Heroin Addicts: Powerless to a Flower

Opium Poppy:  Papaver somniferum

Opium Poppy: Papaver somniferum

Editor’s Note: This opinion piece was written by a contributor. It examines substance addiction, a controversial topic. No endorsement is implied by its publication. The Disinformation Company encourages you to speak with your medical provider(s) regarding this or any other health-related topic.

An old drinking buddy of mine overdosed on heroin recently. He moved out to the Pacific Northwest to skate or die, and wound up doing both, joining a hundred other Americans who go out that way every day. I hadn’t seen or thought about him in years, but by coincidence, I was in town when he passed. A mutual friend told me there would be a memorial at a local skate park. I stopped by to pay my respects.

I found a bundle of droopy balloons hovering over beer can tabs, a condom wrapper, and a melted candle. Mourners had written dedications all over the squeaky balloon skins. One was signed in Runes. It read (with no corrections):

They will except
you in the Hall of Valla
you died during battle
I shal try to avenge you!

ᛣᛉᛟᛎ

 I can only assume that by “Hall of Valla,” this grammatically challenged Viking meant Valhalla: the otherworldly Nordic kingdom reserved for warriors who die fighting. As my sadness subsided, the irony hit me like a dwarf wielding a war-hammer. No misspelled romanticism could change the fact that the deceased—like so many other people in my life—had died on the battlefield of the soul, where he surrendered to his own weakness.

Addiction is not a disease; it’s a symptom of a faltering will. Waning willpower stems from a lack of purpose and self-discipline. Pop psychiatrists say otherwise, but to blame an individual’s choice on faulty genes or warped neural pathways is to say the car drove itself off the bridge. Some vehicles are easier to steer than others, but responsibility is on the one behind the wheel.

Incidentally, it was an addict who taught me how to drive. At fourteen I was chauffeuring my best friend’s mother into housing projects to score arm-dope. She wound up living with Hep C for nearly two decades, only to die from sepsis last year. Her funeral had me in tears, mostly for her son, who lives as a prisoner to methadone. The key is within his grasp, but he refuses to unlock the cell door his mother slammed in his face.

So goes the mythos of the American underbelly. Lou Reed fizzles out to great fanfare. Reporters find Philip Seymour Hoffman buried under seventy bags of heroin. Musicians celebrate Kurt Cobain’s induction into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame after the 20th Anniversary of his smacked out suicide. Segue into depressing statistics.

When SAMSHA pulled its thermometer from our collective bung in 2012, it showed that out of 2 million Americans hooked on opiates, about 335,000 are actively using heroin—twice as many as in 2007. Pain pills have surged in popularity since OxyContin’s debut, and the recent uptick in heroin use is likely due to the inflated street prices of these prescription opiates. With more than 38,000 overdose deaths every year, you’d think that the problem would work itself out, but the overall number of users holds strong.

Why should anyone care if a tiny fraction of America curls up inside the opioid womb and waits to be aborted? If empathy is not sufficient, then perhaps because this is a microcosm of our medicated nation.

Nearly five million Americans swallow prescription pain killers in the shadows, not to mention the tens of millions who gobble them legally. At least 10% of American adults conquer fear and depression with psychotic amounts of psychotropic pills. Some need medication, no doubt, but how many are simply killing the pain of existence? For every junkie swirling around the hole at breakneck speeds, a thousand others are cruising along the toilet bowl’s edge.

It’s been a long time coming.

Along with trowels and temples, opiates go back at least five millennia to the “joy plant” of Sumer’s god-kings. Egyptians loved the blood red poppy, as did the Greeks. Who wouldn’t? But the action really got going when the Chinese started smoking it in the 1700s.

German chemist Freidrich Sertürner first synthesized morphine in 1806. The Scotsman Alexander Wood developed the hypodermic syringe in the 1850s, which is how he became addicted to morphine. His wife died of the first intravenous overdose. In 1898 Bayer began marketing heroin as a treatment for morphine addiction like donuts for diabetics.

The U.S. Congress tried to close Pandora’s stash box in 1922, but that’s not how drug crazes end. As the collective temper tantrum known as “The Love Generation” took off, American soldiers mailed China White back from Vietnam. My uncle’s buddy tells stories of driving across enemy lines to pick up shipments from the Viet Cong.

American kids refused to let The Man control their bodies, then became slaves to their own bodies. Talk about flower power.

For three generations now, millions of our would-be warriors have waged war upon themselves. Strong young men lay down their lives to destroy God and country rather than defend them. Their sense of honor has decayed to the point that even love of family isn’t worth persevering for. It’s as though they’ve been taught to see themselves as the enemy.

I’ve been close to so many drug-users, there is an archetypal addict nodding out against my hippocampus. Every now and then this Jungian junkie wakes up to ask me for a favor. Again and again, I’ve carried my drug-addled comrades up the steep incline, only to watch them lay down and roll back to the bottom. It’s like being stabbed with a thousand dirty needles and having all the sympathy sucked out of me.

None of these guys were idiots or weaklings. It was well within their power to stand up and climb with me. They simply chose not to. I am no saint—no one lets me forget that—but faded track marks aside, coffee and wine don’t leave me glued to the floor. Life is a gauntlet of sadistic bastards slapping you in the face, but goddamnit, you hit back and press onward. There is no vindication in playing the victim.

