America's war against drugs has cost millions of taxpayer's dollars, and its legacy is a public education campaign steeped deeply in the anthem "Just Say No!" Despite these expensive and extensive campaigns against the use of drugs in American society, drug use has continued and often even expanded among specific groups of individuals. Books like Charles F. Levinthal's Drugs, Behavior, and Modern Society are common, and give a wealth of information about the physical and psychological aspects of drug abuse. While drug abuse does exist, and is certainly a serious problem for many individuals in the United States, the overwhelming focus on drug abuse has left little room for a more moderate view of American's relationship with drugs.
In our modern society, drug use is often almost seen as synonymous with drug abuse. As a whole, many Americans often view anyone who uses drugs as an abuser of drugs. Anti-drug literature is littered with references to "gateway" drugs like alcohol and marijuana, which are believed to lead to the use of harder drugs. However, anecdotal evidence, and the real-life experiences of American often suggest that many individuals are able to use drugs without abusing them. In this interview, I present the major findings from an interview with a moderate drug user.
The individual interviewed (Andrew) defies many stereotypes about drug users. He is highly educated, intelligent, and comes from a good family. Further, the pattern of his drug use, and his underlying reasons for using drugs are remarkably different from what many individuals would predict.
Andrew is a 29-year-old Caucasian male. He grew up in Oregon, the second of two sons born to a wealthy family. The family immigrated to Oregon from Great Britain when Andrew was eight. His father was a businessman, who built his own company in the oil and gas industry from the ground up. Staring from almost nothing, by the time he was in his mid-forties Andrew's father had his own twenty-story office building downtown and a staff of over one hundred people. Andrew's mother was a housewife.
In general, Andrew's relationship with his family was secure and stable, but emotionally distant. He Andrew remembers as aloof and very proper, and not laughing a lot. His father was domineering and direct, demanding and often verbally abusive. Andrew refers to his father as acting like an "a**hole" for a great deal of his childhood. His relationship with his brother was also emotionally distant, a fact only exacerbated when his brother immigrated to Australia five years ago.
Andrew excelled in both academic subjects and athletics in high school. He describes himself as a "*****" and a "goody-goody" in high school. During this time, he became an excellent golfer, and was so good that he considered turning professional. However, he decided to devote himself to school and university instead. He excelled in university, earning an honors degree in molecular biology at a well-known undergraduate university. He loved science, and decided to go on to graduate studies. During graduate studies, Andrew spent a great deal of his time at scientific research centers on the West Coast. It was during this time that Andrew first began using drugs other than alcohol.
The remote research centers were full of young, bored academics who were stuck in small, isolated groups for months at a time. The use and abuse of alcohol was common among both the academics and individuals who lived in surrounding communities (mostly loggers and fishermen). He describes countless memories of waking up, passed out on the beach with many of his buddies, and stories of trying to out drink the local loggers. Alcohol was used as a means of breaking up the extreme monotony and boredom of life on the research centers. He notes that almost all of the young academics, their instructors, research staff, and townspeople used alcohol in the same way.
It was during this time that Andrew began using marijuana. The use of marijuana was widespread among the academics, but was completely taboo amongst the townspeople. The townspeople viewed marijuana as a dangerous drug, and viewed the people who used it in as "drug users." Andrew saw the townspeople as being completely hypocritical in their adamant stance against marijuana, since they were chronic and constant users of alcohol. Andrew notes that the academics got their extremely high-grade marijuana from local growers, at what he refers to as a "kick-ass" cost.
Andrew also visited Amsterdam during his tenure as a graduate student. He spent six weeks, alone in Amsterdam, for the purpose of writing his thesis. Andrew notes that he says that he spent "almost every minute stoned out of (his) tree."
Amsterdam was a liberating time for him, as drug use is decriminalized, and liberal attitudes about drugs do not "demonize" the user as they do in the United States. Andrew went to university lectures stoned during this time, and conducted experiments under the influence of marijuana.
Interestingly, during his time as a graduate student, Andrew kept his marijuana use a secret from his long-term girlfriend. His girlfriend was adamantly against drugs use, as a result of her absent father's drug and alcohol abuse. Andrew was sympathetic with her reasons for disliking drugs, but he was often frustrated in his discussions with her. She had no issues with the use of alcohol, and would often drink to excess with their friends. However, she was adamantly against the use of marijuana and other drugs. Andrew saw her attitude as hypocritical, and was puzzled by her attitude.
During his time as a graduate student, Andrew also began to use mushrooms. He recalls his last night in Amsterdam with a great deal of amusement. Andrew recount that he had ten joints, and four "shrooms" with him that night. He and friends smoked four of the joints earlier in the day, but Andrew was left with six joints and the "shrooms" by the end of the day. Not wanting the drugs to go to waste, he smoked all of the joints and ate the "shrooms" alone on his bed that night. He recalls being so stoned that he didn't even know who or where he was. Andrew tells this story with a wide grin on his face. It is obvious that the experience was highly pleasurable, or "f***ing amazing," in Andrew's own words.
Andrew excelled in graduate school, and decided to pursue a scientific career. He graduated with a PhD three years ago, and immediately began a post-doctoral appointment in Maine. These appointments are seen as apprenticeships for full professorships in university. Andrew notes that he constantly struggles with procrastination, and a lack of interest in his profession. He has had this attitude since graduate school, but sees himself as too cowardly too leave the only profession he has ever known. His best friend went into business after graduate school, a move he refers to as "ballsy."
Andrew's move to Maine was a highly tumultuous one. He moved away from his family and all his friends. Further, he broke up with his girlfriend of nine years shortly after moving to Maine. As a young professor in training, Andrew taught many first-year university classes. He had a series of short relationships with the young girls in these classes, but no relationship lasted over a few months.
Stationed at a remote research centre on the Maine coast, Andrew spent a great deal of time alone. He read extensively, played his guitar, and played computer games. He notes that the boredom and loneliness were often crushing. During this time, Andrew often took drugs while alone. Andrew would often spend a night playing his guitar or sitting on the beach after smoking marijuana.
Further, he purchased a set of mushroom spores from the Internet, and proceeded to make a science project…