Thursday, February 22, 2018

Watch Your Words: A Guide To Deconstructing Drug War Propaganda

Words carry a lot of power.  One of the easiest ways to fight misinformation propagated by drug war zealots is by simply refusing to repeat their inaccurate & offensive terminology.  The media & government have cooked up stigmatizing, inaccurate language over time to make drugs & their users look bad while painting their war on these things in a positive light.  Here are a few corrections to their Newspeak:

"The War On Drugs".  A fancy term for drug prohibition.  Alcohol prohibition was a massive failure, so they'd rather we not associate the current drug prohibition with that historical fuckup.  So they call it the "War on Drugs".  But it'd more accurately be called the "War on SOME Drugs" since caffeine, alcohol, tobacco & many prescription meds are not included or are treated with kid gloves compared to safer substances that have never killed anyone, like cannabis.  Clever.

Learn from history or be doomed to repeat it
"Marijuana".  (Cannabis sativa, indica).  "Marijuana = Mary Jane" in Spanish.  The name "marijuana" was dreamt up by racists attempting to link a harmless weed with Mexican immigrants who they wished to demonize & deport.  This is blatant derogatory racist trash talk that needs to stop immediately. Call it cannabis, weed, pot or anything you wish.  Just not marijuana. 

"Just Say No".  This harmless-sounding 1980s slogan was made famous by Nancy Reagan, who was accused by her own daughter of being addicted to barbiturate sleeping tablets.  Whether or not that's true, the "abstinence-only" method of education has been proven time & again to be a failure, whether in regards to sex ed or drug education.  There will always be a percentage of people who--for whatever reason--say YES, which means we can't stop our education at no.  Harm reduction is a must in our schools & our communities.  The idea that just saying no will make drugs go away is a dangerous fantasy.  We prefer "Just Say Know".

Just Say Maybe

"Junkie".  Another foul term used to make heroin users look like losers, though this one has been more broadly applied to other types of drug addicts as well.  (Some heroin users refer to themselves as junkies & have no problem with the word, but it's not a clinically or politically correct one so I'm including it here).

"Crack Babies/Drug Babies".  I'll say this upfront:  Using drugs while pregnant is an abhorrent & dangerous thing to do.  Your baby deserves the best possible chance at a healthy life if you decide to see the pregnancy through.  But not all drugs are created equal when it comes to pregnancy risk.  Alcohol is far & away the most dangerous substance to ingest while pregnant.  There is NO safe amount of alcohol while pregnant.  Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a spectrum disorder that affects every aspect of a child's mental & physical development for life.  Cigarettes & stimulants like cocaine & meth put the baby at risk for low birth weight and heart problems, while opioid use almost guarantees the baby will endure withdrawals shortly after birth.  Benzodiazepines are a Category X drug, meaning they're likely unsafe during pregnancy & might cause birth defects like cleft palate.
     As you can see, women of childbearing age should do their research carefully before becoming pregnant if they use substances, or abstain from using substances if they are having unprotected sex.  But the crack baby scare of the 1980s was largely a myth.  The babies shown in those news pieces were often withdrawing from opioids, not crack.  Most of them grew up with relatively few problems despite bleak forecasts about their futures.  Some of the most harmful substances to use during pregnancy, such as alcohol & benzodiazepines, get the least news coverage while the less harmful ones make headlines.  One can only speculate as to WHY this would be the case.  The word racism comes to mind :\

The epidemic that wasn't

"Narcotics".  Yes, "narcotics" are a real thing but the word technically refers only to the opioid class of medication, NOT any illicit mind-altering substance that law enforcement feels like slapping it on.  Meth, cannabis, ketamine, MDMA, alcohol & cocaine are not "narcotics".  Stahp.

"This Is Your Brain on Drugs" {Sizzling Egg}.  The idea that drugs cause brain damage is a persisting one that's been used to scare the public to great effect for years. While drugs alter your brain function while you're on them, very few cause lasting physical changes to the brain that result in functional damage.  There are exceptions, of course.  Heavy, prolonged meth abuse is known to be neurotoxic, as is heavy alcohol abuse over time.  MDMA and its sister drug MDA damage serotonin receptors, but it's not known how that damage manifests in functional, real-world terms (memory, mood, problem-solving, etc).
     Over-ingestion of ANY substance--be it sugar, air pollution or crack cocaine--can cause brain damage, but not in the dramatic sizzly egg fashion shown on those commercials.  The brain is an incredibly pliable, elastic organ that can withstand a lot of abuse.  Physical head trauma is a far greater threat than a little moderate drug use.  Key word: moderate.  You should be more concerned about those hits to the dome your kid's taking in football or soccer than a few tokes under the bleachers.

This is your brain on drug war propaganda

"Discontinuation Syndrome".  This is the term applied to anti-depressants & other psych meds that aren't technically addictive but make you go batshit crazy when you stop taking them.  Believe me, it's as severe as any other type of drug withdrawal out there.  They just gave it a pretty name so as not to scare patients/customers.  This is just one example of pharma's dishonesty--there are many others.  I take Prozac & have for years.  It's a great medication for me, but that doesn't change the fact that it causes withdrawals when you stop taking it.  Call a spade a spade.

"Faces of Meth" Campaign.  Okay, so this was a really jarring & effective campaign showcasing the effects of meth (allegedly) on your appearance.  What they neglected to include was that the majority of meth users are poly-substance abusers who stay up for days on end, neglect their hygiene, pick at their faces & eat sugary junkfood that accelerates tooth decay.  (Having no teeth ages you about 30 years; ask anyone with dentures).
      But these are not unavoidable consequences of meth itself.  They are bad choices made by these individuals.  We actually don't know the stories behind these peoples' decline--they could've survived domestic violence, car accidents, cancer or anything else in addition to being caught with meth.  Hell, poverty itself will do a number on your looks.  Ask anyone who can't afford dental care or other basic medical services.  The point is, don't assume that meth and meth alone is the cause of a person's accelerated aging or degrading looks.  It may play a role, but don't jump to conclusions until you have all the facts.  

Faces of Fearmongering

"The Opioid Crisis".  I've addressed this in another post.  Many of the overdose deaths attributed to a vaguely defined opioid crisis are actually the result of drug prohibition, which has allowed deadly fentanyl analogues to thrive & contaminate the black market.  If drugs were legal & regulated, there would BE no black market.  Addicts could take measured doses of pure substances in a safe setting without the risk of violence or adulterated drugs they currently face.  And our drug education could be more honest & include harm reduction information warning about the dangers of mixing depressants with opioids, which is the second leading cause of overdose.  No more violent gangs or cartels getting rich off our suffering; no more wasted police resources arresting non-violent drug addicts.  Win-win situation for everyone.  The Opioid Crisis is actually a Big Pharma-Manufactured Crisis Aggravated by Prohibition.  But that's not quite as catchy, is it?

...this list is ongoing, as new propaganda terms are constantly being churned out by the anti-drug warriors who are hard at work taking your personal freedoms away.  Feel free to add your own.

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