Desire to be inspirited rather than intoxicated

Alternativs to the reasons for taking drugs, Part 2

(See Part 1)

8  Seeking escape

What do you do when life is too stressful or desperate? Many people try to discover some way to drop out for a while. Drugs may seem the best blotter-out when people do not know that there are alternatives, both for escape, and to face the problems.

Alternativs to drugs for escape from everyday life

  •  Prevent life seeming so bad that people cry despairingly for oblivion. Practical prevention of disturbed families, degraded neighborhoods, and constant bad news. Guarding against excess psychological trauma, and early education in how to withstand troubles. A great deal is currently being imposed on teenagers to make them feel the world is terrible, human beings are vile, the future is hopeless, without giving them any models of how to cope or alternative visions. English texts, TV, video, teenage reading etc. need to widen their horizons away from current emphasis on bleakness, skunj and 'dirty realism'.

    Even advantaged and cheerful teenagers need not be encouraged by teachers, awards and prizes to write bleakly and horribly about life and the future.

  • Developing personal resources to cope with depression and troubles, and the inevitable burdens of being alive, instead of being helpless. Self-esteem is best derived from early experiences of faithful love, but 'self-respect' and 'character' can maintain it through troubles.  'Self-worth' feelings without this resource generate greater despair and destructive anger. Psychologists could do a great deal more helping people to develop personal strengths to cope with troubles, including problem-solving, self-reliance, initiative, knowledge, courage, humor. Then fewer people would go to pieces in emergencies and troubles, because they did not know what else to do, or how to befriend each other.
  • Helping young people to find alternative ways to find escape and consolations  that are healing and creative, rather than those that come at a price. These alternatives include adults who are permanently loyal and true friends, satisfying and fulfilling leisure consolations -  friendships, interests and hobbies, poetry written and/or learned by heart, reading, art, music, nature, spiritual resources - and helping others.
  • 'Binges' are often a feature of adolescent life. They need not be destructive. Social occasions can be riotous fun when there is no expectation that toxic stimuli are going to be required to release uninhibited joy. Youthful japes can be imaginative, not destructive. Individuals can have their personal binges and 'escapes' which can be anything from going out in the countryside to books, collecting, Luna Park, dancing, diaries, or even jigsaws.

9 Greed

Greed most obviously motivates the suppliers and pushers of drugs. But it also so permeates our culture that it should be recognised as part of a motivation for taking drugs as well.
This is the desire to get an instant something-for-nothing, without effort. It is most clearly exemplified in Timothy Leary's version of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. This American psychologist believed that LSD could supply the experience of 'instant mysticism' without having to have the lifelong dedication to spiritual and ascetic practices endured by mystics in all religious traditions East and West. 

Alternativ ways to spiritual and personal fulfilment

Help people to understand that deep personal and spiritual fulfilment can be sought by personal dedication, and that experiences of abundant life and expansion of consciousness can be more satisfyingly and permanently obtained by keeping the mind as clear and alert as possible. To learn to use our senses as fully as possible is better than to meddle with psychotropic drugs except for their medical uses and benefits.

10 Peer pressure

Nice conforming youngsters who seek peer approval find it hard to resist peer pressures.

Alternativs to succumbing to peer pressure

  • Publicity to help conformers to resist -  'Friends' who want you to take drugs are no real friends.  They are asking you to risk becoming permanently dependant on toxins with the consequent drain on your money and your health. They are seeking to put you in a position where you may end up tied to sellers because you cannot give up an addiction easily.
  • All young people should know they should change to another peer group if they are likely to be pushed into trouble that may affect their future lives. This can worse than merely getting into present mischief.
  •  Publicity to seek to persuade those who do take drugs not to try to proselytise - despite the natural desire to boost your own morale by making others your companions. 'You may be one of the OK ones who are not harmed, but the friend you persuade may be one of the ones whose lives are ruined'.

11 Physiology

Drug takers can show apparently no long-term effects - just as some very heavy drinkers survive apparently unaffected. Timothy Leary, for example, scintillated to the end - it is comparison with his early brilliance that suggests what mental deterioration had set in.

