Yesterday I was scrolling on Instagram when I saw a Forbes post discussing the increased number of active users of marijuana and hallucinogens in the United States. To be abundantly clear, this post will be discussing the discussion had in Forbe's post. A humble commentary, since I have so many opinions on the matter.
The article in question is
here if you'd like to read it. The author, Carlie Porterfield, did a pretty good job creating a narrative that convinces the audience that this is a pressing issue in the United States- considering the rise in numbers from the previous years. She is a journalist, after all, and one cannot fault her if that was her intention. I would like to argue some points about this narrative in an effort to maintain some nuance and integrity regarding the statistics. First and foremost, the article states that these numbers were pulled from a survey of Americans, not particularly sourced from an academic study. Nothing wrong with surveys, they gauge the state of the people. However, surveys are completely contingent on the surveyees' ability and willingness to dispel information about their current state. With legalization flooding the streets of the United States, it's entirely possible that the people who answered the survey questions are now comfortable enough to answer accurately and truthfully, potentially skewing the numbers. That's neither here nor there.
Listen, I'm sure there are truly a lot of people smoking weed and doing psychoactive drugs. You don't need to be a scientist or journalist to know that. Just ask your friends. Hell, you probably are that friend. People have actually been using recreational drugs for decades, this should come as a surprise to no one. I believe enough research has surfaced in the last ten years or so about the benefits of smoking marijuana for various physical and mental health concerns. See the link below for an example study from the National Academies of Sciences.
This is just one of many studies trying to destigmatize marijuana use for therapeutic purposes. So much so, in fact, that there have been states across the country legalizing medical marijuana as a treatment for various illnesses as opposed to any pharmaceutical drug. Again, I am not a medical doctor so I will never advocate for any treatment over another, however, I do see the allure that holistic medicines have over their lab-created alternatives. Not only that, but their ease of accessibility now is starting to raise some ears.
The other day I was driving on the highway and I saw a billboard urging people to get their medical marijuana cards. Yes, you read that correctly. Let me tell you why that is upsetting. According to the ACLU’s original analysis, marijuana arrests now account for over half of all drug arrests in the United States. Of the 8.2 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010, 88% were for simply having marijuana. In any case, yes, marijuana usage is getting normalized in most communities across this nation. I'd like to pose the argument that it's only natural for these numbers to go up year after year.
The second part of the headline discussed the increasing number of people who used some sort of hallucinogen in 2021. This take is going to be a bit more controversial because of the nature of the drug. Although marijuana may have some hallucinogenic properties for some users, psilocybin (magic mushrooms) and LSD take it to a completely different level. Quite literally. This next part is not meant to be scientific or factual, it's all hearsay, so take what I say with a grain of salt.
During Ronald Reagan's term in office, he faced a considerable backlash from the counterculture of the 1970s and anti-war sentiments. Universities had been studying the effects of LSD or lysergic acid diethylamide, (a synthetic chemical compound discovered, by accident, by Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman in 1938) for a couple of decades at this point. In fact, LSD-assisted psychotherapy was used in the 1950s and early 1960s by psychiatrists such as Humphry Osmond, who pioneered the application of LSD to the treatment of alcoholism, with promising results. It wasn't until our old boy Reagan decided to cut funding to these programs and research that LSD was established as a Schedule 1 substance. He did so in an effort to thwart the counterculture that was opposed to the war efforts in Vietnam. Particularly because this counter-culture was the leading user base of psychoactive drugs, not because these drugs did not inherently hold some form of therapeutic value in medicine. I'm sure there are a host of other reasons, but this is the one I'd like to highlight.
In recent years, however, there has been a resurgence in research on Psychedelics and Psilocybin Therapy to treat a variety of mental and physical illnesses. Leading the research efforts is the notorious Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. Straight from their website, "Backed by $17 million of funding, researchers build on previous work and expand research on psychedelics for illness and wellness: (1) to develop new treatments for a wider variety of psychiatric and behavioral disorders with the aspiration of treatments tailored to the specific needs of individual patients and (2) to expand research in healthy volunteers with the ultimate aspiration of opening new ways to support human thriving."
In this new age of medicine and technology, it is no surprise that more people are reporting their willingness to try psychedelics- both for health purposes and recreationally. Again, not advocating for one thing or another, simply just presenting this information in a manner that may explain the hike in numbers in recent years. I'd argue that headlines like these are tailored more toward gen xers and the remaining baby boomers of the previous generations. Possibly, if not completely, motivated by the intention of scaring the public into further demonization of the younger generations. I don't want to get too political here, but it's hard to disregard their pull in public official spaces. Specifically, considering the current state of how old these "elected officials" are while sitting in these positions of legislative power.
I say all this to say, be mindful of the content you consume and learn how to understand nuance in regards to headlines that may directly impact you and your day-to-day living. Although journalism is meant to report raw and unfiltered truth, often these truths are colored through bias and external narratives. It is the most intellectually honest thing to do to question the nuances surrounding these truths.
Stay curious, stay vigilant, stay well, friends.