Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: What are the biggest misconceptions about recreational drugs? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread. Thank you to the team at Quora for making this happen!
There is so much polarization in the debate about that drugs that both sides tend to lose any sense of nuance.
People are either romanticizing drugs or blaming all the malice in the world on them. So here is, for partisans from both sides, a bit of a balancing context to weed out (pun intended) some of their respective misconceptions:
For the staunch conservatives: drugs are not the embodiment of Satan.
There are far worse things in this world.
Alcohol, often getting an exempt status as a drug for being legal, kills more people than all recreational drugs combined.
So does being stupid enough to text behind the wheel.
We’ve tried prohibition and you won’t be pleading for an overall cell phone ban, would you?
The message here is that banning things does not magically solve any issue. The US was founded on freedom, it’s time to act up to that principle. Repression of drugs does two things: it encourages criminal activity and makes it “sexy” for teens and college kids to try. In countries where there is less repression, abuse rates are lower. Fewer people smoke weed frequently in Amsterdam than in any populous US state or college town.
For staunch liberals: drugs are not safe nor intrinsically good.
Even it it’s a cute plant or a mushroom, the active substances in drugs are still just chemicals, like any other active substance. Drugs are not magically impervious to the dangers of using a substance that influences your body chemistry. Since they lack professional R&D and production and widespread use, they’re actually much, much less safe than most everyday chemicals.
Drugs are a leading cause for urgent psychiatric care and the biggest trigger for latent psychiatric illness in people on the verge. More people get institutionalized or harm themselves or others in a drug-induced psychosis than for any other cause of sudden psychiatric illness.
Special mention for marijuana: as a calming and analgesic substance it has perhaps its advantages as a pharmaceutical. However, it is in no way safer or more reliable than an OTC painkiller. It’s a last resort drug at best. It is vastly carcinogenic* (chiefly when smoked) and the complications and side effects, ranging from psychosis to cognitive impairment would have been deemed completely unacceptable if this were a product from “Big Pharma”.
Just because something doesn’t kill you on the spot does not mean it’s fine to keep using it. We’ve learned that from cigarettes, remember?