Illicit Drug use vs. alternative medicine (not a legalize thread)

This is an issue I brought up briefly on another thread, but it never went anywhere, really. (Besides, it was my hijack, I needed to start a new thread for it anyway!)

Before I go any further, THIS IS NOT A “LEGALIZE DRUGS” THREAD. Please. Plenty of other threads on that topic on this board. This is also not a “Regulate alternative medicine” thread either. This is more about people’s attitudes, not about whether something should be legal, or regulated.

So, this is my question: Why do some people seem to look upon illicit drug use with a neutral or non-critical eye, and yet consider “alternative medicine” to be such a dire threat?

I understand that many people shrug their shoulders at both things, and figure, whatever an informed adult wants to do with their body is their business. I also understand that many people think both practices are risky, and will be critical of both equally.

I am more critical of drug use than alternative medicine (I use “crackpot cures” for my colds). But I won’t argue with anyone too much (on either thing), as long as they aren’t hurting anyone else, and they make their decisions being fully informed of their consequences and options. I may have critical thoughts, but what are you gonna do? (I do say, that when someone chooses an alternative cure for a life-threatening disease, it is a serious matter and I do worry about them making such a choice. But if they REALLY are informed fully of all their options, the choice is still theirs.)

With all this said, I am beginning to suspect that there is a double-standard among some people. Alternative medicine is complained about, and is criticized quite a bit. It is unregulated, it is a scam. The people who use it do so with the hope that it will make them healthier, but without much scientific data to prove it. This seems to be irrational and rash to some. They desire to talk anyone out of making such a choice (or challenging their choices, asking for “proof”). I’m not saying that challenging someone on this stuff is wrong. But I do wonder why it seems so important to “reason” with the person who uses alternative medicine, but to not to be equally intent on “reasoning” the illicit drug user.

I think I see sort of a “blind eye” turned (in some cases) to the illicit drug user. Not that I think that everyone approves or condones it, but why not make the same attempt to talk the drug user out of using the drugs? Why not question the source of the drugs, and complain that the drugs are not regulated? (I doubt the Joe the Pusher sells FDA regulated drugs!) Why not treat the illicit drug user as “irrational”, for making such a choice? Certainly there are few scientific studies that show that illicit drugs are healthy! (With the exception of pot, for medicinal uses specifically.) Illicit drugs are NOT a health cure. They are not taken by the user with any hope of improving health. Note also that I am not just talking about the craven junkie, but about the “casual” user who thinks that they “can handle it”. What scientific proof can they offer that they are special, and can handle it? (I’m not saying that they can’t, but that’s the same question that will be asked of the person who uses alternative medicine, after all!)

So, I don’t get it. Am I wrong about this? Is there a double-standard among some people? Is illicit drug use challenged less often than alternative medicine? I think it is. I think that many people just don’t see drug use (especially casual drug use) as being “crackpot” or “irrational”, but they do feel this way about alternative medicine. But perhaps I’ve missed some good threads that totally blow this feeling I get of a “double standard” out of the water, I don’t know.

I’m not sure whether its a double standard, or that people see it as less related than you do. Alternative cures are an alternative to mainstream medicine. Most people probably don’t see what illicit drug use is an alternative to. I think what I’m trying to write, is that more people would see alternative medicine as a decision that can be reversed by getting an individual to use mainstream medicine, whereas illict drug use is seen more as an addiction, and the only other choice is to not use illicit drugs.

I’m also trying to guess whether people have more familiarity with one than the other. I think if many people only had experience with either illicit drugs or alternative medicine, it might make a difference as to how they respond.

Robb wrote:

Well, since much illicit drug use is considered “recreational”, maybe another less risky “recreation”? Like knitting? :wink:

Robb, yes, I understand that illicit drug use and alternative medicine are different in some ways. The purpose and motivations for taking drugs is different than alternative medicine. Though I do think that many people do not consider the casual use (or their casual use) of drugs to be an “addiction”. It’s just something they choose to put into their bodies, because they feel that they benefit from it in some way.

