I was a couple strong beers in when I reached over for my friend’s vaporizer and took several drags. My consciousness entered a deep, relaxing state. My head was floating as I listened to him speak. It was, dare I say, pretty psychedelic.
Nicotine and alcohol have gotten a bad rap.
An otherwise open-minded psychonaut might openly express resentment for these two particular chemicals, embodying the very “these drugs are good, those drugs are bad” attitude that we resent about the drug war.
Certainly, the stats will show you that – save perhaps heroin – these are two of the most harmful drugs in the health impact and addiction departments. But like any drug, when used properly, alcohol and nicotine use can be positive (contrary to popular belief, that goes for heroin too, but that’s a piece for a different day).
As with psychedelics, we have to think about set and setting. The effects of alcohol and nicotine should not be reduced to the chemical alone. A psychedelic magazine section called “InJest” would be remiss if it didn’t reference Bill Hicks, so I’ll use this opportunity to quote a classic bit of his:
Always that same LSD story. You’ve all seen it.
‘Young man on acid thought he could fly, jumped out of a building. What a tragedy.’
What a dick. Fuck him! He’s an idiot. If he thought he could fly, why didn’t he take off from the ground first? You don’t see ducks lined up to catch elevators to fly south. They fly from the ground, you moron. Quit ruining it for everybody.
How about a positive LSD story?
‘Today a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration, that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, there is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves. Here’s Tom with the weather.’
Just like we wouldn’t want to evaluate LSD’s worth based on the kid who jumped out of the building, we should not evaluate nicotine and alcohol based solely on chain smokers and binge drinkers.
Native Americans use tobacco as a sacred medicine, including ceremonial use of rapé. Ever had that stuff shot up your nose? Holy shit what a cleansing experience that is!
And of course, alcohol is one of the best social drugs. We all know how much fun it is to drink with friends… responsibly. But seriously, this is not something to be downplayed. Alcohol is used universally across cultures and times to celebrate. There’s nothing quite like the human connection between drunk people. It’s magical. Unless it turns into a fight. Then it’s awful.
Nicotine can be a great social drug too!
Sometimes I bum cigarettes from people just to have an excuse to make a new friend. Have you ever tried rolling your own tobacco and passing it around like a joint? What a great social way to experience nicotine!
What’s nice about these drugs is, your state of consciousness won’t suddenly launch out of your control. Not the case for weed. Weed can certainly be a good social drug, but it’s very easy to take too big of a hit and blast out into a very uncomfortable, paranoid state. Alcohol can take you to uncomfortable states too, but it’s generally not going to be sudden and unexpected. Unless you’re ripping shots of Everclear.
Ah, but then there’s MDMA. The ultimate social drug. The problem with MDMA is, it’s not necessarily something you want to be taking every weekend, lest you deplete all that precious serotonin.
LSD? Good experienced with close friends. Not necessarily the best drug for making new ones… but then again, that depends on the party. Although even the most experienced psychonauts can find themselves overwhelmed in unfamiliar situations, not to mention the large time commitment LSD requires.
But alcohol and nicotine! What wonderful tools, when used the right way. I say we reclaim them! Perhaps we need attention on harm reduction for alcohol as much as the other drugs. Or better yet, benefit enhancement. And can we please get away from the asinine binary framing on every health form of “Are you a smoker?” There is an entire spectrum of options between “I have never smoked one cigarette” and “I smoke a pack a day.”
Perhaps we just need to make our alcohol and nicotine use more intentional. When you treat any substance with respect, there’s a much higher chance you won’t mindlessly overconsume and make yourself sick.
The feeling of an alcohol buzz or a nicotine high is not one to be glossed over. It’s nice. It’s relaxing. It’s enjoyable. Until you do too much.
Back at our place after a night at the bar, I found myself feeling ill and then puking my guts out. Whoops, you got me again alcohol! …Then again, maybe a contributing factor to the spins was that I smoked too much weed that night.