A note to politicians & government on addiction.

Big pharma and medical professionals

When your business is drugs it is easy to focus solely on the bottom line. Corporate social responsibility is extremely important. A study by www.drugfree.org found that 90% of prescription drug addictions start in teenage years. www.drugabuse.gov puts the number of prescription drug addicts in 2010 at 8.76 Million. 52 Million Americans have used prescription drugs non-medically in their lifetime. The numbers are staggering; 3 in 20 Americans have used prescription drugs non-medically. Look around you, count the next 20 people you see; 3 of them have used prescription drugs non medically.
At least one in 50 Americans are either addicted or have been addicted to prescription drugs in their lifetime.

The RX Addict deserves better

The above figures imply that medical professionals and pharma are facilitating addiction. I would like to make a recommendation to help alleviate the problem. Logically many addictions start through use of the drugs; often these drugs are prescribed due to an actual need. The problem rises when people are meant to stop using them but continue to do so.

It is no secret that opioids are addictive; medical professionals and pharma companies are both aware of this. Claiming ignorance is not plausible. Other prescription drugs are also addictive and medical professionals are aware of this. Medical aftercare is a priority to ensure that people do not spiral deep into addiction. The longer the drugs are used the more acute the addiction becomes.

The problem: Prolonged use of certain prescription drugs leads to addiction.
The solution: Ensuring that addiction is caught early and curbing prolonged use of addictive drugs.

My doctor is my drug dealer

If a doctor is treating us for a condition we generally always get follow ups. The medications are prescribed for a period and the intention is that we stop using them once the ailment goes away. The truth is; many don’t; doctors know this.

Blood tests, urine tests and a whole spectrum of tests are part of the healing process. I would argue that should an individual be prescribed addictive drugs; a follow up test 30 days after the end of the prescription period should be required by law.

There could be some guidelines set; for example one week of use may not require such a test. A month’s use however would definitely require such after care.

Screening prior to prescribing.

A further measure I would introduce prior to prescribing addictive medications would be screening prior to providing a prescription. If an individual with no previous medical history of addictive prescription medication is to be prescribed an addictive substance, a simple urine test should be performed to ensure that the individual is not actually looking to score.

Many individuals get addicted due to using other people’s drugs; being told by a friend how awesome the high of a prescription drug is or their own research. Many of these eventually find they need to get their own supply; it is important to ensure that this is avoided.

Responsibility to refer patient to rehab and addiction centers

If a doctor or medical professional discovers that their patient is addicted to a substance it is imperative that they assist their client. Not offering treatment could be construed as enabling and negligence. The primary care physician and other medical professionals that keep prescribing should be held liable for enabling addiction and negligence.

Informed patient

I would argue fiercely that a patient should be aware of the risks of using addictive prescription drugs before they are prescribed. All the above is open for discussion; the following proposal should not be!

If a patient is to be prescribed addictive prescription drugs; no matter how necessary to their treatment. The patient must read and sign a short yet informative document explaining the risks; offering post-use assistance and guidance. Furthermore the medical professional prescribing the drug must explain the risks involved especially to patients that may be illiterate.

Correct labeling and warnings

Addictive prescription drugs should be labeled as such. In the same way that many of our European counterparts have forced tobacco companies to place warnings on their packaging; the same should go for highly addictive medication.

A warning indicating that the product is HIGHLY ADDICTIVE and a URL to a site with detailed information should be created to ensure users of the prescription drugs are fully aware of the risks.

Prescription drug rant now over; would love your opinion in the comments section below.

The stigma of addiction

Stereotyping and discrimination

Many things in life shape us; our life experiences make us who we are. Stereotyping assumes something about us based on what we have done in the past; whom we are associated with and much more. The clear flaw is that assumptions are often incorrect; they are reinforced due to fear of being shamed, labeled and discriminated against. Many people have either suffered addiction or been exposed to it. To some extent many assume that this may create a sub par human being. This very thought is horrendous and incorrect. If there is one thing that is clear in life is that there is no blueprint. Some of the greatest people to have walked this earth come from the humblest of beginnings.

Unfortunately though stereotyping is real; as is discrimination. I will make an assumption myself here in trying to understand why this happens.

Stereotyping is the simplest deduction we can make.

