Please Protect Me --- From Myself!
By L. Reichard White
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
Please protect me. From myself! I'm addicted to coffee and sugar. Former Surgeon General Everet Koop warned me nicotine is the most addictive drug and alcohol is the most damaging! My doctor tells me all four are dangerous drugs. I believe her -- my grandmother died of cirrhosis of the liver from drinking, my aunt of lung cancer from smoking and I'm borderline diabetic. Diabetes, which doesn't happen to people who aren't sugar users, is responsible for 20% of the amputations in this country, and a large percentage of the blindness. It's the fourth leading cause of death. Coffee causes prostate trouble. I already drink too much coffee and use way too much sugar. I'm afraid I might start smoking and boozing! A friend of mine says she's even addicted to sex. That's really scary!
I'm not as privileged as another friend of mine, David. He smokes marijuana and says he's addicted to cocaine! The government has a whole agency, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), just to keep him from getting his grass and "coke." They spray crops in foreign countries with herbicides (paraquot) and pay biotech companies to make genetically engineered viruses that will kill cocaine plants. ..... I wonder what they can do for my sex addict friend? When all else fails, we even invade foreign countries like Panama to try to keep David from "snorting" crack.
I don't think this is fair! I don't get the same kind of help for my addictions. Why should one arbitrary group of us addicts be the only ones to get all these benefits? I won't be satisfied until they spray Colombia's caffeine trees right along with their cocaine bushes. And when are they going to develop a virus to kill Caribbean sugar cane? How long must I wait for an invasion?
All this won't come cheap, of course. At the Federal, State, and municipal level, we already spend at least $100 billion a year on enforcement, prosecution and incarceration for the current war on drugs. According to the February 7, 1994 TIME Magazine, we have more of our citizens per capita in prison than any other country in the world --- and over half of them are there because they violated the current drug laws. We'll have to pay for the new "This-is-your-brain- on-drugs" type commercials against tobacco, alcohol, coffee and sugar. And build extra prisons. But, if we're willing to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to try and protect David from his cocaine addiction, how can we deprive us sugar, coffee, alcohol, and tobacco addicts of "equal protection under the law?" -- And don't forget the poor sex addicts!
Of course, there is a bit of a downside; all the publicity has caused naturally rebellious teens, who wouldn't otherwise even know about currently illegal substances, to actually use them. And the "Drug laws" have driven prices sky high. I think the idea is that I won't be able to afford much coffee or sugar once they're added to the controlled substances list, and though I can't control my habit, I'll have the moral strength to resist wholesale larceny just to get sugar money. But I'm a little worried. Apparently some addicts actually steal from the rest of us to afford these substances -- which would be cheap if they weren't illegal. Law enforcement statistics show this has at least doubled the rate of crimes against property. I guess that's just the price we'll have to pay if we want to feel we're helping addicts like David and me.
OK, I know we've made some progress against tobacco recently. But I was in the store just today and I can still buy cigarettes. And the State Stores here in Pennsylvania still sell booze! What if I start to drink? I told David about my clandestine trips to Sheehan's Grocery to buy Baby Ruths -- and he laughed! He told me I was "psychologically addicted." David shows no sympathy for my plight at all -- he claims he's "psychologically addicted" as well and can still get his drugs too. I have to admit, he does seem to have plenty to smoke and snort.
I guess all this prohibition doesn't work very well, but they have a fall-back plan! David is one of the lucky ones. He's going to prison! Of course there's a big drug problem in the prisons, so he'll probably still get his "coke" -- and possibly AIDS as well. But at least they're trying to help him! After all, it is the thought that counts -- isn't it?
P.S. I just read the following:
. . . Sweet, fatty foods like chocolate can trigger an addiction in vulnerable people, rewarding them for ingesting such goodies with the release of pleasure inducing opiates in the brain, studies have indicated(SN:6/17/95,p. 374).
Now, pharmacologists at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego report finding that chocolate contains not only its own cannabinoid--a compound that resembles the ingredient in marijuana (cannabis) that induces euphoria--but also a pair of related chemicals that could prolong any pleasurable sensations elicited by a cannabinoid. -Science News, October 12, 1996, p.235.
I guess we'd better get ready to spend a lot more money for prisons, etc. -- the average American eats more than eleven pounds of chocolate every year!!
L. Reichard White lives six houses up from the old Black Horse Tavern, a birth place of the Whiskey Rebellion -- which explains a lot. His current project involves the notion that altruistic drives evolved because they caused small-group humans to preserve their knowledge base -- which existed only in the minds of group members. He has supported his writing habit for over twenty years by beating casinos at their own games.
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