May 24,1990

Our Medicinal Culture

A child is introduced to the world of drugs, not by marijuana, but by aspirin. It tells him that if he feels bad, there is a medicine that can make him feel better.

If you asked people whether medicines can make you feel better, the answer would be an overwhelming "Yes!" If you asked the same people whether drugs can make you feel better, fewer would say yes. What is the difference between medicine and drugs? There is none; they are the same. Yet, for many people medicines are good and drugs are bad.

When I was a kid and had a sore throat, it meant a week of misery, gargling, fever and bitter medicines that did no good. The most powerful drug then available was aspirin, which made the fever go down and made me feel better; but my throat stayed sore. My faith in the ability of drugs and doctors to help me, was undermined every time that I was sick. I am reminded of that every time that I get a cold, since nothing really helps a cold.

When I raised my children, thanks to penicillin, the same disease that kept me miserable for a week or two was cured in a day. The doctors and the drugs actually did what they were supposed to do. My kids also grew up with television, which told them that drugs are good for you; Aspirin, bufferin, laxatives, antacids, tobacco, beer , wine etc. could cure anything --including depression and unpopularity.

I'm not suggesting that we not give a child aspirin for pain or fever because it might turn him into a junky. I am suggesting that we not give a child aspirin for anything other than physical pain or fever. Part of the education process is to let him know that drugs only work for certain things and that if you're not sick, you shouldn't be taking them.

I know that it's not possible to protect our kids against everything that might hurt them -but we can try.

In high school, we were all scared. Talking to the opposite sex was difficult for many of us. We found out that a couple of drinks got rid of a lot of that fear. It got rid of the fear of having to say something because, no matter what you said, it sounds OK to you when you're drunk.

I had little money when I was in high school. Opium-derived drugs were almost unknown in this country. Now many kids have more money in a week(in terms of real value) than I had in a year.

It didn't take me long to find out a basic law of life: EVERYTHING GOOD HAS A BAD SIDE TO IT. The drug that makes you feel good today can make you feel lousy tomorrow. Even sex, that most wonderful of all pleasures, could transmit some very nasty diseases. When I was a kid, some of the treatments for venereal diseases were almost as bad as the diseases. We were frightened; and for good reason. Penicillin changed all that.

Now AIDS has brought the terror back; or will before too long. When AIDS hits the schools hard, as it is bound to do, our young people will have their moment of truth; as many have already had with regard to booze and automobiles. And you don't get a second chance with AIDS. A cure is not, as many think, just around the corner. NO VIRUS DISEASE HAS EVER BEEN CURED.

When I hear people talk about what to do about the drug problem, I am amazed at their simplistic attitudes. Before 1917, people thought that a constitutional amendment prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages would solve one of the major problems of mankind. In 1933 they thought that the return of alcohol would cure the evils of prohibition. Neither was true.

Make no mistake about it, drugs are as American as motherhood and apple pie. To change our culture from the drug culture that it is, to something different, you have to start by changing attitudes, as is being done with regard to smoking. It is a slow and uncertain process. I am not suggesting that everyone become Mormon or Seventh Day Adventist, but we do have to start with beliefs and attitudes. It is not necessary to have religion to believe that injuring your own body is insane.

The first step should be to STOP PUSHING DRUGS ON TV, radio, billboards, newspapers and magazines. Of course, many powerful people don't want a change. There is big profit in drugs, drug advertizing and in fighting drugs. Drugs are worth big money to the media people.

In fact, many more people are living off drugs than are dying from them!

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