We all love playing detective, our curiosity drives us to understand the world around us. To truly study every detail is tiring and inevitably we take shortcuts. In this fast paced world we don’t have time to listen, time to really get to know individuals. We rely on snap judgments and we base these judgments on the knowledge we already have.

We base our judgments on what we have been told and the little we have seen. If the media tells us all about the addict that never recovers; the addict that does horrible things we associate the word addict only with these horrible things. If a statistic is released that many children from broken homes and children of addicts are at higher risk of turning to crime or drugs; we assimilate this knowledge and make assumptions.

Silence empowers stigma

If my assumption above is correct, then it is also clear that silence empowers stigma. The many that succeed prefer to leave their addictions or their upbringings hidden. For many it is easier to leave their fight with addiction in the dark. Luckily many find communities that understand them and don’t judge them in the same way others do. NA and AA are great examples of such fellowships were people get to know people as more than the label of addict or recovering addict.

The functional addict running a multinational corporation goes to great lengths to ensure you and I never know about his or her addiction. I assure you I know this to be true. The son of an addict does not put such a thing on their cv; even though in many ways overcoming such an adversity would have provided skills others may not have. The problem is you rarely hear of the great things, the inherently good things, the beautiful things that addicts do in spite of their addictions.

You will never hear of the addict that has helped hundreds of addicts recover during 25 years of sobriety. You will never know that the nurse that has cared for you and your loved ones was an addict. You will never know that the fireman that pulled you and your child out of the fire was the child of an addict. In most cases addiction is kept hidden, even a recovered addict sees no reason to bring up a past addiction.

Are you guilty?

I am not questioning you for being the silent addict or the silent child of an addict. The world is a harsh place and stacking the odds against yourself would be foolish. Are you guilty though of making deductions based on less than reasonable amounts of information? Are you willing to question you preconceptions about the people around you?

Are you guilty as I have at times been by making other assumptions? To err is human and we are indeed human. I hope this article gives you a little food for thought. I will be writing much more about the stigma of addiction and sharing stories of people that have overcome addiction and are admirable. If you have a story (your own or someone else’s), that needs to be shared. If you know of an addict that breaks these assumptions; tell me about them in the comments. Let us work together to break the stigma of addiction.

Son of an addict

Son of an addict.

I am the son of an addict, I am more than that. I am the son of two addicts, the grandson of a recovered alcoholic, the nephew of a heroin addict, the in-law of an addict and the husband of a recovering addict. I am more than all that but I want to share my story with you. A colorful life with rings of darkness, a scary truth with an unexpected twist. A battle with addiction, my own and that of the one’s around me. I am more than the son of an addict, join me on this journey.

“Donnie, I’m pregnant.” She said as she put the joint out in the ashtray on the floor. Donnie pulled the pipe away from his lips long enough to let the information sink in. He nodded at her and ran his fingers through his hair; pulled the pipe back to his lips and inhaled deeply. His eyes went mostly white as euphoria hit him and he let them roll back. That was all the acknowledgement she got the first time she told him. That night Donnie hit the pipe over and over again and Tina locked herself up in the bedroom. It was a long night and Tina felt all alone; a good thing considering what other nights had been like. After a night of tears in the bedroom it was time to get to work at the local Café. Donnie was passed out on the kitchen table alongside a spilt glass of red wine and some left overs. It looked like he had been stabbed. His friend Luke was snoring on the couch wearing nothing but boxer briefs and on the other end of the couch there was Lucy. Lucy was Luke’s toy; which he happily shared with anyone that would give him cash or share their drugs with him.

Tina pulled her hair up and slipped into her work outfit in the bathroom across the hall. It was a wonder she managed to hold on to her job. She was always late and even her thick layer of makeup could not hide the dark rings beneath her eyes most days. A hard worker though, anything was better than winding up like Lucy. The darkness that had surrounded her all her life made it hard to see how bad her situation was at the time. Donnie reminded her of her own dad before he died. Most people say her mother killed him. The shift was quiet, not too many clients and her boss Harry wasn’t in so she had not had any extra work to do. At the end of her shift she sat and had a cup of coffee with Tim her gay friend. They discussed the club scene and how well Donnie’s club was doing.