Biological determinists give explanations that sound suspiciously close to excuses. Psychiatrists call hard drug addiction a “disease” that cannot be cured, only “managed.” Neurologists point to alterations in the mesolimbic reward pathway which shape the addict’s behavior. Geneticists cite twin studies that suggest addictive behavior runs in a family’s blood. Therapists and social workers are right behind them, providing expensive rehabilitation, a lifetime of therapy, or at the very least, a steady supply of opiate replacement meds. This must appeal to people who refuse to pull themselves together, but “genes” and “neurons” are convenient scapegoats. The only “disease” is creeping nihilism.

The tar pit snares those who will not believe in themselves.

If neuroplasticity lets you deform your brain’s pleasure centers, then it is possible to alter those reward pathways through further acts of will. If your hard-wired predisposition to addiction is 70% heritable, then nurture that precious 30% back to freedom.

If I’m wrong, then you are a biochemical automaton. Please report to the nearest corporate-operated, government-funded, purely benevolent methadone clinic and let them push your buttons for you. Relax. Swallow the pill. Drink the Kool-Aid. Seriously, you don’t have a choice.

© Joseph Allen

 

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  • InfvoCuernos

    I’m a pretty staunch atheist, but heroin makes me believe there is a Devil, and he’s inside all of us waiting for us to stumble across this drug’s path.

    • HalfTonSon

      I know what you mean, I lost two brilliant friends — one literally, the other figuratively — to heroin. It doesn’t just make you an asshole like coke, it steals people’s souls. But I know many, many people who snorted the stuff casually in the 90s and moved on. There’s no such thing as “one and done” addiction.

      • InfvoCuernos

        I’m inclined to agree with you on the “one and done” statement, but I think that most people justify that follow up use by saying to themselves “see, that first time wasn’t so bad”, and then once they get that second round in them, it starts looking like a habit.

    • http://lmgtfy.com/ jasonpaulhayes

      Watch the documentary Black Metal Veins for en even greater insight into that narrative. I chalk it up to refined and condensed drugs… Cocaine users for instance are far removed from a Sherpa chewing Coca Leaves to increase oxygen uptake while hiking at high altitudes.

  • Mike Heffernan

    Like your style Joseph Allen.

  • aaron

    Whether or not you believe its a “disease” or not its more than just a battle of willpower, although thats part of. These people along with ones addicted to alcohol or any other drug are suffering from a sickness of the mind, body, and soul. They are still humans with dreams and ambitions and emotions and fears and family and friends and children. So instead of demonizing them or kicking them while they are down or throwing them in jail for possesion like that will help, we need to help them and get away from this terrible stigma society has placed on addiction.

    • Ted Heistman

      I think there should be a stigma. Otherwise why not just be a pathetic fuck living on welfare and taking the bus into town everyday to get your methadone fix? You think there should be more of that then there already is?

      • aaron

        i clearly meant change the stigma not that there should not be one at all. Most of the societal problems are from thr drug being illegal in the first place. In other countries they actually give out dose regulated and test heroin and clean needles to addicts for free. It eliminates crime from it becasue they arnt stealing or robbing to get their fix and it eliminates the possible transmission of diseases because they get clean needles. Also I said increase education on it. Making it legal doesn’t mean anyone with common sense and proper knowledge on the effects of it are going to run out in masses and start shooting up. PROHIBITION DOES NOT WORK AND DOES NOT KEEP PEOPLE FROM DOING SOMETHING.

        • Ted Heistman

          I don’t think that. I am just saying I think its wrong to consider heroin addiction a disease worthy of disability benefits connected with a life long treatment of methadone. So what do you think?

          • aaron

            I agree I dont think it should be worthy of life long disability and I dont agree at all with methadone treatment. Methadone has worse and longer drawn out withdrawals than heroin does it is even harder to quit many times than heroin Is.

            Growing poppies and producing heroin is relatively cheap espeically in comparison to the theft and robbery costs of addicts. So I think it would be worth looking into giving them for free like some countries are experimenting on. But lets be real like you said earlier CIA controls the drug trade and them and big pharmaceutical companies dont want to help addicts so I dont see it it happening in the US.

      • InfvoCuernos

        I feel like the stigma against drug use that western civilization holds is partly to blame, but I don’t necessarily think legalization of all drugs would help. Among the addicts that I have known and loved, the stigma feeds into the belief that using that drug (or any drug) gives the user some “gravitas” amongst the counter culture. You are considered “hardcore” if you use hard drugs like heroin or meth. In many criminal organizations, it is seen (falsely) as a test to prove that you are down for the cause. It is amazing to me how any group can consider someone trustworthy once they have enslaved themselves to a chemical. It does make that person easier to control, but that means they are also easier for others to control, and don’t think the police haven’t figured that out and found ways to use that.

        • Ted Heistman

          I have a family history of addiction. My Dad just passed away. He was an extremely strong willed person. He smoked for a few years and then quit for the rest of his life. He never had any other addictions, but I have no doubt he had the genetic predispositions. I think there is something to the premise of this article. Free will counts. Its a force to be reckoned with. I hear lots of sob stories, but you know, some people make it despite the odds. Its not luck. Some people choose to succeed others don’t.

          • Ted Heistman

            Anyway, My Dad has gone around and around with some of my cousins, and nieces and nephews, about his alcoholic Father and Stepfather and how he chose not to follow in their footsteps, but in most cases it didn’t work. Its not anything you can just say to somebody. Everyone has to make their own choices. So to me it comes down to personal responsibility.

