André Figueira

Systems engineer - I write apps, I make websites, opinions are my own...

Alcohol and drug consumption in our society

This is an article I've been meaning to write for a long time, and it seeks to address the indulgence in the most prolific of mind altering substances, and it's use in our industry, and that is, alcohol.

I want to preface this by saying, firstly, I do not condone the use of illegal substances, everyone should look at the facts and decide what they want to do with their life independently and despite the prevalence and damage alcohol has and can do, I am pro legalization of all substances, and believe that we should have the sovereignty over our own bodies, and that regulated markets are better than rampant black markets, so I am by no means against alcohol, but this article seeks to cover the hypocrisy that exists in regards to taking mind altering substances, of which alcohol is.

In addition, I focus mainly on the IT industry based on my experience with all of the different kinds of wonderful people I've had the pleasure of meeting along the length of my career, but this issue is most definitely not restricted to our industry, but in fact most industries, as alcohol is a global phenomenon, with most countries having a large amount of consumers of the drug.

I'm a software developer, I've been doing this for over 10 years based in the UK and in Portugal (though just the UK for the past 5 years), and one thing I've always noticed is how obsessed our industry is with alcohol, we have after work drinks, we have Christmas parties, where the main theme is to drink, and pretty much everything that is social in the work place usually revolves around the consumption of alcohol.

Of course, most other mind altering substances are actually illegal, so it makes sense that they're not common in workplaces, but there are and always will be, people who shun the unfair repression of other substances, and take them anyway, but by no means does this make a person any different (usually) to one whom has alcohol as their choice of drug.

Personally as with most people, I enjoy the occasional drink, but I can't keep up with the level of consumption in this industry, nor would I want to. For me, alcohol turns me into a loud obnoxious person, and makes me feel psychically ill, even if I don't get hungover. Sometimes, a single beer is enough to cause acid reflux and an annoying stomach ache, and foggy head. I tend to limit my drinking quite a lot compared to a lot of my peers, who also enjoy drinking at home which is totally fine, People should be able to consume whatever they please so long as they don't harm others.

Non alcoholic drugs

There is another substance which is second in prevalence in terms of use, and that is Cannabis, which as everyone will know is illegal in most countries, and even under the United Nations listed under The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, albeit was placed in the schedule thanks to the USA and their war on drugs started by the Nixon administration.

At the U.S.'s insistence, cannabis was placed under the heaviest control regime in the Convention, Schedule IV. The argument for placing cannabis in this category was that it was widely abused. The WHO later found that cannabis could have medical applications after all, but the structure was already in place and no international action has since been taken to correct this anomaly.

Cannabis is the most consumed illegal drug in the world, in 2015 it's estimated that over 183,000,000 people consumed Cannabis, and a lot of people not only in our industry but others also have partaken, but due to the social stigma surrounding it, users are usually shunned, and sometimes even held back due to their consumption, however, the fact of the matter is, with all the new research coming out, we know that Cannabis is not as harmful as most people assume it is, in fact, a study published by The Lancelet showed that Alcohol is the most damaging drug, even ahead of things like Crack Cocaine and Heroin.

Despite these facts, governments still pelt out a huge amount of anti-cannabis propaganda, and spout unverified studies and anecdotal evidence that it's dangerous, whilst forgetting the damage that can be caused by alcohol both to users and others, and even worse declaring that it has no medical applications. Despite it being illegal it's everywhere, it will always be everywhere, people will always use it, the war on drugs has failed and was always destined to.

The war on drugs was not started out of any concern for citizens health or well being, but just as a strategy for political gain, Nixon's own aide has this to say on the matter;

The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I'm saying? We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.

— John Ehrlichman, to Dan Baum for Harper's Magazine in 1994, about President Richard Nixon's war on drugs, declared in 1971.