Donnie ran an underground after hour’s nightclub. Some nights though he was so far gone that he locked himself away in their apartment. The club was very popular with Tim’s crowd; the club accepted them at a period when many clubs did not. Past four AM no one really cared who or what you did.  The drug scene was also quite heavy and Donnie made a cut from that to. Donnie never paid the rent on the apartment, nor the electric or anything to do with the place for that matter. The money goes back into the business. He would say at least once a day. So Tina worked at the diner, paid the bills and made ends meet.

Tina made her way back home after she finished her coffee and gave Tim a big hug goodbye. The late afternoon sun pelted down on her as she walked through the dusty streets. Their apartment wasn’t far from the Café.  The street they lived on was made up of derelict blocks of apartments and closed down shops. The first time they went to the apartment she had felt a little scared; now though, it was home. The beggar on the corner, she knew by name. The pimps and thugs new she was Donnie’s girl and everyone either loved or feared Donnie. It was easy for her to adjust, she grew up in a similar neighborhood; she felt safe there also. Everyone knew her dad and no one would dare hurt her.

Donnie was waiting for her when she opened the door. She had barely walked in the door when Donnie grabbed her by the hair and practically flung her onto the couch. “Where the fuck where you? You should have finished an hour ago.” Donnie yelled as Tina pulled her knees up and wrapped her arms around them; burying her head into them. Tears streamed down her cheeks and her lips trembled but she could not form any words. Donnie paused for a moment and took a step back. “What’s wrong sweetie? I was just worried about you that’s all.” Tina slowly lifted her head cautiously; having learnt that Donnie seeming to calm down wasn’t always a good thing. “I had a coffee with Tim at work.” She said, her voice trembling. Donnie smiled. “How was work?” Donnie asked, seeming much calmer. “It was good. Do you remember what I told you yesterday?” Donnie seemed puzzled. “Nope.”

“I’m pregnant Donnie, we’re having a baby.” Donnie dropped on to the couch beside her, his head weighed down with thought.


Addiction is your problem

But you don’t have to be alone

The truth of the matter is, you may not have caused your addiction but it is your problem. Harsh; one might argue that someone caused your addiction. One might also argue that your circumstances were to blame. Whoever kept feeding you the substances or providing you access also carries part of the blame. The harsh truth however; addiction is your problem.

You don’t have to be alone in your fight against addiction. You do however have to accept that addiction is your problem. Like most problems; you can get help. In most things there will be people willing to help. It is a sad truth that in life many things happen that we did not cause. The young boy hit by a drunk driver. The lady that was born blind and the man that has never heard a thing. The man whose wife left him for another through no fault of his own. The family member struck by cancer and the nurse that contracted aids in her line of duty.

Life is harsh, more so for the addict

Life is not easy; life is full of challenges and accepting that is important. The world owes you nothing; my father told me as a child. Was he right? That is still up for debate. What is certain though is that the world won’t pay up without prompting. Life is harsh and even if the world owes you something; it won’t solve your problems. I like to think of a life as a debtor that doesn’t always pay their bills on time, sometimes they don’t pay at all.

I understand that life is full of disappointment. Disappointment however will not cure you of your disease. The world will not solve your problems for you. A problem as personal as addiction is your problem. This is not to say that your addiction does not effect the people around you. Be you a mother or father; a son or daughter, a friend or colleague, your addiction is bound to have effect on others.

By the way; I know the toll addiction plays on others. You probably do to; unfortunately that becomes other peoples problem.

Your addiction is not their problem

Wow! Twist of logic here, your addiction is in fact not anyone else’s problem. The effects of your addiction might be, the neglected child has their own set of problems caused by the actions of the addict. However their problem is not addiction, more importantly their problem is not your addiction.

Unfortunately no matter which way you try to reason things; each and every one of us has their own set of problems. The world may try to help us; our friends, family, the system and loved ones might help but ultimately the problem is ours. It is a crucial point, it is hard to accept but ultimately addiction is your problem.

Place effort into solving your problem

It is imperative that not only the drug addict puts effort into solving their problem; it is equally important that others put effort into solving their problems. Often an angry spouse, friend, parent or colleague will focus less on their own problems. This is flawed, in each and every situation we must solve our own problems. This never negates the need for help. This also does not mean that we should solve our problems alone. This article is simply a reminder that your problem is your problem. Your problem is not someone else’s problem.

