A CHOICE OF DRUG, A DRUG OF CHOICE
By Andrew Biggs
Jackie is the grown-up daughter of my dear friend Kelly. Now she’s 21 and wants to take a year off university and travel around South-East Asia.
This is the email I received from her:
“Hi! This is Jackie! I don’t know whether Mom told you, but me and my boyfriend are going backpacking around Asia and want to include Thailand! We were wondering if we could stay with you for a week or so when we get to Bangkok! We’ll arrive in December! Is that alright? Does that put you out?”
Not half as much as your overuse of exclamation marks puts me out — that was my first reaction which I kept to myself, of course, since Jackie is a very pleasant young lady, not unlike her mother was when we first met in the States around the time KC & The Sunshine Band were having hits.
I wrote an email back explaining how she and her boyfriend would always be welcome at my house. I was willing to overlook the three-day House Guests And Fish Rule — though I did worry how long “a week or so” was in the mind of a millennial.
The email she shot back precipitated the quandary we are about to discuss.
“That’s great! Looking forward to it! And just to let you know … me and my boyfriend are into w-double-e-d among other stuff! Can you get some for us? Don’t tell Mom!”
Thus began a moral dilemma which, on the surface, seemed easy enough to answer for sensible folk such as me and you … oh but she’s got me saying it now! You and I.
I may have many roles to play in this life, but one of them is not pushing drugs onto youngsters. On the other hand, how hard would it be to find weed in this city?
I would probably have to disguise myself as a sex tourist and saunter down to any of the bars in Nana Plaza, order a Singha beer then, as I waved the change away to the under-dressed waitress with the sick buffalo, whisper to her: “Say … where can a man get a little w-double-e-d around here?”
Imagine the look of confusion that would cloud her face, as the poor girl tries to put four English letters together. Then there would be the sudden, beautiful, broad smile of realization, and her ear-splitting retort: “Ohhhhhh ... same-same GANJA??” resulting in the heads of everyone in the bar turning to look at me.
Marijuana may not be hard to find, but I did worry about what constituted Jackie’s “among other stuff”.
Did she mean >>ya ba<< (methamphetamines), >>ya k<< (ketamine), >>ya e<< (ectasy) or >>ya i<< (ice)? Or was she referring to the more traditional class-A drugs such as heroin and cocaine?
Was I about to welcome two young people into my home who were going to spend their days shooting up or toking up? Did I have an obligation to tell my American friend of her daughter’s intentions, or did that make me a rat?
Two close friends, both women in their early fifties and both at the top of their fields, gave two opposing opinions when I threw this dilemma at them.
“You absolutely do not buy drugs for her,” said the first. She’s a well-known Australian pediatrician and mother of five. “Not only are you fostering a drug habit, but you are betraying your friend. How is she going to feel knowing you’ve bought drugs for her daughter? And look at where you’re living. South-East Asian countries have strict laws on drugs. If she gets caught with them she’s in jail. How would you explain that to your friend – that her daughter was in jail because of drugs you purchased for her?”
Yeah, but it’s just marijuana, I said, which was like a red rag to a bull.
“I’ve had cases of schizoid behavior from teenagers who have smoked too much marijuana. Imagine having that on your conscience. What if she overdoses on harder stuff? What if she wants heroin or cocaine – imagine confronting your friend after she finds out her daughter died thanks to drugs you bought.”
It wasn’t the breeziest of conversations I’ve ever had with her.
One week later I caught up with the other friend, a New Zealander, who is the dean of a university faculty there, and in Thailand for a holiday.
“Absolutely, yes,” she said over coffee at Kuppa. “Not only do I agree you should buy it, but you have a responsibility to do it.
“I won’t get into the moral aspect of using drugs, suffice to say your agreeing or not agreeing to buy drugs has no effect on her habit. She is going to do drugs regardless. So what’s she going to do if you say no? She will buy them off the street. She immediately risks entrapment or, worse, buying bad stuff and that can be life threatening.
“Isn’t it better to find her a bag of dope and say here, use this, but only at home, not outside? As for the hard stuff, you need to find out exactly what she wants and make a decision on the possibility, or non-possibility, or acquiring it for her.”
So there you have it. Sometimes it’s difficult having both staunch conservatives and bleeding liberals as friends, especially in moral dilemmas with the spectre of December arriving.
There is a very thought-provoking book that has made an impact on drug policy in recent times. That book is called Chasing The Scream by Johann Hari, and it gives a history of the century-old war on drugs. It advocates decriminalization of all drugs. While this is shocking on the outset, the arguments are strong that we have lost the war on drugs. Strict enforcement doesn’t work. Criminal gangs control illicit drugs worldwide and with that comes all the associated violence. Users are criminals rather than patients. And in countries where drugs have been decriminalized or at least controlled, there has been a reduction in users as well as lower crime rates.
I finished the book with some reservations but generally in agreement with the author. And yet, no matter how much I believe decriminalization is the answer, the fact is that drugs are illegal and there are harsh fines for users.
What really worried me was that nightmare scenario of Jackie using something that would kill her.
I’d have to call Kelly. I would either have to tell her that her daughter died from drugs I knew nothing about, or she died from drugs I bought for her. Which one was worse?
I had the email even plotted out ready to go:
I regret to inform you that I have been led, kicking and screaming, into my advanced years. Because of this untenable but unavoidable situation I do not indulge in substances other than the ones I can purchase between 11 am and 2 pm and then 5 pm to midnight, a situation I will explain upon your arrival in the Land of Smiles. You are welcome to stay but sorry, no drugs. I do appreciate the fact you felt comfortable enough to confide in me, and to assume I too would be spending my twilight years spaced out on w-double-e-d and other stuff.
Lots of love,
P.S. It’s okay. I won’t tell your Mum.”
That email was plotted out, but never sent. The situation resolved itself.
This incident occurred last October. In November Jackie broke up with her boyfriend. The Asian trip was called off.