Most people start using drugs before they even leave the house in the morning. Yes, that first cup of coffee is what many of us need to start the day. The next drug that millions of Americans use, sometimes up to 20 times a day, is our nicotine! And then, after a long day of work, many of us head to a local bar or to our refrigerator and pour ourselves a cocktail, ice cold beer or a nice glass of wine.
And I’m just getting started. There are over 100 million Americans who have used marijuana. Thirty years after Nancy Reagan told us to “Just Say No,” half of high-school seniors will try marijuana and 75% will try alcohol before they graduate. And what about the college students who use Ritalin to help them focus and put in long hours at the library? And how about all of the superstar athletes who use performance enhancing substances? What about all of the men (and women) who are deeply grateful forthe “little blue pill”? And how about the businessmen who stay up until three in the morning with the help of a “little bump”?
Drugs are so popular because people use them for both pleasure and for pain. Drugs can be fun. How many of us enjoy having some drinks and going out dancing? How many of us enjoy a little smoke after a nice dinner with friends? Many people bond with others or find inspiration alone while under the influence of drugs. On the flip side, many people self-medicate to try to ease the pain in their lives. How many have us have had too much to drink to drown our sorrows over a breakup or some other painful event? How many of us smoke cigarettes or take prescription drugs to deal with anxiety or stress? Throughout recorded history, people have inevitably altered their consciousness to fall asleep, wake up, deal with stress, and for creative and spiritual purposes.
While it is clear that drug use doesn’t discriminate and the majority of us are using one drug or another, the reality is that the war on drug users does discriminate. More than 1.8 million people are arrested every year on nonviolent drug charges.