Monday, February 3, 2014

The Goofy Road to Possible Doom: On the Stupidity of Recreational Drugs

Now Philip Seymour Hoffman is dead. Another one on the list. Sad. Definitely sad.

But, you know, it occurs to me that no one would die of recreational drug overdoses if everyone would just stop using them.

I have always thought recreational drug use was, at best, silly. I'm not going to take some high-road moral stance about it. To me, it has always been embarrassingly inane to do something in order, simply, to make one's self feel goofy. It seems so damned puerile to me.

People will argue about the whole "opening of the mind" thing. Of course, everyone who is not someone who is trying to make a dignified excuse for making himself feel goofy is aware that this is nonsense. Drugs artificially open and expand the mind, then they leave damage and residual confusion and mental instability in their wake, if not worse. And, often, they leave people dead, in which state it becomes fairly irrelevant as to how open the mind is, what with it being non-functional. So there is that.

People argue, also, that drinking alcohol is the same thing as, say, smoking pot. But it is not, of course. I like beer and, occasionally, Scotch. I drink them because I like them. Sometimes, if I have too much of the Scotch (hasn't happened to me with beer since college, at which point I was, admittedly, although briefly, an idiot, who sometimes sought to feel goofy by drinking cheap swill that was about as close to beer as to creek water; this lasted, maybe, a semester before I realized how stupid it was); if I sometimes have too much Scotch, I say, I will wind up feeling a little goofy. For me, however, the difference lies in the intention. There is a big difference, here, between enjoying a beverage's taste and then, as a generally accidental result, feeling goofy and smoking a blunt for one purpose only.

The use of recreational drugs is silly. It's childish. It is the height of frivolity.

Sure, the members of the Church of Hemp will argue, "It is not a gateway drug!" Physiologically speaking, maybe it is not. In fact, my understanding is that it is not addictive, physically. But this whole concept of taking drugs just to feel goofy for fun is a particular mindset and that mindset is lame.

Some people will smoke weed and never wind up doing anything more dangerous. We can't deny that. But since no one can really know, without field testing the stuff, if he or she has an addictive personality, why risk it?

It just makes no sense, in the grand scheme, to start it up, to begin with.

I'm pretty sure Hoffman didn't begin with injecting stuff into his veins. Now he's dead.

I do feel sorry for those who succumb to addiction, but I still feel they are responsible for not having applied a little logic to their lives, early on: If there is any chance smoking this might lead me into a life of addiction, is it worth the risk? (For the record, I don't think skydiving is an acceptable risk, either.)

I know, I know: "Jeez, Chris -- don't you ever take any risks? How are you going to live life to the fullest?" Well, to me risk has to be of an acceptable level. To me "living life to the fullest" is not a question of risking my neck for a temporary thrill. Living life to the fullest is breathing deeply of the fresh air; spending time with my kids; exploring my arts as far as I can; feeling my heart leap up as my dog runs in an open field at high speed; loving my wife with all of my (intact) mind, body and soul. It certainly isn't about feeling goofy for a night or about jumping off of a cliff into a damp sponge just for the adrenaline rush.

Now, hiking in a remote place, where there are wild animals, in order to see the wonders of Nature? That, I can do. The reward is worth the risk. So it's not all about sitting on the couch with the doors locked.

Maybe the simplest way to put is, at least for me is: One should do a thing for the experience, not just for the physical feeling of having done it.  If the feeling is good, that it okay, but to seek only the physical feeling cheapens the experience itself. (Drink beer because it is yummy, not just to get drunk; make love for love's sake, not for mere physical release, etc.) And if the experience of doing is not even part of the equation, then the feeling is a simple, worthless, self indulgence, especially when the long-term result can be death.

Hoffman is a great loss to the world of acting. He was a brilliant thespian and he seemed like good guy. But we need to stop glorifying these people; or, at least, to stop painting them as Romantically tortured geniuses who couldn't cope with the cold world. All of us have an obligation, to ourselves and out loved ones, to be smart with our lives.

Recreational drugs are dumb. That's all there is to it for me. And if one in ten million people is going to wind up like Hoffman, the risk is not worth the reward.


  1. I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that, for various reasons - past experiences, mental illness, to name two possibilities - some people suffer such anguish that they need an escape, which they seek in the use of drugs. I suspect that if drugs were legal there would be fewer deaths from them, because the strength would not vary and the substances would not be cut with all sorts of rubbish, (plus needles wouldn't need to be shared, etc etc), resources spent on policing them could be redirected to education programmes, organised crime would have less ability to undermine our societies, those who are bent on using drugs would continue to do so while those who are attracted by the 'cool' of their being illicit would no longer be attracted to do so.

  2. I agree with most of your points, Zoe, as far as what the effects of legalization and monitoring would do. But I was (and am) more concerned about changing the concept. We need to find ways to keep people from considering using drugs as escape.I'm often surprised by the absence of cold logic in the intelligent. Surely, Hoffman was smart enough to know that drugs were a bad way to go. I do wonder if there is a built-in thing, though, that we cannot escape if it is there in our -- what? -- DNA. For instance, I have never, once, in my life, seen drinking as something to do when I "had a bad day" or when I felt depressed -- it just never occurrs to me. For others, it is an immediate reaction. (I often hear co-workers say: "Man, all I want to do is go home and open up a bottle of wine." I wonder why and I wonder if we could change it for those people. Somehow...

    1. But your comments about going home, opening up wine, et cetera for some reason bring to mind a memory of an evening walking through a square in a suburb of Barcelona. Quite a lot of people at cafe tables were I suspect doing just that - thinking thank god it's the end of the day, I need a drink - and clearly it was working for them. Meeting some friends, having a glass of wine and talking about how annoying the day had been wasn't going to lead to anything bad, but probably that glass of wine helped them transition from hyped up jittering office rat to a person who could talk and laugh about what had seemed unbearable. I would certainly use wine in that way (in moderation, as the health professionals would say) and have no problem with it. As to Hoffmann, my lack of sympathy with him is all because he was a father. I think that once you're a parent you have to try to be responsible and not give in to your demons. It's not your problem any more and, if you don't meet your obligations to your children, you have failed.

    2. And I, too, enjoy a good porter on the weekends. It is a nice feeling, being with friends and enjoying a few. For me it is relaxing, too -- I just never seem to have that thought: I "need" a beer. Who knows why. It is not a moral thing; it just doesn't occur to me.

      I could not agree with you more about Hoffman. It is good to hear someone say "if you don't meet your obligations to your children, you have failed." So many people seem to think that one can be selfish and still be a good parent these days.