So many years ago when I was in Junior High School Health class the curriculum would occasionally touch on the dangers of illegal drug use. The teachers would warn us not only about the evils involved with drug use but also the terribly awful side effects.
Regardless of the illicit drug being discussed, the teaching was centered around fear. “Use drugs and you will die!!!” The fear tactics included showing us educational films that would tell the story of the time little Jimmy was pressured into popping one quaalude and jumped off a building because “he could fly” or another one that showed innocent Lucy going from captain of the cheer leading squad to a strung out junkie trading her body on the corner all because of smoking a marijuana cigarette.
The real kicker came in 1986 with the death of college basketball star Len Bias. His early passing was all that the anti drug movement needed. At the time is was reported that Bias had died of a cardiac arrhythmia as a result of cocaine use. Reports also indicated that is was the first and only time that the basketball star had ever used cocaine. After that the drum beat got louder but the mantra being chanted was still the same, “Use drugs and you will die!!!”
I have to admit, as a kid the Len Bias thing did shake me and made me think. After all, the news shows on the TV all said he died from doing coke just one time. Just once! Maybe the teachers at school were right and drugs were a bad thing never to be used unless you want to wind up like Jimmy, Lucy or Len.
All of the fear hurled upon my young impressionable mind was enough to keep me off the drugs forever. That was until they made a fatal mistake that would lead to the derailing of all of their teachings. Aside from the fear factor, they did their best to paint a picture of what a drug user would look like. You see as they taught us, drug users looked dirty and unkempt. I recall teachers being delighted in being able to use the word ‘scummy’ in reference to not only addicts but more importantly drug dealers. The drug dealer was the dirtiest looking individual know to all of society, at least that is what they taught.
The problem? As I got older I decided to experiment with a little reefer here and there. Not only did I not think I was capable of flight but I also saw something that contradicted the health teachers’ lesson plan. The kids that were smoking the pot looked just like me. How could I tell? Well we would all be at the same parties and the kids who would toke up on the weed were dressed similar to me. It was clear that their hygiene was good and clothing was similarly ‘scum’ free. How could this be? ‘Druggies’ are supposed to be dirty. Furthermore, I would come to realize that drug dealers actually look just like normal everyday people. As it turns out dealers were not the vile vermin infested scum bags that they had painted into our minds. No, quite the contrary. All of the dealers I conducted business with were my friends and they looked just like me too. While I realize that I am biased when I say this, but most of my friends were good people. My teachers were lying!
Or were they?
You see another thing they would discuss was the side effects drugs would have. I am not going to repeat all of them here, that is what secondary school health class is for. There is one side effect of weed they did mention that I initially, and for many years, shrugged off just as I had about dirty drug users. Paranoia. I have to tell you, not cool. Sure way back when I wouldn’t get paranoid at all. In fact, I would laugh to myself when I would be clearing a bong hit and think ‘I sure hope this doesn’t make me paranoid.’
The only problem is that at the time I had a different concept of being paranoid. You see I thought they were talking about the classic definition of paranoia. I believed that they meant that I would smoke some pot and then suddenly I would think that the world was out to get me. Something more along the lines of the classic definition. Today…totally different story.
If I smoke now, forget it. I get paranoid about my surroundings. I will catch myself thinking, ‘Man that fan has been on for a really long time. I should probably turn it off before it catches fire.’ Or, ‘I should make sure my doors are locked. I don’t want someone to just walk into my place.’ WTF??? Deep down I know none of this will happen but the drugs man, the drugs fuck with my head and all of a sudden I am that kid in the anti-drug movies from junior high that is cowering in the corner rocking back and forth waiting for my high to end. Fuck they were right! Paranoia! Damn!
Nevertheless, I power through and have the occasional reefer cigarette once in a while. Why not? Deep down I know I am not going to burn in a fire in the middle of a home invasion.
All of that said, I still to this day have never touched cocaine. I mean shit, Len Bias died because he did coke…Once!