Since last week we have been inundated with stories about the widespread usage of steroids in Major League baseball! Many have been outraged or saddened to find out that our revered baseball idols have been taking drugs to enhance performance when it comes to throwing and hitting a baseball. While it is easy to point fingers, caste stones and judge the "cheaters," let's slow down for a moment and take a look in the mirror. We may be surprised to see how much "performance enhancing" goes on all around us.
Viagra Inflates Confidence
While sitting on our couch watching our "juiced" up players, we are likely to be subjected to ads for Viagra or Cialis. Viagra is a performance-enhancing drug if there ever was one! "Contact your doctor if erections last longer than 4 hours," the ad warns. It could be argued that people popping the blue pill have an artificial advantage over nonusers.
Alcohol Boosts Ability on the Dance Floor
The other commercials we see during our baseball watching are for Bud, Coors and Miller Light. We have seen the commercials that promise us the hook up with hotties at the bar when aided by a couple of cold ones. We also know from our personal experience that a couple of vodka sodas help us "enhance our game" on the dance floor! I wouldn't want to bust a move without one or two.
Adderall Helps Some to Hit the Books
So much to read, so little time! We live in a competitive world where 5-year-olds are doing interviews to get into kindergarden. Parents of teenagers spend thousands of dollars on prep courses for tests like the SATs. This may come as a surprise, but many ambitious, over-achiever students take drugs like Addrerall (amphetamine family) to help them cram a few extra hours at night. If Harvard and Stanford gave pre-exam drug tests, there might be a few star students who would have to be benched.
Marijuana: Performance Enhancer for the Jazz Musician
From Louie Armstrong to Bob Marley to Snoop, countless musicians, artists and authors all have used marijuana to enhance their performances. Imagine if we drug tested our favorites music artists, sit-com writers, poets and authors. I am sure they would have all been amazing performers and artists without the green, but let's not pretend they created and shared without the a little extra help from the herb.
Public Speaking with a Little Help from Xanax!
Public speaking is a valuable skill that unfortunately makes many people very nervous. The next time you appreciate someone's moving speech, consider that they may be on Xanax or another anti-anxiety drug. Many brilliant and inspiring speakers shine with a little help from a very small friend!
Learning to Live with Drugs
I understand people's disappointment around our baseball players using drugs. Now I find myself even more impressed with those ballplayers and artists who are substance-free when they perform! Yet let's be clear that people all around us are using drugs for pleasure, pain and sometimes gain. Despite 40 years of "Just Say No" and fantasies of a "Drug-Free America," we are a country swimming in drugs!
Unfortunately, while drug use and addition don't discriminate, our drug policies do. Blacks and whites use drugs at equal rates according to their respective proportion of the population, but blacks go to jail on drug charges at 13 times the rates of whites. Some people use drugs and get million dollar contracts and others use drugs and get years behind bars!
If there is one, a silver lining in the steroid story is that it opens up a more nuanced conversation about drug use in our society. People use legal and illegal drugs on a daily basis. We need to help people who have problems with drugs, leave alone those who do not, and never incarcerate someone for putting a substance in their body if they have done no harm to anyone else.
Tony Newman is the director of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance. (www.drugpolicy.org)