This month I’m going to explore the issue of drug use in our community. It’s a topic that makes a lot of people uncomfortable. But, addiction impacts all of us. This isn’t about the “evil of drugs”. I did plenty of partying in my day. But, thankfully, dependence was never an issue. To be clear we’re including alcohol, and cannabis, in this discussion.
This isn’t a criticism of recreational use. If recreational drug use is giving pleasure, and having no negative impact to life, or health, then it is a personal decision. However, when drug use gets out of control and creates serious issues in life, that is a completely different matter.
One of the most important things to remember is that addiction is not a comment on a person’s value or character. Addiction is physiological. One of the most commonly abused drugs in our culture is alcohol. While it is socially acceptable to drink, even to excess, for an estimated 30% of us, drinking can become addiction and create the same problems as dependence on any other drug.
While physiological addiction may be more universally accepted as an issue, psychological dependence can also have serious consequences. So, even for drugs like cannabis, which as far as we know is not addictive, abuse can still have serious, life-altering consequences.
Addiction is about dopamine release. That’s why some substances are addictive for some folks and not others. An individual body may have a more powerful dopamine response to a specific substance leading to a potential for addiction. Some drugs, like crystal meth, are universally addictive because the dopamine release is so powerful that it quickly creates physiological dependence.
When we consider that people in our community face greater rates of depression and anxiety you can see the appeal of a quick and powerful feel good fix. in recent years, perhaps with so much right wing backlash, drug use rates, particularly meth use, are on the rise after years of decline.
As Colton Haynes pointed out in Attitude magazine trying to convince someone that they need help doesn’t usually work. They’re likely to simply cut you out of their lives. People need to come to this realization in their own. Yes, they don’t always, and yes, it is a hard thing to watch. But, better to keep an eye form a distance and be there when they start to crawl back out of the darkness.
We can’t underestimate the importance of community to the recovery process. While we may not agree with everything that programs like AA have to say, there is no denying that they have saved lives. Lots of them. But, there are other alternatives out there to help people on their recovery journey. Support from understanding peers, and professionals, is crucial to staying clean and sober.
Whatever form it takes, whether to a substance or even a behavior, we look for the rush for the same reasons. Stress, anxiety, depression, feelings of not belonging, of not being good enough, leave us looking for relief. When that relief comes with powerful over-stimmulation of our brains, addiction can follow. If you’re feeling trapped in the grips of any substance or behavior, reach out for help and find a community of people to support you in recovery. If someone you love is facing the challenge of addiction be compassionate and available. By no means should we judge anyone for their addiction, even ourselves. With understanding we can remove stigma and facilitate healing.