Beware the perils of eating bread
FUNNY the things you get talking about in the pub. A recent sojourn for a couple of pints saw yours truly shooting the breeze with a drinking buddy on everything from the Premiership results of earlier that day to the Catholic Church child abuse scandal to debate over 'head shops', with all topics somehow linking seamlessly from one to the next, in the manner made possible only by drink-loosened thoughts and vocal chords.
There was the usual debate and a few badtaste jokes and even a certain amount of agreement, but it was on the issue of head shops that we differed most. Yer man was firmly in the 'close them all down' camp, arguing strongly that since we can't know the full details and effects of everything they sell, they shouldn't be allowed operate at all. Yours truly felt somewhat differently. Generally speaking, I'm not in favour of blanket bans on anything that isn't already in the Statute Books, except maybe the Green Party and slow drivers who hold everybody else up. And granted, while there may be some (or many) products in head shops that you mightn't want to get to involved with, that's not to say there isn't a place for such outlets if they and the products they sell are properly regulated.
And before anyone goes loopy, just consider this: there's a lot of misinformation out there about head shops and their products, just as there always is in the drugs debate. And the biggest misrepresentation of all is the old 'gateway drug' argument, about how 'soft' drugs like cannabis or some of the more allegedly harmless head shop products lead on to harder stuff like heroin. Yup, it may well be true that 90 per cent or more of smack addicts started out smoking joints before moving on to sticking needles into veins, but it doesn't automatically follow – as the people who put forward this argument would try have you believe – that 90 per cent of cannabis users move on to heroin.
The 'gateway drug' thing simply doesn't wash. If it did, it could be applied in all sorts of ludicrous ways. By way of example, I'm going to hark back to the sandwich I enjoyed just a few minutes ago. Think about the following ' gateway'-type arguments and tell me which of them are untrue:
Sandwiches contain a substance called 'bread'.
Bread has been proven to be highly addictive. If somebody is denied access to food, they will be begging for bread within just 48 hours.
Bread is made from dough. As little as a spoonful of dough can be enough to suffocate a lab rat. Most people eat more bread than that every single day.
Bread is made at temperatures of up to 200 degrees. That sort of heat can kill a human being in just a few minutes.
98 per cent of all murderers ate bread in the three days prior to killing another human being.
Similarly, bread is served regularly in the homes of 96 per cent of teenage offenders.
All the people involved in the gang wars in Dublin and Limerick regularly eat bread.
99 per cent of cancer sufferers have eaten bread before being diagnosed with their illness.
97 per cent of all people involved in fatal car crashes have come in contact with bread in the 24 hours before collision.
100 per cent of Irish bread-eaters born before the year 1900 are now dead.
Bread is a gateway to 'sandwiches'. Sandwiches often contain 'meat'. Another creature has to be slaughtered before 'meat' can be obtained.
Now, if bread were created just this week, and somebody came out with a pseudo-scientific report which contained all the above statements, would you want it sold near you? Not likely. There'd be pickets at the bakery, and bread vans would have their tyres slashed. But the people involved would obviously be jumping to the wrong conclusion, after being fed only the wrong type of 'fact'.
Similarly, they shouldn't jump to uninformed or misinformed conclusions about head shops. Okay, it may well be the case that most of what they sell can be properly scientifically proven to more harmful than what's deemed acceptable under the 'personal choice' banner. But equally, it might be the case that some of their products that provide either a mellowness or a buzz for the user can be proven to be significantly less harmful or addictive than alcohol or tobacco. Or maybe even bread. And if that's true, then the people who are happy just to use those products will never have to go near a 'proper' drug dealer at all.
That wouldn't be a gateway. It'd be more like a barrier.