Amphetamines

The Last All-Nighter

From the New York Times blogs:

The first time I took Adderall I didn’t think twice. It was 2007. I was in my last year at U.C.L.A., where I had come down with a bad case of senioritis, and found myself cramming for finals. I bought it from a gangly kid with yellow skin and bags under his eyes who lived in the dorms. His hair was stringy. There were papers on the floor and piles of clothes on all the furniture in the room. Above his desk was a poster of John Belushi from “Animal House,” chugging a bottle of Jack Daniels and wearing a sweatshirt that read COLLEGE….

Read more: The Last All-Nighter

Research on drug use goes down the toilet

Analysis Of Waste Water May Be The Key To
Determining Community Drug Use

Sewers don’t lie. People may be less than forthright about what they put into their bodies, especially if that includes illicit drugs, but a chemical analysis of what comes out of their bodies removes all mystery. According to drug and addiction researchers, analysing wastewater for remnants of illicit substances provides the only truly objective indicator of drug use patterns in a community.

“Whatever you think about drugs, people need to have objective data so they can at least have an informed discussion,” says Caleb Banta-Green, a research scientist at the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute in Seattle.

Read More…

Tellin’ It Like It Is

From a reader on another site (used with permission).  No comment required.

I was addicted to Crystal Meth for a solid six months – That may not sound like much, but it only takes a little to hurt you. At the time it seemed like fun and just something to do but it was so much more then that. It consumed my entire life and turned me into someone/something I didn't want to be. I would look at myself in the mirror and just hate the person looking back at me with every fiber of my being. I knew I needed to quit but I just couldn't deal with the withdrawals.

justice.gov

I reached my peak of use on October 27th of this year. I was celebrating my birthday with a few buddies and what went from a round of use turned into a 13 hour binge. It ended with me lying on the couch for the next 48 hours writhing in pain. I felt like my body was contorted; my heart was racing, everything looked off-balance, I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep, and I literally felt like I was dying. And that was the last time I used.

I've been clean ever since and it has been rough. A couple weeks after that PAWS [Post-acute Withdrawal Syndrome] started setting in and it has been hellish to say the least. I have my good days and my miserable ones, but I just keep looking at the future and remembering it will get better. And to top this all off… I'm only 19.

Why Do Addicts Keep Using Despite The Consequences? — Part 2

Previously we mentioned that the pleasure center is a portion of the brain over which we have no conscious control, and that it can be stimulated by a variety of chemicals — some of them produced inside our bodies and some that we introduce from outside.  We said that the pleasure center rewards us for activities that it interprets as contributing in some way to our survival, whether they be social interactions, exercising, or more prosaic things such as eating.  We also stated that these pleasurable feelings, when pursued too far or for too long can create problems.  Now we need to examine how that happens.

While the actual mechanism of addiction is terrifically complicated, the underlying principles are reasonably simple.

  1. When we use drugs or are involved in pleasurable activities, they stimulate (or cause the stimulation of) receptor sites in the pleasure center and other areas of the brain. This causes us to feel good.
  2. With constant stimulation, the brain begins to adjust to the higher levels of brain chemicals by making physical changes that involve, among others, the growth of additional receptor sites to accommodate the excess neurotransmitters.  This leads to tolerance: needing more stimulation in order to achieve the same effects.  Tolerance is one of the first signs of developing addiction.
  3. As tolerance develops, we reach a point where our brain needs the presence of the stimulation in order for us to feel normal.  If we cease whatever is causing the stimulation, whether it be alcohol, other drugs or stimulating activity, for very long we begin to feel uncomfortable because all those extra receptors are telling us they need to be filled up.
  4. Eventually, we reach a point where any pleasure is short-lived, and we simply need the stimulation to keep going.  When we don’t have it, we experience withdrawal, feelings that, as a general rule, are the opposite of whatever good feelings the stimulation caused.  If we were using cocaine or other central nervous system stimulants, we feel depressed; if using downers, agitated; if we are a thrill junkie, bored and/or depressed, etc.  Because of the changes in other parts of the body there are often other symptoms.  For example, opiate withdrawal is like the worst case of flu you can imagine, doubled, combined with overpowering anxiety, nervousness and generally feeling terrible both physically and emotionally.
  5. At the point of marked, prolonged withdrawal in the absence of the drug or activity, we are definitely addicted.

But why can’t we quit?  We know using is causing us life problems, and we know withdrawal doesn’t last forever.  There are even medications to help.  What’s with the constant failures to stop using?

Remember that we said the pleasure center is a part of the brain over which we have no conscious control.  This part of the brain, because it is survival-oriented, interprets failure to meet its needs as survival issues.  We have created an artificial situation in which the brain needs extra stimulation to feel normal.  Therefore, when it does not get the extra stimulation, it sends messages to our subconscious that our very survival is threatened.  Addicts continue to use because their subconscious, over which they have no control, tells them that if they don't they're liable to die.

Those messages alone are enough to make it extremely difficult to stop using.  When reinforced with physical withdrawal, they are sometimes impossible to overcome with conscious effort because — again — we have no control over the feelings or the symptoms except for the use of more drugs.

Of course there is more to it.  The stresses created in our lives by addiction-related problems (and perhaps problems that preceded the addiction) make it even more difficult for us to allow ourselves to return to reality.  We must first detox from the drug, and then we need a lot of support and help while normalizing our social, emotional and health issues during the first months and years of sobriety.  We also need help getting through the “post acute withdrawal syndrome” (PAWS) that occurs while the brain and rest of the body are rebuilding and getting back to something like normal.  This can take a long time, and the issues associated with PAWS are a frequent (if not the most frequent) cause of relapse.

