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Blame Canada!


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We can't completely trust politicians or doctors all the time. We all know some drugs are restricted and we often don't know the thinking as to why. We know that the politicians and the community get it wrong - they have different priorities, different philosophies, and their heartstrings are pulled through their personal experiences with addiction, their perceived risks and what to avoid. The natural impulse is to restrict the unknown.

But did no one else notice? Society unbelievably rapidly changed just in my very young lifetime, but not for the better in every case. We know we need to rethink and reinterpret what happened, because we're often more lonely, more isolated, and less connected to each other than we are to our screens. Some of us need those virtual connections - they are the addiction. They can't just give it up, until sustained social inclusion is achieved. This refocusing of society, it's always been there, and we know it needs to occur faster, especially as there are many powerful vested interests. The answers, as far as I can see, are within politics, by focusing on understanding, on the wellbeing of isolated young people especially, as well as other age groups, and focusing on language. Our circular debates occur simply because: everyone's story is different, their lives were different, their genetics is completely different, even if they look like you. Our external features are different all the time, our perceptions certainly different. Our brains therefore must be different. We think in completely different, seemingly counterintuitive processes, even from birth.

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Despite this, we all know that drugs are here to stay. Medical drugs, illicit drugs and drugs that are legal and we tolerate. We're losing the battle with our children in the middle. What is happening with addiction? What even is addiction? It's a different concept for everyone. The planets circling around personal responsibility, upbringing, screen time, legalisation and regulation, crime, and harm minimisation are in miscommunication, in global, tribalist spirals. A lot of the time we just don't know, and I don't pretend to have good answers, there are so many schools of thought.

Surely we can agree that minimising harm, cannot just involve a network of complicated rules. Certainly that's part of it, but isn't that person that just lost their Xanax better off just getting it for that little bit more, then switching to alcohol, or GHB, perhaps forever? Isn't that person who just sold their Ritalin to their drug dealer for cash better off with more Ritalin instead of free cocaine? Isn't carefully manufactured dexamphetamine a little safer than methamphetamine? Aren't antibiotics some of the worst of them all? Why aren't they more restricted?

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We thought cocaine was great. Then someone decided it was bad, and we're still having the biggest global war about it. We know we did similar did with opium (that's still going), alcohol, amphetamines, and now the internet.

We need to consider as many unintended consequences for as many groups as possible, when making our necessary networks of rules. Some of these rules certainly need to be relaxed, to avoid social exclusion and humiliation of addicts. We need to do it with careful rapid precision, to avoid perpetuating wars, turbocharging crime and destroying lives, with care and compassion, thankyou. We are allowed to disagree, we are allowed to be emotional, we can try and empathise with other people and not quite succeed. When we fail to find common ground, we certainly can still listen - over and over again. Does "common sense" as a concept even exist? Have you tried asking someone else, what "common sense" is to them? Sometimes what you have in common is dramatically more than you think, from my personal experience - when you share stories across traditional social divides.

What is certain is that the world's problems are simple to some, and complex to others. And we don't know exactly why other people see things the way they do. Political activism, works to a point and is necessary. However, amongst the societal change turbocharged by the internet, how many of us seek out a "dopaminergic internet reward" of confirmation bias? The big psychological question, in my personal opinion, is how often does activism and "opinion addiction" cause people to ridicule, react, and polarise further to the other side?

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What I can see though, and perhaps you can too, is that the linguistic revolution of modesty and understanding is here. God knows where it started, perhaps somewhere around the 49thparallel? Or perhaps it was always there. It's rapidly charged, and will explode, because we can see the societal crises we agree about. And one country especially knows what to do. Involve everyone, individualise everything, even indigenous cultures and language. Learn from nature, learn from those you traditionally oppose: sometimes even they have fascinating unexpected points of agreement, when you catch them at the right time. Perhaps by speaking in another language, you can start to agree, finally. It must feel especially unachievable in the USA, but I'm an optimist, simply because:

I blame Canada!

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Peter is a medical registrar in Melbourne, Australia, with experience and interests in Infectious Diseases and Addiction Medicine. He is currently completing a Masters of Science (Infectious Diseases) at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical (more...)
 

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