It is Anathema to Idiots...

The other day on our local radio station, BBC Radio Stoke, it was announced that admissions to hospital for women aged between 30 and 60 for alcohol-related problems had increased by a third over the last few years. This statistic was taken from hospital admissions specifically related to my own locality of Stoke-on-Trent. Numerous people came on the radio to comment about the issue, and, to me, only one made any sense of this disturbing statistic. She was a woman from the charity, "Brighter Futures", and her suggestion was that we face such economic and social discontent in our area that such figures are not really surprising. She went on to suggest that people have to be given hope for at least some kind of future if we want them to adhere to suggested limits of the ingestion of things like alcohol. Why, she postulated, would people actually want to live in a terrible situation until old age? If you don't have any hope, why bother?
This was an admittedly depressing summing up of the situation, but one I felt was nonetheless true. We were also told only a couple of days later that smoking-related deaths in Stoke-on-Trent were among the highest, if not the highest, throughout the land. So, just how does one account for such self-destructive behaviour other than with the above conclusion?
I suppose the taking of (any) drugs goes back a long way in history. People, it seems, have always felt the need to medicate themselves with illicit substances. Indeed, I can think of a few striking examples of such behaviour in literature, such as Thomas De Quincey's "Confessions of an English Opium Eater", Aldous Huxley's account of his experiences with LSD, "The Doors of Perception", Hunter S. Thompson's drug-addled narrative, "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas", and, of course, perhaps the unofficial laureate of drug addiction, William Burroughs' accounts of his dope (or heroin) abuse in books such as "Naked Lunch" and "Junky". Indeed, Burroughs used addiction as an all-embracing metaphor for the way in which our lives are controlled and even believed that, in the future, right-wing forces would use the hysteria surrounding drug abuse as a means of justifying the creation of a police state. Such libertarian views are in stark opposition to our current belief in prohibition as a way of controlling the drug problem, and, it seems, that these few examples prove that drug addiction is not a problem limited to the economically poor and hopeless, but can also affect the intellectual and literary.
Indeed, during the '60s counter-cultural movements, the use of drugs was not seen as so destructive as it is today. The hippy generation smoked "grass" and consumed LSD as a means of supposedly achieving higher states of consciousness and transcendence. Whether this actually turned out to be the case is, perhaps, another matter, and many people's experience of such drugs may be closer to Woody Allen's description in the film, "Annie Hall", where he explains that he once "took a puff" and ended up trying to take his pants off over his head. For others, and more seriously, such drug abuse can lead to mental instability and, if I am correct, the incidence of such drug-induced mental illness is also on the rise.
But, there does seem to have been a certain romanticism around drug-taking in times gone by. Even certain deaths at the hands of drugs have been seen as somewhat romantic. Would, for example, Jim Morrison be idolised in the way he is by some had he not died so young and in such circumstances?
However, there were some who dispelled the belief that drug-taking and dying from it was somehow romantic, as David Bowie's song "Rock and Roll Suicide" attests. Also, one might consider that by taking excessive amounts of illicit substances you may end up looking like Keith Richards, who says himself that he looks that way "so other people don't have to."
So, in more recent times drugs and the taking of them has been harshly condemned, both morally and for health reasons. But, I would suggest to those who judge too harshly others who fall prey to such substance misuse, that they should try to understand exactly why people indulge in such behaviour. To me, the lady from "Brighter Futures" came close to explaining it, but it was, perhaps, William Burroughs himself who put it best, saying that, "narcotics have been systematically scapegoated and demonised. The idea that anyone can use drugs and escape a horrible fate is anathema to those idiots."
So, as I sit here smoking a fag and supping a nice, cold beer, I can say that I sympathise with those who, it would seem, anaesthetise themselves to life for whatever reason. But, the people of Stoke, who are certainly seeming to live fast and die young, are not exactly burning bright, and they're certainly not leaving any beautiful corpses. Such romanticism is perhaps reserved for the Jim Morrisons of this world.


