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  1. chillinwill
    Experts have known it for some time. But I admit I was taken aback to learn that heroin is not addictive. Any more than crack cocaine or crystal meth is addictive. Or alcohol or Zoloft. Or jumping into bed with one sex partner after another or watching marathon episodes of House. Or dining habitually on tasty fats saturated in, well, saturated fats.

    By way of illustration, we recognize compulsive gambling as an addiction. But, as Dr. Gabor Maté points out, we don't blame the addiction on a deck of cards.

    Recently, I was privileged to introduce Dr. Maté at a reading of his extraordinary book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction. He noted in his talk that one of the "bedbrock fables" of the War on Drugs is the widespread belief that "drug taking by itself [leads] to addiction -- in other words, that the cause of addiction resides in the power of the drug over the human brain." If that were so, he concludes, millions of people who are prescribed opioids for pain relief, some for very long periods of time, and who survive their illnesses and/or recover from their injuries, would emerge as stone-cold, life-long addicts. Very few do. Indeed, as cited in Hungry Ghosts, 4.6 percent of Canadians have tried crystal meth -- today's scariest, "most addictive" drug -- yet only .05 percent had used it in the past year. As Maté points out, if we accept traditional definitions of addiction, those two numbers would be virtually the same.

    I have some personal experience with the subject: a flirtation with drug addiction back in the early eighties. Originally prescribed to manage the pain of a failed kidney stone extraction, I went to work for weeks with pockets full of Percodan. At first I took the tablets because of the pain. Then I took them in expectation of pain. Finally, even after a new and improved urologist flushed the beast out of me and the pain was at long last gone, I took them because I liked how I felt under their influence.

    I was a deputy chief of police at the time, and scared to death of being fingered as an addict. So, blissful as those little pills made me feel, I didn't try to renew the prescription.

    In time, I came to realize that the drug had masked more than physical pain. Because of what was going on in my life I was particularly ripe for the escape it provided.

    Now, some 30 years later I've developed another kidney stone, a nasty calculus causing familiar agony. This one's equally reluctant to leave of its own accord (despite weeks of Flomax and a filter). Once again, I'm popping Percodan. But there's a difference this time around.

    Remember that M.A.S.H. episode where Hawkeye, recognizing he's got a drinking problem goes cold turkey? He's been dry for a spell but after a grueling day in the O.R. he joins the crowd at Rosie's and orders a cocktail. The bartender fills the glass in front of Hawkeye. Our hero stares at it. "Boy, do I need this." Suddenly, he shakes his head, stands up and walks away, saying over his shoulder, "I'll come back when I want it."

    It's the opposite for me, yet it's the same principle. I'm taking pain pills not because I want them but because I need them. In fact, I can't wait to get not only the stone out of my body but the Percodan as well. I appreciate the relief and I'm grateful there's medicine out there to provide it. But when the pain leaves so will my need for the pills. That's a good feeling, and I don't take it for granted.

    "Addiction" is never about the substance or the behavior. It's always about the underlying pain.

    A former family physician, Dr. Maté has worked for years in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. He's met and treated thousands of patients, people who when they're not seated across from him at the Portland Hotel are huddled in the rain, dumpster diving for food, panhandling, stealing, dealing, hooking, nursing injuries. Living from fix to fix. His descriptions of their medical conditions are graphic and heartbreaking, no less their personal histories. As he told his audience in Seattle, he's never treated a female heroin addict who had not been sexually abused as a child. The incidence of childhood physical and emotional abuse for male addicts is just as dismal.

    It bears repeating. It's not about the smack, it's about the pain.

    Yet, we continue to wage war on those with chemical dependencies. We persecute and prosecute them, limit or bar their access to treatment, strip them of their dignity -- in large part because of the myths surrounding addiction.

    The solution? Stop the drug war. Legalize, tax, and regulate all drugs. Integrate drug policy -- abuse prevention, education, treatment -- into the field of public health. And treat addicts as human beings, their physical and psychological issues as the medical conditions they are.

    Norm Stamper
    January 31, 2010
    Huffington Post


  1. RatBastard
    Swim has always maintained that drugs are not addictive. When he was younger he had a very addictive personality, went through a bout of alcoholism, was a major pothead for a few years, loved to gamble etc but it wasn't about whatever he was "addicted" to at the time, it was about where his life was, what pain he was trying to escape, what gave him the relief he needed. Heck when he was a teen he was addicted to video games, that may have been the worst addiction of all and hardest to kick. He got to the point of stealing money from his parents to play, Lying about being at the arcade etc.

