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Dispelling Myths on Drug Addiction

The Partnership for a Drug-Free America website is a goldmine of drug mythology.  It's unfortunate that our society regards this fear-riddled information as the gospel when all it does is to expose our fears.  We decided to help PDFA by giving them a taste of what a makeover can do.   We want to show their audience that drug usage doesn't have to be a gambling venture but rather a very calculated effort to enjoy the fruits of the Electromechanical Age.  Below are the 13 myths that the NIDA donated to the PDFA.  When we get through with the PDFA it's going to become the PFDA... That's the Partnership for a Free-Drug America.    

Gicomeng is very serious about drug use.  We think you should be too.  A war on drugs is not the way to control drugs.  Education and self-control is the answer.   The goal here is to release those who have no reason to be incarcerated.  Turning people into examples is warranted only when it's a good example, not a bad example, cause that and $70 billion dollars is what we're waging on a war that hasn't worked in 36 years.

Myth #1: Drug addiction is voluntary behavior.
A person starts out as an occasional drug user, and that is a voluntary decision. But as times passes, something happens, and that person goes from being a voluntary drug user to being a compulsive drug user. Why? Because over time, continued use of addictive drugs changes your brain -- at times in dramatic, toxic ways, at others in more subtle ways, but virtually always in ways that result in compulsive and even uncontrollable drug use.

First of all, "addiction" is only repetitive behavior.  In reality, developing a dependency is due to poor education and lack of effective life management.  Addiction is repetition of behaviors that grow with us.  Just as the planets continue to revolve around the sun or as people continue to eat... work... sleep... in patterns, drug usage is the same.  In fact, it's easier to stop a drug habit than it is to stop working.  How is this possible?  Simple: if most people stopped working, they wouldn't earn a salary and wouldn't have the necessities in life such as food, shelter, clothing.  Unless someone is paid to use drugs -- fat chance that ever happens -- giving them up can be accomplished easily by finding other activities.  Many people control their drug use by refusing to buy drugs.  For many of them, this means that they don't use or abuse drugs.  Of course, that makes no sense.  But by depending on using the drugs of others, they are able to keep their drug use in check.  

If someone drinks an occasional glass of wine, does that mean their brain will become altered.  NO!  If they occasionally use a drug does that mean their brain will become altered? NO! If someone uses a drug everyday, does that mean their brain will become altered?  Possibly they could deplete neurotransmitters such as dopamine.  With methamphetamine, brain matter increases in those who become chemically dependent.  The results of this can be unpredictable with people becoming unable to work, or people working all the time.  In response to the question.  

Drug usage is voluntary when people lead a full life and are not masking other problems.   The body knows when it's had enough; the mind doesn't.  It has to be disciplined.

Myth #2: More than anything else, drug addiction is a character flaw.
Drug addiction is a brain disease. Every type of drug of abuse has its own individual mechanism for changing how the brain functions. But regardless of which drug a person is addicted to, many of the effects it has on the brain are similar: they range from changes in the molecules and cells that make up the brain, to mood changes, to changes in memory processes and in such motor skills as walking and talking. And these changes have a huge influence on all aspects of a person's behavior. The drug becomes the single most powerful motivator in a drug abuser's existence. He or she will do almost anything for the drug. This comes about because drug use has changed the individual's brain and its functioning in critical ways.

FALSE!  Drug use or that what is called drug addiction (addiction being repetitive behavior) is not a character flaw, and it is definitely NOT a brain disease!  Drug abuse is also neither of these.    Compare any type of behavior that is repetitive.  Let's take gambling.  There are people who go to casinos everyday.  They say they can't live without it.  Can they?  Well, if the casino burns down one day, they might feel lost, but they will eventually find something else to do.  If you lose your job, you will feel lost, but you will find another job.  If a drug is discontinued, will it be any different?  Well, if you have a chronic disorder that is being treated, you will have to find a replacement.  If you are using the drugs recreationally, something else will take it's place.  Eventually, a new drug or other activity will replace it.  Of course, if the drug is available but you just can't get it because of the stigmas in our society, it is well worth fighting to get something.  We live in an era of anti-drug disorder.  Just think of this as the witchcraft trails in 1692 Salem, only instead of 20 people getting needlessly executed, the war on drugs has impacted the nation and the world.  In the US alone, about 100,000 have died from the war on drugs and the ignorance it breeds.   

