By Cheryl Steinberg
In case you didn’t know, the legalization of certain drugs and the prohibition of others rarely has to do with actual science. So, for example alcohol, tobacco, and prescription drugs are all legal. They are also the deadliest drugs in America, contributing to more health risks and deaths than illicit drugs are associated with.
One major contributing factor of total tobacco and alcohol deaths is that both substances are legal and easily available. As a result, they are also socially-acceptable to use.
What about marijuana? Up until recently, it was illegal.
Marijuana: A Brief History Lesson
The country is polarized when it comes to the legalization of marijuana, whether it be for medical purposes only or for recreational use. Marijuana has long been vilified in the media by newspaper men such as William Randolph Hearst, whose wild and sensational ‘old wives tales’ of the “Devil’s Weed” were spread via main news sources of the time (newspapers) in a large-scale smear campaign.
You see, Hearst was ‘in bed’ – as it were – with the Dupont Brothers who had recently patented the wood-pulping machine. This meant that paper was to become the go-to for printing newspapers. At that time, though, hemp was being considered – by the American government’s Agriculture Department – as the “Billion Dollar Crop of the Future.” If hemp, instead of trees, was to be grown and cultivated, that would make the Duponts’ invention obsolete.
Hemp vs. Marijuana
If you didn’t know, marijuana and hemp go hand-in-hand. Hemp and marijuana both come from the same plant, Cannabis Sativa L. Hemp is the cannabis stalk and seeds that are used for textiles, foods, papers, body care products, detergents, plastics and building materials; it doesn’t contain the psychoactive drug THC that marijuana does. Thus, ‘marijuana’ refers to the cannabis flowers, or buds, that are used for medicinal and recreational purposes.
The Three Deadliest Drugs Just So Happen to Be Legal
As the US debates drug policy and marijuana legalization, there’s one aspect of the war on drugs that remains perplexingly contradictory: some of the most dangerous drugs in the US are perfectly legal.
If you don’t believe me, just take a gander at this chart, compiled with available data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
Alcohol: One of the three deadliest – and legal – drugs
The rates of direct death and overdose leave out other factors such as health and socioeconomic issues. Alcohol, in particular, is widely associated with several issues, such as a higher rate of crime and traffic accidents that cause harm both to users and to society as a whole. What makes alcohol so dangerous is most obvious when looking at health effects and drunk driving. But there are other major issues when it comes to alcohol, like aggression, erratic behavior, injuries, drop in economic productivity, family problems, and even crime. Alcohol is a factor in 40% of violent crimes, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.
- Alcohol increases the risk of a traffic accident 13 times over, whereas other drugs double to triple the risk.
- It takes less relative doses to die from alcohol than it does to die from marijuana and even cocaine
- Alcohol causes more fatal traffic accidents than other drugs – in 2010 alcohol caused more than 10,000 traffic fatalities
Tobacco is a known killer
Smoking cigarettes used to be chic and very commonplace. I mean, you could smoke on airplanes and even hospitals! Just watch an older movie, like The Exorcist (the original) in which a doctor is seen smoking in a hospital, and you can see remnants of a by-gone era.
Once the evidence of just how detrimental cigarette smoking and tobacco was uncovered, all hell broke loose. Do you remember all the lawsuits Big Tobacco was fighting? Yet, tobacco remains a legal substance – a heavily-taxed substance, but legal nonetheless.
Prescription drugs like narcotic painkillers and benzos (Xanax and Valium) are super popular in a pill-popping society like ours. Back pain? Take a pill. Headache? There’s a pill for that. Social anxiety? Here, swallow this. With all these meds floating around, doctors, parents, and even grandparents have become unwitting drug dealers.
Although there are conditions for which medication might be a necessary intervention, there are non-narcotic alternatives as well as lifestyle changes that can improve quality of life. If you are struggling with alcohol, prescription pills, or any other substance, help is available. Please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135. Addiction Specialists are available around the clock to answer your questions. You are not alone.