            Sociology is all about statistics and probabilities. Individuals can beat the statistics with free will. Its a real thing.

          • InfvoCuernos

            From what I have witnessed, “willpower” is a very complicated mechanism and a big part of it involves psychological warfare with yourself. There is also the fear, at least for opioid users, of the dope sickness. People do die from withdrawals, and it does feel like you are going to die, so it takes a huge amount of “willpower” to take the leap. I tried to quit drinking for years, then one day, I got tired of cleaning up the mess the drunk asshole I was the night before left, and dropped it cold turkey. I have family history of addiction (biological father that was a heroin addict) but I don’t think that means that I got the genes for addiction from him- its like any other gene, sometimes you get the blue eyes, sometimes you don’t.

          • Oginikwe

            A genetic predisposition has been proven in alcoholism but you are correct that it is a predisposition and not destiny.

            In 200 level psych classes, they take a rat and insert electrodes into its pleasure center. If the hit is good, that rat will push the bar which gives him a pleasurable jolt to his basal ganglia (specifically the nucleus accumbens), sometimes until he dies of exhaustion. We aren’t rats but we are animals and respond in many of the same ways to certain stimuli. No one knows why some people succumb and others don’t but it would be my guess that like you wrote, it’s not as simplistic as a “weak will.”

            People do die from alcohol withdrawal; people don’t usually die from heroin withdrawal–they just wish they would. It’s horrible. I used to work in a treatment center where we would have to document withdrawal before accepting addicts into the methadone program and it was horrible-tragic to witness. One guy slit his wrists. I didn’t work there very long–I couldn’t take the level of human misery which I was unable to keep separate from my own.

          • InfvoCuernos

            I’ve had to sit a couple of people that were dopesick-I can’t imagine doing it for a living. I don’t blame you for moving on out of that horror show.

          • Axe Skot

            I agree. The frustration enters with the realization that maybe (even though they may not be entirely conscious of the fact) that person has willed their own destruction, but one must temper that frustration with compassion or risk losing humanity. Will accumulates in purpose. If one has no direction to apply the will, nothing to love, drugs can fill that space.

        • aaron

          Prohibition does not work, EVER. Ask any high schooler how easy to get drugs it is for them and shit I only smoke weed sometimes and I could get heroin probably with a couple phone calls and few hours time. That doesn’t mean im going to go running out and get it. Just like if it became legal people are not gonna be running out in masses to use drugs anymore than they already are.
          Obviously there is something besides the fact that its illegal that stops 99% of people from doing it. The fact that its illegal doesn’t even scratch the addiction rate because addiction is far more powerful than giving two shits about what some man made law says.

          Also as for your argument about people doing drugs to seem “hardcore” or accepted into some gang that is maybe a small minority at most of drug users. Not one I have ever met and I have met a lot has ever said they tried heroin to try and be “hardcore.”

          • Ted Heistman

            Nobody is arguing for prohibition.

          • aaron

            InfvoCuernos said “I don’t necessarily think legalization of all drugs would help.”

            And since we have a prohibition of all street drugs in this country then yes that means he was arguing for prohibition.

          • InfvoCuernos

            I’m more in favor of the type of proscription that you see with tobacco now. Not really a prohibition, as it is a public campaign against it. limiting usage locales and accessibility, as well as social stigmatization of it. Of course, its hard for any prohibition to work when the govt. is the one shipping and selling it.

          • InfvoCuernos

            You won’t hear me argue for the kind of prohibition that the government enforces-especially since the government is one of the prime dealers. On the other hand, tobacco smoking has been on the decline for a while now, and it is certainly taken a dive in public opinion. Drugs like heroin and meth will never be as publicly accepted as smoking is/was, so I doubt that we will see numbers of users go up if everything is legalized, but you will see an increase. Your own argument that drug addicts don’t care about “man made laws” shows that addicts are, at the very least in the beginning, placing themselves outside of the law intentionally. I really doubt anyone in the history of drug abuse will ever cop to doing a drug to fit in, but surely you can’t argue that fitting into a group is a prime cause of initial drug use. That shit is put into your hands, you don’t seek it out that first time. Heroin is absolutely a counter-culture drug, in the extreme, and people doing it know full well that the majority of society are not going to accept them after they use it, but as long as they feel like they have some support among the other users, they feel comfortable enough to use it that first time. After that, the addiction takes over and its another story.

          • https://twitter.com/anti_euclidean ÿ

            That shit is put into your hands, you don’t seek it out that first time.

            Actually, the first time I went looking for street drugs, it was to score H. I was largely socially isolated at the time, though I was encouraged to this course of action by an associate. Nevertheless, I initiated the discussion and completed the transaction.

            Two things, I think, ultimately “saved” me:
            1) I don’t do needles. Not a line I will cross.
            2) I did a terrible job with set and setting.

            Looking back, I’m actually amazed it didn’t turn out drastically worse.

            Perhaps this is what is meant by those who have said to me that I am “too smart for my own good”. Alternately, perhaps I am the fool spoken of as receiving God’s protection, along with children and starships named Enterprise. Possibly both.

            That said, I am well acquainted with addiction as a multi-generational affliction on at least one side of the family. In those instances, it was alcohol, but I know a dragon when I see one.

