Drug Use—Attitudes Are Changing
By “Awake!” correspondent in Canada
THESE are times of change. New viewpoints are replacing the old. One area where this is very obvious is in the attitudes of the younger and older generations about drug use.
The challenge many parents have had to face on the increasing use of drugs by their children is shown by a teen-age son who protests: “Alcohol and coffee are the choice of your generation; drugs are the choice of my generation. We each take them for what we feel are good reasons. The only difference is that your drugs are legal and mine have been made illegal by your generation.”
Who is right? Are people overreacting to drug use? Is this expanding nonmedical use and growing acceptance of drugs a real threat to you and your family? Does the “recreational” use of drugs constitute a truly dangerous situation for society?
There is no doubt that the nonmedical use of drugs is growing. Perhaps you have thought that with the passing of the “hippie” generation the use of drugs fell off, that it peaked in the 1960’s and that the 1970’s were different. Yet research of the 1970’s shows that 70 percent of the students in American universities have used marijuana. Its use by high-school students in Canada jumped from 6.7 percent in 1968 to 22.9 percent in 1974. Now, probably three million Canadians and some 24 to 36 million Americans use marijuana. In some Canadian cities children as young as nine years of age are “shooting speed” (injecting amphetamines), and six-year-olds are getting into “soft” drugs.
As for Europe, a newspaper report says: “Almost every city of Western Europe is becoming a centre of heroin addiction.” In most parts of the world, especially among the well-to-do, high-priced cocaine use is on the rise.
A reflection of the growth of drug use in the United States is seen in a report by a former White House health adviser, Dr. Peter Bourne. He said that marijuana smuggling is now that nation’s third-largest industry. Only Exxon and General Motors do bigger business in the United States. In Florida, it tops even the tourist industry, he claimed, being now the leading money-maker there. Did you know these things?
Such growth in drug use is sure to cause concern for parents and others. They are concerned about the early and long-range effects of drug taking on children and adults, and on society as a whole.
There are those who propose that legalizing drug use would snatch drug trafficking out of the hands of criminals and allow for better control by government agencies. Especially do they argue for this on the basis of the alleged harmlessness of drugs if used moderately. They may then cite reports like the one that appeared in the Montreal Star News and Review of March 31, 1979, which said: “In the past 80 years 13 major national and international commissions have inquired into cannabis [marijuana] and each has reached broadly the same conclusions: that its dangers have been greatly exaggerated.”
Yet in the same city just a few days earlier, another newspaper, The Gazette (March 22, 1979), reported on a Symposium on Marijuana held at Rheims, France, and said: “More than 40 scientists from 13 countries presented the latest findings on marijuana—and they are alarming.” [Italics added] The conflicting reports leave many persons perplexed.
In the case of drugs other than marijuana, advocates of legalized drug use will point to a news report like the one in the Vancouver Sun that told of a prison doctor, Robert Schulze, who would like to see heroin legalized. Dr. Schulze claimed that after performing many autopsies on former heroin users he had seen no damage due to heroin. He added that heroin used over a long period of time would likely be less harmful than candy or aspirin used over the same period of time. He said: “It is a totally harmless thing to have freely available in the community.”
The claims by each side are conflicting ones, to say the least. However, since decisions involving your attitude toward the use of drugs are so far-reaching, careful analysis is needed. For example, one argument of proponents is that drug use is becoming more and more acceptable and therefore it is just a matter of time and conditioning before other drugs have the same popular status as coffee, tobacco and alcohol. But does general acceptance by the public argue that a substance is necessarily harmless? Not really. Certainly it has not proved to be so with tobacco.
Despite the contradictions found in the various studies and reports on drugs, especially when dealing with marijuana use, medical men in general and many scientists are not yet ready to give all “popular” drugs a clean bill of health. There are still serious reservations about the long-term effects of even the so-called “soft” drugs. There is growing concern about the effects on the unborn.
Maclean’s magazine reported that due to a lot of pressure on the Canadian government to legalize marijuana, in March of 1979 “each member of Parliament received a letter from a dozen high-ranking Canadian doctors urging extreme caution in this contentious matter.” Why? One would be wise to find out. He should also investigate why, if it is as harmless as claimed, so many using drugs try desperately and repeatedly to break free from drug use.
Therefore, it is important that we answer the question, Are drugs really dangerous? How can you know for sure? Is there enough evidence to assure you of the right viewpoint to take as to what would be best for the health and life of self and loved ones? Should we take a closer look at our own use of drugs? The information that follows should help you to answer these questions.
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Marijuana smuggling in the United States is that nation’s third-largest industry
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Is it true that the use of some drugs constitutes no more danger to your health than moderate use of caffeine, alcohol or nicotine?
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Many scientists are not yet ready to give all “popular” drugs a clean bill of health
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Does general acceptance by the public argue that a substance is necessarily harmless?