October 2007

Addiction

Wanna play a fun game?

Look up the dictionary definition of addiction.

Actually, here, Iíll do it for you.

1 : the quality or state of being addicted 2 : compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; broadly : persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful

Thatís from Merriam Webster. Hereís another.

ad∑dic∑tion [uh-dik-shuh n] Ėnoun The state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma. [Origin: 1595Ė1605; < L addiction- (s. of addictio) a giving over, surrender. See ADDICT, -ION ]

Thatís from dictionary.com. It rarely fails me. But just in case, the good folks over at cancerweb have a slightly more specific take on things.

The state of being given up to some habit, especially strong dependence on a drug.

(16 Dec 1997)

That should be sufficient I think.

Iíve been thinking about chemistry lately. Thatís what some people think that we all boil down to Iím told. I do have to admit that there is a certain strength to this argument. We are chemical machines after all. We put chemicals into ourselves, be it food or drink or little colourful pills and all sorts of interesting things that are by and large reasonably well predicted happen. Fell hungry? Eat a sandwich. Feel thirst? Drink a nice tall glass of milk.

Jonesin for a fix cause itís been over three hours since your last one?

Iíve been trying to come up with a definition that I can sleep with (being addicted to sleep on one hand but resistant to it a little to much on the other) and it isnít as easy as it seems.

Using the definitions above, Iíve been an addict since the day I was born. I definitely feel compelled to eat and sleep (ok sleep not so much, but you get the idea) and I know that if I stop eating Iíll die. I would say that meets the cessation causing severe trauma requirement.

And sometimes I head over to seven eleven and get a smokie slathered in chilli cheese sauce, even though I know that itís bad for me.

I also tend to get really grumpy and somewhat hallucinogenic if I donít sleep.

Ah, but those are regular things that occur in nature, so theyíre different, but according to that argument, if itís natural itís OK, so all of a sudden magic mushrooms and weed are acceptable.

And if those two drugs are acceptable why not the rest?

Letís try another approach.

Iím asthmatic.

So I have a whole whack of medications that I take regularly so that I can breathe, breathing being a big part of my day and all. So negative effect if I was to quit, and itís a physical symptom that compels me to take them.

So am I addicted to my asthma medication?

Heck, a couple of months ago I found out that Iíll be taking quinine for the rest of my life to keep my nervous system in check while I sleep. If I donít, my nervous system inexplicably fires off bursts of electricity that make me look like an eel on a hotplate.

Those are all examples of me being compelled to put chemicals into my body or bad things will happen. And rest assured, the vast majority of my drugs do not occur in nature, so what now?

Addiction must have something to do with regularly upsetting the normal balance of chemicals in your body as the first step, but that as I illustrated cannot be the only qualifier.

So what else is there?

Consequence maybe?

Well it canít be the consequence if you go off of it, cause if thatís the case, there are a whole lot of people who deal with asthma, diabetes and kidney failure who are gonna need a great whacking amount of rehab.

So letís try this then. Rough first draft so bear with me.

ďAddiction is when an individual voluntarily enter chemicals into their body for some desired physical or psychological effect. Prolonged compulsive repetition of this process begins to produce negative and destructive side effects for not only the person taking these chemicals but for those around them.Ē

I like that one so far. It allows for the bar industry to continue to exist. That means I still get to play shows.

So thatís a winner I think. Email me your comments if you think it needs to be changed.

Better Tomorrow?

Iíve noticed that these days, addiction is all the rage. You canít fire a rifle in Las Angeles without hitting a superstar with either an addiction or a really good tan fresh from the rehab tanning beds.

Believe me, Iíve mapped it out. The hunting grounds are always fresh and itís always open season. Soon as I get my hands on the last fifteen bucks I need for the bus trip Iíll be testing my theory and I will be sure to report the results here for your perusal.

Seriously though personalities on both the small and silver screen as well as the radio and on your ipod, the idols are getting a lot more press time for their personal vices. Now I could say that means that addiction is on the rise, but thatís a pretty biased sample group. I would be more inclined to believe that we are just learning about it because weíve just gotten better at making details and information readily available for public consumption. Which has some interesting implications, some of which are a little obvious.

Conclusion1 Ė Holy crap there are a lot of addict in la la land these days!

Conclusion 2 Ė Holy crap there have been a lot of addicts in California for a long long time.

Conclusion 3 Ė 1408 was the best movie I have seen in a theatre since 28 days later. Whatís up with all the numbers in the titles by the way?

So you see?

Isnít all clear now?

Not so much, letís try another approach.

You have a sample group. As you increase your efficiency at monitoring this sample group, you are shocked to discover that in fact the level of addiction is a lot higher than expected.

Which means your original information on addiction is not quite as accurate as you think. In factÖ

Over 16.1% of Albertans regularly use ďillicitĒ drugs regularly and thatís not pot.

Albertaís population is just under 3.5 million.

So yeah, there are some addicts out there.

But again, thereís that word.

Addict.

There is a whole reality TV show that is dedicated to the topic of addiction and itís treatment. Now, I hate reality shows but not only do I quite enjoy this show, I respect it a great deal. Unlike most reality shows where the prize is a car or a trip, this show gives itís principle person the opportunity to choose to go to treatment. This show actually makes a difference, and most people I talk to have heard of it themselves.

I expect to see a whole whack of knock offs in the next couple of years, but this is a TV show, a reality TV show even the main plot device is actually getting people free of addictions.

Which is kind of a good thing.

Because as it turns out, the vast majority of people out there donít actually know how addiction works. A lot of people operate under assumptions that have been disproved long ago.

Like the one that says itís easy to quit, people just blow it out of proportion. Well thatís not true anymore. Lots of substances redirect the way the brain works so that without treatment you have stronger compulsions and sometimes even uncontrollable ones.

Read that again.

Uncontrollable.

Let alone the withdrawal. If youíve ever seen someone go through withdrawal on something like heroin or many of the opiates, you know what I mean. If someone picks up a needle after they have gone through that once, the fear strengthens the addiction ten fold. Many drugs blow out so much serotonin that once you go clean there is a biological imperative that dictates you are physically incapable of happiness.

Or the one that says that addicts are choosing to remain addicted. Many addicts arenít. Many addicts are self-medicating deep-seated emotional issues or physical injuries. To suggest that itís easy for a person to face personal demons and make them just disappear so that they can live a normal life is unfortunately simply not true.

A lot of people also think that addicts are weak people and that drug addiction is some sort of character flaw. Again, thatís just not true. As I said, every type of drug changes brain functions, some more powerfully and effectively than others, but without fail they all do it.

The bottom line is that without treatment or at the very least regular support, it is extremely difficult for an addict to quit. The numbers for people who are able to quit cold turkey without relapsing without treatment or support are spectacularly small. To be sure, it can be done, just not by most and not easily.

I guess what I am trying to get across is next time you see someone you think as an addict, try and look more like a person who went off roading and had their quad flip on them. Or someone who was down at the firing range blowing off steam when the gun exploded in their hands. Both of these examples are of people who did something risky one time to many and will pay for that failure of judgement for a very long time. We would look at them and their circumstances as unfortunate as a tragedy, and I think we should do the same for addicts.

Epilogue

So thatís that then. This will be my last bit of social commentary for the year I think. November and December belong to Walter. I think I owe him that.

You know where to find meÖ






You know where to find me.

Nate@natepike.com