Recent articles have discussed the dangers of a particular kind of synthetic drug often sold as "bath salts" or synthetic marijuana sold as "incense."
These drugs can be very dangerous, and have caused psychotic episodes and deaths. Of course, much hand wringing and many speeches and various plans are being made to combat the situation by the police and federal and state agencies. But the one largest single cause of this abuse is being ignored, and this is currently legal products and their advertising.
I'm sure most of you have seen the latest ad for that "energy drink" with the typically dressed like a doctor "professional" quoting physicians that advocate its use. That product is clearly marketed much like the marketing would look like for amphetamines if they were legal. There's not a lot of difference. That product is sold right beside and in the same stores as that synthetic marijuana and the "bath salts." Alongside them will be various other pills and drinks that promote "energy." Some of them can be dangerous if abused, and all of them legal under current laws.
How about that tea for relaxing with Bob Marley's picture on it? What do most people think of when they see any product with Bob Marley's picture on it, or any other "Rasta" image, especially related to "relaxing"?
I personally wouldn't allow the sale of all of those other "energy" drinks sold in those same stores, the proverbial "convenience stores" as they're unhealthy and promote the idea that lack of sleep or poor nutrition can all be cured with a chemical. And again, it's legal.
Advertising clearly aimed at adolescents and promoting various chemical products to make one feel good or more energy or to sleep better is nothing but an open gateway to the abuse of other illegal products.
But the worst offenders in my opinion are legal drug manufacturers, who spend literally billions of dollars to advertise products that can only be obtained with a doctor's prescription, and of course one factor in the high cost of those drugs. Many of these ads are just irresponsible.
Has anyone seen the ads for a sleeping aid? It's a "sleeping pill" with an ad that reminds me of an old Peter Max poster from the '60s, showing a glowing green moth fluttering around the head of a peacefully sleeping user. First of all, there isn't a sleeping pill made that isn't dangerous if abused, and secondly, couldn't we advocate warm milk, a glass of wine or a little exercise, and maybe less use of "energy products" first? And why do we allow the advertising to the general public of a potentially dangerous drug that is not available over the counter? If I were advertising marijuana, I'd probably have an ad very similar in appearance and tone to this pill. I could also get away with claims that marijuana is way less harmful than this aid and any other artificial sleep aid you can find.
Nobody has ever died from marijuana abuse. No pharmaceutical company could make that claim about any so-called sleeping pill. Yet, here's that ad with that peaceful little glowing moth.
The ads for various prescription drugs as a cure or a help for almost any problem, physical or otherwise, is a large reason that most of our young see no issue with the purchase and use of drugs that can literally kill them. This is just totally irresponsible at many levels, from the manufacturers to the advertising companies and to the elected officials throughout the United States that have not stepped in to stop it.
Let's face it, even coffee can cause a bad case of the shakes or mood alterations, what do you think pure caffeine can do in pill form when taken by the handful? Once again, take a look at the products sold in your average convenience store and you'll be shocked. Pills and more pills, many of them designed to look like various forms of commonly abused prescription drugs, like the old "Black Beauties" or similar items.
Shouldn't advertising for prescription drugs be limited to physicians and other medical personnel, and not the general public? Wouldn't you think the current situation just makes it more likely there'll be more "Dr. Feelgood" cases where physicians are over prescribing dangerous medications to patients? I mean, if they're unscrupulous, it can't be helpful to have a flood of patients walking into their offices asking for specific drugs they've seen advertised on television, can it?
The "bath salts" and the artificial Marijuana are marketed as not for human consumption, a blatant effort to skirt the law. I've also seen where manufacturers make a one-molecule adjustment to avoid banning items with a particular chemical composition. I have a better idea, and that is to ban all of these products completely, shut the plants that produce them down, stop the packaging (clearly designed to attract youths) and sales in stores and ban any importation of them. Shutting down Internet sales would be a huge step forward! I'd extend that to caffeine pills as well. Abuse of pure caffeine pills can be very dangerous. For those who worry about "Freedom of Speech" or "Free Commerce", I'd like to point out the proverbial adage that "you can't shout fire in a crowded theater" and the list of banned products in this country is endless. I think we're well beyond the need to add more.
When police and other agencies talk about "gateway" drugs, they're usually talking about marijuana, a relatively harmless and natural substance usually treated as if it were heroin or something close to it, yet no mention ever of the plethora of legal substances sold to improve mood, energy, productivity or even attractiveness. Nobody ever seems to mention the many legal products packaged and aimed toward teenagers that are surely more of a "Gateway" issue just because of their legality, availability and advertising.
From everything I've been reading, the most commonly abused drugs are now found in your own medicine cabinets. Most of the substances I'm addressing here have a lot more in common with prescription drugs, both in appearance, effects and marketing than any illegal drug. Sleeping pills? Energy shots? See what I mean? It's not even remotely possible to segue into heroin or cocaine or "crack."
If you have teenagers in your house right now, don't ignore the obvious, the drinks and pills from the local convenience stores. It's hard to believe that the biggest "pusher" of drugs in the country is some stores and television.
Paul Christopher is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org