CWRU's humor magazine, est. 2000
Trust Me, I’m a Scientist: A column by Evan Martin
As a man whose life goal is to become a professional pharmaceutical chemist, I spend a decent amount of time thinking about biology, chemistry, and the science that seamlessly blends the two together: the science of drugs. Most people who use drugs use them on a doctor’s advice to cure, or at least treat, some affliction. Some, however, choose to use drugs recreationally, be it tobacco, alcohol, or something else less than legal. Because the old white men running our country get all their information about illegal drugs from the guy who directed “Reefer Madness,” there is quite a bit of misinformation out there about said drugs.
Now, this is a science column, not a political one. I’ll tell you right off the bat that I am in favor of the legalization of certain less harmful drugs, for reasons mostly based off common sense. However, I’m going to stick solely to talking about what is and is not true about some common recreational drugs, and stay as politically unbiased as I can; with that in mind, if the facts seem like they support one viewpoint over others, well… that’s called science, bitches. Here we go.
Oh, one more thing. For the love of all that is science, please do not do illegal drugs, or for that matter, any drugs without a medical professional’s recommendation. In the words of a wise Colorado elementary school counselor… “Drugs are bad…mmkay.” Got it? Ok.
Let’s start with everyone’s favorite: cannabis, aka the drug that 40% of Americans have admitted using. Here are the facts: marijuana is not physically addictive, but does have a small risk of psychological dependency. Despite the relative lack of research that has been done, scientists have found very little (if any) risk of marijuana causing cancer or other long term health problems, when it’s used in moderation. Interestingly enough, a recent study found that pot smokers tend to be skinnier than non-users despite the drug’s reputation for “acute increases in caloric intake” (egghead speak for the munchies), leading researchers to conclude that weed somehow helps one’s body regulate insulin—which could also explain why pot smokers tend to have lower rates of diabetes.
That’s not the only potential benefit of marijuana. Other conditions the drug may be able to treat, or at least help manage, include neurogenic pain, movement disorders, glaucoma, migraines, MS, epilepsy, arthritis, Parkinson’s, PTSD, HIV/AIDS, and certain forms of cancer, just to name a few. In fact, the well-known physician Dr. Sanjay Gupta recently wrote an article in CNN and released a documentary that investigates the benefits and dangers of medical pot, the latter which he says are overhyped by the government.
Marijuana isn’t the only drug often misperceived as more harmful than it really is. For example, did you know that LSD and psilocybin mushrooms are both approximately as toxic as pot? That is to say, they’re not at all. Not only that, but they also have a lower dependency potential like pot—in layman’s terms, they’re both nearly impossible to get addicted to, for purely physiological reasons. Also no, neither one stays in your spinal fluid, or cause mental illness. Nor does MDMA, a common party drug called Molly or ecstasy, burn holes in your brain (that particularly dumb myth was spread by Oprah, among other poorly-informed people (Oprah SLAM!) who misinterpreted a CT scan of a user’s brain. The graph was showing areas of increased or decreased blood flow). And how about the fact that only about 20% of cocaine users get addicted? That’s significantly lower than the 30% of tobacco smokers who are hooked, and the latter is the legal one.
Again, I’m not trying to sway anyone on whether or not they should personally use pot, or any other drugs for that matter. It’s an individual decision, and for plenty of people, staying away altogether is the right decision. Furthermore, many more harmful drugs, such as heroin or meth, should never be used by anyone, ever.
What I am saying, however, is that while some illicit drugs may have the potential to cause harm, the harm tends to be overblown by well-intentioned but misinformed people. And if the Seattle Police Department can hand out bags of Doritos at their upcoming “Hempfest,” then I think rest of us could lighten up a little too, don’t ya think?
Evan is the product of 85 million years of primate evolution. He enjoys sports, Star Wars, living in Cleveland, and seeing the world as one giant science experiment with too many variables and not enough explosions.