bazza said…
Indeed David, one is more likely to die form the effcts of smoking and alcohol-related problems than other drugs.
Also, isn't the case that doctors are supposed to 'sell hope' with their diagnoses?
Another very nicely expressed post David.
Have a good weekend!
Click here for Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’
David said…
Dear bazza,
I had heard recently that alcohol was now being viewed as THE most damaging drug, above even heroin, because of the overall impact it has not just on health, but on our entire society. Where I live this is acutely recoginizable, with very many young people going out every weekend with the sole purpose of getting paralytic. But, as the statistic from Radio Stoke shows, even those a little older seem to be succumbing to the lure of alcohol. To my mind, another reason for this is that it is now so ubiquitous and cheap, and if you're feeling low or hopeless, the bottle can seem like your only friend.
As for doctors supposing to "sell hope", in terms of mental health this seems to have been a long time coming. Up until more recently, things like schizophrenia have been viewed as wholly degenerative brain conditions with a poor prognosis of further, inevitable demise. And, if excessive alcohol consumption is viewed, in some way, as a mental health issue, then I can only say, that having been on the receiving end of the way clinicians often deal with such problems, that not only do they neglect to offer hope, but also can be quite disdainful of people with such issues. There are, as always, exceptions, but there does seem to be an overall negativity towards treating those who somke or drink excessively as they are seen as inflicting trouble on themselves. My post was trying to say why people may do such things, and balance out such responses.
Thanks for commenting bazza. Always nice to hear your views.
Best Wishes,
klahanie said…
Dear David,
I could go on a long, rambling comment in regards to this very well articulated and thoughtful posting.
I could go into a detailed comment that gives my take on what you have written. I'm rather an expert on certain sections of what you allude too.
However, just one brief note. Our environment and its impact can adversely affect our mental health well being. The irony is in place such as Stoke, the numbing effects of alcohol and other drugs can actually enhance our mental health issues. So, we do need to discover some form of hope via less destructive distractions. Not an easy task, but I'm here to tell the tale that it can be done.
An excellent posting, David and I thank you for this.
Hopefully see you this Sunday when we can gaze out at the wonders of your beautiful city.
Kind wishes, Gary.
David said…
Dear Gary,
You have done incredibly well with your own issues which relate to this post. I am in awe, my hairy friend, of your will and determination to find, as you say, "less destructive distractions".
Indeed, such drug abuse can enhance our mental ill health, and I would in no way advocate taking such things as alcohol as a coping crutch.
All I would say is, perhaps those who deal with such unfortunate and vulnerable people should be more understanding of their issues, and not be so damning in their assessments of them. Burroughs' statement, I think, goes some way to explaining and, in a way, justifying, what perhaps we have all, at times, done, even if not to the extent of addiction.
Anyway, looking forward to your imminent visitation, whenever it may be, and to looking out, with withheld breath and tender hearts, at our fair and ruggedly beautiful city.
All the Best,
dcrelief said…
Wow, this is a very nice read!

Please excuse my lateness.

Thank you,
David said…
Dear Dixie,
Thank you. You are always welcome.
No need to apologise, either!
With Very Best Wishes,
The Manic Chef said…
Greetings David, long time no read for me, and I'm sorry I've missed so much. Anyway, I will say this, yes, I also do smoke, a pack lasts me two-three days. A also drink wine or other alcoholic beverages on occasion. I in the early 70's smoked pot, (hated it), I also took various LSD's, speed via mouth, but also mainlined it through the vein's, mescaline,(known as "love drug"), cocaine. I lived with a 'weekend drug pusher', I was very young, and did them to be accepted amongst the group I associated with at the time. I only did these on weekend's for I had to work during the week. But, there came a time I grew tired of the drugs. I broke off my associations to those that pushed them and used them, for I suffered from the use of them. I was an emotional basket case, when I broke off my relationships, I ended up taking Valium, for I had an emotional and physical breakdown due to depression. I needed the Valium in order to allow my body to relax and so that my 'bodily functions' could function. I almost lost my mental capacities when I suffered two bad 'trips' on acid. That was my breaking point. With all that said, I had deep emotional and mental issues before taking these drugs, I was also very sexually promiscuous. In retrospect, the road I took was due to the sexual, emotional, and physical abuse suffered as a child. I looked for love and acceptance in all the wrong things, but did not realize it at the time, I was only 18 when the drugs started, and ended in my late 20's.
People turn to all sorts of things in order to cope with their life, some are stronger than others and never partake. I just wish this 'holier' than thou attitude would stop, and let's just get to the deeper issues at hand. Everyone wants to be loved and feel secure if they do not find it they turn to other sources to find it, unfortunately for some it is their undoing and death is their only release from life.
Great writing David, as usual. Later...
David said…
Dear Manic Chef,
Thanks so much for your very interesting and heart-felt comment.
I agree with you that there must be many reasons why people take drugs. For me, my alcohol abuse stemmed from a deep, underlying and severe mental illness. For yourself, there were obviously many painful and hard to resolve issues. So, yes, it would be nice if the whole "holier than thou" moralising would stop.
Thank you for being so open about your own problems and showing such understanding.
With Very Best Wishes,

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