Addiction – Using a Mallet when you need a hammer

When addiction is a search for a cure

We can argue until we are black and blue if the addict caused the addiction or not. The truth however is that it is very rare that an addict seeks out addiction. In most cases the now addict was seeking a cure. The cure unfortunately often results in addiction; especially when the cure is the wrong one. There are numerous ailments that turn people to substance abuse. Some of the causes and ailments include but are not limited to depression, trauma, abuse, neglect, fear of abandonment, physical pain, emotional instability, boredom and many other potential triggers including mental conditions.

Addiction Nature Vs Nurture

Fact: Some people’s brain chemistry makes them more susceptible to drug use.
Fact: Environment plays a big role in addiction rates.
Many try to argue these facts but for the majority they tend to hold true; what is also a fact is that addiction does not discriminate. People from all walks of life risk addiction and many in fact at some point in their lives turn to drugs. It is true that many turn to drugs for recreational purposes for a short period in their life. Ultimately however it is important to realize that most enduring addictions and drug habits are the result of both nature and nurture.

When both nurture and nature are stacked against an individual the likelihood of addiction becomes much higher. It is therefore not a matter of nature versus nurture but a balance of the two. It is possible that one or the other causes the addiction, both or in some cases neither. In some cases it is exposure to drugs that leads to addiction; the exposure over an extended period of time changes the brain chemistry. When the brain chemistry is altered, nature could also be called to blame. We are built in a way that regular substance abuse will inevitably alter our brain chemistry. One could therefore argue that nature is always to some extent the cause of a prolonged addiction.

Nurture is often also a cause; a childhood lacking a healthy upbringing often results in addiction. What is also clear is that not catching on to an addiction early causes it to progress to a stage which is harder to repair. Ultimately one must accept the truth: addiction is driven by nature and nurture.

Accessibility to drugs leads to addiction

Whilst on the subject of addiction, it is abundantly clear and logical that access to drugs leads to addiction. However removing the drug, reducing accessibility or using medication that neutralizes the effect of the drug does not solve the ailment or cause but may force the individual to find alternatives.

There is a strong argument to be made with regards to cutting supply and thus ensuring that the addiction never develops. Ultimately however if one is not curing the ailments and causes, the conditions will manifest themselves in other ways. We as a society need to work to improve conditions. We need to gain a better understanding of ourselves. Much work is put into understanding our environment, manipulating objects to build bigger and greater things. It is time to focus this energy inwards, to focus on improving the world from within ourselves.

Mallet vs Hammer

If we were to argue that drugs treat the ailment; which many addicts would. We therefore find that the cause is real. The ailment is not a figment of the addicts imagination. The problem is not that the addict has an ailment; the problem is that the now addict, has used the wrong tool to solve their problem. A further consideration to make is that it is possible that we have not yet found the cure.

The individual that winds up addicted is for the most part seeking a cure. Short term the cure works; the endorphin rush is real, the euphoria is real. The problem however remains that the underlying cause is not resolved. Worse still, if one tries to drive a nail into a wall with the appropriate hammer; one should succeed. If one uses a mallet and hits a little too hard; one finds they have broken the wall.

It is due to addiction being such a complex subject that one must be gentle.

Ultimately the truth remains that if a person does not find the tool they need, they will turn to the next best thing. In the short term the mallet often works just as well as a hammer. In the long term damage is done by the mallet, sometimes the damage is irreversible.

Let’s do our utmost to ensure that there are more hammers when hammers are needed.

An addict and a hungry predator

Point A to Point B Straight Line

A hungry predator and an addict have a lot more in common then you could ever imagine. A hungry predator does not obey any rules. An addict does not obey the rule book. There are some boundaries but the deeper the addiction the less likely they are to care or obey. It is hard for others to understand that for the most part the addict has gone primal.

How Primal do we go?

