Sheesh-a, here comes the drug police.

Today’s topic: the ongoing national war on substance use. I’m not even going to call it abuse, because more often than not people engage in things like hookah or weed in moderation, at least in my experience. The human mind finds chemical substances inherently appealing. Huxley believed that drug and alcohol use was just an attempt to transcend oneself beyond an earthly existence.

Not surprisingly for those of you who read my last post on nothingness, I am an advocate for the legalization of marijuana. This is not to say, of course, that hookah is the same as marijuana. But there are some key arguments in the health world that are used against marijuana and hookah but not, despite the extent to which binge drinking and alcoholism ravage this country, alcohol. Why? When discussing the threat of substances to the human body, why is alcohol rarely mentioned?

I have seen my fair share of partying. I’ve seen black outs, brown outs, and any other type of “out” that goes hand-in-hand with college social life. I’ve met people on this campus whose lives, minds and bodies have been drastically changed by alcohol. One man (probably shouldn’t have) told me about a friend of his who got fired from his campus job multiple times for drunk driving. Another told me that he nearly died from liver poisoning and is currently unable to eat anything except carrot sticks, oatmeal, and spinach for the rest of his life. Drunk driving claims a disturbingly large number of lives per year and often corresponds with domestic abuse.

Alcohol can clearly kill you in various ways. And for a lot of people, it already has. Whether or not weed can kill you is both unlikely and hard to prove. I was once told that in order to overdose on marijuana a person would have to smoke 200 joints in a minute. But I’m not here to coax you into joining the “green” side. I’m here to dish out food for thought.

Picking and choosing which substances should be controlled is like saying “I’m not a murderer…unless I’ve had a bad day.” Yes, the research shows that tobacco is bad for you (these days, what isn’t?) Sure, nicotine is evil. And it’s great that the WHO (World Health Organization) “cares” about our health enough to put this information out there. My concern is that they’re ignoring other substances that are abused far more frequently and in much larger quantities than hookah. Alcohol is one. Antidepressants are another.

Perhaps we should turn our attention to our economy. Is it sheer coincidence that the American economy profits from alcohol and psychotropic drug markets and not so much from the more underground shisha or marijuana markets? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Is this the reason why these particular substances are conveniently left out of the war on substance use? Probably. The pharmaceutical industry alone is worth several billion dollars. What about cigarettes? Despite the research, why aren’t cigarettes illegal? Could it be because of the ridiculous amount of money these companies siphon from their addicts?

There is much more to be said on this topic, and as always your opinions are welcome. If America really seeks to modify our emerging drug and substance culture (which, given our nation’s history with drug use and our human attraction to it, is probably futile) it must examine all, not some, of these substances. We can appreciate and consider the information that’s out there, but it’s also crucial to question the gaps.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/31/health/31hookah.html?scp=1&sq=hookah%27&st=cse