Saturday, May 14, 2011

Bath Salts, Intelligence and Personal Liberty

Recently, there has been a flurry of media coverage of the dangers and hazards of 'bath salts'. In my lexicon, 'bath salts' refer to 'Epsom Salts', a perfectly harmless and actually helpful substance taken both externally and internally by people for generations. Poured into a hot bath, they soothe and relax the muscles. Mixed with liquid and consumed, I believe they act as a calming influence on the stomach.

Politicians have made names for themselves recently by calling for a wholesale ban on 'bath salts'. Usually, I would do my own research on the subject, but I happened to recall this when I was at the local chemist. I asked if 'Epsom Salts' were the 'bath salts' that were the topic of recent political interest and activity. The chemist immediately and quite without any hesitation, declared that they were!

I should have known better... Magnesium Sulfate is the chemical foundation of Epsom Salts. The 'Bath Salts' that are the topic of political activity recently are quite different, based on a chemical that acts as a stimulant and are in fact, one of those 'designer drugs' that become popular for a brief time with individuals who are looking for chemical exploration. My poor innocent Epsom Salts have nothing whatsoever to do with designer 'bath salts' although the latter has usurped the term used for generations by the former. The chemical that forms the basis of the synthetic 'bath salts' is methylenedioxypyrovalerone, although newer pyrovalerone derivatives are being made by street chemists. Why did I believe the chemist instead of doing my own research on the subject before I launched into an empassioned defence of 'bath salts'?

In all honesty, however, some of the arguments I made remain valid.

There is an old Latin maxim to the effect that 'Abuse does not negate the value of Use'. 'Abusus non tollit usum'. Why should the government treat us like children? Why shouldn't we be given the benefit of education where the virtues and dangers of substances are concerned without legislation entering into the picture? I personally do not believe that any one has the right to tell me what is best for me. There was a time when governments had very little to do with substances of any kind except to levy taxes upon them. Surely humankind if anything has become MORE educated and more capable of discovering the truth about substances rather than less. With instant communication worldwide, even a villager in the mountains of Nepal can read about 'bath salts' or 'salvia' and decide whether or not he/she wishes to partake of a substance that can prove deadly.

Sad to say, however, it is a general attitude of passivity and insecurity that has made us so willing to allow others to 'protect us'. Whether it is the spurious 'war on terror' or the 'war on drugs', we blindly allow the government to take charge and whittle away our freedoms one by one.

Perhaps the synthetic designer drug known as 'bath salts' has no positive value but does that give the government the right to leap into the fray to render it illegal?

The problem here is that legislation that sounds good usually covers a multitude of sins, giving far more power to the government than people realise. For example, the 'war on terror' is a phrase that drums up general hysteria, allowing governments worldwide to encroach rather badly upon individual freedoms. The 'war on drugs' has made governments rich and placed undue power in the hands of the medical profession and multinational drug companies.

The other side of the coin is that such trust allows both the government and the medical profession to send people to their deaths again and again. Other synthetic substances created in the laboratories of multinational drug companies are given legitimacy by the government and then distributed to doctors who push them on their patients without performing their own research.

More medications with serious, even deadly side-effects are promoted by the medical profession daily than people in general realise. Listen to some of the advertisements on the telly and you will hear the same substance promoted enthusiastically in one breath and warned against in the next for its ability to cause serious injury or death! Simply because the GOVERNMENT has given a licence to the pharmaceutical company and to doctors to dispense the deadly stuff is sufficient. I would far rather take my chances with the natural dangers that the world creates than trust any substance that has become the 'flavour of the day' with the powers that be. A decade later, many of the drugs that are touted as miracle substances by the medical profession and big business will be the subject of class actions for having killed off a number of trusting patients or destroyed their kidneys, livers or other vital organs. How many people have died because of medications prescribed or given for common conditions? Evidently, the general public is supposed to be sophisticated enough to protect itself against risks promoted by multinational drug companies but cannot possibly understand the dangers of concoctions cooked up by a biker somewhere!

Furthermore, there is an old Latin maxim to the effect that 'abusus non tollit usum' or in English, 'abuses do not negate use'. Many substances that governments have taken out of the hands of the general public are time-tested and honoured herbal remedies. Yes, they can be abused, but they have great benefits as well. Although members of the public are not allowed to prepare and use them, the same multi-national drug companies that test new dangerous synthetics on people are allowed to package and market them for profit.

Self-righteous individuals who purport to act for the benefit of our SAFETY are not the friends of the people. We have the right to protect our own safety and to decide how to use the products of nature.

Apart from the specific anger I feel with respect to the efforts of these individuals who take the bit between their teeth with their half-baked notions and legislate supposedly for the benefit of all is a general sense of dismay at the willingness of the public to allow these people to restrict our lives. We are not children to be kept away from sharp instruments and things that COULD possibly be dangerous if misused! As for our children, should not their safety and welfare be the responsibility of their parents and not Big Brother? Education is the key rather than legislation that takes perfectly useful items out of reach!

I always believed that an individual had the right to use or abuse his/her body as he/she chose in any case. Making drugs illegal only benefits organised crime and gangs. It would be far better to educate individuals as to the use or danger of any substance and to offer a firm moral foundation to children than to make the substances themselves illegal. Don't these sanctimonious legislators and Mums against This and That realise that the world is a dangerous place and no matter how many substances you make illegal, a person with a self-destructive instinct or the insatiable curiosity of Curious George is going to find SOMETHING to abuse or try???

The Government should not meddle in affairs of personal morality or even personal safety in cases where behaviour is private and does not endanger others. Drinking or taking drugs or alcohol while driving, for example, is a different matter, as it endangers OTHERS and occurs on public roads and thoroughfares.

Meanwhile, it would be far better for these meddling individuals to embrace a truly worthwhile cause such as enforcement of a ban on cluster bombs that explode and kill children and innocents throughout the world. Weapons, unlike substances, exist solely for the purpose of killing. Although I am not opposed to the ownership and use of firearms per se, I am opposed to the so-called 'weapons of mass destruction' that are being manufactured and used by superpowers to enforce their will throughout the globe. (Let us be quite clear here that I refer to actual weapons of mass destruction as opposed to the fictitious weapons of mass destruction that formed the spurious cause of the illegal invasion of Iraq.)

In conclusion, an individual should be the ultimate guardian of his/her own safety and welfare and be allowed to choose what substances to take or to refuse to take. People should have more faith in their own common sense and ability to educate themselves rather than taking some one else's word on any topic that concerns their own safety and lives.

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