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Gen X and Drugs: What Happened?

Gen X and Drugs: What Happened?

Lily Winters

Most women of a certain age can tell you what your brain looks like … and what it looks like on heroin. That’s because during our childhood, the country declared war against a really big, highly evil, but also sort of vague enemy: Drugs. They recruited us—the youth of America, armed us to the gills with heavy and highly effective artillery such as “Just Say No” stickers and “D.A.R.E.” t-shirts, and sent us into the thick of the battle. Well, not really, but clearly the experience we had did leave scars.

The War on Drugs

Let me start by saying this: I fully admit that my lost generation lost the war on drugs. And today, there are a lot of bad drugs out there. We face a national opioid epidemic. Unregulated drugs keep killing people. And just watch “Tiger King” to really understand the danger of meth. I’m by no means trying to make light of or minimize the actual drug problems our nation did—and still does—face.

But I’d like to chat about the root of the problem. The one we were warned “starts it all.” The only one that was available, affordable, attractive, and accessible to most teenagers in my generation: Pot.

Pot never did anything for me as a kid. My response to all that heavy-handed anti-drug training landed me someplace between ambivalent and meh about pot. In high school, I had a do-nothing, lazy-ass, pothead boyfriend, so I had regular access to it. The first time I tried it, it made me angry. I yelled at the boyfriend for about twenty minutes for being a do-nothing, lazy-ass, pothead, so he didn’t let me try it again. As I grew older, I figured it was something kids tried, but grew out of once they started adulting and drinking regularly instead.  

Mary Jane’s Return

So, it was totally surprising to find out (in my 40s!!!) that pot is still a thing among working, responsible, non-Otto-the-bus-driver-type adults. It’s regularly being partaken by parents. Teachers. Co-workers. My friends! MY PARENTS!

I don’t know what happened between then: “I learned it from watching you, Dad! I learned it from watching you!” and now: “Son, would you like to try your first joint with me, so I know you’re doing it in a safe environment?” But we’ve definitely changed our stance on it. And I often wonder what the impetus behind this was. 

There are the medicinal benefits to consider. When one of my best friends was fighting colon cancer, it was a go-to for the pain and side-effects of chemo.

We can also consider the severe lack of all of the “dire consequences” which were frequently predicted. I have yet to see anyone descend into a heroin induced overdose after trying one joint which was supposed to be a result of the oft-promised gateway effect. In fact, I have friends who picked up pot to help alleviate or avoid even worse addictions. I have my own addictions and honestly? A joint dependency is probably healthier for you in the long run than my four-Diet Cokes-a-day-habit.

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But mostly I think when we gave up on winning the war, we also gave in, realizing we didn’t even know the adversary we were being pitted against. When we waved the white flag, crossed the line, looked our enemy in the eye and shook hands, we realized what any soldier in that scene realizes: he’s not the monster they told us he was.

The New Reality

The best outcome though? Now pot is so commonplace you can get it pretty much everywhere and in everything. And I don’t just mean the official dispensaries—it’s the new “in” ingredient. You can get teas and cookies. And shampoos. And dog treats. And 30-day cleanses. It’s even bougie. There’s a market for high-end (no pun intended) boutique types, fancy edibles, and really expensive infused sparkling water. Our teachers from 30 years ago are now rubbing pot-infused cream into the same hands that pinned “Hugs Not Drugs” badges on our Hyper-Colorä shirts and sighing in relief when their arthritis pain recedes.  

That’s the thing about wars. The losing side rebuilds, and it often ends up being a better world than before.

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