The Most Dangerous Drug Is Not Meow Meow—It Isn't Even Alcohol
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I'm a lightweight; always have been. I didn't get properly drunk until I was 25, on a night out which culminated in a spectacular public vomiting in a Chinese restaurant. Ever wondered what the clatter of 60 pairs of chopsticks being simultaneously dropped in disgust might sound like? Don't ask me. I can't remember. I was too busy bitterly coughing what remained of my guts all over the carpet.
Not a big drinker, then. Like virtually every other member of my generation, I smoked dope throughout my early 20s. It prevented me from getting bored, but also prevented me from achieving much. When you're content to blow an entire fortnight basking on your sofa like a woozy sea lion, playing Super Bomberman, eating Minstrels and sniggering at Alastair Stewart's bombastic voiceover on Police Camera Action! there's not much impetus to push yourself. Marijuana detaches you from the world, like a big pause button. The moment I stopped smoking it I started actually getting stuff done. I still sit on my sofa playing videogames, necking sweets and laughing at the telly, but these days if I have to leave my cocoon and pop to the corner shop to buy a pint of milk before they close, it's a minor inconvenience rather than a protracted mission to Mars. That was the worst thing about being stoned: there came an inevitable point every evening where you'd find yourself shuffling around a massively overlit local convenience store feeling alien and jittery. Brrr. No thanks.
I tried other things, only to discover they weren't for me. LSD, for instance, definitely isn't my bag. Call me traditional, but if I glance at a wall and before my very eyes it suddenly starts smearing and sliding around like oil on water, my initial reaction is not to be amused or amazed, but alarmed about the structural integrity of the building. My most benign lysergic experience consisted of an hour-long stroll around an incredibly verdant, sun-drenched meadow, watching the names of famous sportsmen appear before me in gigantic 3D letters carved from fiery gold. Eventually someone passed me a cup of tea and the spell was broken: there I was, sitting in a student halls of residence, watching late-night golf on BBC2 on a tiny black-and-white TV. From that point on it was like being trapped in a David Lynch film that lasted for eight hours and was set in Streatham. Once again: Brrr. No thanks.
These days I'm sickeningly lily-livered, by choice rather than necessity. I don't smoke, I drink only occasionally, and I'd sooner saw my own feet off than touch anything harder than a double espresso. I don't want to get out of my head: that's where I live.
In summary: if I've learned anything, it's that I don't much care for mood-altering substances. But I'm not afraid of them either. With one exception.
It's perhaps the biggest threat to the nation's mental wellbeing, yet it's freely available on every street – for pennies. The dealers claim it expands the mind and bolsters the intellect: users experience an initial rush of emotion (often euphoria or rage), followed by what they believe is a state of enhanced awareness. Tragically this "awareness" is a delusion. As they grow increasingly detached from reality, heavy users often exhibit impaired decision-making abilities, becoming paranoid, agitated and quick to anger. In extreme cases they've even been known to form mobs and attack people. Technically it's called "a newspaper", although it's better known by one of its many "street names", such as "The Currant Bun" or "The Mail" or "The Grauniad" (see me – Ed).