            It is interesting to note so much conversation about addiction confined largely to a subset of behaviour related to the ingestion of a substance. Me, I’d say anything above and beyond what is required for homeostasis that cannot be dropped without a second thought and/or consequence is symptomatic of possible “addiction”.

          • InfvoCuernos

            I’ve even seen people addicted to pot, so, yes, you can be addicted to anything. Psychological addiction can be pretty debilitating, but I haven’t ever seen anything like heroin.

          • aaron

            Try any opioid period. Heroin is one drug in a class of many. We have a narcotic pain pill epidemic in this country. Doctors prescribe that shit like its candy and big pharmaceutical companies are bringing in money by the dump truck full.

          • https://twitter.com/anti_euclidean ÿ

            Cannabis is another tricky one. My peers in high school would not supply me with pot and I didn’t really care enough to press the issue. It was a family member that finally put it in my hands. And frankly, the first half-dozen times or so I smoked, I didn’t see what the big deal was.

            …And then there was the time the light-switch flipped…

            So make of this what you will, but I tend to regard “psychological pot addiction” as something of a harmful meme perpetrated by stigmatization and compounded by prohibition. I will readily testify there is no physical addiction to the plant or “basic concentrates”; the jury remains out on bubble hash and the other shit they’re blasting out there now. By some standards, my cannabis usage could be considered psychological addiction. However, I am a fairly honest self-reporter and I’ve never had a professional tell me to seek help; btw: god bless Prop. 215.

            Until the last year, my cannabis use has fluctuated from between several times a day x daily to long stretches of no use whatsoever; in the prior three years, I’d made two eighths, separately purchased, last with leftovers. Then I figured, what the fuck, why not get my doctor’s note; my GP would have given it to me if he didn’t fear professional consequences. So I started upping my dose, experimenting with strains, edibles, concentrates, and all the other things I could only pray to find on the black market. If the initial high lasts 2-3 hours and effects linger for 6-8, I have been high and (surprisingly) functional for at least six months. And it keeps me from popping too many lab-created, pharmacy-approved analgesics to combat the chronic pain that I experience on a daily basis.

            Stoner culture is basically a super-retarded psy-op. Hippies are smelly sell-outs and trustafarians. Rasta is for him and not I. Uncle Sam discourages free inquiry and has fucked the “history”. It is into this unforgiving environment the burgeoning psychonaut is cast adrift…

            …back to the light-switch…

            It flipped in this particular manner previously on at least one other occasion: in deep, contemplative prayer.

            If exercises in concentration, repetitions of the divine name, or meditations on God’s attributes or on imagined scenes in the life of saint or Avatar help those who make use of them to come to selflessness, openness and (to use Augustine Baker’s phrase) that “love of the pure divinity,” which makes possible the soul’s union with the Godhead, then such spiritual exercises are wholly good and desirable. If they have other results–well, the tree is known by its fruits.

            Benet of Canfield, the English Capuchin who wrote The Rule of Perfection and was the spiritual guide of Mme. Acarie and Cardinal Bérulle, hints in his treatise at a method by which concentration on an image may be made to lead up to imageless contemplation, “blind beholding,” “love of the pure divinity.” The period of mental prayer is to begin with intense concentration on a scene of Christ’s passion; then the mind is, as it were, to abolish this imagination of the sacred humanity and to pass from it to the formless and attributeless Godhead which that humanity incarnates. A strikingly similar exercise is described in the Bardo Thödol or Tibetan Book of the Dead (a work of quite extraordinary profundity and beauty, now fortunately available in translation with a valuable introduction and notes by Dr. Evans-Wentz).

            Whosoever thy tutelary deity may be, meditate upon the form for much time–as being apparent, yet non-existent in reality, like a form produced by a magician. . . . Then let the visualization of the tutelary deity melt away from the extremities, till nothing at all remaineth visible of it; and put thyself in the state of the Clearness and the Voidness which thou canst not conceive as something and abide in that state for a little while. Again meditate upon the tutelary deity ; again meditate upon the Clear Light; do this alternately. Afterwards allow thine own intellect to melt away gradually, beginning from the extremities.

            The Tibetan Book of the Dead

            As a final summing up of the whole matter we may cite a sentence of Eckhart’s. “He who seeks God under settled form lays hold of the form, while missing the God concealed in it.” Here, the key word is “settled.” It is permissible to seek God provisionally under a form which is from the first recognized as merely a symbol of Reality, and a symbol which must sooner or later be discarded in favour of what it stands for. To seek Him under a settled form–settled because regarded as the very shape of Reality–is to commit oneself to illusion and a kind of idolatry.

            The Passion is kind of a harsh buzz, even at it’s most useful. And I will admit to it being useful for a brief moment. I experience far fewer side effects from Mama Cannabis though. I feel lighter and less delusional too.

            If we can get medical Shrooms and medical MDMA approved next, I’m pretty sure I can finally learn to adjust to this fucked up plane of existence and achieve some semblance of “normal” homeostasis.

          • aaron

            Yes I agree and know the government brings drugs onto this country. Either way the prohibition won’t work because even if the government wasnt doing it someone else would. Heroin is derived from morphine which comes from a plant. Its not that hard to grow poppies. Also look how well prohibition of alcohol worked, instead of being regulated you had the mob and people in their bathtubs making boot leg alcohol that would sometimes blind or kill people. Anyways… point is people are gonna do it no matter what the law says.

