Is it Really So Strange?
1986 saw the recording and release of the Smiths song that asked the question “is it really so strange”? Igniting the debate to decipher the meaning of the tortured Morrissy croon. The era still spoke of homosexuality in hushed stage whispers. The general consensus of the collegiately dogmatic campus radio station listener was that Morrissy was coming out of the closet as a gay man. Years later he would speak of his sexuality in open forums and reveal he doesn’t really reside in any box. For the time, it was a discussion. Today the spoiled millennial wouldn’t raise an eyebrow in between texts to their mom. Is there a looming paradigm shift in drug policy thinking among us now the way there was with The Smiths back then?
People like drugs. There, I said it. They like to alter their state for feeling better and who are we to judge that? The question is largely not one of getting them to stop but of shifting thinking and knowledge to create safety, allowing people to make their own decisions about their drug use, including the possibility of what recovery culture accepts, abstinence. In a sense abstinence is the white male heterosexual version of drug policy. The notion that there are other people who don’t fit that mold is elusive to most. In this sphere, harm reduction is the smiths lead singer asking the world “is it really so strange”? Is abstinence for the individual or the ego of the clinician? Maybe it’s for the aid and comfort of those around the drug user? In some cases, it’s the best play for the individual but not in all. Is rehab just gay conversion therapy for drug users?
A few weeks back, I got a call from a young producer at the Dr. Oz show. The call was long and involved, she took copious notes and said “this is great, I’ll get back to you”. I gave her my rata tat tat about many things but mostly she was interested in the idea that cannabis could be an exit drug from the shackles of an opiate addiction. I never heard back from her and was shocked to see that the good doctor effectively plagiarized my perspective. My ego is super pissed BUT the good news is the idea was put into the stratosphere of mini van driving, mall dwelling American life. No longer just a San Francisco hippie idea cowering in the shadow of the margin, this bell was rung in the most mainstream of streams, day time TV engineered for white suburban America. For that I’m glad. It’s great to see that Dr. oz thought about the logic, hopefully read the data and concluded that cannabis replacement is a powerful arrow in the quiver of weapons attempting to slay the opiate dragon. On balance, my ego will recover so this is a good week in the presentation of the concept. Truth be told, we owe a thank you to Dr. Oz, not many day time talk show hosts are willing to discuss this.
The lesson which the smiths taught went “is it really so strange? I say no, you say yes but you will change your mind”. That’s where we are with American drug policy. Harm reduction isn’t strange and minds are changing.
Author: Joe Schrank, Editor-in-Chief