18 March 2008

There's drugs and then there's drugs

Reading my morning Globe recently, I encountered a prominent half-page ad (very pricey those), paid for by the Government of Canada, warning of the dangers of various recreational drugs parents should be talking to their kids about. The ad even offered a free booklet to give parents a helping hand. What immediately struck me about the ad was that it omitted two of the most pervasive, and dangerous, recreational drugs -- tobacco and alcohol. Alcohol abuse is by far the biggest drug problem facing teenagers (and adults).

So why, I asked myself, did the government omit them?

My first thought was because they are legal. But that doesn't make sense. If they are legal, they are even more dangerous simply because they are more accessible. Then I thought maybe it's because they are widely used by adults and the gov doesn't want to embarrass the voting public or perhaps admit that drugs are in fact an integral part of our culture. I mean, what would older guys do without that wonderful recreational drug Viagra?

And the thought of Viagra suggested a possible answer. Viagra, like cigarettes and alcohol, is manufactured by large, immensely profitable industries. Could it be that our government is only concerned with drugs that corporations can't make billions of dollars off? Sounds a bit conspiratorial, yet I would make a large bet that's a major reason why the U.S. government is so hostile toward marijuana. Marijuana is useful for treating a range of ailments, both mental and physical, yet the pharmaceutical companies can't make a nickel off it. That has to infuriate the drug barons, a fury the U.S. administration is highly sensitive to.

So when parents talk to their kids about drugs, is it OK to have a beer in their hand? I guess I'll have to read the free booklet to find out.

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