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Friday, January 3, 2014

David Brooks, "Weed: Been There. Done That.": What About Antidepressants, Pain Killers and Alcohol?

Back in 2011, there was a surprising, or perhaps not so surprising, revelation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (

"Antidepressants were the third most common prescription drug taken by Americans of all ages in 2005–2008 and the most frequently used by persons aged 18–44 years. From 1988–1994 through 2005–2008, the rate of antidepressant use in the United States among all ages increased nearly 400%."

Pain killers? The current market for such drugs in the US exceeds $7 billion per year and is growing by leaps and bounds.

Alcohol? More than $100 billion is spent each year on alcoholic beverages in the US.

Needless to say, antidepressants, pain killers and alcohol can all be abused and result in addiction. To what extent should government ideally regulate their availability and dispensation? It's not a simple question.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled"Weed: Been There. Done That." (, David Brooks acknowledges that he smoked marijuana for a little while during his teenage years, but then, together with most of his friends, moved away from it. Regarding marijuana's legalization in Colorado and Washington, Brooks concludes:

"But, of course, these are the core questions: Laws profoundly mold culture, so what sort of community do we want our laws to nurture? What sort of individuals and behaviors do our governments want to encourage? I’d say that in healthy societies government wants to subtly tip the scale to favor temperate, prudent, self-governing citizenship. In those societies, government subtly encourages the highest pleasures, like enjoying the arts or being in nature, and discourages lesser pleasures, like being stoned.

In legalizing weed, citizens of Colorado are, indeed, enhancing individual freedom. But they are also nurturing a moral ecology in which it is a bit harder to be the sort of person most of us want to be."

I don't know if marijuana is potentially any more dangerous than antidepressants, pain killers and alcohol. I recently had a discussion with one of the world's leading orthopedists, and he favors the dispensation by doctors of medical marjuana over prescription drugs for certain kinds of severe chronic pain. It makes sense: After thousands of years of use by humans, we pretty much know the side effects of marijauna as opposed to those of many prescription drugs.

But back to Brooks's conclusion: What sort of community do we want our laws to nurture, and what sort of individuals do our governments want to encourage? Who writes these laws, and who is this "government" to which Brooks is referring? Perhaps Brooks should hold a televised round table discussion on this topic with Bill Clinton, Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer.

Where can I find one of Brooks's healthy societies?

Brooks's "highest pleasures, like enjoying the arts"? Sorry, David, but don't go forcing opera on me! I might end up smoking marijuana.

A "moral ecology in which it is a bit harder to be the sort of person most of us want to be"? Here I am, almost 60-years-old, and I still don't know what "sort of person" I want to be. You see, David, it's still taking shape, and I doubt whether I want to be the same "sort of person" as you. I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with your choice, but I also prefer to choose, to the extent possible, without interference.

[I stand corrected: I was just informed that antidepressants are not addictive; anti-anxiety medications, e.g., Xanax, are addictive.]

1 comment:

  1. Brooks is, of course, a pretentious, opportunistic and plain stupid bozo.
    I am not surprised that he smoked marihuana. I am not surprised that he promotes "highest pleasures, like enjoying the arts" (oh, ah)
    You won't see me in the opera either for a variety of reasons, including financial. Most importantly, I am not afraid of thinking, I don't need this idiotic opera escape and I am terrified of spending a night with the Goebbelses, Stalins, Brookses, and all sorts of monsters, crazies, snobs, idiots, etc. I leave this enjoyment to Brooks and an ex-friend of mine with her love of Wagner, Hitler and the like.