Let’s Talk About Drugs: A Letter to Future Offspring

To my dearest children Wilhelm and/or Lyra,

(Yes, your names were determined prior to the remote possibility of your conception.)

Let’s have a serious talk – one of the rare conversations that may leave you squirming in slight discomfort yet which are crucial for us to have.

As you enter adolescence, you’ll likely encounter youth culture’s obsession with both drugs and sexual intercourse. We can put a pin in discussing the latter for now.

Let’s talk about drugs.

Socializing and loosening inhibitions is fine, but know the importance of being able to differentiate between personal volition and external expectation. Know that some people, even those you consider friends, won’t hesitate to take advantage of you in your compromised state. Know that if you drive while your motor skills are impaired, you’re never too old for a beating.

More than anything, the alcohol will flow – getting “shitfaced drunk” will be a popular ritual. Know that ethanol is a neurotoxin – literally a poison that will hurt every organ in your body. Learn to take it slow and watch your intake. If you choose to exceed your tolerance level, expect vomiting and pure agony.

Chances are, you’ll be exposed to marijuana. Know that frequent use will hurt your memory and attention skills. Know that reactions can be extremely subjective, and largely depends on your mood and mindset. If you’re anxious or paranoid, expect things to get so very much worse. Again, learn to regulate intake. Overconsumption never killed anyone, but it can lead to dysphoria – and I guarantee it’ll be the most uncomfortable experience of your young life.

Wherever you go, you’ll be exposed to tobacco. Know that nothing will kill you faster. Know that it’s more deadly to humans than HIV/AIDs, tuberculosis and malaria put together. Know that if there’s a single socially acceptable substance I ask you not to experiment with, it’s cigarettes. Please, please don’t do it. I assure you, it sucks.

In the glorious days of your youth, you should have fun. If you choose to do it, whatever “it” may be, do so in moderation. Do it in environments you’re comfortable in and with people you trust. If you decide to experiment, feel free to do so at home, in the safest and most familiar possible setting with the two people who love you most in the world.

Above all else, be safe and come home.

How Cannabis Could End a North American Epidemic

Yet another way in which medicinal cannabis could save lives: as a substitute for painkillers.

Opioid overdose has been described by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a national epidemic. And contrary to lingering stereotypes, death by overdose on opiates isn’t exclusive to recreational use of illicit substances. Victims include patients who gradually developed an addiction to prescription painkillers (the most popular of which include Percocet, Vicodin and OxyContin) and either failed to follow proper instructions or resorted to illegal alternatives – namely heroin – once prescriptions had run dry.

With the prescriptions and sales of painkillers having almost quadrupled in number since 1999 in addition to existing prohibited drug use, it seems almost cause-and-effect logic that the FDA reported overdose deaths as today’s “leading cause of injury death in the Unites States – surpassing motor vehicle crashes.”

The most tragic part of this public health issue is that such casualties are entirely preventable.

Research has consistently revealed the following methods of prevention:

In regards to prescription-related overdose, perhaps the most effective and practical method would be to prescribe an alternative to opiate painkillers, preventing patient addiction and misuse from the outset. One medical alternative is – wait for it – cannabis: a natural substance with analgesic, pain-relieving properties recognized since the second century AD in China.

A time-series study revealed that states legalizing the medicinal use of cannabis exhibited a “24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate”. Yet legalization remains a contentious issue.

The lack of government adoption of such fact-based provisions is not only disheartening – instilling a sense of repugnance towards the lengthy and at times backwards bureaucratic process as well as towards deeply rooted prohibitionist attitudes – but also cruel, standing idle in the face of so much empirical evidence, in the face of so many unnecessary deaths.

As citizens wait for evidence-based drug policies at the federal level, victims of opioid overdose may be added to the list of casualties of the war on drugs.