Invisible substance abuse

As a parent with my own checkered past with drug experimentation, I now and then worry about the issue of drug abuse and how I need to be handling it with my kids. I certainly don’t want them to be afraid and paranoid, but I want them to be afraid enough — to realize that right now, with our current social and legal climate, drug use (casual or not) is not going to lead them into good friendships or uplifting behaviors. Since I don’t know how early is too early to be talking about drugs, Steph and I have followed a policy of being very open and honest with our kids. We take advantage of opportunities that come our way to have conversations with the kids, so they’re used to talking to us about all sorts of things. If my kids are ever dumb enough to go to a party and get smashed, I want them to be more afraid of trying to drive home or hide it than they are of calling me to come get them.

That’s why this article on the dangers of inhalant abuse hit me like a ten-foot pole. Cans of Dust-Off (or generic equivalent)? I know them well; they’re in my house, since I have more than once in the past opened up a computer and dusted it out.

Wherever you are on the drug legalization spectrum, you owe it to yourself and those around you to be watching for signs of this kind of “invisible” substance abuse. No one should ever be taking any substance unless they are fully aware of the risks and dangers, and I don’t care how strongly you value individual freedoms. The “right” to do drugs (if there is such a thing, and while I don’t personally think there is, I find it difficult to square that with alcohol and tobacco — or even caffeine — so there you go) must be predicated on informed, intelligent consent if it is to be a freedom that is in any way meaningful. Come to think of it, that’s probably true of most freedoms, but that’s a rant for another day.


  1. http:// says

    You and I disagree on this point; I think that as long as people are not causing direct harm to others, they should be able to take whatever they want. I would be very, very happy if the government legalized *and regulated* all currently illegal drugs, requiring prescriptions for the truly dangerous ones (as we do now with morphine and other opiates) and with honest labeling on every package. Hell, if the government would just untie doctors’ hands, we’d probably learn that some of these “dangerous substances” (psilocybin and THC, I’m looking at you) can have beneficial effects with very little possibility of injury. (From the drug itself; don’t go out driving a forklift while you’re shrooming, you nimrod.)

    Now, that little phrase “direct harm” I so casually threw out above. I’m willing to be quite liberal in my interpretation of it — certainly, violence and theft are direct harm, but so is neglect, endangerment, and a host of other nasties with which any family member of an alcoholic is intimately familiar. In extreme cases, we remove the drug abuser from the home or remove the family from the drug abuser, just as we (ideally) do now with those who surround alcoholics.

    Obviously, this would cost money and be a disruptive transition. I haven’t done research, but I figure between eliminating the costs of feeding and housing those whose only crime was possessing or using illegal substances and drastically lowering the costs of law enforcement, we’ll find the money if we can find the will to use it. (Another benefit: customs inspectors, freed of the need to search for drugs, can spend their time searching for bombs and weapons, which would make me feel a LOT better about our porous borders.)

    I don’t claim that this solution is ideal, but the illegality of drugs is directly or indirectly responsible for a legion of problems with our current society, starting with near-universal hypocrisy in our attitude about drugs and those who use them — and it hasn’t had any appreciable effect on their availability. It’s time we tried something else.

  2. Devin says

    You and I disagree on this point; I think that as long as people are not causing direct harm to others, they should be able to take whatever they want.

    I don’t think that I really stated my position on this point; I deliberately shied away from my position because, in my experience, drug legalization is one of the those topics that immediately causes complete polarization when it’s brought up. There just isn’t much middle ground — and while I’m certainly willing to be controversial and stake out a position, on my blog I’ll do it on the topics I feel passionate about.

    My point was not towards the legal aspects of substance (ab)use but rather to the pragmatic, and here I’m happy to be controversial: if you recreationally take substances without knowing how they will affect you, you’re an idiot. Notice I don’t say whether you’re right or wrong to do so, just that you’re an idiot. Unfortuantely, freedom also means the freedom to be an idiot.

  3. http:// says

    No argument that anyone who ingests, injects, inhales, or absorbs through a mucous membrane anything without being sure of the effects is not being a responsible user of his own body. Doubly so when not only are you unsure of the effects but even the provenance of said substance.