October 31, 2002 Halifax Herald

The perils of pot and addictive substances

MARIJUANA, without much evidence to support such a contention, has been labelled by some experts as the gateway to hard drugs. Is it? A Senate committee thinks not.

Before getting into dissecting the question, I'll admit I've tried it twice, didn't like it both times, never tried it again, and have never had any inclination to use it or any other mind-bending substance on a regular basis. This includes legal prescription drugs, which are, when not properly controlled, far more dangerous than pot. I've seen side effects from such drugs that made the original disease look pleasant.

Please don't get the notion that I'm free of addictions to addictive substances; I'm not. I'm hooked on one of the deadliest of all, if not the deadliest - a product that was finessed to a mouth-watering state by culinary experts over a long period of time: fat-saturated, delectable food. It, without a doubt, has caused more permanent impaired health situations, and more deaths from heart disease and other deadly maladies, than all other addictive substances combined.

At the moment, I'm almost under control and not dangerously overweight; but I did cross that threshold once. And even knowing that if I were to continue in that state, it probably would mean an early death or permanent disability, I had a devil of time retreating from it. Consequently, I most definitely don't want to revisit the struggle entailed in ridding my frame of excess poundage again. However, with all the temptations in one's face constantly, it's very hard to resist and live healthy. For example, because of arthritis, I need to drop at least another 20 pounds. After two years of trying, I've had only moderate success, the loss of eight pounds.

What was the entry culprit that caused my addiction? Pot certainly wasn't; however, probably many of the legions of fat-food-addicted, overweight North Americans have turned to it for comfort. Is fat food, then, the entry source to pot, then to the hard stuff? I don't believe so; I think we need to consider human weaknesses.

For starters, we should collectively face this fact, instead of looking for scapegoats: We're all inclined to become addicted to something or other during our lifetimes. Fortunately, most of us can control our addictions, but it's not always so. For instance, in the case of fat-laced, tasty food, the battle is being lost. If the trend continues, in the near future, the majority of North Americans will be dangerously overweight, thus prone to early disabilities and deaths - very expensive for health care systems.

As for so-called entry drugs and substances, there probably isn't one item to pin the use of hard drugs by addicts on. For those with no resistance, because of their natures, addiction to even a mild addictive substance is probably instantaneous. What is needed to help them is early detection of proneness to addiction, then an effort to stop them from experimenting with addictive substances in the first place.

For those with resistance who become addicted, among the multitude of entry drugs and substances that helped hook them on hard drugs, nicotine and alcohol, which are both extremely addictive, are in the forefront. These two, even for those who do not graduate to hard drugs, are the deadliest. Combine them with fat-laced food and it's almost a guarantee of early demise or, worse, an expensive, long-term, incurable illnesses. But the three are legal.

In the case of alcohol addiction, I know of cemeteries that are well populated with the remains of those who were crushed by it. The orphans, widows or widowers, broken homes, and other innocent victims left behind because of it are legion. Many alcoholics, when they can no longer afford to feed their addiction, turn to any product with an alcohol content for satisfaction, often combining it with any kind of drug at hand for potency. Yet alcohol is sold by governments and considered socially safe.

To a lesser extent, but yet substantial, the victims of nicotine addiction take up spaces in cemeteries. Yet the drug is sold over the counter and governments collect a bounty of taxes on it.

In the case of pot, I have no knowledge of anyone expiring from using it. In fact, I know of individuals who have been using it for over a quarter of a century and show no ill effects - functioning on a daily basis quite normally.

Is pot addictive? If it were, this country - for that matter, the Western world - would be in a terrible state because more than 70 per cent (a conservative estimate) of its adult citizens, having used it, would now be addicted.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not advocating the use of pot, or any other kind of addictive or non-addictive drug. People would be better off if they didn't use any, and if they were very conservative about using prescription drugs. But I do believe that the resources being utilized to fight the sale and use of this relatively harmless drug, witnessed by the throngs who have used it without ill effects, could be far better used in combatting serious crime.

Let governments license its sale and collect taxes. Organized crime isn't interested in something easily available and not paying high dividends.

Daniel N. Paul


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