            As for the tobacco reference the only reason it was ever as popular as it was is the tobacco companies and their paid off staff of physicians launched mass propaganda campaign and convinced people it wasnt bad for you and that it was the “cool” thing to do. I never said legalize drugs and try to lie to people about their physical, mental, and social consequences. I say legalize them amd regulate them and increase treatment options and funding and increase education on their effects and on addiction and abuse.

            I agree about the first time using being more of a peer pressure or whatever thing but its not always especially now a days…. I know of many people who were legally prescribed narcotic pain killers for a injury and got addicted to them and their presciption ended and they started getting them illegally and then switched to heroin because it is much cheaper so dont make assumptions that they all initially decided to break the law and go out and get it their first time. And after addicted then yes absolutely the law or anyone else including their kids or family or husband/wife will always come second to the addiction because it is basically a mind control.

          • InfvoCuernos

            Good point about the doctors being a vector for opioid addiction. I’ve seen that enough that I should have thought about that.

          • aaron

            Yep and doctors arnt alone in the blame though the pharmaceutical companies flat out lie to doctors about the side effects of many of their drugs.

            You should look up the history of OxyContin which is brand name of oxycodone made by Purdue Pharmcuitcals. They knowingly misled doctors for years about the extreme potential for abuse and developing addiction. They have since been sued for close to aa billion dollars worldwide but this doesn’t even come close to the profits they made or make up for the lives they helped destroy.

          • InfvoCuernos

            The world is run by psychopaths.

          • aaron

            I Agree 100%

  • Ted Heistman

    Yeah, I tend to think addicts are weak. I mean its harsh and blunt, but its a reality. But everyone has weaknesses and everyone needs support from other people in order to thrive. No Man is an island. Still though its pretty fucking pathetic to be a zombie serving a dealer like slave master. I think more people should call it like they see it.

    • Echar Lailoken

      Even though I agree, any addiction is through a state of weakness and powerlessness. Telling them this is only going to feed into their reasons for addiction. It’s something the person needs to come to grips with, before they can move forward. Otherwise they are stuck hurting themselves and everyone else.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-GsLh6dazI

    • Bluebird_of_Fastidiousness

      i need to think more before I post sometimes.

  • Ted Heistman

    Also crack and heroin addicts support the CIA.

    • aaron

      So do your taxes and your inaction of sitting of sitting on ass with your hubris sense of self. Cuz doing nothing about it and bitching about it is a fucking joke.

      • Ted Heistman

        You presume a lot.

        • aaron

          No not really but you obviously are quick to judge and also quick to act like you are not doing something yourself. The CIA has many sources of income besides drug trade so dont be so naive as to think you are exempt.

          • Ted Heistman

            nobody’s perfect but addiction is a weakness. Some people can take those same tendencies and make them into a strength. Some people choose to just follow inertia.

    • misinformation

      Opium was also a driving factor in the creation of what became the British Empire, of which, the United States and by extension, the CIA are just the current tip of that spear.

      • Ted Heistman

        exactly, yes. So why be beholden to blue bloods? Its totally pacification of the masses.

  • dac07dd4@opayq.com

    Yeah fuck addicts! listen to you people.

  • dac07dd4@opayq.com

    i am in love with opiates so F!@# u too. All you non addicts think your so strong. Id like to see dope sickness on you and then tell me how strong you are. Heroin is not for kicks its a lifestyle.

    • Ted Heistman

      So you say that from a place of strength?

      • dac07dd4@opayq.com

        I am a functioning addict. Without getting all self grandios, let me just say that i have created a reality around me that i am very happy with at 37. I do not let others fool me into self pity, or allow myself to feel any agitation from alienation. I am not careless with where i deposit used works, or do it in others homes, habits hand in hand with habits. I love opiates. They were the first Cultivated plant the modern humans husbanded, and life and mortality is far easier to cope with when i have a steady diet of opiates. I do not sit around Blasted all day. I do things, and am active, and when the time is right, i will do a nice amount and enjoy it. I cannot speak for all others, but in reality, there are many many functioning members of society that are full blown addicts. Its all about PERSPECTIVE and HARM REDUCTION.

  • Tchoutoye

    Your uncle’s buddy must have been really stupid or he found an incredible deal across enemy lines worth risking his life for. Most of the dope was safely in Saigon run by the South Vietnamese.

    • Iuwus

      >If neuroplasticity worked by act of will we’d all be superhumanly intelligent and healthy.

      I’d like to explore this concept further. Also in connection, I think the word will is getting bandied around interchangeably in the thread with willpower which I see as two different applications of force with their own subtleties of use.
      Will is desire, motivation. Willpower is the ability to resist an urge. Having these two forces at odds with each other is a prime method for self-sabotage, and is at the heart of the matter of self-determination.
      Then there are many delicacies of the situation, involving the interaction of the chemicals of the brain with that of the drug affecting these twin blade forces which is the matter of automation.
      At no time are we wholly automaton, or wholly self-determined. To try to believe in the purity of either is only sure to invite disappointment and failure.
      I think it’s better to view these elements as connecting points in sets of overlapping matrices. This I find also accepts the existence of various mysterious forces we are in sway of but cannot currently recognise.
      Reflecting on my own attempts at willed periods of neuroplasticity I can identify that will and willpower are but a choice pair out of many components, most of which I only have a vague intuition of, a dim awareness at best.
      Hell, I read Robert Anton Wilson’s “Prometheus Rising” in my late teens so I can only guess at how much of the groundwork he laid down for me, which isn’t really a matter of will or willpower as much as gullibility and bare-faced innocence.