Lets start by accepting that an addict’s brain chemistry is altered, the brain is not operating the same way a non-addict’s is. Joy seems to dissipate and be highly dependent on the substance of choice. In this regard the joy a non addict can attain is not available in the same way to the non-addict. Some may not agree but life is a lot about carrot and stick. If you take a persons ability to enjoy the carrot away; then the carrot is rendered useless. The stick; in this case withdrawal is generally stronger than any stick you can present. So most deterrents simply do not matter to an addict. One might say that in an addicts mind there is mainly one carrot and one stick. The carrot is the high provided by the drug and the stick is the withdrawal. How is this similar to a hungry predator? Well I would argue that the hungry predator generally also has one main carrot and one stick. The food being the carrot; the hunger being the stick.

Carrot and Stick Addiction

It therefore takes a pretty big stick to overcome drug addiction and it is very hard to find a better carrot. Ultimately the substance weakens other carrots ability to provide the addict joy. With this in mind one must understand that even tigers can be trained; new carrots brought in and new sticks. The problem is that even with a tiger most would seem inhumane. A human on the other hand should not be tamed, trained or controlled.

Is the addict you know a hungry predator

The argument here is simple; a hungry predator will take unnecessary risks. A hungry predator will disobey what you perceive to be necessary rules. A predator will probably hurt you, manipulate you and even break laws. An addict has generally been conditioned, trained and molded by their addiction. Can the conditioning be broken? Yes, sometimes. The truth is ultimately most conditioning can be broken. The thing is, it is only the addict (with help) that can truly recondition themselves. If the addict in times of clarity knows that they need this, if they want to recondition themselves then all is not lost. On the other hand it is important to accept that you will probably be hurt in the process.

The primal brain and delayed gratification

Another important thing to understand is that the addict finds it hard to compute the benefits of delayed gratification. On the other hand some highly functional addicts have figured this out. They are willing to make sacrifices to ensure that they have a steady supply of drugs. Beyond that though, it is unlikely that an addict suffering withdrawal will wait long enough for the withdrawal to subside; furthermore they are unlikely to wait for their brain chemistry to re-balance. So in effect stage one of recovery will be a lot about withdrawal and stage 2 will be a lot about filling a gaping hole. An addict will most likely be depressed once the withdrawals and physical dependence has ended. This obviously increases the chance of relapse and for as long as the addict is in that cycle; the rules won’t fit.

Addiction – When nothing else matters.

Or Addiction – when everything matters so much less

Addiction comes in many shapes and sizes one might say. From heavy drinking to crack cocaine or sex to work; addiction can be crippling. One of the worst things about addiction is that you tend to forget everything else; your addiction takes control of you and directs your focus. Let’s give a small example for the non-addict to understand. Imagine you haven’t eaten all day, your head is feeling weird, your tummy is grumbling and every non-food item looks like a delicious chunk of meat. Could you concentrate on work? Could you give attention to your friends? The truth is you probably could not. Addiction is very much the same in a way. You need to satisfy your addiction and it takes priority. In short when addiction kicks in; everything else takes the backseat.

That hunger called addiction

The example given above is quite accurate in a sense. Addiction can be very much like hunger in many ways and some addictions are physical; to some extent one might argue they all are. Most addictions are driven by reward and reinforcement of that reward. The brain is an interesting machine that controls pretty much everything, most rewards are tied in to the release of endorphins. In short when your brain reacts positively to something you are likely to repeat it. Ultimately reward makes you hungry for the next reward.

Habit versus addiction

Though habit and addiction are similar it is important to acknowledge that they are not the same thing. I will delve deeper into this subject in another post but lets get one thing straight. Addiction is ultimately physical, chemical and often runs parallel to habit. Habit is more mechanical in a sense, if you do the same thing over and over again the brain learns the sequence. A habit is more a matter of programmed, action based memory. Whereas an addiction is more of a chemical based craving.

The addict and self control. The internal struggle.

Self control can build habits, self control can break habits. Self control can break addictions but there is a little more to it then that. Addiction is physical and once an individual is addicted to a substance it is important to understand they are not simply choosing to do or not do something. Self control is often a matter of choosing what not to do; or rather what to do. In a way I would say that self control is a lot about want. If I am in control, I will not do anything I don’t want to do. It is important to note that when it comes to addiction, it is no longer a matter of wanting or not wanting. With addiction comes need. An addict may truly want to quit, the body however needs the substance.

