and others in various ways.
Heroin, derived from opium, is one of the most addictive and destructive of drugs. Its use gives one a ‘high,’ a carefree self-confidence, a feeling of well-being. But as use continues, more and more is needed to reach that point. True physical addiction sets in.
The heroin addict is often undernourished because he does not feel hungry. He may pay so much for his drug that he cannot afford decent food. Indeed, he usually has to steal to support his expensive habit. In his undernourished state he is likely to contract infection. Also, using unsterilized injection techniques, he may get hepatitis, fatal blood poisoning, and abscesses of the liver, brain and lungs. One addict admitted: “Our life is such that jail is a place to get healthy.”
Heroin users live under the constant threat of death from an overdose or from regular use. In fact, New York city reports that heroin addiction now is by far the leading cause of death between the ages of fourteen and thirty-five.
A well-meaning, but naive, girl asked a former drug addict: “But didn’t your drug experience expand some of your consciousness?” He answered: “You’d think I would have learned something constructive in those years—but all I can think of is tragedy.”
It is estimated that at present about 90 percent of those treated for ‘hard’ drug addiction eventually revert to drugs. No, there is no guarantee of a medical cure. The truth is that physical and mental shipwreck, even death, are far more likely guarantees.