  • drokhole

    And just as tragic/infuriating is our country’s illegalization of what has proven to be one of the best treatment options for this presumably incurable addiction – ibogaine (a Schedule I “psychedelic”). It also doesn’t require perpetual usage for “maintenance” (like methadone), it is effective after only one dose (ideally under proper guidance and in a safe and secure set and setting).

    For those who are unfamiliar, here is a brief introduction to it:

    IBOGAINE IN THE NEWS (YouTube clip – 10 minute news report)
    http://youtu.be/syztZcpj69U

    And here is a somewhat recent article (2013) featuring another addict’s account detailing their experience with a small clinical trial that took place in Baja California, Mexico:

    Mind-altering drug could offer life free of heroin (NewScientist)
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21929313.900-mindaltering-drug-could-offer-life-free-of-heroin.html?full=true#.U01hM_ldV8F

    “Of the 29 others who took part in the trial, none are now reported as having problematic drug use. Two years after that one dose of ibogaine, I abstain from all drugs. Given the chance of relief from the physical and psychological dependence, I am free to make conscious choices again. We don’t yet know how effective this treatment would be in others, but the change in my life is startling.”

    I also recommend checking out the gut-wrenching documentary Detox or Die (produced by the BBC) about one filmmaker’s own journey with addiction (heroin to methadone), and – in a last ditch effort – his decision to give ibogaine a shot. Here is the point in the documentary when he gets treated:

    Detox or Die Pt. 4 of 5
    http://youtu.be/50Y_oCYbVgk

    And here it is in-full:

    Detox or Die (Full Movie)
    http://youtu.be/ret-8UO-rSA

    The filmmaker has been clean ever since (10+ years), and has actually dedicated his life to advocating for making ibogaine a viable treatment option.

    Treatment centers are currently available in Mexico and Canada, but – while those who run the clinics go through great efforts to provide a safe and secure setting/atmosphere for their sessions and post-care – I’m not sure if they are all regulated. Which is all the more reason to raise awareness, to help encourage our own country to provide a safe, secure, and professional set and setting for those undergoing treatment. Mind you, this has been known since the ’90s, with small clinical trials – along with those who have sought out personal treatment – demonstrating its efficacy (along with thousands of years of therapeutic and ceremonial use among indigenous African tribes). Check out the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) for more info:

    Ibogaine Therapy for Drug Addiction
    http://www.maps.org/research/ibogaine/

    This isn’t to say it’s an easy peasy, one-and-done “magic bullet,” but – given its incredible results – it could be a game-changer. Might not benefit the bottom-line of drug makers/pharmaceutical companies, but it will benefit people. Yes, a strong support system will likely remain necessary, and former addicts may very well have their good and bad days, but – as far as starting them off on the right foot and solid ground – ibogaine may be the best medicine available (treating mind, body, and soul).

  • hotandbothered

    Smack, thinning the herd for more than a century.

  • mannyfurious

    I don’t think addiction is technically a “disease” either, and while I don’t think addicts are biochemical automatons with no control over their destiny, I do believe they all deserve the utmost care and decency offered to them, whether they decide to take it or not.

    I too have seen far too many people vaporized at the end of a needle… and if anything, every time it happens, it only reinforces my belief that addiction, whether a disease or not, is a terrible affliction, worse than any beast Lovecraft ever came up with. Lots of good people have gone the way of the dodo, yes, partially out of weakness, but I suppose it’s not my place to judge, only to offer a hand that unfortunately isn’t accepted as often as I would like.

  • BuzzCoastin

    heroine is a problem that effects 0.001% of aMerka
    2 million addictcs equals 0.005% of aMerka
    yet a disproportionate amount of money & media hype
    surrounds the problem of a small minority
    gee, I wonder y?

    • https://twitter.com/anti_euclidean ÿ

      An endless supply of Other-brand OTHER™?

  • The Well Dressed Man

    The big H is the line i never crossed in my wayward youth. I tried every other recreational substance available, but never was really tempted to push that button. I know some awesome people in recovery from substance abuse, and I agree that willpower is involved actively in recovery: It’s a constant decision. People who go clean have to keep making that choice every day. But we’re human. We fall down sometimes. I’m angry at my friends that lost their lives young due to bad decisions, but love them too much to judge.
    The harm reduction strategy is a very real tool to minimize the social cost of opiate addiction. Medically supervised shooting galleries in civilized lands including Northern Europe radically improve the life expectancy and health of addicts. Junkies with steady access to clean product are capable of leading long and productive lives. WS Burroughs was no saint, but he was actively involved in creative work that defined an important part of the 20th century counterculture.

  • Ted Heistman

    So there are some street people around where I live. There are also meth addicts around that may or may not be homeless. I was homeless, so i know the drill. There is no reason to be stinky dirty and hungry. Food banks, food stamps, soup lines, free clothes, socks, underwear, day labor etc.

    So really, if you want to, assuming you aren’t developmentally disabled, or mentally ill, you can be healthy. Yet, here are people with unkempt hair, missing teeth, filthy clothes, begging for spare change. In the midst of all these people who are thriving.

    Why is it? In the wild, things don’t get as sick as these people who linger on like this for years. Things get too sick and they either get better or they die. Animals may have scars or even missing limbs, but they aren’t wandering around in their own filth. They groom themselves.

