Think back for a minute about the drugs education videos everyone had to watch at some point during secondary school. If they were from the standard British curriculum, you would have been taught that any individual who has ever touched an illegal drug is inherently evil, and probably affiliated with Satan himself.
Smoking and drinking, though frowned upon, were not quite given the same anti-Christ status given to ecstasy (especially in the 1990s) or marijuana during our school ethics class. This approach to drugs education seems rather confusing when you start to look at the figures.
In 2010, tobacco and alcohol were cited as the direct cause of almost three times as many deaths than all illegal drugs combined in England alone. Despite this, cigarettes and alcohol line shelves on supermarkets, whereas being caught with a joint of cannabis can earn you a police caution lasting five years on your criminal record.
America’s recent legalisation of medical marijuana in several states has highlighted just how big a taboo has been built around the drug thanks to its illegal status. Recently, a seven year old American girl suffering from Leukaemia has been taking a gram of cannabis oil daily to counteract the devastating side effects of chemotherapy on her young body. The public outcry at a young girl being “doped” by her parents has been enormous, with a campaign even being started for the parents to be jailed. The drug is legal and obtained through a pharmacy, and yet still evidently hugely taboo, but why?
The tags of “legal” and “illegal” carry a substantial amount of weighting in the public’s opinion of drugs. Methadone, a legal drug used to wean addicts off of heroin, has been suggested to be almost as addictive as heroin, and yet, as Methadone is legal, it is not considered to be as much of a risk.
What are the factors which demonise a drug and call for its illegalisation? Anti-social behaviour? Fatalities? Instead of a relentless fear campaign against legal and illegal drugs, maybe instead we need to take a more educated, objective and scientific look at the substances our society both demonises and endorses.