So in that way, I think there is some way to compare the two. People use illicit drugs for a reason - they are ingesting a substance because it does something to their body, and they like what it does (or at some point they liked it). People who use alternative medicine are choosing it because they feel it will benefit their health, or their body. Different motivations, but to a certain extent, the same act. Putting something into your body.

Illicit drugs and alternative medicines are not regulated. Both things have been said to have health risks. So if one considers alternative medicine to be “risky”, why don’t they consider illicit drug use (particularly casual drug use) just as risky?

yosemitebabe, I think I understand your question, even if my rambling doesn’t suggest that.

I’m going to quote this to help me focus.

The idea that I am trying to write, is that people might try reasoning with someone using alternative medicine because they can point to mainstream medicine and argue that mainstream medicine works. Whereas, with illicit drugs, you can’t say to the user, “look, we’ve got this other good stuff that you can get what you are looking for from.” And before we suggest knitting, we need to make sure they’ve come down from their high. :slight_smile:

I’m with you that the double standard doesn’t make sense. Certainly, the possibility of unknown contaminants and potential harmful effects means that if you dislike alternative medicine you should also worry about illict drugs. I’m just trying to think of a reason why people wouldn’t split their reactions. I don’t have mcuh experience with people complaining about either category, but I don’t get out very often either.

Well, I could be wrong. But I somehow have this gut instinct that I’m not - that there are people who split their reactions. A wild guess would be that these people either have dabbled in illicit drugs themselves, or have friends who use them casually, and never thought about it much. They’ve accepted it, it’s around them, it’s somewhat mainstreamed, or “normal”.

But they look at those “crackpots” with their weird herbal cures (or ear candles, etc.) and just think that’s the wackiest thing ever.

Well,yosemitebabe, without taking a position on whether I approve of illegal drugs OR alternative medicine, let me offer this thought:

Perhaps some people will try to dissuade one from the use of alternative medicine because they believe the use of such things indicates lack of knowledge. In other words, person A may try to dissuade person B from taking echinacea for his cold, because person A believes it is not effective. So A is trying to correct a percieved misunderstanding in B.

The same person (A) might NOT try to correct person C from smoking that joint, because it is perfectly clear what C intends to accomplish. Person C is acting on perfectly good knowledge of the effects of his actions.

So, to ascribe purely altruistic and helpful motivations to A: he will try to convince B not to use alternative medicines, because A believes that will it not help B to accomplish his goal (getting well). He will not try to dissuade person C from toking up, because said action will allow C to achieve his goal (getting high).

On the other hand, maybe A should just shut up and quit being such a pompous know-it-all…

As I will now do.

Very good point! And as someone who does use echinacea for my colds, I can say that it does do what I want it to do. Otherwise I’d stop using it. My colds don’t last very long when I take echinacea. Anyone who would try to dissuade me from this would be percieved as an irritant who was sticking their nose into my business.

I am sure many people who use “crackpot” cures for things like the cold and the flu feel the exact way I do. With more extreme alternative cures (for possibly fatal ailments) there is a more understandable reason for concern, of course (as I mentioned in the OP).

Sounds like a plan! :smiley:

The alternative medicine people are for the most part taking advantage of sick people by selling the cures that don’t work.

Whereas pot gets you high. There are really no ifs ands or buts about this are there?

I don’t know much about echinacea but I assume there is a certain amount of debate on whether or not it is effective. But I have never heard any debate about whether people get high or not with pot.

And drug pushers are taking advantage of drug users. So…?

Yes, but is it good for you? If I feel that the echinacea I take for my colds is helping me, then how is that any different than a person who feels that they are being “helped” (or getting the effect they want) from whatever recreational drug they choose to use?

Why should someone try to argue me out of using something that I feel convinced is working, and doing the thing it is supposed to do?

And, cocaine does what it is supposed to do - get someone high. But does that make it less harmful than (for instance) an ear candle? (A completely weird, but from what I know, rather harmless crackpot cure.)

