A drug addict has a terrible burden to carry. For drug addicts it can often seem as if they are fighting themselves to abstain from the drug and do what is good and right and healthy. How can you fight your self? Rather, how can we help someone liberate themselves from drug addiction and fight FOR personal freedom rather than AGAINST their own self? What follows is a creative exploration of the world of drug addiction, why it happens and what we can do about it.
There are two kinds of drug addicts as indicated in the following two scenarios:
1. The person has picked up some bad habits and their brain and body have morphed in their chemical receptor status so that it craves the substance of compulsion. The brain craves because it seeks homeostatic equlibrium and until the substance is topped up, withdrawal symptoms will be felt. The person 'got in with the wrong crowd', made poor choices, did not understand the nature of addiction and drugs, and has a lack of alternative coping mechanisms so they feel compelled to keep using the drug and abate the terrible withdrawal symptoms.
2. The above applies along with an additional burden: the person is self-medicating an underlying mental health disorder (like anxiety, panic, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, etc.) and/or an underlying set of trauma memories and hurt feelings from inter-personal abuse and family neglect. A person will 'abuse' themselves if they have been abused by others; they have been taught 'you are worthless and this is how we treat worthless people. You can't fight against us as we are more powerful so you may as well jump on the band wagon and continue to abuse yourself and even others. Love is too hard to even worry about - and as you know everything boils down to greed, sex, drugs and money - so what's the point of all the flakey mumbo jumbo suff?'
The first scenario is relatively easier to deal with and treat. However, the problem gets worse the longer the person stays on the drug as it progressively eclipses all alternative health and coping behaviour. Sordid dealings may also ensue, the addict having to do more and more desperate things to pay for the drug and associate with more and more sordid people in so doing. This can limit self esteem and confidence in alternative pathways in life. The drug takes over like weeds in a garden. What the person needs is exposure to the withdrawal symptoms in a supportive environment until they subside. They need to be shown alternative ways of coping and how to live life ethically and practically, as all the time they were on the drug they stopped developing and growing in their maturity.
An integrated solution drawing on the following: physiology, medication, lifestyle, relationships and community, emotions, shame, perspective, values and auto-determination/ internal locus of control.
The physiological aspect of the drug must be dealt with. A replacement medication can be used, or another medication can detoxify the body. Medications and herbs can also be used to sedate the person to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms as they occur. We can look after a person when they withdraw and prevent them from relapsing. Psychologically the person can be (constructively) manipulated to bolster their efforts to come off the drug. This counselling and psychotherapy can also help a person gain life skills to interact with others in a better way.
The withdrawals and urge to 'get the buzz' can also be dealt with using mindfulness techniques, where the person can be encouraged to sit with their feelings and thoughts and urges without acting on them. The person can also come face to face with their own personal shame of previous dealings (e.g. drug and criminal behaviour, hurting themselves and others) in order to inspire their conscience once again. Shame should be normalised in this sense where it is re-pronounced as the compass of the conscience -where if I do the wrong thing I will feel shame. If I avoid this shame I will continue to do the wrong thing (destructive, damaging, unhelpful abusive actions). The person gets more comfortable feeling and dealing with their own shame. They can set out, in a rennaisance of self, how they plan to continue in a new chapter of life.
Additionally the perspective of the person needs to be illuminated. Seeing the drug culture for what it is in the big picture; a matrix of despair and propagated human suffering to avoid and escape from underlying problems that we actually can deal with if we try. This perspective can fuel cognitive and behavioural change in the person, where they can rationalise the implications of their drug urges if they come up. They can see the self in context as well, where bigger forces are at play and they can ask themselves 'do I want to be a part of the problem or the solution?' Directly connecting drug use and drug dealing with human trafficking, prostitution, rape and murder, and even eco-system destruction will motivate the person away from relapse choices.
Essentially the above is fuelling a return of the person to a values-based way of living their own lives. Shooting up a substance that destroys the body and mind and funds destruction in the world is not the kind of value base a person normally has. If we uncover the real values the person has and show them how to act in accordance with these they will immediately feel better about themselves. The collective aim of this is to help the person return to a life of auto-determination with an internal locus of control. This means the person makes their own choices in accordance with their real values so that they can look at themselves in the mirror and feel good about themselves.
People who feel good about themselves are far less likely to want to damage themselves and others. They will deal with what comes up, in terms of pain or sorrow in a healing and self-nurturing manner due to self love rather than the self-loathing that the addict tries to avoid by using drugs. The internal locus of control is the major gain to make. This is where the person abstains from drug use and engages in healthful alternatives to deal with their shit because they themselves want to, for themselves. This is a sign of enduring change as it is not based on pleasing others, or just avoiding bad outcomes like sickness and prison.
