Today, I answer a question from a Kamloops This Week reader, who asks: Is there such a thing as responsible drug use?
Alcohol, nicotine and caffeine are all drugs, although many don’t consider them to be substances defined as drugs.
I am both an alcoholic and a drug addict.
I once argued with an alcoholic who told me alcohol was not a drug.
I asked what it was.
“It’s just alcohol,” he proclaimed.
“That’s ridiculous” I countered. “It’s like saying a rose is a rose, but not a flower.”
People tend to sanitize personal drug use. They don’t like to think they are consuming a drug.
Every night, when you drink a glass of wine, you are engaged in actual drug-taking.
Cigarettes kill and alcohol is a poisonous substance.
Drink too fast and too much alcohol at one time and you may die. Yet because alcohol is socially acceptable, we tend to think it is OK.
“Two glasses of poison with my meal is fine” we tend to say.
Try saying that about two lines of cocaine.
Both substances are drugs.
One is socially acceptable and the other is not.
Yet we look at the person consuming cocaine as being deviant.
Cigarettes were once considered healthy for us. It seemed as though everyone smoked.
Our personal beliefs are what make the decisions about what is good for our taking.
Remember the days of Reefer Madness?
When looking back upon that, we tend to laugh. Our social views have undergone tremendous change.
Alcohol prohibition is another example.
What is deemed unacceptable or not socially OK is not the drug, but our biased and personal beliefs.
Back to the question about responsible use.
With illicit drugs such as meth, heroin and MDMA, my question is why a person is even taking those drugs.
Addiction is cunning, baffling and powerful. You start using without suffering any consequences, but if you have the genetics of this disease, by the time you try to stop and find you cannot, it is already too late.
If you have the genetics for addiction and engage in responsible use, over time you will find you have crossed the line from recreational use to full-blown addiction.
Behaviour — not how often or what substance you use — is what defines an addict.
If you are only able to relax, have fun or not be anxious when taking a drug (including a drink), you are exhibiting warning signs that addiction may come.
True addiction is defined by continued use despite negative legal, social or health consequences.
I recall a story about a woman who regularly consumed five milligrams Valium each night.
Now, as a hardcore prescription addict, I couldn’t understand why she would consider herself an addict.
It took some time to understand it wasn’t the amount or the type of drug, but what it did to her life.
She suffered tremendously from this single nightly dose.
Retrograde amnesia was her biggest concern.
(Blackouts — look at what Rosanne Barr said happened to her).
This lady did things that hurt her life, but the next day she couldn’t remember.
When she tried to stop taking Valium, she was unable to do so.
Remember this — the next time you imbibe in a drink, you are consuming poison.
If you wouldn’t drink Lysol or mouthwash, why are you consuming alcohol? It is a different chemical composition, but essentially the same poison.
If you think it is healthy because it comes from grapes, a natural ingredient, then think poppies for heroin, plants for marijuana and coca leaves for cocaine.
Those are all natural, as well.
Thus you are taking poison when taking a drink.
One day, we will look back on alcohol as we have on cigarettes and marijuana.
We will laugh at our stupidity, at how we could have even considered taking this drug.
Ask an Addict is a column penned by a Kamloops scholar with expertise in addiction issues and someone who is also an addict. The column is meant to inform and help, which is particularly important as we remain mired in an opioid crisis that continues to claim thousands of lives each year. If you have a question you would like answered, email it to email@example.com. Anonymity is guaranteed.