I never thought that I would turn into an anti-drugs campaigner but there you are. As a 60s child I was there at the beginning but it amazes me now to reflect that I haven’t been near any of it for more than forty years. And I’m not sorry or a bit regretful.
The one thing I knew from the start was that this stuff has the potential to tear you psychologically apart. If you have some kind of flaw in your mental makeup, drugs will do a demolition job on your mind. Taking drugs is a form of Russian roulette; some make it through all right and others are scarred, and sometimes ruined for life. When I think back on the people I knew whose lives were destroyed by the drugs available at the time, and today they are worse because more powerful, I cannot believe how lax we are about these dangerous chemicals which we do too little to deter people from indulging in.
When someone I know’s younger son turned 16, every birthday present from his son’s friends was alcohol related. Not alcohol itself, but things like glasses and decanters. Now I don’t know how you might have felt but he was relieved. As my colleague pointed out had his son’s friends thought that the most appropriate presents were hash pipes and hookahs then he would have been seriously alarmed. Lots can go wrong with alcohol too but the damage from the drug culture is worse. And even if it’s not, we provide a great many social warnings and make a massive effort to deter people from overindulging in alcohol, and the effort has grown over the years. There is nothing comparable about drugs. With the drug culture, you are on your own. No one warns you about how fantastically dangerous they are.
I got onto this issue because of Rob Ford, the mayor of Toronto. He smokes crack cocaine but my point was not that it’s OK, my point was that only someone on the conservative side would be pilloried for it. Nigella Lawson admits to having used cocaine and the description of the haze she entered into is quite remarkable. Alan Fels, who is seeking assistance for the mentally ill, had this to say with the drugs problem mentioned almost as an aside when it is probably one of the most important problems at the present time:
He said a ‘scandalous’ example of the problem was a lack of treatment for people who had both mental health and substance problems.
No other mention of narcotics in the story but the statistic that four in ten Australians will have a mental problem during their lifetime does make it seem like there is quite a bit of evasion of the central problem going on.
There is this story in The Spectator about someone named Trinny Woodall who I never heard of but must be a celebrity in the UK. And this is from her story:
I’d always hated alcohol, but over the next five years I developed a drink problem. I drank a bottle of vodka a night, with cocaine and pills. And I started to get into trouble. Not the kind of trouble that ended in prison, but it ended up with me feeling lonely and isolated. Every night I’d tell myself, ‘This is my last time,’ and the next day I’d end up using again. Then one night when I was 26, three of my very closest friends and I said, ‘Tomorrow we’ll stop.’ I desperately wanted to — the first time in ten years of using that I’d had that feeling. I called up my psychiatrist and told him that I needed to get away.
These are stories the like of which you can read every day about someone famous. But I dwell on the ones who ruined their lives and are no longer a presence at my age level. I used to think of survivors of the drug culture of the 1960s as my generation’s form of war veteran. Some of us came back but others did not.
Narcotics and “recreational” drugs are a poison. There may be some parents who have a joint with their kids but most adults live in mortal fear of their children entering into the dark worlds of drug abuse. Trinny Woodall is just one story out of many. Why we are so light handed about drug abuse I cannot know – I do not believe you can be arrested in Australia for possession of marijuana at the present time, or if you can virtually no one is. That’s not how things ought to be but that is unfortunately how they are going to stay.