I’ve thought about it some more and want to propose another possible reason for why people would have a double standard. (although, suggesting that it is because people have dabbled in illicit drugs or know people who do sounds like a good possibilty).

Consider the purposes people have for your two categories. Illicit drug users, I’ll assume, use their drugs to get intoxicated. People using alternative medicine want to be cured of an illness. For my purposes, I’d like to use extreme examples of alternative medicine, something along the lines of, “Eskimos have a low incidence of heart disease, they live somewhere cold, therefore I’ll eat icecubes to cure my congestive heart failure.” Ok, so why would people chastize one group and not the other. I think that many of us believe that illict drug users understand the risks in their drug use, but we don’t believe that people using unproven alternative medicine to cure a serious illness understand the risks. (mind you, I used “we”, but I’m not a fan of either category). So, although both categories of substances can harm their users, one mindset isn’t as based on fact as another, or isn’t seen as fully appreciating the risks.

Also, I’m wondering if it isn’t some kind of a “he got what he deserved” thought. Illicit drugs are also illegal, and some people don’t mind ill effects visited on drug users because of the illegality of their habit. Whereas, people seeking alternative medicine likely are suffering from an illness that is no fault of their own.

I’ll keep thinking about it.

yosemitebabe, what I’ve written so far doesn’t answer this much:

If echinacea doesn’t harm you, and you would still seek treatment if you had something more serious than a cold, I’m not sure why people would tell you to stop taking it. I’ve been thinking of people using alternative medicine to treat something life-threatening. I’m a bit concerned about alternative medicine where claims are made that a substance has such and such effect, where there is no evidence to substantiate the claims. I think that some people would tell others not to waste their money or health on unproven cures. I simply have no idea whether echinacea is one of the substances that is showing evidence that it helps do what people say it does.

And drug pushers are taking advantage of drug users. So…?

They are for the most part selling drug users what they want. A product that works as advertised. I don’t see where the users are being taken advantage of.

The alternative medicine practitioners are selling something that does not work by saying that it does work. I can clearly see who is being taken advantage of in this case.

If echinacea doesn’t harm you, and you would still seek treatment if you had something more serious than a cold, I’m not sure why people would tell you to stop taking it.

I would tell you to stop taking it. You are wasting your money and are supporting an industry that takes advantage of people who don’t have the time or inclination to find better information.

I’m lazy, but here’s my take as someone who’s pro-decriminalization but very heavily anti-alternative medicine. I’d say that the contradiction you are seeing is a false one. I’d like both alternative medicine and currently illicit drugs to be regulated to people who want to use them. For alternatives, that’s an increase in regulatory scrutiny; for drugs it’s a decrease. That’s why it appears there’s a contradiction, but there isn’t. I want any substance which could have significant physical effects monitored and regulated so dosages are safe and do what’s promised. If alternative medicines pass those tests, I’m happy to let people use them – in fact, if they did, they would be accepted into the canon of medical treatment. I’d be similarly happy to let people take drugs if they want. The problem with criminalization is that you can’t get data about relative effects, benefits and risks.


Well, sometimes drugs kill people! This is not unheard of. (I recall hearing about an incident in Texas where a lot of heroin users died in their sleep because they got an extremely potent batch of heroin.) I doubt these deceased folks feel like they got “what was advertised” with that heroin. It also can be said (with, I am certain, plenty of scientific backup) that these illicit drugs are unhealthy and unreliable in quality. And, it also can be said that the drug pushers are preying on the weakness of the drug users’ habit. Isn’t this taking “advantage” of them? And aren’t a lot of illicit drugs rather expensive? I keep hearing about some drug users selling off stolen goods to feed their drug habit. And bear in mind, I’m not trying to put a more favorable light upon the person who sells useless crackpot medicine. I just don’t see how a drug pusher should be considered any “better”.

