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It’s Your Round Isn’t It?

Posted by | Posted in Monday Mornings | Posted on 22-09-2008

“Pint of wife-beater, please. Oh, and some smack.

OK, so it’s Monday morning again. And this time I have actually got a full week at work ahead of me. I think things might pick up this week too. At least my brain has recovered from the wedding, but I have to admit I’ve yet to think of something meaningful to say today. Perhaps after all the alcohol consumption I’ve witnessed over the last few days, the topic of alchol, tobacco and drug use is as good a topic as any.

Being an ex-student, I’ve seen my fair share of alcoholic beverages. And not being religious in any way, shape or form, I’ve seen even more alcoholic beverages. So I guess you could say that I’m slightly biased when it comes to my views on alcohol and the like. Be that as it may, there are still some things that I agree with, and some things that I dont agree with.

We all know how bad alcohol is for your health – a stonking hangover and the inability to keep down your Coco Pops the morning after should tell you that much. But people (especially in Britain, it seems) live for the weekend, and all the drunken shennanigans it brings. But there are limits to how much alcohol you should consume in your life, I’d say. I know it’s “the done thing” to try alcohol when you’re slightly under-age (and by ‘slightly’, I mean ‘a few years’) and I know that the young and virile are able to handle their drink in substantial amounts, especially those pesky student types. But as much fun as I’ve had with more alcohol in my bloodstream than blood, I do still worry about how I’ll be when I’m 40.

If you can imagine your grandparents for a moment. Most people have grandparents that are about 70 or 80 years of age, and like most elderly people, they’ve lived quite a good life (despite the odd world war or two). But when you get to that age, there are a multitude of things that start to go wrong. Some lose their eyesight somewhat; some lose their hearing; arthritis sets in; and for some of the unlucky ones, mental illness can affect them quite considerably. But if all of these ailments can affect people who have looked after themselves; who have had proper home-cooked meals since day one; who don’t drink very much; have never taken drugs; who dont go out clubbing; who’ve never done an “all-nighter”; and who’ve never listened to the loud heavy-metal music of today; then how will the same ailments affect the younger generations?

I’m scared. To be honest, I think I’ve overdone it myself, and I dont party nearly as much as some people my age. I keep thinking to myself that if the elderly generations of today can be affected so badly after having lived a very healthy lifestyle in comparison to the younger generations, then how will those same ailments and conditions affect us younger sprites? Badly, I think is the answer.

I can well imagine that the same things that affect our grandparents at the ripe old age of 75 could easily affect the younger people of the country by just as much, only by the time they’re 40 instead of 75.

So it makes me wonder why people do it. I must have had a proper drink (and ended up a bit legless) no more than three times this year so far – a couple of times for a birthday, and once for a wedding. But the thought of going out every weekend and getting rat-arsed just doesn’t appeal to me any more. So I also cant understand people who take things to the next level and take recreational drugs.

I know it’s the same kind of thing – you sacrifice a certain level of health for the highs of being… well, high. But in my eyes there’s a limit to how much your health should suffer for the sake of having a good time. Legal issues aside, I personally draw the line at alcohol. I know how best to cope with having drunk slightly too much, and I know that the liver (which is most affected by alcohol consumption) is rather marvellous in that it can heal itself from some rather nasty damage. But where harder drugs are concerned, I’m clueless. I’ve no idea how bad or how not-so-bad some drugs are, but I’ve heard all the horror stories of first-time drug users going a bit OTT and actually popping their clogs. I’m pretty sure that’s not an every day occurance, but why would you risk it when you can legally buy a pint of beer, safe in the knowledge that it wont kill you?

Again, there’s some bias here, as I’ve always been of this opinion and so I’ve never actually taken any drugs that I know of. And I dont mind that other people do either. To each their own, I say. And good luck to them. I’ve seen people ruin their lives through drug use, which puts a right downer on the whole situation, but I’d rather see the effects and be able to decide for myself whether it’s a good idea, than to be oblivious to the effects altogether. So in that respect, I thank some of the people I know who’ve had some rather “interesting” experiences.

As much as I’m OK with alcohol, and as much as I dont care what drugs other people take in their own time, there’s still one other popular (and totally surprising to me) legel drug – tobacco. I cant for the life of me understand it. The best argument for smoking that I’ve ever heard from your average 14-year old who’s asking you to buy them fags is “because it looks good”. Because it looks good? Since when? The 80’s, that’s when. It was fashionable to smoke in the 50’s, before people realised it was bad for your health, and then it was fashionable to smoke in the 70’s and 80’s because it was seen as rebellious. I guess that’s the lingering reason that a lot of people still start smoking today – they think they’re going against the grain and doing something rebellious. Well, horay for them.

I’d also like to point out that I’ve never understood how people ever thought that smoking was good for you. If, like me, you’ve seen the 1950’s infomercials that actually promote smoking, you’ve probably thought the same thing. The first time you see someone take a full-on drag of a cigarette, they cough their heart up, their eyes go red, and if they’re unlucky, they’re a little bit sick. So what part of that experience suggested to people up and down the country that smoking was good for them?

Unlike people with drug and alcohol dependencies (for which there is no excuse in my opinion) I do have sympathy for smokers. I know it sounds strange that I have sympathy for people who chose to use the unhealthiest of all drugs (both legal and illegal) but it’s true. People can become addicted to anything that they enjoy, but becoming addicted to nicotine is probably one of the worst things to happen to you. Not only is it cheaper (but only just) than buying the harder drugs, it’s also legal, and hence, more widely available. I see people who started smoking for the wrong reasons, but because of their addiction, can’t break the habit. The same can be said of alcoholics as well I suppose – alcohol is still quite cheap and it’s also legal and widely available.

All in all, though, I think people need to know where their limits lie. Is it wrong to take drugs or binge drink? Is it wrong to smoke tobacco? Actually, I dont think so, as long as your drug use doesn’t affect other people. That, then, bares the question, “why are tobacco and alcohol legal, but other drugs aren’t?”. Well, to be honest, the government makes too much money from taxes on cigaretts and alcohol to make them completely illegal. For them, they’re torn between the amount of money it makes them, and people’s concerns for their health. If I had things my way, I’d either make all drugs illegal, or make them all legal, and regulate and tax them appropriately. Like all things, people need to decide for themselves whether something is worth doing. As long as people have all the facts, they should be free to decide for themselves.

Personally, I’m guided by the law first and foremost, and by my health concerns come a close second. Therefore, I do drink, but only occasionally, and I dont smoke. Nor do I take any drugs. Other people might have different priorities, however. They may see their enjoyment as being the number one priority. And who are we to disagree? If they want to kill themsleves slowly whilst having a good time, are we really right to tell them that they can’t? If certain conditions are met, then I dont see why people shouldn’t be allowed to take drugs in the same way they can smoke or drink alcohol.

Obviously, legalising drug use could make the “problem” worse, and the strain on society to cope with the (almost guarunteed) number of extra problem-cases caused by it’s legalisation would increase slightly. But if the government could earn enough money from taxes to be able to upgrade the NHS and benefits system to be able to cope with whatever drawbacks legalised drug use would bring, isn’t that OK?

To be honest, I dont know. I know what I like, and I know what I can and cant do. I know what the benefits and drawbacks are of my social habits, and I’m happy with that. I think that as long as people are sensible about things, and they too know enough to be able to decide for themselves, then why not let them be.

Of course, we all know how sensible the Great British Public can be though…

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