Although the particular properties of addictive substances produce differing physical or psychological effects, the body responds to a chemical that produces an altered state. Period.
Just because I'm a recovered addict, just because I once worked as an addictions counselor, just because I understand the drug-addicted life as an insider, I am not an expert at anything other than how I maintain a drug and alcohol-free life today. My life or your life would probably not change were the war on drugs over. It might become more peaceful, more pleasurable.
Perhaps I can bring something of use to some who suffer, or at least those who are affected by devastating health conditions caused by problematic drug or alcohol overuse. The innocent and the enablers are far greater in number than those who are using and are dependent on drugs or alcohol. It is indeed a health condition; for how one becomes addicted is less important than what happens once a dependent life becomes the new normal for someone. The effects are far greater than we are led to believe.
Much is being made right now of the latest substance to bring a swift death to those who might have made much of themselves, had they not decided to have 'a little fun', perhaps at a party, a seemingly innocent, if slightly dangerous thing to do. Although ecstasy or "E"-related deaths are in the news, the sad fact is that each year, younger and older people bring their life to an end in an effort to bring themselves a little corner of beauty, a shot of happiness, at least a respite from the demons that plague the waking hours of their lives. Why not examine what addiction truly is and how far it goes?
Addiction is widely considered a medical issue, and it should be. It is also a psychological, spiritual and physical compulsion that only seems elusive and difficult to treat. Carefully considered, it makes sense to think of addictive or problematic usage of alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, smoking, eating disorders and other consciousness-altering obsessions as treatable medical conditions. We're discussing a person's overriding urge to screen out the realities and events ordinary days provide with a chemical enhancement, one that overrules nearly all other factors. This phenomenon of need can be so subtle that an individual can manufacture within his or her own bodily system chemicals that will respond to and create an addictive, repetitive cycle even without overtly taking or drinking something.
Let me provide one extreme yet relevant example. The self-actualizing addiction to and for power is far more devastating and common than has been thought until recently, thanks to the antics of the Bernie Madoffs and other financial mavens riding on their merciless need for power and prestige. Power addicts betray their families, their corporations and their own moral codes to get their "fix" of adrenaline and endorphins brought about by their dependencies.
If it were only financial gain that power-hungry individuals seek, they would modify questionable behavior once their bank accounts were sufficiently full. They don't. They rise within the power structures available and continue to claw away to attain ever higher levels of power and influence despite losses of friendship, failed family and interpersonal relationships, and the likely consequences of law breaking. They never have enough of what they crave. Only the rush of power - often a hedge against how out of control they understand their personal lives to actually be - gives them the fix they need.
The power-addled structures that keep in place the great banking systems, politics, the markets and big business are finally beginning to be seen for what they are - responsible for creating the devastation that bring down corporations, businesses, religions and whole societies.
Addiction, to substances taken orally or substances manufactured inside one's own brain in response to an uncontrollable urge to satisfy itself, is still addiction, and IS treatable in nearly all cases, even after decades of repetitive cycling.
How it is treated is another subject, but this joke hits the nail on the head:
Question: How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: Only one, but the light bulb has to really want to change_
Of course the typical problematic relationship with substances is less hard to identify than that of the power junkies who receive their fix systemically.
Alcohol and drugs, even into the 90s, were seldom seen as strongly related almost strictly because of outward appearance and society's co-dependence. Typically, drugs were viewed as the domain of the poor, the eccentric, the unemployed or unemployable, the young, etc., as if substance use to increase consciousness or allow pleasure or release was something connected to the beatniks and hippies of the twentieth century. Toward the end of the last century, amid an astounding amount of research, it became generally accepted that alcohol was as addictive and problematic as any drug.
This positive change in perception was plainly obvious to the many that bear witness to the way alcohol has created damage to those they care about, or in their own lives, if they have been or still are problem drinkers.
So you may ask, what has this got to do with kids on the lower mainland dying from a party dose of 'ecstasy'? This writer claims that to focus on a few deaths from a temporarily popular drug, yet not see bigger issues that create these conditions will never bring change. Ignorance is not bliss.
Pleasurable use of drugs has been common in most cultures since the dawn of recorded history. The so-called war on drugs is one of the great lies of modernity and continues against all logic, probably because of the power structures identified above, the ones that scramble to maintain their hold on the fa‡ade of control, the structures that would ultimately illuminate the criminality and waste that those very power brokers are in lockstep with.
For over two decades, officials in B.C. have estimated that untaxed marijuana business yearly profits are measured in several billions of dollars. Officials actually under-estimate the amounts of drugs seized, sold or transported, as criminal successes far outweigh arrests and seizures.
The growers, distributors and profiteers of this huge, untaxed industry (in that respect, a bit like religion, isn't it?) are usually crime syndicates including notorious biker gangs and syndicates of second or third generation immigrants. One should ask why the lame excuse still exists that 'society would be in bigger trouble' if the growth and distribution of soft drugs were a government controlled and taxed operation. Add to this scenario the usage of hemp, well known for centuries as an unsurpassed plant fibre and tool of industry and clothing, which would also bring economic benefit. Yet hemp, a non-narcotic but unfortunate first-cousin to dope, is still not in mass use.
One can take a stance on any issue. My comments here are meant to shed light on one of the most significant social problems, one that seems to fly under the radar of so many intelligent people. The main reason for a seeming unwillingness to take seriously the reigning in of the black market, the main supplier and promoter of addictive substances, I assert, is that to one degree or another, most people been profoundly affected by addiction cycles that can and often do include parents, friends, relatives, business associates, religious and political leaders, and even sometimes, ourselves.
Whether one subscribes to tried and true addiction methodology to deal with these realities, they are the societal elephant in the room that continues to be ignored, for no good reason. The elephant can be removed to a place where it no longer clutters up or destroys "the living room".
Maybe little can be done to predict when a youthful party-goer will throw caution out the window and imbibe chemicals little or nothing is known about, but the incredulous conventions that keep substances in the hands of criminals and away from regulatory bodies that would allow socially controlled circumstances of usage, rip us all off.
Just Say No didn't work. Alcohol prohibition didn't work. Criminals work.
Eli Bryan Nelson, Langley