    Its some kind of self imposed suffering. It has to be.

    • tibby trillz

      the people you refer to probably would have been picked off by predators early on. its sad, but its unfortunately the way this world works.

      • tibby trillz

        obviously humans have overcome this and can enable the weak to live. in some cases, it produces a steven hawking, in most cases, a bum.

  • Ted Heistman

    Its interesting that he seems to have grown up around a bunch of addicts and you act like he has no credibility. What would it take to have credibility for you?

    • edisdead

      The first thing I wrote was that that piece had its merit. I didn’t discredit any of his experiences. Though, now that you brought that up, I can’t help but address that issue now. You give him credibility because he grew up around addiction, which is reasonable, but I grew up around addiction too, so by that logic, my credibility should stand too. That, and the fact that I’m a recovering addict.

      I can’t agree with the view that addiction is not a disease, specially coming from the author. The author’s view is clearly subjective, you talk about credibility but how does his credibility stand against the credibility of psychiatrists, neurologists, and geneticists who have spent years studying and analyzing drug addiction? These people performed studies and surveys on drug addicts for years, objectively, in order to obtain empirical evidence and measurement.

      I’ve read your comments, and I agree with you that it’s a choice to do drugs, and it’s a choice to kick the habit, both decisions come from moments of weakness and strength. It’s so easy to fall into addiction, it’s way harder to get out of it. But you can’t fault them for not seeking help immediately because it’s not easy to admit you’re an addict. It’s not easy to deal with the guilt and the shame. Even after they seek help there’s still a stigma, recovering addicts are always under suspicion and face constant roadblocks. It’s hard to admit you’re a former drug addict when there’s a powerful stigma against drug addiction that prevents a recovering addict from achieving life goals sometimes. Add to that the fact that government spends way more money blaming, punishing, and making moral judgments than on treatment and prevention. It’s an insanely hard uphill battle on a muddy hill where you find yourself powerless most of the time, you can easily let yourself fall and there’s people who don’t wanna let you get up there and are trying to push you down.

      • Joseph Allen
        • edisdead

          I took the time to read through all of them except the last one. Sharon Begley and Marc Lewis didn’t really state that addiction is solely a choice and not a disease. Begley had this to say: “the short answer is I did not come across any research in that. But it makes sense, because there has been so much research that has documented where in the brain, you know, whether it’s a problem with the dopamine system, where in the brain addiction seems to take hold. So again, it’s a matter of you identify what’s wrong in the brain and then figure out the input that can, you know, turn it back.” Lewis ultimately had this to say: “So, calling addiction a choice, which implies conscious intention and rationality, is as wrong as calling it a disease.”

          The articles weren’t about dismissing drug addiction as a disease but about new treatments in therapy and rehabilitation. It’s not really about it being a choice or a disease, it’s both really. A drug addict can quit cold turkey without the aid of medical or psychological help but his body will still suffer from withdrawals and in severe cases, die from the symptoms. After you become addicted you can’t just simply choose to not be addicted, you have a chemical and psychological dependency, your body and mind suffer from anxiety, irritability, fatigue, sweating, vomiting, insomnia, headaches, and nausea. Kicking the habit is just more than just not taking drugs anymore, it’s a complete life overhaul and can sometimes take years. There are triggers everywhere and one can easily relapse even after treatment.

          Drug addiction has been treated as a choice all these years, landing non-violent people in jail, overcrowding jails, creating career criminals, creating more drug addicts. There is an alarming number of former inmates who become addicted in jail or after being released, and overdosing right after. By treating it as a disease instead of a crime, there could be less addiction and fatalities, and incidentally less crime. But like I’ve said numerous times, the stigma is there, and it hurts an addict’s path to recovery more than it helps.

          • Joseph Allen

            I provided both the NYT and the NPR pieces as evidence that there is significant research being done on the efficacy of intentional manipulation of brain plasticity. You cherry-picked statements from the Lewis article. Yes, his thesis is different than mine–if it were otherwise, I would have just posted a link to his article instead of writing my own.

            Lewis also says:

            “The disease model of addiction seems to ignore the contemporary emphasis on neuroplasticity, the brain’s changeability…the statistics indicate that many, perhaps most, addicts recover without treatment of any kind.”

            But you ignored that. And you have conflated my argument with those supporting drug criminalization, which is erroneous.

            You have your opinion on addiction. By all means, hold on to it. But do refrain from twisting my argument to fit your preconceptions.

          • edisdead

            I didn’t ignore what Lewis said, in fact I stated that “A drug addict can quit cold turkey without the aid of medical or psychological help”, which is basically what you just quoted from Lewis sans the neuroplasticity argument. I never in any way disagreed with his research or any of the research done in those articles you posted. I in fact, I found them compelling and was open to their ideas and welcomed them, anything that helps an addict overcome their addiction, I’ll be open to. Like I stated before, the articles just show another aspect on how to treat addiction, they never fully suggest that it’s solely a choice. It seems you just want to read “Addiction is a choice.” There are many factors involved in it being a choice. In fact, just go back to Lewis’ article and read through the comments, there are many discussing this.