The second scenario is far deeper in its complexity and treachery. This represents the abyss of human suffering, depravity and inner hell. I sincerely believe that hell is an internal dimension, not a religious afterlife obfuscation. It is as if we carry around with us a projector lens in our heads and we make our own reality like a projected film on the screen of life. The inner hell creates an outer hell and the person thinks 'this is all life is' and the drug is therefore all they have.
Clearly we need a multi-modal and integrated way to treat this condition, beyond a mere criminalisation of drug use. We need to think laterally, and I thank Edward De'Bono for his description of lateral and creative thinking for inspiring me in this way.
Drug use should be decriminalised in order to decrease the sordid depravity and associated criminal dealings that drug use and drug dealing creates. Drugs should be provided under medical supervision in a clinical setting so that people can be monitored. The assumption should be made that people will experiment with drugs due to boredom, fascination or underlying problems they are trying to escape from (as listed above in example two). The clinic could utilise the opportunity to educate the person about how their bodies will be damaged by using the drug and how it will change their life in a deterioration if they continue. A powerpoint and film could be made and if the person scores a certain level of comprehension (so that they have listened and understood the true nature of the drug) they may then try the drug if they so desire. There will be a fee for the drug that is always set lower than the criminal market. Dosage, purity and hygiene can be monitored and if the person continues using the drug they can be treated as a patient with a clinical disorder until they are ready to come off the drug when it gets boring or makes them sick in their dependency. The person could also be psychologically manipulated to this effect, using hypnosis for example, such that they are increasingly motivated to come off the drug. This would not be at all hard to do.
We can also deal with the underlying problems that people are trying to self-medicate and escape from. All the resources we would save from police, prisons, insurance claims (from drug-related theft and destruction) can be used to fund the clinic. We would only require a fraction of the billions of dollars we would save in order to fund this clinic, not to mention the renewed resources we would have when an otherwise drug addict becomes a secure factor of production and member of the family and community once again. For example, it costs several hundred thousand dollars per year to incarcerate one individual due to a drug related offense. This alone would fund that person and approximately 10 others to utilize the proposed clinic, rather than go to jail where recidivism (going back to prison after being released) is currently 40% !! Clearly prison is a waste of time for many people, and drug use continues in jail often with a communal syringe spreading random communicable diseases. People are also inducted into further criminality when they associate with other criminals in such environments. Basically prison can entrench a drug user and criminal into a life of crime and drug use; the paradigm of drug use eclipses all alternative ways of living. It becomes all they see, feel and do.
Additionally all proceeds of drug sales would go to the state and all criminal 'mobsters' who benefit financially from the sale of drugs will be disadvantaged and even eliminated in time. Prostitution, organised crime, theft, child exploitation, murder and abuse... all the sordid travesties that associate criminality where people who have damaged lives perpetuate abuse inter-generationally, would eventually decline and collectively we would all start to heal and grow.
The so called 'war on drugs' is a ridiculous assertion as it comes down to a war on the self, a war on a child, a war on one's neighbour, a war on the community. Drug use is insidious and ongoing so why pretend that it can be stopped using a 'war-like' approach? I ask you: has this approached worked so far? How long do we keep doing the same stupid thing over and over and expect a different result?
This leads me to another factor that bears consideration. There are clearly 'powers that be' who have a vested interest in keeping us locked into this ridiculous and counter-productive situation that not only defies any solution but actually perpetuates further damage and ongoing drug use in the community. Perhaps these powers are organised bodies of crime who have profiteering as their essential aim, and perhaps this capitalism is shared with their so-called legal corporate cousins. Drug dealers have capitalism in common with major corporations. Additionally, focussing on drug users, dealers and other criminals serves a political advantage. A finger gets pointed at a collective degradation that we can pin all society's problems on, thus distracting us from the real problems in society. This is a ruse where one hand distracts you whilst the other hand does something else, typically related to taking your money and power away. The drug user and criminal is a scapegoat for all society's woes and the ignorant person says 'see, its all your fault'.
If we stop building prisons, stop funding drug and criminal organisations and stop promoting a fear of society with the scape-goating of drug addicts, and instead fund a clinical, community-intervention model based on creative problem solving and a renewed way of helping and overcoming drug use and addiction, we may have an opportunity to positively change who we are and what we stand for in life. This all starts with changing our attitudes about drug addiction and adopting a creative, problem solving model rather than an antiquated 'us vs. them' model where solutions are not even a factor.