Even though we have access to the cumulation of human knowledge a lot of people coast by their lives, just accepting the status quo and not questioning why we have certain cultural norms and stigmas, and this is why we have such a huge stigma on consumptions of any drug that isn't alcohol, people will automatically jump and assume a stereotype, despite the fact they may consume copious amounts of alcohol.

Therein lies the double standard and it's not really fair, not all people who consume other substances are bad people if at all, people consume substances for a plethora of reasons, whether to relax and get tipsy (or drunk) when they've had a hard long week, or if they want to relax and expand their mind a little and smoke a little Cannabis.

Either way, why would you judge a person based on the substances they consume? You don't know why they consume it, maybe they just like it? Just like with food people can have preferences for drugs, and there can be many reasons behind it, simply because they like it, or they want to detach, or possibly because they feel like a substance can help them expand their mind and consciousness. Regardless of the reasons why, no one but ourselves should have sovereignty over our bodies in the fashion the government tries to exert. As long as we're not hurting others no one should have a say in what we decide to put into our bodies.

In regards to more dangerous drugs, regulation would help put in place centers where people can educate themselves on substances, have a safe place to take them, and most importantly test their substance so they know what they're taking doesn't contain any adulterants or is even a fake drug, for example a lot of NBOMe compounds which are research chemicals are commonly sold as LSD, however, whereas the LD50 of LSD has never been reliably measured, there are countless cases of people dying from taking as little as 2 tabs of an NBOMe.

The growing understanding about mental health issues is showing that our new modern lifestyles are prone to stress and mental health issues, we're having to cope with everything from day to day life, to the stresses that can occur in our offices and these can have a tremendous impact into mental health, and those with these sorts of issues are more prone to consuming drugs in some form or another, and since alcohol is legal, it's regularly the drug of choice for the average joe.

This also means, that a huge amount of people only have access to one particular drug, Alcohol, which can have huge detrimental affects; Not to say if you're struggling you should use any drugs especially if you're already on prescribed anti-depressants, where mixing with other drugs could have potentially dangerous consequences be it mentally or physically.

However due to stigma, people are often driven underground, where only the most prudent actually do research on the substances they are consuming, this leaves a large amount of people at danger of harming themselves or others, and this is a direct result of the stigma, so I suggest, if you ever find out or know that someone is taking an illegal substance don't immediately jump to judgement, firstly, they might be taking a drug that's safer than the legal one you're consuming, and secondly we're all people we're all fragile and most of us do not do things with the intention to harm others, but to either just relax in a way that we like or to try and work on ourselves in ways we find more beneficial.


Another class of drug used to a lesser degree are Entheogens, also know as Psychedelics, specifically I'm refering to the classical psychedelics, e.g. LSD, Mescaline, DMT, Psilocybin. These drugs are now having a resurgence with the prevalence of new studies showing how they can have potentially amazing results at everything from curing depression to addiction. However due to the criminalization, as with most drugs, the use has been pushed underground meaning that there is not sufficient education on any of these substances amongst the general population, so there is a propensity for people to approach these drugs without fully understanding what psychological and physiological changes they can cause when taken, which can lead to bad trips.

An entheogen is a class of psychoactive substances that induce any type of spiritual experience aimed at development. The term Entheogen is often chosen to contrast recreational use of the same drugs.

There has been an increase of people particularly in the IT industry looking into this class of drug to medicate the issues we face in life, be it depression, anxiety, addiction etc... and It's up to us to educate ourselves so we can firstly withhold judgement, and secondly to aim to inform and help those who would try these substances. What I am trying to say with this long winded article is, don't judge people, think objectively and don't be another one of the people who will discount or talk down to another because he might enjoy the occasional LSD trip or prefers Cannabis over Alcohol, Love is the answer.

Helpful links

Here are some useful links for anyone who does take other drugs or is having issues with their mental health or addiction

Get a test kit for your drugs if you're gonna take them you should at least know what you're taking!

PsychedSubstance A drug education channel focused on harm reduction

Mental health hotlines

Mind addiction help book