For example someone with a longstanding opiate addiction will have an altered brain chemistry. The addiction is not fictional, the addict’s brain now needs that substance to function in a similar fashion to you. Let me try to explain this in a different way. If you convert your cars engine to diesel it simply won’t run well on gas. An addict’s brain is altered and it now needs the substance to operate. The body and the brain are amazing; they adapt. Eventually an addict’s brain may readjust to be more similar to a non-addict but it is not immediate.

The point I am trying to get across is, the addict needs; not wants the substance. An opiate user for example will be much more prone to feeling pain if they are not on their regular dose. The heightened sensitivity is real, the brain has adjusted and will now feel pain more intensely.

Self control, self discipline all come from the self.

Consider this for a moment: If self control is directed by the self, then it is you who decides what you want. Addiction has a funny way of changing what you want. If for example you wanted a chocolate but each time you went to get close to it you received a shock, you may direct your attention elsewhere. Self control is driven by conscious choice, addiction is not.

A strong self control may enable you to overcome an addiction but lets be clear; it will take a hell of a lot of self control and you are probably better off with some help.

Addiction first; everything else later.

It is important to understand addiction to understand why it will often come first and drive the addict. When hungry you will be driven to do whatever it takes to get your fix. Your focus is taken up by your addiction and only when it is satisfied will you be able to focus on something else. This is why an addict may neglect their child, friend, partner and most of all their own well being.

Severe addicts sometimes don’t have time to plan; I know a few functional addicts, they have a steady supply of their substance. As long as they don’t run out they can function relatively well. The problem comes when they run out, or when they can’t access their substance for any other reason.

Things break when they need the substance and it is not there. Generally they will start to panic and quickly try to figure out where their next fix comes from. At this point everything else takes a back seat. The longer they are kept from what they need the more agitated and panicked they become. What they are willing to do for a fix will vary depending on how intense their addiction is. Self control, values and morals can often go out the window.

A wife may betray her husband for someone who can give her what she wants. A son may rob a father to get what he needs. A mother may leave her child unattended to work a shift, to get a few dollars, to pay for her fix. A man may pimp a woman to get his fix.

Forgive the addict but never the addiction.

This is a personal choice. I believe that in most cases one must forgive the addict. It is important that the addiction is however never forgiven. Wage war on the addiction, not on the addict. If addiction has hurt you, if addiction has caused you to be neglected; fight it. Addiction is what you are up against, the addict is also up against it.

The addiction is unwelcome. The addiction has no place in your home. The addiction has no place in your relationship. The addiction is the enemy. Ultimately you must also understand that some addicts will not fight the addiction. Some addicts will allow addiction to take the drivers seat. In such a case there is only so much you can do; normally that involves stepping away. When an addict is ready to fight addiction, help them if you can. When an addict is unwilling to fight the addiction; you cannot fight it for them.

People watching is (Part 1)

Why do we care about other people?

If you think about it, we start this habit at a very young age. A child watches everyone around them as a way to learn. It would seem that to some extent we need to people watch. We understand much of the world around us by visual and auditory processing. We learn how to talk by first listening, we often even decide what to wear very much based on what we see. A huge part of our economy is based on watching people. TV stations, social media sites like Facebook; as well as a variety of magazines and other print media mostly revolve around people watching. Almost all of us want to know what our peers are doing.

People watching is educational

The fact that people watching is educational is indisputable. I would go further to argue that all education is people watching. Of course this does not mean it is direct watching but to some extent it is watching none the less. Let us look at the simple definition of watching. Watching: look at or observe attentively, typically over a period of time. When we delve into a book written by an author or a collection of authors are we not watching? I would argue that not only are we watching but more importantly the author is showing! So education at the very core is people watching other people. If I show you what I learnt, then I am showing you and you are watching.

People watching is entertaining

Let us all agree that for most of us people watching is entertaining. Maybe we don’t even realize how entertaining we find it. Maybe we phrase it as watching a TV show. Maybe we label it communication. Maybe we just pay it no attention at all, but we do it all the time. There is a reason why actors, fighters, footballers, soccer players and people that put on a show for us get so heftily rewarded. We people watch at church on Sunday and we people watch at cafes. We laugh at people that do, wear or look a way we don’t expect. We enjoy looking at people we deem attractive and people that we love.

To be continued in part two next Thursday.