Do you recognize your addictions?

For example, when you think about it, especially in states where it’s [marijuana] highly illegal, the adolescents who choose to do it, they’re taking a risk, a pretty big risk. … That’s obviously something that differentiates them from people who aren’t doing it. They are willing to engage in this risky behavior … so there must be something that’s different about them even before they use it and I think that’s the key factor we need to look at…

I wonder… Is that the difference between those who become addicted to drugs and those who don’t?  The amount of risk each is willing to take?

In furthering the drug war — while trying to combat drug addiction at the same time — “experts” have created specific red flags for addiction that doctors must assess before prescribing prescription medications.  One of these red flags is if the patient is a smoker.  In fact, if recent research is to be believed, statistics are beginning to show a correlation between pain patients, smokers, and those who abuse their medications.

As a smoker, I take offense at these conclusions, but I still find them interesting.  If we look at the amount of risk each of us is willing to take, could that be a predictor of addictive behavior? (And could the level of pain each of us suffers from also be used against us as a red flag to predict addiction?)

But risk comes in many forms, not just with the use of legal or illegal drugs.  There are risks that are out of our control, like DNA, being born black, and living in apartments full of asbestos or next to a high-traffic freeway.  And for pain patients, risks include being treated by the pain management industry, which appears to do more harm than good.

I think it’s important for pain patients to assess their own risks for addictive behavior, especially since I’ve read that some people would prefer to suffer from chronic pain than take the risk of becoming addicted to medication.  For instance, I’m not addicted to alcohol or opioids, but I am addicted to cigarettes and pain relief.  I can’t be sure, but I think I’d prefer to switch my addiction to cigarettes to one for opioids — I think I’d live longer (but not according to the drug war).  And I’d really like to develop an addiction to sleeping.  Unfortunately, we don’t choose our addictions, our addictions choose us.

You know, one can only ignore pain for so long, even though some people think they’re stronger than their pain — apparently, stronger than their own brain.  Some people think that managing either addiction or pain is all about choice and willpower.

As a pain patient no longer on opioid therapy, and happily not addicted to these drugs, should I look down on those who are? Because being addicted to opioids is so much worse than being addicted to cigarettes? Unfortunately, the only reason people think this is true is because being a smoker isn’t against the law (yet), but being a chronic pain patient or a drug addict is.

I wonder how many addictions we would suffer from if all drugs were legal… Available and easily accessible, but not advertised (like prescription drugs, sugar, cigarettes and beer).  Is the easy availability of caffeine helping us with our nerves, or making us more stressed out?  Is the lack of affordable healthcare forcing poor people to medicate with legal drugs — which happen to be a lot worse for us than the illegal ones?

I think the chronic pain community and the addiction community should come together, although I know that would be really difficult to accomplish.  Many pain patients don’t feel they suffer from any addictions, and many blame drug addicts for the war on pain patients (which is really just an off-shoot of the drug war).  There is a lot of shame in publicly acknowledging our addictions, and yet politicians and actors get away with it all the time.  You know, as long as they apologize and go to an expensive rehab.

Which makes me wonder what kinds of addiction we would find in the political community — the kinds of “legal” addictions that society accepts (like porn), along with the illegal ones (like snorting cocaine).  Since we seem to be in a never-ending political cycle, perhaps we should put more scrutiny on the addictions of our politicians.  I mean, if someone running for governor goes to church every day, ignoring the demands of the other areas of his life so he can worship his god, I think that would be an example of someone who is addicted to religion.

Perhaps if we can prove that everyone suffers from some kind of addiction, maybe at different times in their lives, we can remove some of the shame that surrounds this illness.  If we define addiction as any behavior that isn’t in moderation, which is basically what it is now, then we need to point out both the hypocrisy and inaccuracy of that belief.

As I said, I’m addicted to cigarettes and pain relief.  Do you recognize your addictions?

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