There are certainly plenty of alternative medicines that don’t work. However, (as I detailed in a previous thread) sometimes “alternative” medicines do work, they just haven’t had enough studies or scientific backup to prove this. And in the (admittedly innocuous) case of my echinacea, it works, because my body tells me it works. My colds are less severe than those around me, who don’t take it. As far as I am concerned, it does what it is supposed to do. (And it is a helluva lot cheaper than drugs! :slight_smile: )

I’m not sure where you’re going here. First you say that you don’t understand why people would tell me to stop takiing it, and then you say you would tell me to stop taking it?

Robb wrote:

Fair enough - I agree that we should voice some concern when we suspect anyone is unaware of their options and choices.

However, I have met a few drug users who feel they can “handle” their drug use. I am always dubious of this claim. I also am a bit doubtful that all drug users fully understand how destructive drug use can be. So why should I not question them a bit about it? I’d do the same for the person who was using the crackpot cure for a life-threatening ailment.

You do bring up a good point. I do think that there is a healthy sense of self-delusion amongst many drug users. No, I don’t intend to preach them a sermon about it. But I don’t think that they risk their lives day after day fully aware that this is what they are doing.

Very good point. I hadn’t thought of that one. I think that this is often a motivation.

I also think that my first theory (that people are used to being around casual drug use, and it seems “mainstream” to them) is also another viable reason.

No one has really tried to stop me from taking it (though gazpacho did say he’d tried to get me to stop, since it is a “waste of money”.) I do get a little flak and sometimes teased for taking it, though.

yosemitebabe I really flat out don’t believe that echinacea helps your colds the fact that you think your cold are shorter than other peoples colds does not really sway me. I think that by buying these flaky herbal remedies you are supporting an industry that takes advantage of people’s gullibility. And I don’t think that is a good thing. Sure echinacea is harmless enough.
Tested 25 echinacea suplements. They say that 54% of the echinacea formulas that they tested did not pass their review for containing what the labels said they contain. My casual pot buying in college had a much better success rate. So now I have anecdotal evidence that the drug trade is more honest than the herbal remedy trade.
That illegal drugs can be harmful if used to excess is undeniable. That the illegal nature of the drugs makes getting a reliable source of drugs a very chancy prospect is also hard to argue. But I don’t think that drug dealers are making up the idea that drugs get you high. Which is why people buy drugs. I do think that people are really making up a lot of the alternative medicine health claims. And so they a perpetuating a fraud on people in the way that drug dealers are not.

I’ve also read the claim of people who say they can “handle” their drug use. I’m also skeptical of such claims. I agree with you that drug users don’t understand the danger. I’m reminded of the basketball player Len Bias (sp?). IIRC, he was drafted high for the NBA, snorted cocaine once, and dropped dead of a heart attack. It’s hard to imagine that anyone involved suspected one use could kill. Also, your example of heroin deaths fits well here. I believe part of their problem was that they grew accustomed to heroin of a particular purity, then much more potent heroin began to be sold for similar prices. Users used the same amount as before but got greatly more powerful doses - end result being a few more users.

If I’m reading you correctly, you would support the notion of someone saying, if both are dangerous, your should say both are dangerous. Instead, what you are seeing is people speaking out against alternative medicine, but leaving illicit drug use alone. I think I’m in favor of saying, if both are dangerous, that maybe people should avoid both.

I agree. I think that your observation of some people saying they can handle their drug use fits pretty well with this.
You might have found a double standard with more than one cause. :slight_smile:

I think this is a good question, though I fear that demanding any consistency out of the world is likely futile.

I do not care, by and large, what people put in their own bodies. And, FTR, I have never been around casual drug use, with the possible exception of marijuana, and even then only in high school, and only regarding my sister. If you want to take LSD, or homeopathic remedies, or whatever, it’s your body.

I do care about people a) representing a product as having medicinal qualities or effects that it does not and b) convincing others to use a substance that does not work in lieu of something that does.

Heroin pushers don’t represent heroin as doing anything other than what it does–it gets you high. St. John’s Wort pushers represent it as doing something it does not–treats depression effectively.

Rest assured, if someone were attempting to sell Ecstacy as a cure for cancer or Alzheimer’s Disease, I’d be protesting as strenously as I do therapeutic touch and homeopathy.

