Friday, January 23, 2015

The cause of addiction? (holy macaroni!)

The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think, article.
If you get run over today and you break your hip, you will probably be given diamorphine, the medical name for heroin. In the hospital around you, there will be plenty of people also given heroin for long periods, for pain relief. The heroin you will get from the doctor will have a much higher purity and potency than the heroin being used by street-addicts, who have to buy from criminals who adulterate it. So if the old theory of addiction is right -- it's the drugs that cause it; they make your body need them -- then it's obvious what should happen. Loads of people should leave the hospital and try to score smack on the streets to meet their habit.

The funny thing is that this is right in front of our nose, and yet most of us still believe that addiction comes from the drug.

Nearly fifteen years ago, Portugal had one of the worst drug problems in Europe, with 1 percent of the population addicted to heroin. They had tried a drug war, and the problem just kept getting worse. So they decided to do something radically different. They resolved to decriminalize all drugs, and transfer all the money they used to spend on arresting and jailing drug addicts, and spend it instead on reconnecting them -- to their own feelings, and to the wider society. The most crucial step is to get them secure housing, and subsidized jobs so they have a purpose in life, and something to get out of bed for. I watched as they are helped, in warm and welcoming clinics, to learn how to reconnect with their feelings, after years of trauma and stunning them into silence with drugs.
[...] since total decriminalization, addiction has fallen, and injecting drug use is down by 50 percent.


Bru said...

It's all about pain. Fix the emotional pain, and the need to mask the pain with drugs goes away.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

I believe that too.

Though so far as I can see, the roots of pain go much much deeper than we think.

Joe Dick said...

In a hospital you would be given morphine, not heroin.

Bru said...

"... the roots of pain go much much deeper than we think."

Yes, I definitely agree.

strum the sky said...

Thanks for drawing our attention to this article. Much of my professional life has been attempting to turn the tide of what "prevailing wisdom" is saying.

Oh, that word "cause"! What damage. And the "addiction" our culture has for simple answers and silver bullets, even if they're mythical.

We don't look close enough, yes, but we also don't listen close enough. Suddenly a slant takes hold on views and then you can watch the slant begin to slide irrevocably. It was believed once (and in some quarters, still believed) that anger is relieved by a measured expression of it, like a pressure cooker valve letting off steam... But a prof of mine helped us show that it's not true of crowds leaving football stadiums, boxing matches... Men watching games on TV or in reality aren't more placid; traffic accidents don't go down after a big game. We talked to social workers in the field who remarked "duh! It's obvious!" but the policy makers turned away. So many, many other examples in life since then...

Sorry to reminisce, but wanted you to know how and why I'm thankful again to you. Best of luck, strength and patience in your own following the roots of pain.

Ken said...

Addiction isn't immediate, it takes time and sufficient exposure to the drug. Some people like the feeling so much that they will rapidly seek out the drug again, but they aren't addicted. There are many people who use heroin recreationally who will never become addicted, in the same way that most people won't become addicted to alcohol.

What helps addiction to illegal drugs is a whole ecosystem that is built up around the supply of drugs. Disrupt that and you disrupt the use of drugs.