    Now swim is older and at a good place in his life, he's happy. He likes to enjoy certain substances sometimes but he's always able to have fun and then put it away. Even those things that the majority would say are very addictive. Swim is still very careful & aware of his actions because he knows that addictive personality could rear up at anytime if he needs something to escape. at those times he has to make a conscious decision not to indulge in things that that personality might latch onto.
  2. drugresearcher
    SWIM is addicted to mephedrone and he has always had an addictive personality, SWIM has been dependant on a range of different drugs from a wide variety of OTC, perscription drugs, legal highs and their illegal counterparts, some drugs obviously are more addictive than others - generally speaking. But it really comes down to the individual user.

    For SWIM it has always been an escape from reality, not because of a problemed past or depression or anything (although SWIM has been diagnosed with depression 4 years ago when he was 16) but its the curiousity that surrounds drugs that gets him, SWIM just loves trying out different substances to see what kind of experiences he can have.

    To say that drugs are not addictive is ridiculous, a drug can prove addictive regardless of the users past or personality. SWIM doesn't believe he has any underlying pain yet he seems to addicted to any kind of a drug quite easily.

    Strictly speaking, drugs and tobacco are drugs, right? So does this mean that every drinker and smoker in the country has 'underlying pain' ? Some people that do have underlying pain from their childhood or from their past do end up on the harder drugs like meth (crystal) and heroin, but thats not to see that all hard drug user have disturbed pasts.

    SWIM has never had any addiction issues with tobacco or alcohol strangely enough allthough he does enjoy a pint at weekend and one or two cigarettes a day but giving up neither would not be a problem as he has done many times before.

    SWIM basically thinks that different drugs hold different levels of addiction for everyone, and some people take these drugs to 'escape' reality and the situations they find themselves in while other's are just curious. And SWIM finds that he is one of the 'just curious' drug users yet nearly every couple of months he finds himself forking out his hard earned cash week after week for something that he was 'just curious' about in the first place! Is SWIM alone here?
  3. drugresearcher
    SWIM apologises for the double-reply he just wants to clarify that in his original post he uses drugs as an 'escape'. This is an escape from boredem NOT an escape from any real life situations. Real life situations are always put first for SWIM but he likes to escape from boredem with drugs.. Also SWIM finds that drugs like mephedrone and coke are used as an escape from the emotional pain/depression that the drug gave him in the first place.
  4. missparkles
    Sparkles doesn't quite understand, when she uses heroin for 3 months and then stops she gets ferocious WD symptoms for about 5 days gradually tapering off until the 7th day. Then the psychological shit sets in. What causes the 5 days of hell? She's just a little confused is all. Doesn't that make heroin physically addictive?

  5. Combination
    So boredom is not reallife to SWIY ? SWIY can't cope with reallife and thats why SWIY gets uses so much meph etc, SWIY is running away from the "pain" that is boredom/soberlife.
  6. twoiko
    What Sparkles is talking about is called dependence. Your body has had the drug so much that it thinks it needs the drug, this has nothing to do with your addiction to a drug, although they are linked as addiction almost always causes dependence as well.

    2 would have to agree with the "escape from boredom" being completely different from "escape from life situations." He smokes weed almost all the time, the times he isn't is when he knows he shouldn't be, and he can deal with that easily. It's when people AVOID life to do drugs that it becomes a problem, from what I can tell.
  7. missparkles
    Sparkles can't offer an opinion... as she doesn't know what the difference is between dependence and addiction? She'd be extremely happy to learn?:)

  8. twoiko
    The main problem with this is it's quite controversial, people like to think addiction is just a function of you wanting a drug. However, for the purposes of this article, it compares drug addiction (to weed, cocaine, heroin, etc.) to addiction to chocolate or sex, the reason being that they ARE comparable. The only difference, as Sparkles pointed out, is that (some) drugs cause withdrawals that are different than psychological withdrawal. This physical withdrawal really has nothing to do with addiction in this sense, then, it can only really be called dependence.
  9. missparkles
    Sparkles has met people who have been addicted to gambling having exhibited physical symptoms when they couldn't gamble. Sweating, irritability, anxiety, even panic attacks needing medication. These have all been very real for the person suffering them.

    I understand there's physical dependence and psychological dependence, but saying heroin is not addictive and then using gambling addiction and cards as an example, is like pissing on your shoes and trying to convince you it's raining...isn't it?

