tatjna (tatjna) wrote,

So how do you legislate against stupidity anyway?

You may have heard that they are looking at banning party pills - again. Only this time, it'll probably actually happen.

Why? Because there has been some 'new research' done that indicates that BZP could potentially do harm to one's liver and heart, if taken more than three times a week over a period of time. The research also says that a tolerance can develop to it. And it has 'unpredictable and severe side effects.' This, apparently, makes it 'dangerous' and warrants classifying it in the same category as cannabis.

As you can imagine, this announcement has created somewhat of a stir in the media. For those who don't know, New Zealand has led the world (as it does in a lot of things apparently) by allowing these pills to be manufactured and sold over the counter of most shops. In 2004, BZP became a restricted substance, basically meaning that it could only be sold legally to people 18 or over, putting it in the same category as alcohol here. At the same time, a whole lot of people started jumping up and down, going "Drugs are bad, kids, don't do 'em!" while sipping on their evening martini.

Now, thanks to this sketchy research, it's looking like BZP will be made Class C in March. Why do I say sketchy? Well. Let's have a look.

Harm to liver and heart. That's bad, right? Yes, yes it is. And I'm not refuting that BZP could potentially do this. The liver's job is to filter out poisons. BZP is a poison, where the definition of poison is something that alters your chemistry in a potentially harmful way if consumed in excessive quantities. So is caffeine (LD50 3.5 grams). And yes, it does increase heart rate. As does nicotine or caffeine. I fail to see why this is a reason to make this a restricted substance. There are so many other substances that have this effect, both medical and recreational. On its own, potential liver/heart damage is not reason enough to ban alcohol, tobacco or coffee. So, why BZP?

"If taken more than three times a week over a period of time" is an interesting one. Because anyone with any experience of this stuff knows that three times a week is pretty bloody unlikely. Under test conditions, sure. "Here, we'll pay you to be in our study. You have to take this stuff three times a week." But, voluntarily? Not likely. It's not the kind of thing that you'd take like speed, to 'increase performance' at work or study. Yeah, it speeds you up. It also makes you gurn like a mofo, turns your eyes into saucers, increases your body temperature and makes you restless as hell and slightly unfocused. Not a good look in the office, eh? And, well, after your 8 hours is up, you may be able to sleep, but you'll wake up feeling dopey and taking more won't fix it.

So it's more of a weekend thing, and once a weekend is plenty - more than that and you'll be a walking zombie who feels like shit by Monday. I'd like to know who, if anyone, actually takes this stuff more than once a week. Yes, a tolerance can develop to it. Studies showed that a few years ago. In order to develop a tolerance, one would apparently have to take it at least twice a week over a period of about three months. Then, it would start to lose its effect. Note that I say tolerance, not addiction. BZP is not an addictive substance. Not like, say, caffeine, alcohol or nicotine. All of which do damage if taken more than three times a week over a period of time, and develop tolerances, if not addictions. So I say again, why BZP?

OK, now what about these severe side effects? Well, the ones listed included loss of appetite, nausea, insomnia, jaw clenching, unsteady eyes, raised body temperature, and seizures.

Yes on the loss of appetite. Most people don't eat while on BZP. It can make some people nauseous when they take it. The day after, it's hard to eat. Not because eating makes you feel sick (like an alcohol hangover), but you just don't feel like eating. This normally rights itself in about 8 hours, or if you have a banana (tryptophan). Yes on the insomnia. Well.. the effects of the drug last 8-12 hours, and it says this on the packet. During this time you will be unlikely to sleep. After it's worn off, I've never experienced any residual insomnia. Normally I'm asleep by 10am the next morning, and will sleep for a minimum of four hours, then go to bed at my usual time the next night and, out like a light.

Yes on the jaw clenching (gurning). Sometimes on the eye jitters, usually when coming down. Yes on the raised body temperature.

However, none of these side effects are particularly dangerous to one's health. Yeah, ok, a lot would be if you were, say, diabetic. But having diabetes precludes the use of a lot of recreational drugs because of how they may affect the person. Why does this necessitate the banning of BZP?

And the last one - seizures. This is the one that's making people really scream "BAN THEM!" (yes, the One News poll, last time I checked, had 67% of people voting to ban them). However, in the cases of people presenting to the emergency room with party pill related seizures, in EVERY SINGLE CASE the person had also consumed an excessive amount of alcohol.

When you buy party pills, there is a warning on the packet. DO NOT CONSUME ALCOHOL WITH BZP. It also lists potential side effects, warns not to take if you are pregnant, lactating, have heart problems, high blood pressure or a mental illness. While driving under the influence of BZP is not illegal, the packet warnings also have the standard "Do not operate heavy machinery" warning as well.

