Saturday, 7 July 2012

Dodgy deals

There was a riveting exchange about drug use on Question Time* between John Lydon (of the Sex Pistols) and Louise Mensch (the Tory MP).

Louise Mensch said she deeply regretted taking class A drugs when she was young as they had left her with mental health problems such as acute anxiety.

John Lydon poo-pooed her regrets and her anxiety and said there was nothing wrong with drug-taking as long as you were properly informed about them.

From his boorish and aggressive manner, and his habit of talking over everyone else, I can only conclude that his own drug use hasn't done him a lot of good.

Strangely enough, although I grew up in the sixties when drug use was widespread and a lot of my acquaintances were stuffing themselves with every hallucinogen and narcotic they could get their hands on, I hardly touched drugs at all. I tried marijuana twice and LSD twice but I didn't like the effects they had. I didn't like the idea of something taking me over and suppressing my own autonomy and identity. So that was the start and finish of my experiments with drugs.

John Lydon has a point though when he says lack of information makes drugs a lot more dangerous. If you don't know precisely what's in that substance you're shovelling into yourself (as most illegal drugs are routinely adulterated) and if you don't know what dosage you're taking, then you're asking for trouble.

I can still remember a lovely guy I met in the early seventies who was heavily into drugs. One day he took a massive cocktail of goodness knows what, and was found later dead in his bed with blood spilling out of both ears.

If he'd known exactly what he was taking, and known exactly when to stop, he might still be alive.

But when you have only the vaguest idea of what you're putting in your mouth (or arm or nose), it seems sensible to opt out. And listen to Louise Mensch.

PS: If you don't think prescription drugs are dangerous, take a look at this article on antibiotics 

* BBC TV programme about current affairs 


  1. Having experienced enough problems with prescribed medication down the years, there was no way I would ever attempt to take illegal drugs under any circumstances.

  2. Grannymar: It annoys me when people use that simplistic equation, prescription drugs good, illegal drugs bad. Many prescription drugs are dangerous and can have serious unexpected side effects like strokes, depression, suicidal urges etc. Yet they're doled out by GPs like Smarties as if they're completely harmless.

    At the same time illegal drugs are universally condemned, yet they may not do the users any harm. We have a very mixed-up approach to drugs.

  3. I once chatted with Albert Hoffman who invented/discovered LSD. He called it his problem child.

    I agree with you and Lydon that information is a prerequisite to making good decisions. It may not lead to abstinence, but should help with harm reduction.

  4. That is something else that we have in common Nick. I did my share of grass and LSD but never got hooked on to either or something else. I did get hooked on to tobacco though and have survived so far!

    The point is that cigarette packets and many drugs do come with dire warnings about the consequences of using them. To what purpose?

    I have come to believe that there is some thing unfathomable that makes addicts what they are, or give up or kills them. Karma?

  5. Very interesting post, Nick. As an addict myself, I agree wholeheartedly that information is everything.
    It still won't stop the addictive behaviour but caution might be exerted. I did pot/weed/hash back in the day but balked at coke which was passed around in bowls in my time. I just knew I'd be instantly addicted so stuck to alcohol, LOL.
    As to Big Pharma, beware, just as dangerous and life threatening as street drugs. I recently told my doc I was no longer taking Lipitor as my research into it scared the bejayus out of me.

  6. Paul - Proper information would help a lot. It's extraordinary how casual people are about taking huge risks with their health.

    Ramana - You're right about the dire warnings that get ignored. Some people don't seem to care whether they live or die.

  7. www: I see Lipitor is one of the statins, and as you say it has all sorts of nasty side effects. Statins in general can really screw you up - they can seriously affect your mental functioning. Yet there are doctors who say everyone over 50 should be taking them daily!!

  8. A rough sleeper in Swansea died last week. Dodgy heroin on the streets.

    I notice your comments about stations: Husband was given them automatically when he hit 60.

  9. A woman I knew in the seventies claimed to take heroin regularly without any ill-effects. As you say, deaths are often due to "dirty" heroin that isn't what it's supposed to be.

  10. I'm far too law-abiding - getting caught with illegal drugs would be a career-killer for me. And it doesn't appeal to me anyway. I actually worry more, I think, about the prevalence of prescription drug abuse in people. It's a huge problem.

  11. Agent - Indeed, prescription drugs are heavily abused. People take too many of them and they take dangerous mixtures of them. And quite often they're unaware of potentially devastating side effects.

  12. did i hear big pharma mentioned? i could really get wound up on that one, then i could go on to the medical profession in general and my soapbox would need extending.

    i have never done drugs, not illegal drugs or tobacco or alcohol, though i have taken a painkiller or two.

    if people want to take a drug now and again and they have some idea what they are taking and the possible effects and if it doesnt totally disrupt their daily functioning then i'mm not one to judge

  13. I'm afraid I'm a stick in the mud. Don't smoke or drink (did some drinking when I was in college) or do drugs. Avoid prescription drugs as much as possible. I do manage to get high without them. Exercise and interesting projects do it for me. Eating right helps too.

  14. Kylie - That's another big question, whether drug-taking affects people's work performance and daily functioning. An awful lot of people are getting through their workdays under the influence of some chemical or other, and this is hazardous to the rest of us.

    I have a few glasses of wine a week, but I've never smoked.

    Monk - I agree, avoid all drugs, including prescription drugs, unless they're absolutely necessary. Let your body find its own sources of pleasure.

  15. I pulled myself out of meth addiction. I did have help. I had lots of help. But you know, I still drink, still smoke, still smoke weed on occasion. With some kind of crazily horribly twisted logic, I give myself a pass on those because I'm not doing "that other thing that will kill you way faster" any more. My reward for good behavior is bad behavior of a lesser sort!

    Oh well, at least I recognize that, right?

  16. Megan: I'm glad you managed to deal with the meth addiction. It's said to have serious long-term risks. As for the other bad habits - well, we all have bad habits of some kind. And who knows, you'll probably end up living to 110!

  17. Like you, Nick, I was never attracted by drugs at all, even in my youth. I have always thought that drugs are designed to do things to you, and I sure don't want anyone doing things to my brain that I don't need.

    Another thing with illegal drugs is that you don't know what is in them anyhow. Borax? Loo cleaner?

    I have the unfashionable view that drugs should be legalised and provided on the NHS and that would kill the illegal trade. It used to be that way, I believe. Not quite sure why it was stopped,but I do know that the issue of drugs and crime has got worse and worse and worse.

  18. Jenny: Exactly. I'm not keen on having things done to me.

    The jury seems to be out on legalising drugs. In some countries the situation seems to have improved, in others it's got worse. What I do know is that most of the problems with illegal drugs stem from the illegality - over-dosing, adulteration, lack of hygiene etc. And the so-called "war on drugs" is clearly being lost.

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