The fact is, it shouldn't be necessary for a casino to burn down or for you to lose your job or for a drug to be turned into a controlled substance.  We are forced to fight in a war with no common sense.   Mali Einen from Stanford Hospital's Sleep Disorder Clinic has used GHB every single day for 15 years now.  Does that mean her brain changed? No one claims that she has an addiction.  Why?  Because Mali is a married heterosexual white female over 25 who works in a hospital.  There lies the difference. 

As for the drug being the single most powerful motivator in a drug abuser's existence where he or she will do almost anything for the drug.  That's normal human behavior.  What about the ice cream cone or piece of cake that motivates us?  What about the car we want to buy?  What about someone's dream house?  The more you work at getting something you like, the more you're going to get it.  And this has nothing to do with changing an individual's brain.  It takes about 20 to 30 years.  Some of these effects in the brain are actually favorable. 

Myth #3: You have to want drug treatment for it to be effective.
Virtually no one wants drug treatment. Two of the primary reasons people seek drug treatment are because the court ordered them to do so, or because loved ones urged them to seek treatment. Many scientific studies have shown convincingly that those who enter drug treatment programs in which they face "high pressure" to confront and attempt to surmount their addiction do comparatively better in treatment, regardless of the reason they sought treatment in the first place.

Again, these are all myths.  The truth is that if you are comfortable using a drug, why on earth would you need treatment? That's a hoax.  It is true that virtually no one wants drug treatment because they don't feel they need it.  Treatment is for the small subset who react indifferently to a particular drug and feel that they cannot control themselves from taking it.  We are in a war.  In this war, anyone who uses or abuses drugs is an enemy.  It makes no sense but unfortunately we live in a society that's filled with fear.  

Scientific studies show a very high recidivism rate for those who go through treatment that becomes a revolving door until the clinical force you are dealing with realizes that you are like everyone else and not the one fraction of a per cent that actually benefits from their "treatment programs".  Meanwhile, the people who run these treatment carnivals have no idea what they are doing or even why they are doing it, except they are saving you... Actually, they are costing you something you like to do.  For example, imagine that you found pleasure swimming, sailboating, camping... etc and that's what you liked doing on your free time, then if someone came along and told you you needed to get treatment for these things, how would you react?  Well that's how you should react if someone comes along and for no good reason offers you treatment for something that brings you pleasure.  Granted, you should be mindful that if your whole life becomes doing any one of these things and it effects your career or job, or family life, then you DO, by all means, need counseling and have no reason to argue not to.   

Myth #4: Treatment for drug addiction should be a one-shot deal.
Like many other illnesses, drug addiction typically is a chronic disorder. To be sure, some people can quit drug use "cold turkey," or they can quit after receiving treatment just one time at a rehabilitation facility. But most of those who abuse drugs require longer-term treatment and, in many instances, repeated treatments.

The problem here is that our healthcare system doesn't really care about your health at all.  If they did, they wouldn't let you fail.  Imagine -- if you will -- people could buy a car from a car dealer and use that car without having driver's education, a license, inspection and registration of the vehicles we drive. Just imagine if there were no laws on which side of the street you drove, how much alcohol you could drink before driving... there would be no speed limits, if you had to get someplace really fast you could just dart through red lights and stop signs -- if they even existed -- and when you got fuel for your car it would be quality du jour... well that's what drug users face every day without education.   Now if cars were like drugs, how long would it take before you wound up in a major automobile accident?  Probably the first time out! 

With Drug Use Education (DUE) you could go through your entire life without once needing a treatment program, providing that you obeyed the laws and reported any problems with your drugs to your doctor.  And that is not a myth, but something you can count on.

Myth #5: We should strive to find a "magic bullet" to treat all forms of drug abuse.
There is no "one size fits all" form of drug treatment, much less a magic bullet that suddenly will cure addiction. Different people have different drug abuse-related problems. And they respond very differently to similar forms of treatment, even when they're abusing the same drug. As a result, drug addicts need an array of treatments and services tailored to address their unique needs.

We should strive to develop EDUCATIONAL programs to teach the citizens of this country -- particularly the youngest members of our society how to use drugs and PREVENT drug abuse. 

As for how we handle the population of current abusers, I agree with the answer here.  Harm reduction is the logical model that has worked very well in other nations.  And harm reduction stresses that as one size shoe does not fit everyone, no one approach can be used to treat those who abuse drugs.  Different individuals had different situations.  One might be using drugs responsibly another might be abusing drugs.  Even among those who abuse, there are many reasons why people might abuse drugs different than others. 


