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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Guest Post From Sally Fensome: Drugs Tourism-- Is It Worth It?

Amsterdam-- not as unique as it once was in one way

Vacations are times of hedonism, when we aim to expand our minds and to enjoy ourselves. If we’re heading to somewhere where drugs are more readily available and/or legal than here, then we may decide to push our boundaries a bit by experimenting with some of the local substances. Some people even travel expressly for this purpose. But is it a good idea? Is drugs tourism just harmless fun, or can it take a nasty, dark turn? As with everything, it all depends on what you do, what you do it for, and how deep you go.

Different Rules

If you want to experiment with substances, the USA is not the best place to do so. Our notorious ‘war on drugs’ means that you could face hefty sentences for even minor misdemeanors. The legalization of cannabis in certain states does, in all fairness, mean that you can take a road trip or an internal flight to get stoned without having to get a visa, but in general we’re still pretty strict. Far easier to head somewhere where certain drugs laws are not as tight, or where substance use is less policed. In many European nations, the use of recreational marijuana is either completely legal or barely policed, and attitudes towards it are far different to those we might find here. The same applies to many other ‘soft’ drugs in many parts of the world. If you spend a lot of time in these places, and make friends with the locals, you will almost inevitably find yourself adopting their way of thinking about what back home would be considered deviant drugs. It can be surprising when you head home and speak of your experiences to find your American friends bringing all of their homegrown prejudices to bear upon your drug use while abroad. However, in some cases, they may be justified. While there’s probably little risk from the free and easy use of things like marijuana, experimenting too deeply with harder drugs could leave you with some serious problems. Just because it’s legal (or easy to get away with) doesn’t mean that it’s safe.

Benefits Of Drug Tourism

We know what we’re meant to say-- ‘DRUGS ARE BAD, KIDS!’ And they are. But let’s not pretend that there aren’t some silver linings to the (blue) cloud. Heading out on a vacation and doing some relatively harmless drugs can be a great way for kids to learn that drugs aren’t really that great. It’s a good way to get experimental urges out of one’s system without landing oneself with a criminal record. It’s also a great way to make those crucial mistakes you need to make in order to learn. When you’re on a vacation, you’re typically in a reasonably safe social environment, surrounded by friends and family who’ll look after you. What’s more, if you’re somewhere where the drugs you want to try are legal, you’re likely to be sold them in a controlled location which will have absolutely no desire to see you in danger (or they could lose their licence). So it’s a safe way in which to learn by experience the joys and the downfalls of recreational drug use. However, this assumes that you’re sensible about it, don’t purchase from dodgy vendors, and don’t go near the really hard stuff. There are other reasons why people may benefit from drugs tourism. People with medical conditions may travel to experience the therapeutic effects of medical marijuana, and those with mental health problems are increasingly travelling to South America for the purportedly curative (but controversial) powers of ayahuasca.

Dangers Of Drug Tourism

Let’s start with the obvious: travelling abroad to do drugs could get you killed. Anything which messes with your mind and body as much as some of the substances out there is really, really dangerous. Particularly if you don’t know what you’re doing, and don’t understand enough of the local language to listen to instructions. If you’re not killed, you could end up with a nasty habit. So stay away from anything which is known to have addictive or life-threatening qualities! No matter how ‘normal’ it seems to use these substances in the area you’re travelling to! Oh, and speaking of ‘life threatening’, it’s worth noting that you can be executed in many nations for drugs offences. Moving down the scale, drugs tourism could see you arrested, and subjected to some pretty nasty penal regimes. While illegal drugs may be relatively easy to come by in certain parts of the world, their usage is deeply frowned upon. Some governments try to discourage drugs tourism by imposing harsh penalties upon foreigners caught using or smuggling drugs on their shores. We already mentioned execution. If you’re found ‘trafficking’ (which can mean anything from ‘smuggling through the airport’ to ‘holding in your hand’) drugs in Malaysia, the authorities will have no hesitation in sentencing you to death. And, yes, they really can do that to a foreign citizen. It’s not just Malaysia that you need to watch out for, either. Plenty of nations will drop on you like a ton of bricks for drugs tourism. If you’re lucky, you might just end up in prison for 30 odd years.

Think Of The Locals

If you’re considering a spot of drugs tourism, it pays to be considerate of the locals. Places like Amsterdam have been forced to consider putting restrictions on foreigners consuming marijuana there, as drugs tourists often a) can’t really handle it properly, and b) don’t have any respect for the locals. Drugs tourists all too often make the mistake of treating the nation they’re in as their own personal playground, and forgetting that real humans live, work, and belong to this place. The idea that any location is a ‘party town’ for you to go wild in risks you putting some local backs up in a serious manner. Not to mention the fact that drugs tourism can be exploitative and damaging to fragile local cultures. So, if you’re going to go off an experiment with substances in a foreign land, be as respectful as you can possibly manage!

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