I am a recovering drug addict. My drug of choice: Nicotine.
On January 14, I celebrated my 35th anniversary of freedom from the chains of tobacco misery, smoking four packs of Pall Mall’s every day. I smoked constantly and everywhere, in the office, in elevators, movie theaters and yes, even in the shower with a burning butt on the edge of the commode. Every morning I suffered twenty minutes of wretched coughing jags, only to light up after.
Nicotine is one of the most addictive and destructive drugs in history. For decades, American culture glorified cigarettes as though part of a sophisticated dress code. It was cool. Practically every movie depicted stars puffing on cigarettes; doctors and celebrities received handsome rewards for endorsing the drug; cigarette companies contributed to political parties while they deliberately enhanced the potency of tobacco to keep people hooked.
My mother smoked Kents with the “micronite” filter, falling for the propaganda they were healthier than unfiltered. She died of cancer, 1966.
It was all a lie. It was all about money. Cigarettes represented a multi-billion dollar industry. Naysayers and scientists who tried to tell the truth, who tried to warn, were ignored. They were bad for business. Major corrupt businesses create corrupt politicians. In 1964, 43 percent of Americans smoked cigarettes. Today, that’s been reduced to 18 percent.
Since 1964, when the truthful Surgeon General’s Report was released about the true dangers of tobacco, 20 million people have nevertheless died of smoking related diseases. It wasn’t until the 1980s and 1990s that the secret got out and people were not only informed about health risks, smoking evolved into a social negative. Whether from cancer, emphysema or other related illnesses, we finally became convinced that science did not lie. The business lied. Millions quit. But, sadly, kids kept smoking, and continued getting addicted. They still do. They believe being young makes them invincible.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), cigarette smoking kills 480,000 a year, 41,000 of them from second-hand smoke. This does not include thousands more who commit suicide in the late stages of painful tobacco-related diseases. I investigated many such cases while working in Dade County Homicide. As a detective, I visited the morgue daily, viewing autopsies and noting the huge differences between pink lungs and those that looked like they were soaked in soot.
I still hear those voices of yesteryear that dismissed warnings against cigarettes as fear-mongering, over-exaggerating and not as harmless as they say. Most important, keep those cigarettes lit and the money rolling in.
Yes. Nicotine was “cool.” Now, what’s cool?
“Marijuana is not harmful,” “It’s not addictive,” “It’s not as bad as alcohol or cigarettes,” “It’s not a gateway drug.”
Wrong on all accounts, according to studies by the CDC. A few findings:
- One in six users, under 18 years old, will become addicted. One in ten for older adults.
- Marijuana affects brain development, especially with teens. This often manifests in memory problems, attention span, decision making, reaction time and emotions.
- Smoke from marijuana carries many of the same toxins, irritants and carcinogens as tobacco smoke.
- Marijuana users are significantly more likely to develop chronic mental disorders
For a more comprehensive summary, readers should visit web site: https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/health-effects.htm
Gateway drug? The science jury is out. But I can attest as a 30-year cop and father of a long-term drug abuser, it is very rare to find any heroin or cocaine addict whose first drug was not marijuana.
Drugged drivers? From the National Institute on Drug Abuse: “Marijuana significantly impairs judgement, motor coordination and reaction time.” The big problem for law enforcement is detection of pot. Alcohol is far more obvious.
Much like the movies of old with cigarettes, irresponsible adults glorify and praise pot as harmless. Today when we go to movies, we’ll view scenes where the actors, even kids, are high, portraying marijuana as an acceptable recreation of modern times. Aye, there’s the problem, because seeds are being planted into the brains of our youth. Adult influence upon young people is where the greatest danger lies.
Of course, we all know that marijuana has medical benefits. No argument there. But we should be leaving that to medical prescriptions, not the clerk at 7/11.
On my end, addiction was a nightmare. Quitting cigarettes took years, using various devices, acupuncture, hypnotism and more. But I was relying on those devices and methods to do the work for me. In the long run, cold turkey saved my life. Two years later, I finished a 26 mile marathon.
Anything is possible.