Category Archives: Drugs

Recovery from Addiction Is a Choice

I have railed since day one when clinicians started calling bad choices and bad habits “diseases.”

The good news about calling alcohol and drug abuses “diseases” is that clinicians and others can reap financial rewards by charging insurance for their “medical” intervention.

The bad news about calling substance abuse a “disease” is that the individual is robbed of his real ability to exercise choice and self-control, and such labeling puts the onus on society to give that individual a “pass” on taking responsibility for the consequences of the addiction.

There is considerable proof that addiction is a choice:  the book “Addiction: A Disorder of Choice,” by Gene M. Heyman, Harvard University Press, demonstrates many of them. 

For example:  in 1970, it was determined that between 10% and 25% of enlisted Army men were addicted to high-grade Vietnamese heroin and opium.  When they were told they couldn’t come home without being drug-free, the vast majority stopped using narcotics as the word of the new directive spread.  The vast minority who were detained for detoxification programs were clean when given a second chance.  Only 12% of soldiers who were dependent on opiate narcotics in Vietnam became re-addicted at some point in the next three years.

The point is that calling alcohol or drug abuse a “disease” takes away from the individual the respect for his or her ability to choose.  Every behavior we have is somehow tied to genetics and the brain.  That doesn’t make it a disease unless the individual has no choice.  Alzheimer ‘s disease gives you no choice.  Multiple sclerosis gives you no choice.  Alcohol abuse is a choice.

Addicts are drawn to drug abuse to salve depression, anxiety, boredom, and self-loathing.  At the start of their addiction, they feel great, short-term, and they start giving up the joy in work, hobbies, family and friends.  After a while, they need the drug to salve psychic pain (which is now increasing with the collapse of other factors in their lives), suppress withdrawal symptoms, and eliminate the craving.  At some point, when these benefits come to be outweighed by the adverse fallout the balance shifts, and the addict chooses recovery.

The concept of disease includes the obliteration of choice-making ability.  Fortunately, addicts can make a choice, and congratulations are in order to those who do!

To the Mother Whose Son Is Smoking Marijuana

I got this email from a listener after she heard a call I took on my radio program.  She titled the email “To The Mother Whose Son Is Smoking Marijuana.”  It speaks for itself:

Today you gave advice to a mother who found out her 16 ½ year old son is smoking marijuana.  You advised her to get him into a residential treatment program.   You stated that drug addicts lie, and she responded that she didn’t “see” him as a drug addict.  I am afraid she will not take your advice, and she may be in my situation in the future.

Today, I write this with a broken heart.  11 years ago, when my son was 17, I, too, found out that he was smoking marijuana.  He was on the academic honor roll and participated in sports – he wasn’t a drug addict!  I tried to get him into a residential program, but was told they would not accept him at his age unless he committed himself.  I took him to a counselor that the high school recommended and had him assigned a probation officer until he was 18.  I thought just like her that he was not a drug addict in my mind.  He grew up to be a responsible young man who owned his own business, but he continued to smoke marijuana. 

Six months ago, I received that phone call that no parent wants to receive.  My son was dead at the age of 28 from an accidental drug overdose (oxycodone), which the coroner told me is the most abused drug today.  I do not know if this was the first time or the hundredth time he used the drug, but I vowed that if I can save one child or one parent from experiencing what I am going through that I would share my story. 

Dr. Laura, you were correct.  She needs to deal with the issue NOW, while she still has some control.  My son was not a “drug addict” either.  The coroner called it “recreational drug use.”  Children need to know that tennis, hockey, and soccer are recreations, not drugs.  I hope that mother heeds your advice so that her son does not end up where mine is today, guilt-ridden and questioning “should I have done more?”

Resisting Irresistible Impulses

I always look for patterns in callers’ questions, because I’m interested in what that pattern means in terms of what folks have come to believe…and why.  A persistent thought seems to be that impulse is irresistible.  That means, if you feel like a burger or a cigarette or a roll in the hay with someone you know you shouldn’t be with, then you have some kind of addiction, which means a disease, which means out of your control.

That’s a darn good rationalization…but it ain’t true.  The only irresistible impulse is one which hasn’t been resisted, and that is most definitely (but not simply) a choice.

I say “not simply,” because resisting impulses is difficult and sometimes painful.  Generally, such inappropriate behaviors have the purpose of 1) immediate gratification of feelings, and 2) hiding you from other emotionally distressing thoughts and feelings.  That means that, if you resist the impulse to drink, eat, or have a sexual fling in the office stationery closet, you will be left with the anxiety or sadness that resides within.

It is clear, therefore, that the emphasis should be on dealing with the not-so-well submerged anxieties and sadness.  For example, a man called recently to say that he is mean to his wife, criticizing anything he sees around the house.  I immediately suggested that he saw the cluttered kitchen counter as a sign his wife didn’t love him.  Now, you’d think that was a ridiculous leap, but it was “spot on.”  He (after some nagging from me) offered that his mother had not been, well, “motherly” and loving.  To this day, he has his wife do things to prove/make up for the lack of affection and attention he missed as a child.  Did he know he was doing this and why?  Yes for the “doing;” no for the “why.”

I suggested he go home with a flower in hand and tell his wife that he needed her to hold him.  I told him that’s what “his woman” was for.  You can always hire a maid, but you can’t hire someone to really love and care about you.  He was treating his wife like his mom, when he really needed her to be a wife with loving kindness.

You get love by being open to it, and by being loving in return.  You do not get love by eating that cake, smoking that joint, drinking that beer or overpowering those who care about you. 

Resist those impulses.  Yes, it’s painful and difficult, both physically and emotionally, but the ultimate reward is the very thing you’ve been trying to get (just all in the wrong way), and that thing is LOVE.

Potent Pot

The University of Mississippi’s Potency Monitoring Project tracked the average amount of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, in samples seized by law enforcement agencies from 1975 through 2007.  They found that the average amount of THC reached 9.6% in 2007, representing more than a doubling of marijuana potency since 1983.

John Walters, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy cited “baby boomer parents who might have misguided notions that the drug contains the weaker potency levels of the 1970′s.  Marijuana potency has grown steeply over the past decade, with serious implications for young people – the risk of psychological, cognitive and respiratory problems, and the potential for users to become dependent on drugs such as cocaine and heroin.” [AP, 6/12/08]

A report from the Office found that a teenager who has been depressed in the past year was more than twice as likely to have used marijuana than teenagers who have not reported being depressed – that’s 25% compared to the 12% for non-depressed teenagers.  The study said marijuana use increased the risk (by 40%) of developing mental disorders.

It’s certainly not your Grandma’s pot anymore.

How ‘Bout Buying Your Kids Some “Blow?”

Just when I thought it was safe to go on to another subject, we have yet another attempt to draw our kids down the wrong alley.  Picture this: a white powder that comes in a clear vial.  It’s sold with a mirror and fake credit card.  The product is called “Blow,” one of the street names for cocaine.  It’s a powdered energy drink, and the obvious comparison to cocaine is alarming.

The advertising is very pro drug culture, designed to entice and to look at drugs and drug behavior as cool and glamorous.  Not only that, but each drink is like having almost 7 cans of Coca Cola, with 240 milligrams of caffeine – downright dangerous!

When the company’s owner was challenged, he said: “Parents that think it’s despicable are typically the parents that don’t want to take personal responsibility for educating their children about drugs and addiction in general.”

That is a load of garbage.  How can parents deal with their children’s constant brainwashing with the Disney girl behaviors and power drinks that mimic drugs?  How can families insulate themselves from the forces attempting to make a profit as well as have access to ever new markets for sexual exploitation and drug sales – legal or otherwise?