“Say No to Drugs!”
Seems simple enough. Our school campaigns may not have cut it when trying to safeguard us from the big bad world of addiction and substance abuse. The first drug we are introduced to is usually alcohol, and usually at quite a young age. However, when we gain a few years and some independence, the blindfold is lifted a bit more and we’re presented with a whole new selection of pills, powders, and passion plays.
However, even with all this choice we still seem to put away the pints handy enough. While this might seem like the sensible choice, alcohol can do as much, if not more, damage than other, illegal drugs could. The thing that makes alcohol more dangerous than other drugs may be its abundance and accessibility. It can be purchased in a huge number of public places and can consumed both on some of these premises and at home.
Another factor is the drinking culture in Ireland. Where a social event always means having few and a night out means having a few too many, we can no longer pretend to be shocked when we hear of severe instances of alcoholism. Almost every family has a connection to it or has been affected by it, yet we continue in our ways. In over four decades, alcohol consumption has almost trebled in Ireland. The Health Research Board found that for the four-fifths of adults that drink, the alcohol consumption per capita is equal to 46 bottles of vodka, 130 bottles of wine, or 498 pints of beer.
One in five people in Ireland who drink binge drink once a week – the short term and long term effects of which can be fatal.
One of the reasons it is so widely believed that drugs are worse than alcohol is that most other drugs are illegal. Firstly, this makes them seem more dangerous to the subconscious – they’re illegal so they must be bad. Secondly, because they’re illegal there are no regulations in the production of street drugs, meaning if you go to buy a point of Ecstasy you could actually be buying a whole concoction of other substances.
This is why marijuana is referred to, maybe unfairly, as the gateway drug. While marijuana is widely considered to be the safest drug out there – a lethal overdose being impossible – when buying it illicitly you can’t guarantee exactly what you’re getting. Additionally, you’re entering into a relationship with a dealer, be it directly or through someone else.
Some countries, such as Portugal for example, have been successful in reducing the harm done by drugs by legalising them. Unfortunately, in Ireland, we have developed no such means of harm reduction or safe drug use. Neither is this in our near future. So, for now, safe drug use is hard if not impossible to come by, which may be why we favour alcohol so heavily. This gives us, as a culture, the perception that alcohol is better. It’s not so black and white. All of these substances have their limits, and as a country, we tend to be quite dismissive of alcohol limits.
As counterproductive as it sounds, in order to minimise the harm caused by substance abuse in Ireland, we need to increase regulations on alcohol and decrease regulations on illegal drugs. People are going to drink and take drugs no matter how many shocking statistics we post. Therefore, the goal should be to minimise the harm done, as both can be as bad as the other.