Alcohol and Other Drugs
Amphetamines, Cocaine (crack cocaine) and Heroin
The information in this section is not intended to minimize the obvious risks of these drugs, but it is vital to have a sense of perspective and to point out the gross exaggerations about many illegal drugs in the minds of the public.
It is particularly important to have a sense of the dangers relative to alcohol, a better known drug that is always available to would be drug users.
Regardless of the drug involved, there are basic principles that apply to all.
* It's not the drug, it's the user. There are thousands of drugs, legal and illegal, for a user to choose from. The outcome will primarily be determined by the caution of the user.
* Dosage is a very critical factor. At standard doses, no common drug poses a significant threat to most users. As dosage escalates, risks often increase radically.
* Prohibition will always make use of that drug more dangerous, partly by depriving most users of accurate ways to control dosage and purity.
* Millions of doses of each of these drugs are taken every day with no significant ill effects. All of them have been abused by a small percentage of users providing numerous true and frightening but atypical anecdotes.
* Alcohol is, dose for dose, quite arguably the most dangerous drug.
- Most likely to cause death (except tobacco)
- Most dangerous to the fetus, including "crack", which is NOT known to cause fetal damage.
- Most closely linked to anti-social behavior such as crime and violence including rape and family abuse.
- Most closely linked to brain and organ damage
- Most likely to deprive the user of judgement and motor coordination.
See: Science notes 2
- About as addictive as any other drug (except tobacco)
See: Science notes 2
* Marijuana is much less dangerous than the other drugs covered in this section.
Used legally for decades. Problems arose but were far smaller than today.
Used by our pilots in Iraq and elsewhwere for many decades. Issued to pilots by the U.S. government to increase performance and safety.
It is difficult to estimate how many traffic deaths have been caused by fatigue that might have been averted if such use was legal, but we do know that fatigue is one of the major causes of traffic fatalities.
Millions of those least responsive to caution and the laws are using more dangerous illegal versions currently.
There is no evidence that cocaine (or crack) is more addictive than alcohol. This point was made in the White House sponsored report by IOM in 1999 and typifies the gap between scientific reality and public perceptions.
" In 1994, after two years of research in 19 countries, a group of well-respected investigators concluded that coca leaf chewing is not addictive. They also found that most cocaine users consume very little of the drug and experience few serious problems."
- "A Duty to Censor," REASON magazine, August/September 1998
The item above suggests that one approach to now illegal drugs is to legalize them in their least addictive forms, in the case of cocaine, cocaine leaves or coca tea brewed from those leaves. One of the inherent dangers of prohibition is that it produces drugs in their most concentrated forms.
Even in its current form, cocaine users behave much as alcohol users do.