(I don't know how many people I've spoken to about party pills who have said "They're really bad." And I've asked them if they had alcohol with them. And they had, and yes they'd seen the warning on the packet and thought "But a couple of beers would be ok, surely?" Because the societal perception is that alcohol is relatively harmless. ;-/)

So much for warnings. So much for side effects, tolerance and damage to vital organs. None of these, alone or in combination, in my opinion warrant the banning of BZP. By the way, other piperazines are on the list as well, and this includes TFMPP (Molly).

But of course, like all good hype-artists, the media understand the general fascination with drugs that most people have, and have jumped on the bandwagon in a big way. Sensationalism sells, people!

So we have the story of the kid in Kaitaia who died over New Years. Headline - "Party Pills Suspected in Death" Quote from his Mum - "He may have taken party pills and these may have caused him to have a heart attack." What she didn't mention, but the other witnesses filled in, was that he had also taken ecstasy and had been drinking alcohol all day.

Studies have been done that show BZP does not sit well with MDMA. Basically, what MDMA does is cause the brain to dump all its serotonin into the synapses at once, thus the euphoria etc. BZP (only in combination with TFMPP in a dose of around 2 BZP:1 TFMPP) causes a very similar reaction in the brain, only the BZP/TFMPP serotonin dump is selective - not all of the serotonin gets dumped. And they are two very different chemicals. In combination, the news is all bad. Add alcohol and you are almost guaranteed to have problems. And with ecstasy, you can't guarantee what else is in the pill, or what dose you're getting. Risky behaviour at the best of times. In combination with two other chemicals that are known to be badly reactive with each other? Doh. Darwin's Law in action, ain't it funky?

It also says on the packet - "Do not combine with illegal substances."

So. BZP is not the problem. There have been zero deaths that can be attributed to BZP. Unlike alcohol. Unlike tobacco. Unlike, much as it pains me to say it, MDMA (tiny tiny percentage, but yes, people have died from MDMA related dehydration). The problem is people doing stupid things with it. Like, taking 1000mg in one night (recommended dose maximum 400mg). Like, combining with alcohol. Like, taking it with MDMA (WTF? MDMA is better! Why ruin it by adding an inferior chemical that does the same thing only not as well?).

So the question becomes, how do you legislate against stupidity?

And the answer is - you can't. People will do dumb things. End of story. In the old days, people who did really dumb things died and didn't breed. That's how we became successful as a species. Now, we legislate to keep the stupid people alive.

So where am I going with this? Well, anyone who knows me well, knows I'm an advocate of responsible drug use. And I completely fail to see the difference between one mind-altering chemical and another - alchohol and MDMA? What's the difference really? Yes, I know, there are a lot of differences, but those very differences raise huge questions in my mind about why one is not only legal but culturally ingrained, and the other is Class B - which means jail, for those not living in NZ. I've already ranted about those differences a couple of months ago so I won't repeat it here. Suffice to say it defies logic, and that makes me go GRR.

So what is responsible drug use? It's knowing what you're taking. It's researching what's in it, how it's likely to affect you and the potential side effects. It's avoiding addictive substances. It's finding out the optimum way to use the chemical to get the mind altering effects with minimum risk to yourself and others. It's making sure that the use of mind altering chemicals doesn't affect your ability to function in the 'real world.' It's keeping yourself healthy between-times so that you're not brought low by an experiment to the point where it detracts from your life. It's knowing how to recognise when the signs of 'overdoing it' show up. (messing with serotonin bad, mmk? depressed tats has no fun, mmk? this is not rocket science, people).

And finally, it's being open about it. What the hell use is all this responsibility if nobody knows, if I hide it like some dirty secret? Are the uneducated attitudes to drugs (Kids, drugs are bad, don't do 'em, but here, have this beer it'll put hairs on your chest) ever going to change if the only people that ever go public about their drug use are losers, street people, and celebs in rehab? In other words, the stupid people? No wonder people are screaming to ban yet another recreational chemical.

Personally, I don't think -any- substances should be banned. Because I believe in personal responsibility. And yes, I understand that there are those out there who will abuse chemicals in whatever form they can get them in, and that they pose a risk to themselves and society. I have no answer to the people who say "But what if someone on drugs hurts an innocent bystander?" - except, hello, alcohol? Which is a cliched argument. Funny, cliches are usually cliches because they are true. That being said, I have nothing against alcohol. It's just another recreational drug. My problem is with a) people who use any drug irresponsibly and b) the effect those people have of causing the governments to legislate against stupidity by limiting our freedom of choice.

So yes, I take drugs. Some of the things I take are illegal. I understand the risk I take by admitting that. I have yet to see convincing evidence of the reasons why some things are illegal and some are not.

And go ahead, judge me if you like. But before you do, ask yourself if your judgement is moral, ethical, or knee-jerk based in cultural perceptions or lack of education. And, ask yourself - what recreational chemicals do I ingest? Alcohol? Coffee? Nicotine? And is the legality of this ingestion what makes it ok for me to do that, or is it something else?

(I have not included links. If you're interested, a Google search will bring up a lot of info.)
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