I don’t care if you are convinced! My personal antecdotal evidence tells me it works for me. If it didn’t work, I wouldn’t use it. I do have NyQuil in the house too, you know. This isn’t about me being ignorant of the “mainstream” cold remedies. I use what works, period.

I don’t have a problem buying products that work for ME. I don’t buy every crackpot remedy, and yes, I’ve tried some “harmless” ones that didn’t work. So I didn’t buy them again.

Also bear in mind, echinacea isn’t very expensive. A bottle of pills is usually $8 or so (IIRC). This will last me months and months. Is pot as cheap? Can the average pot smoker get several months’ worth of pot for $8? Are other illicit drugs as cheap? I mean, whatever people spend on drugs are their business, but damn - gimme my echinacea - it’s a bargain compared to most illicit drugs.

I don’t doubt that. Which is why I buy a more expensive “brand name”, which seems to work for me.

No you don’t. Your evidence is equal to mine, nothing more. I say that the echinacea I buy works, you say your pot worked. I won’t argue with you when you say your pot did the job for you. I’m sure it did. I say my echinacea worked. What proof can you offer me that it didn’t work for me? Have you been monitoring my colds?

Or…dead. But yeah, usually, they’ll get you high. And they’ll cost you a pretty penny, usually.

There is no doubt that some “crackpot” herbal remedies don’t work, and are unreliable. But it also seems to be true that some do work. Some have become quite mainstream, and further studies seem to put them in a more favorable light. I remember taking garlic for colds way back before it was considered a “mainstream” thing. Now garlic pills are in most grocery stores and pharmacies, and seem to be more accepted. A few years ago, I was introduced to this crackpot supliment called “MSM”. I was dubious, but my elderly friend Billy (a skeptic usually) started taking it, and he found he needed less of his expensive pain pills for his arthritis. Actor James Coburn was interviewd on KCBS a few years back, and said that MSM brought him back from self-imposed retirement, because it helped his arthritis so much. Now I see MSM sold everywhere. Does it really work? I have no idea what the studies say, but James Coburn is now acting again, and Billy saved some money on pain pills. Do you really think they’d give a damn if you think they are wasting their money?

These are just antectodal stories, and yeah, I know there are a lot of useless cures out there. And yeah, people need to be informed of all their choices. But clearly, the people I have cited above felt that the pills they took did what they claimed to do. Just like you felt your pot did what you wanted it to do. So I don’t see why you should treat one thing differently from the other.

Robb wrote:

Yeah…I mean, it’s obvious that I harbour a favortism towards alternative medicine. But I don’t think all alternative medicine is created equally. Some is useless, some isn’t. But still - it should be watched. Just like drug use should be question, and challenged. Some people use it so minimally and casually (a joint now and then, no more) and it’s obvious that they are not deluding themselves about it. But some people are in denial about its negative effect on them, and way over their head. So why shouldn’t they be challenged, just like the person who uses crackpot remedies is challenged?

pldennison wrote:

I care about that too. It’s wrong to sell useless health cures to people, just like it’s wrong to sell harmful and risky illicit drugs to people who are in over their head with their drug use. One of my issues here is when someone does know their options, chooses something “alternative”, says it works, act like it works (like with James Coburn) and yet they are still told by some busy-body that they shouldn’t use the product? Why? (And I’m not saying everyone does this. But I have a problem with people who do.) Especially when these busy-bodies in question seem inclined turn a blind eye to deluded drug users. This makes no sense. They’ll “intervene” with someone who is using something that isn’t hurting them, but they won’t “intervene” with a drug user who is possibly over their head? Also, even when they intervene with someone who is using an herbal remedy that clearly isn’t working for at all - why won’t they do the same thing for the deluded drug user?

Except when it kills you. (Like with the case in Texas.) Unless you think the drug pushers in Texas told those poor souls who died that the heroin would, indeed, kill them? :wink:

I think the case can be made that many users of illicit drugs are, to some extent, in denial when they say they can “handle it”. So why are they different from the person who is taking in ineffective alternative medicine?