Thursday, March 20, 2014

addiction isn't about addiction

I've been reading a lot about drugs and addiction lately, for reasons I can't get into, but I've been finding it fascinating how much the mythology diverges from the reality of these issues.

How it's really all about underlying or co-occurring psychological factors, and not the effects of the drugs themselves.  How the vast majority of people who try even the most addictive of them, don't get addicted - but this isn't to downplay the severity of the addiction problem.  It's about understanding it better, to get to actually dealing with it, more effectively.

Even the biggest bogeymen of the drug world, like meth and crack, not even as harmful or disruptive to a person's life as alcohol.  We hear all these crazy anecdotes of the damage they do, but the reality is that these are worst case scenarios, involving people with severe problems, with only minimal aggravation caused by the drugs they take.

 Examples like "meth mouth" where the explanation is that meth dries out the mouth so much, it rots the teeth.  Well, lots of things cause dry mouth, but turns out, only people with longstanding abysmal oral hygiene get meth mouth.  Just so happens that meth is especially popular among impoverished cultures that tend to have abysmal oral hygiene and no dental care.  People with no scientific evidence then conflate the correlation with causation, and the anti-drug crusade latches onto anything they can, to drum up fear and hysteria.  Don't try it, not even once!  It's just an unremarkable amphetamine, not unlike what's prescribed to way too many children, for ADHD.  Addictive, with some side-effects people need to be careful of, but nothing like what the anti-drug crusaders would have us believe.

Does this mean I'm just rationalizing my longing to try meth?  First of all, fuck you for even thinking that.  I'm trying to have an intelligent conversation here.  Secondly, no, but not because I'm afraid to touch the stuff.  Not after everything I've read.  It has more to do with my lack of interest in amphetamines.  They just don't do much for me, and there's no reason to think meth would be much different than the ones I have tried.  What's interesting though is that before I read all this, I thought otherwise.  The effects tend to be so overblown, I thought the drug must be amazing in some way.  I was far more likely to try it, when I bought into the nonsense about what an epidemic it was.

Even heroin.  It's just a painkiller.  A variant of morphine, that's still basically just morphine.  Dangerous, certainly.  Painkillers can be deadly, 40,000 Americans die from prescription painkillers every year.. but so awesome that one taste, and you'll be a slave to it until it kills you?  No, that's not any more true than it is of morphine.  Again, not my cup of tea, but I used to think it must be pretty freakin amazing to effect people like that.  Some people do seem to enjoy these types of narcotics way too much, and they can be highly prone to addiction, but exaggerating those dangers isn't helping anyone.  It just creates mass confusion, where people make these problems worse, by trying to solve them in hysterical destructive ways.

The real epidemic in this country has more to do with mental health.  People are struggling, people are isolated, lonely, hopeless, aimless.  People need healthy ways to get out and be around other people, in a society that keeps moving further away from any sense of open welcoming community.  People don't like to talk about it or admit it, because we're taught that needing that sort of help is even more shameful than being an addict.. and what sort of help are we going to be offered?  A support group?  Therapy?  No, people need motivating options that help them feel normal, happy, productive.  Not marginalized.

I'm talking about the every day normal mental health issues, where people need a sense of purpose and socialization, where psychological stabilization is more of a side effect.  The overtly direct approach marginalizes the situation.  It can be helpful for some, but it's acutely limited, and unlikely to work in the long term, when there's a more serious void in a person's life.

We need more than that, but this is why I start to flounder.  I don't know what to do about it, specifically.  My own problems have a whole lot to do with a lifelong case of being especially terrible at this sort of thing.

No comments: