The New Drug Culture

12Jul12

Full disclosure: this column was written under the influence of performance enhancing drugs: the caffeine from two cups of Stop & Shop brand coffee.

Especially when it comes to caffeine, the drug culture has come out of the closet. Just look at the advertising campaigns for caffeine containing products. They are now promoted far more for their stimulating buzz factor than for their taste.

You never hear the highly caffeinated Red Bull touted for its delicious taste, only for the fact that it “gives you wings.”

Similarly, 5-Hour Energy is not marketed for its mouthwatering flavor. Each 2 oz. dose is packed with 138 mg of caffeine, about the same as cup of strong coffee – without all that nasty hydration.

Even the coffee companies no longer pretend that consumption of the bitter beverage has anything to do with taste. These days, you never hear coffee hyped for its “full bodied flavor” or as “good to the last drop,” like the old Maxwell House ads once proclaimed. Old Mrs. Olson no longer plugs Folger’s as “mountain grown for better flavor.”

Rather, today it’s “America runs on Dunkin’.” Apparently, there’s more than one reason Jacoby Ellsbury is referred to as the Red Sox’s “speedy center fielder.” In one commercial, he talks about how Dunkin’ iced coffee “gives me the boost I need on game day.”

Whatever happened to good old-fashioned greenies? In his 1960s baseball memoir, Ball Four, former Yankee pitcher Jim Bouton described how major league trainers used to dispense those green amphetamine pills “like candy” to players. “Amphetamines improved my performance about five percent,” Bouton said. “Unfortunately, in my particular case that wasn’t enough.”

If only Dunkin’ Iced had been around in Bouton’s day he might be in Cooperstown.

Bouton was excoriated for his exposure of the amphetamine culture in baseball. Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, everybody was using drugs, but at least they had the common decency to be sneaky about it.

Now, marijuana is decriminalized in Massachusetts and a lot of the old mystique is gone. The pot lobby has even managed to place on the November election ballot a “medical” marijuana referendum – or should I say “reeferendum” – question. Claims of pot’s medicinal value are little more than a side-door route to full legalization, thinly veiled behind a haze of blue smoke.

Sure, they’ll trot out the anecdotal patient who never touched the stuff before discovering that it was the only thing that eased her particular malady. But for every one of those cases there are a hundred for whom a medical marijuana law would be just a means to get legal recreational weed.

AshtrayBack in the day, we were told that pot was “harmless” and “not addictive,” especially when compared to alcohol and hard drugs. Chronic marijuana users may not have the same physical withdrawal as heroin junkies, but some of these non-addicts have been smoking weed daily for decades.

Everybody acknowledges the dangers of cigarette smoking. But many are still in denial when it comes to the respiratory damage from pot-smoking. As if inhaling the smoke of one kind of burning plant material is carcinogenic but inhaling the unfiltered smoke of another burning plant is just fine?

Hello GoodbyeThere’s talk in some political circles of an “October surprise” calculated to guarantee President Obama’s re-election. I’m not buying it, but some have speculated that it will be legalization of marijuana – designed to win over the youth vote. The youth vote? What about the AARP vote? Those folks have been dreaming of legalization since their bell-bottomed days of blasting I Am the Walrus from the 8-track mounted under the dash of a VW Beetle.

Many of the same people who favor legalizing marijuana also support government efforts to restrict sugary soft drinks and snack foods. Clearly they haven’t considered the implications of millions of “patients” high on medicinal weed getting the munchies at the same time.

Better rethink that crackdown on soda and snacks.

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