Tommy Kapai: High times not just for dopeheads

By Tommy Kapai

Why is it that alcohol is not treated the same way as legal highs are?
Why is it that alcohol is not treated the same way as legal highs are?

When we were teenagers growing up in the peace love and hippy happiness days at the Mount, the temptation of getting high, legal or otherwise, was foremost on our minds and we became inventive on how to make this happen.

We were pioneers in drug taking as we had no generation before us to learn from so we were on our own. The generation before us was, in my opinion, the gateway to binge drinking brought on by 6 o'clock closing.

As a paper boy selling the Bay of Plenty Times outside the Oceanside pub, I would watch the carnage as my uncles would walk in after work at 5 o'clock with an ahua (aura) of happiness - greeting me with a warm "how you doing boy".

Then one short hour later, many would walk out as early incarnations of Jake the Muss, not even recognising me.

The 'ugly juice', as I called it, had taken hold of my uncles and their ahua.

It was getting high at its primitive best but, nonetheless, it was getting high and it was legal.

Our generation didn't take too kindly to the 6 o'clock swilling sessions and its ugly juice environment, so we chose to get high in our own surroundings, listening to sounds, laughing a lot and munching away until well after midnight.

However, what we were doing was illegal and still is today.

For us it was confusing. To be told not to smoke dope when those who were telling us not to do so were smoking cigarettes seemed hypocritical and sent a mixed message.

But again, the drug they were smoking, in this case nicotine, was legal.

Fast forward to today: the subject of legal and illegal highs is again centre-stage and a great platform to hang a political potae on.

For my two bobs' worth of blowing one's mind on a drug, legal or not, there is no difference, your mind gets blown.

If we truly want to get serious and take a stance against the legal high problem and not just use it as a sexy subject to carry favour with voters, we need to come to terms with the elephant in the room - and face the fact alcohol is also a legal high.

Is that likely to happen? Alcohol is a legal high and should be banned. "Yeah right!"

If we are to jump up and down and do the haka about the availability of legal highs then let's be consistent in our haka and share the burden of blame among the beer barons who cleverly market alcohol to our kids and then make sure it is available on almost every street corner for them to purchase.

Particularly in poor low socio-economic communities who can least afford alcohol and its associated problems.

I used to support the theory of responsible drinking, but not now when we, as parents, are up against the powerful teaching tools of social networks and multi-million dollar marketing campaigns.

How can we expect our kids to understand the dangers and pitfalls of taking drugs if we take a stance with one dangerous drug and look the other way with another?

All drugs get you high - some quicker than others. When we want to get somewhere quicker what is legal and what is not gets to take a back seat and driving is an analogy worthy of legitimate comparison.

How many of us have broken the law to get somewhere quicker?

Change in our children's habits will only come when we as parents pick up the problem and address it to ourselves first.

Scientific research shows if a child drinks in their mid- teens they are four times more likely to become alcohol dependent than those who waited until they were 21; seven times more likely to be in a motor car crash after drinking; eight times more likely to experience physical violence after drinking and 11 times more likely to experience other injuries such as falling or drowning.

Surely this is reason enough to pull the handbrake on all legal highs.

We cannot demonise legal highs sold on one street corner and then glamourise others sold across the road because they are socially acceptable.

What that does, is sends a mixed message to our kids, who need to know life can be lived without highs brought across a counter - legal or otherwise.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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