The long-term physiological effects of even moderate smoking  are clear, except to those with a commercial interest in denying it. However, when a drug like cannabis 'only affects the highest centres of the brain', it is not so obvious that habitual moderate users are functioning below their original potential in their powers of mental application, sequential thinking and sustained reasoning.  Physical and psychological addiction are to some extent unpredictable; reactions are idiosyncratic as with most drugs.

Examination of the physical and psychological effects of various drugs.

The popular argument that none of the hard or recreational drugs are addictive, because look at all those who stop, needs to be countered with documentation about the extent and degree of dependency for those who cannot stop.  Young people and the public generally need to be aware that there are real risks, bad trips, or prolonged mental consequences, and the possibility and nature of withdrawal symptoms, and the psychological and neurological effects of different drugs.  Much of the publicity in the media during the 'drugs debate' ignored disadvantages while publicising the attractions.

12 Rebellion

Rebellion can be spurred by many motives, and each motive can be directed more constructively rather into mind-affecting drug taking.

Our culture, unlike many others, expects young people to be rebellious in behaviour and attitude - even although most are not. They conform to what is unloaded on to them in entertainment, magazines and so on. There can be conformity in joining in the drug-culture.

Many rebels have reason however, because they have been taught that the adult world is bad and mad, by what they have experienced or by the learning they have been given. Some are rebellious just as a way of being mischievous. Some get into the drug scene on impulsivity, because of a moment's choice or rebellious mood swing.

Some teachers should not give 'drug education' -  because

i) they use drugs themselves, mostly marijuana, or
ii) are personally unsuitable, or
iii) are so dictatorial in their anti-approach that they provoke students to rebel, or
iv) are personally unpopular with students so that what they teach is also likely to be rebelled against. ie. drug-taking becomes tempting.

Alternativ channels for rebellion

  • Awareness of more options and possibilities to change the world instead of helping to muck it up further.
  • More cultural approval of self-mastery and self-control, as well as the value of freedom that involves caution and responsibility.
  • More parent education about how to expect good relationships with their adolescent that are not rocky, and how to help this to happen.
  • Attack 'Ageism' in our  society which assumes that people of different ages must be segregated, with teenagers isolated from those younger and older than themselves. Teens need the company and friendship of mentors, and to be able to grow up into an adult world that they are familiar with, rather than being stuck in a contemporary time-warp with few opportunities to jump the ghetto wall.Within teen ghettos many teenage groups are very vulnerable to exploitation.
  • Rebellion against the law.  'If it's illegal they'll want to do it'. This has become a belief of our culture. Other times and places have the public belief 'If it's illegal people will not want to do it', and many if not most people in our culture still believe in being law-abiding. We must spread the attitude that most adults and teenagers want to do what is legal, and do not want to do what is illegal. (After all, how much do people break other laws simply because they want to do what is illegal? If they break a law, it is because they want to do whatever it is, whether it is illegal parking or hitting a wife.)
  • The problem of people wanting to break the law needs to be tackled on a wider basic than merely drug-education. It includes remorse for breaking speed-limits (most people do sometimes, but the speed limits laws are still essential), public recognition that if we don't like the law that is no good reason to break it - eg re tax-avoidance, shooters' rebellions, paying train fares, shoplifting.   Reasons for keeping laws and how to work to change disliked laws need to be part of all education, not just drug education.
  • Teacher-training institutions have some responsibility here to reduce marijuana approval and culture among their students.

13 Desire to self-destruct

Self-destructive teenagers abound, who want to hurt or mutilate or destroy themselves as a response to troubles - like Princess Di, but with more reason.  Advertising that is designed to frighten or warn people against self-destructive and dangerous behaviour is counter-productive when it is directed to people who want to destroy themselves.

Dangerous risk-taking can have suicidal motivation behind it, deliberately or unconsciously, by people who think they do not care whether they live or die.