Myth #6: People don't need treatment. They can stop using drugs if they really want to.
FACT: It is extremely difficult for people addicted to drugs to achieve and maintain long-term abstinence. Research shows long-term drug use actually changes a person's brain function, causing them to crave the drug even more, making it increasingly difficult for the person to quit. Especially for adolescents, intervening and stopping substance abuse early is important, as children become addicted to drugs much faster than adults and risk greater physical, mental and psychological harm from illicit drug use.

There is one thing that must be expressed very clearly about addiction and that it either simply does not exist or it only develops because of the way a drug is used or comes to abuse a drug.  Some users can stop using any time they want.  My understanding is that people who use or abuse a drug becuse they enjoy the side effects and have developed a reward system have it very different than those who use the drug for other reasons.


MYTH #7: Treatment just doesn't work.
FACT: Treatment can help people.  Studies show drug treatment reduces drug use by 40 to 60 percent and can significantly decrease criminal activity during and after treatment. There is also evidence that drug addiction treatment reduces the risk of HIV infection (intravenous -drug users who enter and stay in treatment are up to six times less likely to become infected with HIV than other users) and improves the prospects for employment, with gains of up to 40 percent after treatment.

Treatment often doesn't work because treatment often excludes the real problems which have notthing to do with drugs.   For example, many people who become alcoholics don't go out of their way to convert to alcoholism like it was some kind of religious faith.  They use alcohol as the dirt under which they bury the real issues.  Any drug can achieve the same thing.  Children whose parents are overly demanding may find it easier to deal with their parents, but once they have stopped using the drug and are being treated for a drug disorder, the treatment will not work unless the underlying problem is resolved.  If it doesn't get resolved, the user/abuser is going to be driven back to old habits as  is the person on the other end going to be driven back to their old habits.  The problem with parents is that they think the are going to get returned to them a child with all the solutions.  The parents never realize that they too must change their behavior. 

The association here with criminal activity , HIV infection, and employment are totally obscure.


MYTH #8: Nobody will voluntarily seek treatment until they hit ‘rock bottom.’
FACT: There are many things that can motivate a person to enter and complete substance abuse treatment before they hit "rock bottom." Pressure from family members and employers, as well as personal recognition that they have a problem, can be powerful motivating factors for individuals to seek treatment.  For teens, parents and school administrators are often driving forces in getting them into treatment once problems at home or in school develop but before situations become dire. Seventeen percent of adolescents entering treatment in 1999 were self- or individual referrals, while 11 percent were referred through schools.

Both are true. The problem is that society forbids drug use, therefore people who use and abuse drugs won't admit it when they have a drug problem because they haven't admitted to themselves that they are drug users or drug abusers!  It's as simple as all that.  You can't have a drug problem if you won't admit to yourself you use drugs.  Also, society frowns upon people who have drug problems.  Why? If it's as normal as all that, and it is, society should embrace drug users and drug problems.  In order for this to work we must:

  1. End the war on drugs:
    1. Drug use is not a crime, disease, or disorder. 
    2. Drug abuse is a teaching disorder. 
    3. Anti-Drug Disorder is a phobia that spawned from the war on drugs.
  2. Adopt harm reduction and Drug Use Education (DUE)
  3. Make detox a mandatory part of a normal program (ie: every 3-4 months or so). 
  4. Wipe out ignorance and replace with knowledge to avoid drug abuse. 

If we use the DMV Driver Education as a model, we can produce a society of healthy drug users.  Rather than ignorant drug abusers, drug misusers and those with anti-drug disorder.

So why call it treatment?  Drug use doesn't have to be a disease.  It could be a normal part of living if you just allow it to be.   Fear is, after all, our worst enemy.  As FDR stated:  "There is nothing to fear but fear itself."


MYTH #9: You can't force someone into treatment.
FACT: Treatment does not have to be voluntary. People coerced into treatment by the legal system can be just as successful as those who enter treatment voluntarily. Sometimes they do better, as they are more likely to remain in treatment longer and to complete the program. In 1999, over half of adolescents admitted into treatment were directed to do so by the criminal justice system.

