Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1367, (2 - 8 November 2017)
Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Issue 1367, (2 - 8 November 2017)

Ahram Weekly

King of the hill

King of the hill
King of the hill

Have we always been able to tolerate the brutal gallery of life’s offerings? They are many — emotions, corruption, passion, depression, are only a few of the ups and downs, the good and the evil on life’s colourful platter —especially the evil, more plentiful than any other.

Poor tired souls, persecuted spirits, what enormous efforts have we exerted just to keep going. And it looks like we have succeeded. Simple innocent joys have helped us rise to the occasion and perhaps save our species from extinction.

Some of us resisted and persisted, some others, perhaps weaker needed “a little help from our friends”.

Unfortunately those friends who helped through pain and despair turned out to be enemies. It took us many centuries to discover their true faces. They are enemies of the worst kind — they are criminals — they are killers. They are called opiates, alcohol, tobacco, narcotics, drugs, pain-killers, uppers, downers, dope — take your pick.

Drug use has virtually become a deadly epidemic in the US. It kills more people than guns, homicides and car crashes combined, even more than AIDS/HIV at its peak in 1993.

 It is little wonder that President Donald Trump has declared war on drugs as the most urgent of all other conflicts.

 A report by the United Nations Office of Drug & Crime, (UNODC), has classified major drug problems on each continent. Popularity differs from nation to nation, but they all use it to a higher or lesser degree. A very distant second to the US is Canada, followed by Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland with Mauritius and Greece as the least drug-users.

It has become a challenge to human population, and may develop into a world epidemic, and addicts are born by the dozens daily from every walk of life.

Addiction is a disease, unknown to ancient man. 

Archeological records indicate the presence of psychotropic plants in ancient civilisations. The flora, was used in earlier days more as a food source rather than an external chemical altering homeostasis. Known as far back as early hominid species about 200 million years ago, its main purpose was to increase fitness, “to be king of the hill”, you had to be fit. These plants did increase energy, tolerance to weather and was able to decrease fatigue, allowing greater ability to sustain in times of limited resources. Fitness was the highest attribute then for Nature was as rough as today’s economic crunch.

Never considered a drug, it induced no addiction as our mammalian brains were not designed to tolerate such brain-altering substances. But evolution started on its unstoppable course, and the nutrient soon became a drug.

Records of its use as such are roughly 40,000 years old with the aborigines of Australia who used nicotine from indigenous peoples. 

. Overtime the plants went through a series of changes which also occurred with our mammalian brain which acclimatised very quickly developing opioid receptor-systems, not available by the mammalian body itself. The body developed defences against over-toxicity — such as vomiting reflexes. 

Evolutionary gains of such plants were simply added fitness. Feeling fit made early man feel happy. It should have stopped there but the emotion of happiness gradually expanded. Fitness was no longer enough. “Happy” began to mean more — a casual, romantic or physical relation, etc.

The euphoric relation is connected mostly to wealth, an indicator of security, plenty of food and water — not much evolution there.

When levels of drugs are high they target the brain, blocking many neurological defences, but when you lose that feeling, risk of abuse increases dramatically. You want more. How can you lose that euphoria, the enthusiasm and excitement?

When troubles get you down, responses differ. Most weep on their pillow, but addictive souls, weak, sick, pressured by their peers turn to those magic drugs that target the brain, promising to clean the slate, pay the bills, pass the exam, produce love and passion and on and on.

One addict described “feeling high” as “dreamy”. Another, “like: being encased in soft sweet clouds — no worries”, at what price? 

The brain, anxious about the next “high” helps drug-makers produce more and more drugs to satisfy the immense global need.

How will it end, or will it?

Who knows? It has created millionaires who trade in synthetic drugs, companies which make false claims, promising heaven on earth. They are severely fined. They pay. They continue their trade but the pain remains. 

In his book Narconomics by Tom Wainwright, the real millionaires are not in Mexico or Europe, but right in the heart of the US. All those dangerous “cartels” are only partners to the US buyers, receiving portions of the deal. Presuming 1kg of cocaine costs $20,000. Its market sale is $150,000.

Renowned psychiatrist Anne Luebke writes in her best-seller Drug Dealer MD it is absolutely true that if you get opioids for pain it would be like a magical cure for a month or two then it would stop working, resulting in two problems… you still have pain… you are dependent on drugs.

If you partake, get help. If you never have, never do. 

If your happiness comes in a pill, it will go with a pill. More pills please.

Unless you are a genius like Van Gogh, Tchaikovsky, Churchill or Steve Jobs and will leave posterity the fruits of your genius, better stick to aspirin and lemonade. It’s also magic.


“Moderation is commonly firm and firmness is commonly successful.”

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

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