    At the end of the day it's about how manageable (or functional) your life is when the DOC is withdrawn that counts...isn't it? Personally if you need anything to enhance your life to the extent that it's ruining it, then it's a problem, and the name you give it doesn't matter.

    Sparkles was going per the article which states that heroin is not addictive and she was told one is a dependence, so what's the difference? Please...someone tell me?

  10. missparkles
    Sparkles has become addicted to pain meds for...would you believe...kidney stones? And no, she was clean at the time. So it's not a state of mind as this article states, it is an addiction. The only difference is she didn't have the psychological addiction, cos the reason she was using morphine was for pain relief...not emotional pain.

    Now if that is what this article is trying to say...in a round about way? "Hello" author...wake up...we already know that.
  11. missparkles
    Edited post.
  12. Rin_Weh
  13. twoiko
    Well, I don't think the article was saying Heroin isn't addictive, I think it was just trying to point out that it's no more addictive than anything else, except that people tend to really enjoy it so it's easier to become addicted in that sense.

    Basically the "myth" that doing a drug once will get you hooked, or that somehow they are more addictive than video games or something like that, we must treat them as such. Now what needs to be dealt with on a further level is harm reduction, in any case, including food, gambling, computer/video game or any addiction, which is just habituation. Addiction isn't necessarily a bad thing, we are addicted to a lot more than we think we are.

    Very nice! Perfect, as he says: "drugs on their own do not cause addiction."
  14. missparkles
    Firstly, this is not a criticism of Chillinwill (he's not the author) but the author ofg the article. Saying that an opiate is not addictive is so stupid because he's confusing the physical with the psychological.

    But regardless of the WD being physical or psychological...it can disrupt a persons life as badly. Trying to negate certain addictions (including heroin addiction) is foolish. Heroin WD does have physical WD symptoms.

    Cancer patients have to be slowly reduced due to their dependence on opiates for pain relief. Surely it's also about the pleasure anticipated as well. Sparkles knows as soon as she has that drug in her hand (even if she hadn't even used it) her WDs reduced.

    Addiction, dependence...call it what you like, it's not as cut and dried as this author would have you believe.

  15. Rin_Weh
    Yep, I don't know about the author of the article but what Dr. Gabor Mate was saying is: it isn't that the substance in itself cannot become addictive, but it is not the substance alone that is the cause of addiction.

    Hi missparkles :)
  16. missparkles
    Thanks for the clarification.

    To be honest...I think most people already knew that addiction wasn't purely substance related. If it were, after WD, no one would have a problem again...would they?:s


    Hi luv.:)
  17. Rin_Weh
    I agree.
    Still, beyond that logic we all know, it is an interesting topic.
    Perhaps I have a Canadian bias toward my interest in Vancouver's downtown East side. That's where Dr. Gabor Mate was working last time I knew about him.
    He's done several TVO ( a channel here) interviews.
  18. missparkles
    Sparkles mum had to be weaned off of pain meds a few years ago, and she did it in time with the docs timetable. Fortunately she has no immediate issues that she felt were bad enough, or perhaps her strong self confidence was enough, to need to keep them? She didn't turn a hair.

    Sparkles has been addicted to opiates (and every other mind enhancing, mood altering drug) that has been available from the 70s until about 5 years ago. It's been quite apparent to Sparkles that the meds gave her confidence, numbed the feelings that were too painful to face, or just kept her feeling "human." Why...or how, have they coped so differently?

    She feels it doesn't matter what the addiction is, and saying that it's "not" addiction (in the true sense of the word) just trivialises what people struggle with, daily. Again...splitting hairs is just academic double talk, it doesn't do anything to actually address the problem.

    Sparkles has always believed that the actual addiction is merely a symptom of a much deeper problem. Dependence on a drug is totally different. Addiction covers behaviour, rituals, and an "actual" habit. She still does.

  19. Rin_Weh
    You should listen to the link somewhere below of what Dr.Gabor Mate talks about. Yes, it's stuff we already know but perhaps this will shed light on what he was trying to say without the filter of the article write up.
    I don't want you to walk away thinking he doesn't understand addiction! :p
    He's on your side.
  20. missparkles
    Totally agree, Sparkles has just gone with the article, perhaps if she actually found out what this person was saying she'd be better informed. Then she could offer an opinion.

    I'll get Sparkles to listen to it.:) Thanks.

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