By looking at drug use as a  disease, we are going to produce a sick society... looking at it like a crime, we will produce a criminal society.  But it is normal.  You may not be able to force someone into treatment, but the threat of losing their license for a detox will bring them in.  The key here is to produce centers that are clean; where the staff is nice. Detox should be a friendly experience; not a r Treatment"


MYTH #10: There should be a standard treatment program for everyone.
FACT: One treatment method is not necessarily appropriate for everyone. The best programs develop an individual treatment plan based on a thorough assessment of the individual's problems. These plans may combine a variety of methods tailored to address each person's specific needs and may include behavioral therapy (such as counseling, cognitive therapy or psychotherapy), medications, or a combination. Referrals to other medical, psychological and social services may also be crucial components of treatment for many people. Furthermore, treatment for teens varies depending on the child's age, maturity and family/peer environment, and relies more heavily than adult treatment on family involvement during the recovery process. "[They] must be approached differently than adults because of their unique developmental issues, differences in their values and belief systems, and environmental considerations (e.g., strong peer influences)."

Today's programs are very caustic and unrealistic.  They are driven by individuals who exhibit anti-drug disorder behavior.  No one ever gets to the root of the problem because the fear is all about drugs.  Some "treatment" programs involve the family, but in the end, the family doesn't come to realize their own disorder which is typically anti-drug.  Until anti-drug disorder is defined, it is worthless to pursue drug treatment because it is all one sided.   Tomorrow, drug use will be a normal human behavior as it is becoming in many nations that are thriving very well once the fear of drugs has been eliminated.  Our culture is pharmacologically backwards.  


MYTH #11: If you've tried one doctor or treatment program, you've tried them all.
FACT: Not every doctor or program may be the right fit for someone seeking treatment.
For many, finding an approach that is personally effective for treating their addiction can mean trying out several different doctors and/or treatment centers before a perfect "match" is found between patient and program.

There should be commonality in a detox and other programs.  These must be designed so that they can be offered as canned solutions.  The DUE proposal indicates that detox will  be like going in for an oil change... it shouldn't be all that complex.  If someone is having further issues, they should be referred to a counselor.  We can make this as complex or as simple as anyone would like to have.


MYTH #12: People can successfully finish drug abuse treatment in a couple of weeks if they're truly motivated.
FACT: Research indicates a minimum of 90 days of treatment for residential and outpatient drug-free programs, and 21 days for short-term inpatient programs to have an effect. To maintain the treatment effect, follow up supervision and support are essential. In all recovery programs the best predictor of success is the length of treatment. Patients who remain at least a year are more than twice as likely to remain drug free, and a recent study showed adolescents who met or exceeded the minimum treatment time were over one and a half times more likely to abstain from drug and alcohol use 4 However, completing a treatment program is merely the first step in the struggle for recovery that can extend throughout a person's entire lifetime.

Detox could take less than an hour, perhaps.  It can even be done from the drug user's home.


MYTH #13: People who continue to abuse drugs after treatment are hopeless.
FACT: Drug addiction is a chronic disorder; occasional relapse does not mean failure.
Psychological stress from work or family problems, social cues (i.e. meeting individuals from one's drug-using past), or their environment (i.e. encountering streets, objects, or even smells associated with drug use) can easily trigger a relapse. Addicts are most vulnerable to drug use during the few months immediately following their release from treatment. Children are especially at risk for relapse when forced to return to family and environmental situations that initially led them to abuse substances. Recovery is a long process and frequently requires multiple treatment attempts before complete and consistent sobriety can be achieved.

The war on drugs is hopeless.

Zero tolerance is hopeless.

Our draconian drug laws are hopeless.

The fact that 30% of our prison population comprises non-violent drug offenders is hopeless.

The fact that we can legally sell cigarettes -- a deadly useless substance -- and not medications that are controlled substances for those who need them is hopeless. 

The fact that gasoline will never be a controlled substance no matter how many lives it consumes while medication -- such as methamphetamine -- used by children as young as six is unavailable to people who need it... GHB... marijuana... whatever substance is restricted from the members of our society to use is hopeless... 

If we don't turn this situation around, we are hopeless, helpless, and lost and we don't deserve our place in the food chain. 

Whoever heard of a life sentence for a first-time offender dealing marijuana? If we cannot treat life -- all life -- with reverence especially when that life has done nothing to harm or devalue anyone or anything, then we  are impeding the people of our planet from evolving in the Electrochemical Age.  We are committing a far graver offense than genocide by repressing our society from moving forward.  We are extending the Dark Ages into the present and hindering the people of the earth from becoming a Class 1 Civilization as we should be at this time.


Shame on the leaders of the United States of America for turning our chemical-driven society upside down in this disgusting, greed-filled modern day witch-hunt!  Every body has a brain, it's about time that we put them to good use.

SOURCES (unless otherwise noted): Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide. (October 1999). National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute of Health; Alan I. Leshner, Ph.D., former Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (2001).

Copyright  C 2007