That, however, is a subject for another article of its own.  For now, understanding that addicts are subject to powerful emotional and physical experiences over which there can be no direct control will clarify a lot about addiction and the problems of getting clean.

Drug abuse costs rival those of chronic diseases

Drug abuse in the US (not including alcohol) costs the economy $193 billion a year, according to a new report.  That figure equals or exceeds the cost of chronic diseases such as diabetes.

Read about it…

How Do Drugs Lead To Diseases Like AIDS And Hepatitis?

Drugs (including alcohol) lead to physical problems in three ways. First of all, the drugs themselves can damage bodily systems. Cirrhosis of the liver, pancreatitis, alcoholic dementia, neurological damage due to heavy drug use, premature aging and diseases of the circulatory system are examples of direct harm to the body. The association of drug use with diseases such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and other pathogenic diseases (diseases caused by bacteria or virus) is less obvious, until we look at it closely.

Why do people abuse drugs? In every case, it is because we want to change the way we feel. Non-addicts want to feel differently from their “normal” state of mind and body. Addicts, on the other hand, want to feel better — because they hurt emotionally, and often physically, when they don’t use.

Photo: Don Hankins – Flickr

If there is one thing we can say about all drugs of abuse, it is that they change our view of the world. They may make us more cheerful, give us more energy, make us sleepy, cause euphoria, enable us to concentrate or perform at a higher level physically, make us feel “peaced out,” or combinations of these things. Frequently they make us stupid, as well.

A sober person might not pick up a stranger and have unprotected sex but, as we know, everyone becomes a prince or a princess as the evening wears on and intoxication increases. So we do things like having sex with strangers, sometimes prostitutes, and sometimes in ways that we might not consider if we were not impaired.

DOJ.gov

The same is true of intravenous drug users. A sober person might never consider sharing needles or “works” with someone else, taking the risk of injecting blood-borne pathogens like the hepatitis and HIV viruses. However, the rituals of sharing are a part of the drug subculture for many people, from drinking with a buddy to sharing a joint to sharing needles and syringes. Furthermore, when an addict is in the throes of withdrawal, his or her interest is decidedly not on hygiene. Hepatitis and HIV are not uncommon problems among addicts, along with a variety of other blood-borne diseases.

The third effect of alcohol and other drugs on health comes from self-neglect. People who are drunk or high, or busy seeking the means to become so, are less likely to pay attention to things like nutrition, medical and dental care, personal hygiene, exercise and the other things that make up a healthy lifestyle. Alcoholics, in particular, are likely to be heavy users of cigarettes and other tobacco products. Years of that sort of neglect take their toll, and also increase the damage from other potential health hazards.

That is why virtually all addicts and alcoholics who do not recover are eventually killed by their disease. An alcoholic who burns to death from smoking in bed is killed by addiction as surely as the victim who dies with a needle in his arm.  Finally, however, the greatest hazard is not from overdose or accidents, but simply from the body’s inability to deal with the abuses that it suffers due to the addictive lifestyle.

Strength? We don’t need no stinkin’ strength!

Nowadays I hear a lot of folks saying (to recovering people) things like “You’re so strong!” and “Be strong!”  I hear newcomers say “I pray for the strength to beat my addiction,” and other stuff like that.  While I understand the thinking behind such remarks (all too well), there are a few comments I’d like to make.

One of the first things we need to learn in recovery is our powerlessness.  We are powerless when it comes to our addictions as long as we are using our drugs of choice, and for some time afterward. If this were not true, we’d simply quit and no one would ever relapse.  The only strength we need is the strength to admit that unpleasant fact, accept it, and listen to people who know what they’re talking about — since we obviously don’t.

That does require a certain amount of guts.  We addicts and codependents hate to admit that we aren’t in control. In fact, though, weren’t most of our problems based on our illusions of control:  controlling our drinking or other drugging; controlling our addicts; controlling our kids; getting everything just right and then having it welded, as a friend of mine used to say?  (He was talking about tuning his 12-string, but the remark is so addict!)

When we have the strength to admit that we’ve lost control, that we’re whipped, that we can’t go on, then we have finally reached the point where recovery is possible. Without that realization of powerlessness, recovery is unlikely, if not impossible.  That’s why I worry when I hear folks speaking in terms of “strength.”  When we think that way, we are in danger of becoming convinced that we are no longer powerless, that we can control our using and keep it “social” this time, that he really isn’t a  rotten wife-beating s.o.b. when he’s drinking, that if we just took Muffy in off the street and give her a clean place to sleep, she’ll realize that she’s much better off and will quit using those nasty drugs.

In early recovery we don’t have much power, if any. We don’t need strength, we need the humility to learn from others the things that we were unable to learn on our own: how to handle our urges, our relationships, our jobs, our spiritual growth — in short, how to live lives of sobriety.  Then, after we’ve gone a good distance in that direction and our bodies and minds have begun to recover from the beating we gave them for all those months or years — at that point we begin having some power over our addictions.  As long as we don’t use.

Addiction is like a rattlesnake.  I can pick it up and haul it around wherever I please — all day long, if I like.  That’s strength.  But if I get careless, that’s when I find out what powerlessness is all about.