Drug addiction is not a choice

Most people look down on those who suffer from drug addiction, just like our society looks down on those who are overweight. They think it’s a choice. As if anyone would choose to be overweight or a drug addict.

Say what you will about Scott Weiland. Yes, he was a drug addict. He had a hard life and his drug addiction probably hurt a lot of people. He’s one of those artists whose pain radiates from his music. From his voice. This song makes me cry.

I’m feeling lonely, I can’t breathe
I fall to pieces, I’m falling
Fell to pieces and I’m still falling

Every time I’m falling down
All alone I fall to pieces

To all those people who could care less about those who suffer from drug addiction, who think drug addicts don’t deserve treatment and care:  Throwing away drug addicts is throwing away people like Scott Weiland, Amy Winehouse, and Whitney Houston. Is that what you want?

It’s a lot easier to be a drug addict when you have money. Still, maybe Scott could’ve managed his addictions if his drugs of choice were legal. But as a tortured soul, I think he lived as long as he could.

But just because most drug addicts aren’t as talented as Scott Weiland, that doesn’t mean they aren’t deserving of understanding, sympathy, and help. Stop blaming drug addicts for the opioid war. They are not to blame, just like chronic pain patients are not to blame.

Love you, Scott. I won’t ever say goodbye because you live on in your music. You’re with me here, right now, as I listen to this awesomely haunting song. I know you understand my pain. I hope I’m gaining a better understanding of the pain you lived with every day. Peace out, dude. And rock on.

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15 thoughts on “Drug addiction is not a choice

  1. Addicts get the shit end of the stigma stick, that’s for sure. I’ve talked about my brother before (I don’t know how much detail I actually went into), so this hits close to home for me. If there is a genetic component to addiction, I’m loaded with potential. I can see this in the way I eat, the way I’m inclined to drink just a little too much wine, and if I were rich, I’m sure I’d have some much more expensive and dangerous problems to deal with.

    I suspect it’s like any other disease – genetic and environmental factors play a part. Crohn’s…addiction…neither one of them has a clear cause, yet I’ve never heard “you could stop going to the bathroom so much if you really wanted to.”

    How many resort to illicit substances to treat undiagnosed, or insufficiently treated mental illness (or pain for that matter)? Maybe in part it’s the choice of drugs that a person decides to self-medicate with. There’s nothing quite as mentally cleansing as a good mushroom trip. 9 out of 10 hippies would endorse this message, the 10th is still out hugging a tree somewhere.

    http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/06/michael-pollan-psychedelic-magic-mushrooms-cancer-psilocybin

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    • My grandfather was an alcoholic. I think it killed him. And I have a sister who suffered from alcoholism, although as far as I know, she’s sober now. But out of six girls, only one suffered from drug addiction, although 5 out of 6 of us smoke. Probably because my dad smoked, but my parents didn’t drink.

      Really, addiction is in all of our DNA. In human DNA. Although I’m sure the triggers are different for everyone. But just like with intractable pain, there’s no cure for addiction. Some experts say that people get over their addictions, but it doesn’t seem like it’s a real addiction if it’s not very hard to recover from. Some ex-smokers say they still crave cigarettes.

      Like cancer, I guess addictions can always come back. Those who suffer from addiction seem to be very frightened of relapsing. I’m sure it’s hard to live with that fear every day. Just like it’s hard to live the fear of a pain storm.

      I’ve never done mushrooms. It’s on my bucket list. 🙂

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      • I think to some extent you are both right. Most people do choose to take the first shot of that addictive substance by themselves. And almost everybody is probably attuned to getting addicted to *something*. But I believe for the large majority, as you pointed out below, people try addictive substance (drugs, etc.) and eventually give them up as they get older and can make better choices. But for a fraction, it becomes tremendously hard to give them up. I think those are the people that I would call are “predisposed” to addictive behaviors. They become addicted easily and find it very hard to quit, even when the stakes are high. And even if they quit one thing, they are likely to then get addicted to something else. That kind of behavior, I believe, is due to some kind of a real illness. I also think that’s partly where the stigma comes from. Like, if some people can just decide to quit and they do, why can’t you? But not everybody suffers from the illness that makes one so susceptible to addictive behaviors.

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        • I don’t know if it’s an illness or bad connections somewhere in the brain. The risk and reward centers don’t work properly. Some people take drugs to make up for this deficiency. Some people skydive. Some people fall in love with someone new once a month. And some people spend thousands of dollars on gambling or plastic surgery. The difference is that all of these things are legal, except for drugs.

          There are plenty of chronic pain patients who manage their pain without drugs, just like some recovering drug addicts are able to do. I say more power to them. But they won’t make me feel guilty because I need drugs to manage my pain. They’re not stronger or better than me, just different. Our brains are different. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of.

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      • I think I used the word “illness” interchangeably for a “real” illness (an infection, for instance) and for screwed up connections in the brain. What you said about the risk and reward center is spot on. You are totally right about how people do a gazillion different things to make up for perceived deficiencies or insecurities, most of which are legal, except the drugs. And why certain drugs are illegal doesn’t have anything to do with their addictive potential (marijuana, for example) but has everything to do with political shenanigans. (Don’t even get me started on that one, LOL!)

        You are also spot on that there should be no judgement against the chronic pain patients needing drugs to manage it vs. others that do not. Different people have different root causes for their pain, not all of which is fully understood, so I am not surprised that some things help some people, whereas others need different things. So no, never let anybody shoot you down for needing medication to manage your pain. I have had to struggle with some guilt associated with taking pain pills, and had to learn the hard way (several times), that better take the pills earlier than later in the pain storm, and not worry about needing them. Not sure I am totally over that, but I am a strong supporter for removing the stigma against chronic pain patients needing drugs to manage their pain.

