Drugs Are For Smart People

The first time I tried a drug recreationally was ten years ago, on a crowded dance floor in Las Vegas. It did not go well. The next morning I was hooked up to an IV trying to recover enough to run my company’s annual strategy review (thank you Hangover Heaven). When my assistant asked me, “What the hell were you thinking?” I defended myself, showing her the bucket list on my phone, “it was on my bucket list to try ecstacy!” Looking at my bucket list, she hit my arm and yelled, “how was THAT a controlled environment?”

Still working on finding a functioning Zeppelin — screenshot

That was my first exposure to one of the great truths in the realm of drugs, and when I say drugs I mean all of them — caffeine, alcohol, Ozempic, Vyvanse, shrooms, DMT, MDMA, cannabis, cigarettes, protein supplements, steroids, you name it. At their core, drugs for recreation and drugs for self-improvement all have effects on your mood, your energy, your focus, your memory, your sleep cycle and your overall enjoyment of and success in life. Regular workouts increase dopamine. So does doom-scrolling instagram. So does cocaine. Which is best and which is worst? The answer isn’t that simple.

The great truth is this: Drugs are for smart people.

I read that on the front page of a dark web site devoted to selling all kinds of things that Nancy Reagan told me would fry my brain. My brain is still intact, so I know that she lied because if what you believe doesn’t have predictive value, then you should stop believing it. Beliefs are to be tested against reality and adjusted as required, not be clung to blindly.

The key to effective use is knowledge. Know the pro and con effects of each drug. Know the appropriate dosage. Know the contraindications and whether there are particular effects to watch out for in general or for you specifically. Talk to a knowledgeable friend. In general, don’t do drugs alone unless you have experience.

There is no drug that will make you an addict on a single hit. There is no robust evidence of a chemical or genetic basis for addiction. People who are addicted to drugs are likely to be addicted to all sorts of things because they’re trying to numb some pain within themselves and drugs are great at numbing pain. The solution isn’t in taking away the drugs, it is in effective therapy like CBT, Compassionate Inquiry, or Internal Family Systems, often in combination with some form of accelerant like psychedelics and a knowledgeable guide or therapist.

There’s no such thing as an addictive personality. There is only a person in pain. This is another great truth. It’s not that drugs don’t work and that’s why you have addicts. It’s that they work all too well, but only in the short term. If you know someone who suffers from addiction, the best thing you can do is talk to them, get them into therapy, change their life situation. They’ll stop taking the drugs on their own.

People say yes, but what about heroin? Heroin is different. No, it’s not.

Every drug affects everyone differently. Just because you like cannabis doesn’t mean everyone should. And just because you hate cigarettes, doesn’t mean everyone should. If a drug has a benefit for some people, and they use it responsibly, then why in the world would you prohibit it? Dr. Carl Hart does a great job of describing the phenomenon of drug elitism in his book, Drug Use for Grown-Ups which I highly recommend if you have an open mind and want to learn how you’ve been lied to in the War on Drugs. The problem is that the media only reports when a drug user shows up in the emergency room or goes on a rampage, not on the millions of people who use both legal and illegal drugs every day to positive effect without ruining their own or anybody else’s life.https://jamesclear.com/heroin-habits

I had a friend once who was terrified of using an ATM because her mother worked in a bank and saw daily dozens of cards that had been eaten by ATMs. I get it. If all you see is the down side, you’d ignore the millions of daily successful transactions. During COVID there was an irrational response from many people of trying to avoid any and all risk. If only each article was accompanied by a link to a good course on probability and statistics. You can’t avoid all risk, but be intelligent about it.

Here’s a great introduction to relative probability when it comes to things that might kill you — the concept of ‘micromorts’ as a unit of probability that something will render you dead. For example, taking ecstasy twice has about the same risk as flying from Boston to Miami. If you won a million frequent flyer miles on your favourite airline, would you be celebrating, or would you be thinking, “oh shit, that’s the same as getting infected with COVID!”

Maybe I’ll just drink champagne on the runway — Created using Midjourney

Fortunately, we’re entering a fantastic era of being able to treat the trauma in peoples’ lives that lead to problems like drug addiction. The number one target of psychedelic-assisted therapy is PTSD, often in combat veterans, but even more often resulting from childhood adverse events. Treating trauma will treat all sorts of behavioural issues. It won’t be simple, it won’t be easy, but it’s a start, and it’s better than overmedicating a planet with opiates, adderall, and ozempic. All of which are legal medicines with as much or more harm potential than psychedelics.

All drugs have beneficial uses for some segment of the population. All drugs are harmful if used without adequate knowledge and care. Don’t be a drug elitist, saying that your favourite drug is the only one that should be legal.

The future of drugs in our society will, I hope, be akin to how they are portrayed in Iain M. Banks fantastic Culture Series of books. Humanity now spans the galaxy and has enormous control over its own physiology. Every person is outfitted with a series of artificial glands that can inject the right set of chemicals into their bloodstream to satisfy a particular requirement at a particular time for a particular duration. Safely. Want increased focus for an exam? Want to lose weight? Want to attack a group of murderous aliens with a water pistol and a witty catchphrase? There’s a drug combination for that. No stigma. No K-hole.

Seek fun and understanding, not oblivion and avoidance — Created using Midjourney

When I tried recreational drugs, I didn’t do my research first. I wasn’t smart. Want to do some research? Anything you’re interested in, type into a search bar with the word ‘Reddit’ at the end. You’ll find a wide variety of discourse on any subject associated with drugs, not just rabid enthusiasm or blind censoring. Curious about a drug combination? Try this excellent website to tell you what’s safe and what’s stupid. Got some street drugs and afraid it might be laced with fentanyl? Test it, or take it to a lab to get tested if your city has such a service. Drugs aren’t bad. Dying from a drug overdose is bad.

In stark contrast to the Vegas dance floor, the first therapeutic drug experience I had was five years ago with a retired therapist who had discovered the power of psychedelics to accelerate healing. He was referred by a friend and knew what he was doing. I had a six hour psilocybin mushroom experience that opened up a world of self-exploration, healing, and flourishing for me and subsequently for hundreds of others that I’ve referred or sat for myself. And I later had my bucket list ecstasy experience with a trusted friend.

The number one reaction I’ve heard from many people over the years trying a recreational or therapeutic drug for the first time is, “That was amazing! Why is this illegal?” Answering that question will take you down a rabbit hole that will sadden and infuriate you if you have genuine concern for humanity. Start with Dr. Hart’s book.

If you use drugs therapeutically or recreationally and have benefitted, talk about it. We need more information and dialog, not lies and fear-mongering. If you use drugs and you’re in a dark place, talk to someone, get some help. If you’re thinking about using drugs, make sure it’s in a safe and controlled environment, with people you trust and who know what they’re doing. Drugs are for smart people. Be smart, people.

We miss you Gary Larson

This article is not meant to endorse, promote, or encourage illegal or harmful activities. Always be aware of local laws and regulations.

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