            Why did you automatically assume I was twisting your argument when talking about drug criminalization? You even quoted me before and agreed that the war on drugs is a lost cause, and I was just expanding on that in the last post I made. That’s what happens in a discussion, it grows out of its original point, so don’t take it personally. I feel like you’re treating this as a debate when it really isn’t. I already compromised for the sake of discussion. So please don’t accuse me of cherry-picking and twisting your argument, I’m not trying to win a debate, I’m simply having a discussion. I too want less addiction.

          • Joseph Allen

            My apologies for any misunderstandings.
            You suggested that the idea of choice leads to stigma, and stigma leads to criminalization and ostracism, therefore to label addiction as a consequence of choice leads to criminalization and ostracism. This is true to some extent, but I don’t believe that criminalization is a necessary consequence of personal responsibility.

  • doodahman

    You can’t whip the substances just by not taking them. You have to fill yourself up with good things, too.

  • Joseph Allen

    Atmosphere.

  • Joseph Allen

    “The war on drugs is a lost cause, drug addiction is rampant, and locking up people doesn’t do shit.”

    Agreed.

  • White Peony

    This is an odd little piece. Once I started treating my bipolar and seizure disorders (which I didn’t know I had for years) I found that I no longer craved Opiates. I totally got off of them and that was that. 50 dollar a day heroin problem over. When I think back to who I knew that did that drug with me or I knew from around the way I suspect that about 50% of them had some kind of Bipolar disorder too! We all exhibited the same behaviors and attitudes. The other 50% just had horrible lives and were looking for relief. If health care is available to all and drug counseling (NOT AA TYPE PROGRAMS) stay on top of helping people I could see this epidemic being reduced to almost nothing.

  • Juan

    I have to agree with you.
    When you think about it, it’s kind of a wonder that more people aren’t going completely off the rails, be it with addictions of one kind or another, or in other destructive ways.
    Our society is FUCKED UP and it produces fucked up people.
    This is not to suggest that people don’t have choices and agency, they absolutely do. It’s simply a recognition that this shit (early 21st capitalism) has the potential to totally fuck you up. The stress alone is enough to drive otherwise healthy people into addictions and various other destructive behaviors.

  • Matt Staggs

    Joseph Allen is just a contributor. He doesn’t have the power to delete comments. I do, but I’ve not deleted any comments from you. This one – the one I’m replying to – was caught in the “pending” folder for about 13 minutes. I happened to drop back in to check Disqus before heading to bed. I saw it and approved it. Since you mentioned a deleted comment, I searched all folders by your IP and could find nothing else. If there was a comment then there must have been something else that happened that kept it from reaching the site. See the screen grab of the “pending” folder. The second shot is from me searching all folders by your IP, which I’ve obviously not shown here for your security and privacy.

  • aaron

    Jump to conclusions much?

  • Forbidden Fruit

    I was an opium poppy tea addict for 4 years. It’s a powerful plant to be sure, but my quality of life was not negatively affected in any way by my use of it. Perhaps that’s because it was dirt cheap and readily available without the need for shady dealers, unlike heroin.

    If less harmful drugs were legalized and controlled like alcohol and tobacco, fewer people would be jacking potent concoctions into their arms and dying from overdose. Just a theory.

  • VaudeVillain

    “Addiction is not a disease; it’s a symptom of a faltering will. Waning
    willpower stems from a lack of purpose and self-discipline.”

    I know it’s a little late to add to these comments, but I actually take issue with this line. I don’t believe that the two are mutually exclusive, and I definitely believe that the two can feed into one another.

    I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid “serious” drug addiction, in part because I’ve managed, even at my lowest points, not to lose sight of the bigger picture and put myself in a position to have one. I have, on a couple of occasions, skated a bit closer to alcoholism than anyone likely should, I’ve also been a habitual tobacco user for two periods of time. I have no idea how I actually avoided the former, and the latter I’ve been able to kick with relative ease on both occasions. “There but for the grace of God go I.”

    I have also fought with depression since I was a teenager, at least 15 years now. It may have started earlier, but that is the earliest time where my memory is clear enough to be sure. I describe depression as very much both a disease and a symptom of a faltering will; stemming from and contributing to a lack of purpose and self-discipline. Sometimes I can keep it in check, keep going forward, ignore the part of me that just wants to lie down and wallow. Sometimes I can’t. Unfortunately, once I’ve started to lose myself, it becomes progressively harder to fight back against it, that’s just the nature of the beast.

    I don’t mean this as an attack on the author, or even on the piece. I just had a somewhat personal, visceral, reaction to that passage, and I felt compelled to respond to it.

    • https://twitter.com/anti_euclidean ÿ

      I describe depression as very much both a disease and a symptom of a faltering will; stemming from and contributing to a lack of purpose and self-discipline.

      I don’t disagree with you in general, but I think it’s still important to make distinctions on the intensity and duration that make up a “depressive episode”. The last diagnosis I received was “Severe Case of Major Depression”. My sample size is small, but good psychiatrists/psychologists tend to register at least some kind of…shock…when such a case walks through their door. This leads me to believe that those of us that can describe depression in terms of a personal long-term experience have, at best, a skewed perspective on the experience itself.

      One point of medical advice I’ve received several times now is that I may never be able to “live depression-free without some sort of medication”. Well to say I have issues with both the implications and potential consequences of that type of prescription would be vastly understating things. However in light of the present discussion, does implementation of this then become an addiction? No pill has ever registered as “homeostasis” to me…

      To add yet another dimension, is it addiction to “choose” depression instead of “treatment”?

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