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        • Don’t you think that chronic pain changes our brain (immune system, etc.), and that those changes/deficiencies can be helped/managed with chemicals/drugs? Sure, it would be nice if my brain had the ability to meditate my pain away, but that’s never happened, no matter how hard I’ve tried.

          I don’t look down on those who suffer from depression for taking prescription medication, or for diabetics who need insulin every day. Their brains/bodies have deficiencies that are managed with drugs. Just because painkillers can cause a euphoric effect, they carry a stigma. What’s so bloody wrong with the side effect of euphoria? It’s better than a whole slew of other side effects I could name. And it’s not like this side effect persists with daily use.

          Drugs are just chemicals, neither good or bad. That’s what medical science tells us. Don’t let society tell you any different. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

      • I am pretty sure chronic pain does rewire the brain in different ways. One way I think is to make you even more sensitive to pain, as if it were a positive feedback loop. And for some people (I would imagine most, at some point or another) would need medication to help themselves live a normal life in that kind of a state. While I don’t think over-medicating is the answer to any problem, withholding necessary medication from people who need it for their quality of life is not fair either. I feel like so much of the “opioid war” is politically driven, and takes so little input from patients who need to use it in the first place. Kind of sad really!

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  2. I have recently dealt with an 18 year old boy who addicted to Heroin. I had sat talking to him on numerous occasions about his addiction and with his parents as well. He admitted that this was all his own doing, because he wanted to be with the in crowd, which was obviously all the teenagers taking drugs. So yes to a certain degree they do have a choice. Not everyone that resorts to drug abuse do so because of issues they had growing up. I do however agree that drug abuse is an illness and unfortunately not everyone has the resources to seek the medical help that they require.

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    • It’s funny what young people define as the “in” crowd. In my high school, it was the jocks. Since I wasn’t popular, I don’t know if there was a lot of drug use in that crowd or not.

      Yes, the choice to take a drug for the first time is usually one’s own. No one forced me to smoke my first cigarette. But just like your young heroin user, the main reason I did it was to fit in with the crowd I was hanging around with. It’s just that after a certain amount of time, the drug takes over and the choice is really no longer yours. DNA and environmental causes come into play, but they come into play with just about every choice we make. Of course, since smoking cigarettes is legal (but a lot more harmful than almost every other drug), I didn’t end up in prison or in rehab.

      And you’re right, the majority of teenagers use very little or no drugs at all. And those who do try drugs don’t use them for very long. After all, we’re not teenagers forever. Our brains mature and we make better decisions. But about 10% of the population that try drugs will suffer from addiction. And I don’t think that’s their choice.

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  3. Good points there … I have ‘low low’ tolerance for addicts … but … that opinion / feeling has come with a different experience of addicts. I grew up with an alcoholic (whom i adored) and a heroin addict (who was a sadist). They both had their fair share of grief and pain to deal with. The alcoholic chose to walk in front of a train to deal with his addiction and the heroin addict moved onto morphine and anything else he could get his filthy hands on. I think theres always a predisposition for addiction, and a wretched soul looking for soothing adds to the potential cocktail of addiction. I do believe there comes a stage though where you have a choice .. a dam hard choice though .. to deal with it. And my intolerance comes when the ‘choice’ is fully self centred. I get completely that when your in pain, the ‘self’ is all your really soothing … been there done that, at the cost of losing my children … but … I had to do something about it if I believed I loved them. It became about them and their needs, not me and my pain. Yes, I paid for it all years later … enter ptsd lol. But my kids didn’t ask to be brought into the world and if I really wanted to do right by them I’d get my shit together. … The ‘heroin addict’ has always been a self centred fucker … possibly always a sadist … and I believe his ‘addictions’ … and choice of addictions, fuelled what was already present in his make up. Can he deal with it? I think he could if he really wanted too. And if he can’t, he should of put a bullet in his brain along time ago … but instead he chose to stay in the world and reek his drug fuelled behaviour on masses of peeps….This is possibly all at the extreme end of the scale, but is my experience 😉

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    • I think many heroin addicts think about putting a bullet in their brain. Scott Weiland and other talented artists are able to use music and art to help distract them from their addictions, but most people don’t have these talents and abilities, or the financial means to pursue them.

      Those who suffer from depression and chronic pain also think about putting a bullet in their brain. I just think that I’m not in a position to judge another’s pain or what they do to alleviate it. But I also think that there are some drugs, like heroin and crack, that change a person’s brain structure. Changes who they are and who they could’ve been. They become an extension of the drug and it takes control. I’m not trying to make excuses for their behavior, just saying that behavior is not as easy to change as it seems, especially when drugs are involved.

      You were able to change your behavior, but you neglect to give yourself credit for how much strength that takes. And to understand that there aren’t very many people who have that kind of strength. Silly to think that a drug can be stronger than a human brain, but it’s true.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Very valid points friend 🙂 I like the “But I also think that there are some drugs, like heroin and crack, that change a person’s brain structure. Changes who they are and who they could’ve been. They become an extension of the drug and it takes control.” Think your probably spot on there! … and the “neglect to give yourself credit” … I’m working on it 😉 … the depression thing is interesting too … when i think of the druggies that have been in my life, I think they were probably undercover / undiagnosed chronic depressives.

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