Monday, January 28, 2013

The Drug Talk

I don't know where I stand on drugs, every argument has a counterargument, it's all very complicated. I simply know what I will do, and that is to try no new drugs and take as little as possible.

So 'drugs' is a broad catch-all term that is borderline useless to the discussion. When I say I take drugs I'm talking 90% caffeine, and 10% alcohol. I don't even take painkillers, except when the hospital deems it necessary to put my shoulder joint back in the socket.

For example, one argument that swayed my staunch opposition to drugs was the observation that large numbers of drug users experiment with drugs, enjoy themselves and move on in life with no adverse effects. And these numbers are significant but forgotten in the face of fallen, broken individuals who used a lot of drugs.

But this argument has little relevance to me, if in the crucial words 'move on' we are explaining the large number of people who stop their experiments with recreational drugs because they stop being able to apply the word 'recreation' to their lives with any relevance, once servicing a mortgage and responsible for child rearing and what not.

Indeed in general the youth do not, or cannot look to their elders and conclude that there is more to life than the hedonic pleasure world they are seemingly drawn to. Except that this is a tiny phenomena restricted to the worlds most priveleged.

But the thing is you can't reliably look at the older generations and have the life-cycle bear up to any scrutiny, there's still significant numbers of people with families, mortgages and work life to hold up that binge drink and take drugs. You can't even reasonably conclude that getting married, owning your home and having kids yeilds more satisfaction with life than taking a bunch of drugs at a festival.

It is not enough to conclude that our parents got over taking drugs, and so shall we, so what's the point there must be more to life than feeling great? What about looking to those who inspire us?

Of more relevance to me are the host of musicians and artists whose life does not require them to be somewhere at 9am looking hygenically presentable. This world is littered with functional substance abusers.

Take for example, Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, an amazing guitarist and non enjoyer of many illicit substances. Is this counterargument enough? You see somebody richer than anybody you are likely to ever know who has whole sections of his memory (indeed whole continents like Australia) wiped from his memory, yet he play amazing guitar.

I see the drug use, but I imagine Keith Richards wasn't some alcoholic lying in the street until Mick Jagger said 'put a guitar in his hands', Keith Richards rather is somebody incredibly fortunate to have played and at some point worked up an incredible guitar playing ability in his youth before his substance abuse started.

The same can be said of Eric Clapton, I see drugs sure, but I see a lot of work. Dave Navarro, Perry Farrell, Anthony Kiedas, Keith Moon, James Morrison, John Bonham, Janis Joplin, Sid Barrett, Jimi Hendrix...

I see a lot of work and dedication, maybe in somecases preexisting talent, I don't know leading to a lifestyle that could sustain drug use, due to having quite unrealistic incomes for the general population. Furthermore, while the amount of creative output attributable to drug use is questionable, the number of these artists that still had to beat a heroin addiction or died from drug or alcohol related overdoses suggests that continued drug use and occupations that allow for it have a much stronger correlation than drug use and 'creativity' or drug use and 'musical talent'.

As for comic book artists, I read Jim Mahfood's LA Ink Stains and am envious of how much of his life is seemingly devoted to taking drugs, going to amazing gigs, then eating fast food with beautiful women in the early hours of the morning. But for the most part, the artists I follow and attempt to emulate just draw 14 hours a day, are married, have a kid and move out of the city to a country for cheaper rent and bigger studio space. Few, very, very few ever mention drug use.

I think it's easy to make a case to point out that drugs, while fun, don't help anything. In fact, it is more or less exactly the same as pizza. Pizza never makes you life easier post consumption. You can take XTC and feel great, until it wears off, then your life is just as shit or good as it was before.

It says nothing. But where I feel my position will eternally be anchored, is that so many drugs, what they do is stimulate your brain into producing the chemical rewards normally reserved for actual improvements in your life. I don't want a $40 pill that feels better than sex, or kissing, or hosting a successful exhibition. I don't won't to inject heroin into my arm that feels better than any feeling I can achieve in my actual life.

Just like pizza doesn't make your life easier, the human brain, the most complex organ in the known universe, evolved for millions of years to give us specific rewards for specific events in life that are worthwhile. We feel a kind of ecstacy consuming refined sugar, because it is so rich in calories that if you stumbled across say - honey in the wild days of hunter gatherer it was a massive windfall. Now you can buy kilos of sugar and eat it by the spoonful. It's not good for you, and it's not indicative of any kind of good fortune or wealth like stumbling across some honeycomb used to. Just so, the ability to feel great via a pill or needle or crack pipe or whatever is not indicative of the hosts ability to throw a great party, or that you have made great decisions in life.

For me it is a fear, that even though taking recreational drugs doesn't mean you haven't made great decisions in life, it diminishes the hedonic impact those great decisions bring.

I just want the shit that is real, the really great stuff in my life to remain the best experiences of my life.

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