Redefining drugs

Tough post this one, so bear with me please. Not easy to write.
This is one of those posts that was, in part, prompted by a conversation at an event I went to over the weekend; a bit of a roundtable so to speak; you know when it’s about 2 am and everyone becomes a philosopher as their glucose levels drop and inhibitions also drop, thoughts can flow. I’m perhaps the odd one sat there with some useful contribution but mostly observing and absorbing knowledge like a sponge and compiling it whilst eating fruit rather than drinking whiskey.
It’s something I’ve certainly been very vocal about over the years, given a few talks on and shared similar viewpoints from others who have hinted at the same but perhaps haven’t the balls to put it out there in clear line of sight whereas I will and with a target on my head.
This has caused problems before but the net net is positive so it’s worth doing.
So what are drugs?
Well, if you were to straw poll the average person they’ll likely give you a name of some illegal drug wherever they live. Sure, some people might give you a more detailed explanation but I think well over 99% of people are missing the mark.
My definition of a drug is anything that changes how our bodies work. (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physiologically – these are all signals(feelings) that require tweaking by our nervous system to maintain a balance)
Now that is super broad and it is deliberately intentional.
Let me explain, common answers you’ll get from people will be stuff like alcohol, weed, painkillers or antidepressants or whatever. That’s fine and they are drugs, absolutely, based on my definition.
You’ll get people who can give more sophisticated answers such as central nervous system depressants or stimulants or opioids – it doesn’t really matter.
Whatever someone answers, it’ll ALWAYS loop back to my definition.
Let’s start with a few easy examples.
You get in a car accident, you go to the hospital with a broken leg. You’ll be given morphine, an opiate that blocks pain receptors to reduce pain.
You eat food. It affects how you feel, if you were hungry, you are no longer hungry, you feel different.
You drink alcohol. It affects how you feel.
Would you agree that these 3 examples abide by my definition of a drug?
Now, let’s throw in the mix, social stigmas.
In parts of the world, alcohol is not only seen as bad but it is illegal. On a country-wide level. On a micro level, it might be entirely legal but alcohol may have affected you, or someone close to you negatively. Is it a drug? Are you judged for consumption, either dose or frequency…
How about classifications of drugs? 
Typically we have broadly defined these in the western world into 3 categories, legal, illegal and prescription. 3 different barriers to entry.
And who decides the barrier to entry? Lobbyists typically.
Let’s have a look at the work of Professor David Nutt as one snapshot example
In his work, which is very robust, he explored the harm from drugs legal, illegal, and prescribed as you can see.
However, here are some things that meet my definition of a drug that he didn’t include in great detail and I think it is worth looking at AND thinking about.
There are THREE very powerful factors that are not considered often.
These factors are,
  1. The reason for using the drug.
  2. The potential for addiction
  3. Why the potential for addiction?
Let’s take paracetamol (Tylenol) I think in the USA/Canada given ~40% of you are there…
  1. To reduce mild physical pain, eg a headache by lowering overall body temperature.
  2. Very low but not zero.
  3. Because it removes pain with a very small amount of effort.
Ok, another example.
Cannabis
  1. Typically to reduce pain, get high, change state
  2. Medium
  3. Because it changes state and that state is often pleasant
And another example
Crack cocaine
  1. To remove all pain, and conscious thought and change state
  2. Extremely high
  3. Because of number 1
Can you start to see what’s happening here? (If not, that is okay, I am an average writer with an IQ that I don’t like to publicly admit so something that I present isn’t always clear).
Let’s roll this forwards a bit…
Harm and dependency with drugs – this is where it starts to get interesting and is from the same study.
Again, a mixture of illegal, legal, and prescription drugs.
Surely, those with the least harm and dependence should be legal?
Well, back to lobbyists, but that’s for another post.
So let’s think about my definition again of drugs.
And the number 3 – “why the potential for addiction”
Well, it’s simple…
A need is not being met somewhere and in almost every case it’s one of two things.
  1. Not feeling loved.
  2. Not feeling enough.
Drugs do this, as in physics, a void is always filled it is EXACTLY the same in nature (physics IS the study of nature! It is not all equations and mathematics; that’s just how we codify it.)
You may have come across the marshmallow experiment with children, but have you come across the flashing light experiment with mice? Probably not. I’ll cover it another time.
So, I propose a question based on all the above.
Where does social media sit?
On the scale of harm, dependency and addiction? Addiction is defined as a short-term pleasurable behaviour resulting in long-term negative consequences.
My answer is up there with heroin; it doesn’t mean everyone will become addicted but it is just as dangerous… if not more.
Why? Designed to be addictive. Ease of access, 24/7/365, socially acceptable, very little treatments options.
I’m not after one particular social network; I am looking holistically. The studies are not complete yet but this is where you find those with the highest use have the most present symptoms of what is commonly called the DSM. Personally, I think the DSM is a load of bollocks. These networks are used to mask pain, it may be stress of work, it might be significant trauma, it might be a whole host of things. But, does it meet my definition of a drug? Yes.
And this is a massive problem that is being missed. So the question here isn’t whether this drug we call social media should be limited or regulated, it’s the same as the food, or the cannabis, it’s the why. Why the pain, what happened, what are we trying to heal or mask.
Studies will appear in time that show I am right; I will bet my house on it. It’s a self-perpetuating flywheel.
In China, as an example – TikTok is educational and limited to 90 minutes per day. Fuck you that violates my freedom of choice may be your immediate thought, however, what about if we said that we will allow unlimited access to heroin to everyone for free? Or super unhealthy food? Would you say that’s a good thing? No, this may appear a ridiculous comparison, but on the brain – it’s near identical; and it is not just TikTok. It’s Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, it doesn’t matter.
The effects are the same and the withdrawal process is the same. Mentally, physically and so on.
Here’s a video I posted on Facebook in 2019 – Attrib Simon Sinek. It’s very powerful.
All my love,
Adam
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