The idea of death can be attractive to teenagers, partly because they only know it from films and television, where it has become overly-familiar and unlike the real thing, and partly because adolescents have always been susceptible to morbid romanticism. The more immature they are, the less they realise what death actually is- permanently giving up the light and descending into a dark unknown.

They do not really realise that they won't be around to see if anybody is sorry or how much they have hurt others. Much popular entertainment for teenagers at present is death-oriented and grisly, but psychologically at the level of ten-year-olds playing cops and robbers.  'Bang! Bang! you're dead. Now the bell's rung for arithmetic.'

Depression can also be a state of mind so painful that to be nothing and suffer no more - to die, to sleep -  is greatly to be wished.

Alternativs to a suicidal culture

  • Start changing our suicidal culture and our misleading entertainment. Helping all teenagers to have more to live for, and more courage to face troubles without magnifying them. Helping them to appreciate the once-only pleasures of being alive, and to taste being alive to the full. A greater sense of humor that can face troubles.
  • Drug education by film that shows the disadvantages of drugs must be very careful that it is not feeding into perverse adolescent desires to be as miserable as possible.\

14  Showing off

Watch teenagers in public. Many boys need to show off before other boys and girls and many girls need to show off before boys. Many youngsters are not brave enough to refuse silly dares, and have mistaken ideas about courageSkiting about dangerous behaviour whether true or not is a way to show off when companions are not knowledgeable enough to pour on cold water.

Alternativ role models

Through film, fiction, discussion and example, young people can be encouraged to develop their own Australian culture which gives more kudos to understatement than to showing off, and values courtesy rather than boasting.  More areas where untalented youngsters can get  kudos are needed - and possible.  Ideas like Skill Olympics and Social Inventing would give more people a chance for 'better glory'.

15 Temptation through easy access  -
because the drugs are available

'Because it was there' is a major reason why people take drugs, or continue to take them.

'If they want it, they'll get it somehow whether it's legal or illegal'  does not hold for most people unless they are already badly hooked.  We are too lazy.  Crime figures show that the number of drug-addict criminals is too high - but it is nothing to the number of addicts there would be if other drugs were as legal as alcohol and tobacco.
Many folk proverbs have some truth in them, that the best way to avoid temptation is not to see it or think of it. Anything that becomes a fact of life in an environment tends to make people feel immune to its risks -  propinquity breeds tolerance. When drugs are all around, it is easy to become tolerant of their risks.

Alternativs to publicising and glamorising drugs

  • Stop making drugs a central and continual topic for classroom discussions.   Instead make more time to talk about life-enhancing living and ambitions.  Apart from possibly one lesson a year for every class taken by a knowledgeable teacher, learning about drugs can be set in a wider context, as in biology, history, sociology and health, and always with documentation available so that students are not exchanging ignorance and myths. Schools and colleges should be places to discover a multitude of other interests and leisure activities. - Counter-temptations, if you like.  Teachers should be personally available for students with individual problems, and contacts kept alive with local sources of advice and counselling, rather than constantly exposing all students to thinking that drugs must be extremely significant for their lives.
  •   When drugs hit the news, reports should be matter-of-fact and factual, with a health emphasis, not lurid and arousing emotions and curiosity.  The more boring the better.

    'Drug education' need not include non-essential information about the ingredients and how to grow, obtain, make and use them. All that is needed is evidence on why drug-taking should be avoided. 

This can include:

  • historical accounts of their effects in societies past and present (eg. hashish in 19th century Egypt and what is now Bangladesh, opium in old China, laudanum in 19th century England),
  • how societies have managed to keep clear or overcome large-scale problems; and
  • the medical and psychological evidence (with references) of short and long term effects on body, spirit and mind that may outweigh the pleasures of temporary distortions of consciousness.
  • We should also know about the value of narcotics and other drugs e.g. when there is serious physical pain and terminal illness.

 "I would rather think in pain than have my mind fogged up," (said Sigmund Freud, postponing narcotic pain relief for his cancer of the jaw) - but there are limits.

Live a life.