Almost none of the people who may read this know it, but I am a former drug addict. I've been off controlled substances for many years now.

This post isn't really about me, however. Its about NA and AA, and the so-called twelve step program. But since what I'm about to write is based partly on my own experiences, I'm almost forced to talk a bit about myself to begin with.

I started using controlled substances (i.e. street drugs and illegally obtained prescription drugs) rather by coincidence. I wasn't really curious about things like that at all -- in fact I was very sceptical toward illegal drugs, and I found people who were obviously 'junkies' disgusting. But in my early twenties, I found myself in the worst funk I've ever been in. It was serious love trouble. To be honest, I just felt like quitting life. I wasn't suicidal or anything, but I just didn't know what to do with myself.

Then one day I met an old friend of mine. He introduced me to speed, which I wouldn't have done in case I had really given a shit about anything right then. I had always thought illegal drugs were some heinous crap: toothless, twitchy speed freaks outside the alcohol store; half-comatose junkies slipping rusty AIDS-needles into their veins, and so on. But when I got into speed it was quite a revelation.

"F*ck me! This is amazing! Now I get why people do this!"

I had a lot of fun with drugs for many years. I tried almost everything there is, but I had just a couple of favourites. Then after quite a while it all became routine. I just felt unable to have fun and relax without drugs. Then, things started to get bad. After that it became a slow motion disaster. I realized I had to quit the drugs or stay a deadbeat burnout for ever.

Then I made an even worse mistake than starting with drugs. I walked into a 12-step meeting, which marked the beginning of the worst years of my life.

Now before I start in earnest I have mention a misconception about NA/NA and all the other programs. I say this even though I've come to despise the twelve step movement.

Twelve step programs are not sinister brainwashing cults. Everything is completely voluntary, and nobody will bother you really if you choose not to do it anymore. NA groups rely on voluntary donations from the members to survive, but seldom is anyone pushed or goaded into making contributions.

It does happen, but rarely from what I've seen, that people steal money from NA groups.  But that is about the only form of 'financial' corruption I've witnessed. (Once the cashier of my group stole all the group's money and went on a bender, for example. I wasn't shocked or surprised by this event. I was more baffled by the fact that it didn't happen a lot more often).

Members of NA aren't really controlled or monitored in any way. Its called Narcotics Anonymous, after all. In fact the lack of control and monitoring is key to the survival and success of NA and all 12-step programs. Druggies will not walk into an organization that is about control and monitoring, for obvious reasons. The fact that NA does not keep track of anything really is also very important because it conceals what I strongly believe to be the truth: NA doesn't work very well at all. You can't disprove that it works, but neither can you proove it, because there are no reliable records. It is a matter of faith, basically. A person who hasn't touched a drink or a drug in his entire life can walk into a NA meeting and say 'My name is Bob, and I'm an addict'. Then he can say 'I've been clean for five years today' and he'll get a nice looking medal -- everyone claps and sheds a little tear for the 'power of the program' and so on. There are in fact a lot of disturbed people who do things like this -- I've seen it happen several times.

But more about that later...

First, I have to write about two very important questions, which are closely linked to the 12-step movement:

What is addiction?

Is addiction a disease?

All right, let's start with the second question, since addicts never can do anything correctly.

Despite the fact that a lot of very important people think addiction is a disease, I personally have serious doubts about that.

NAs problem concerning this question is that they claim that addiction is a disease without having any real evidence to back this up -- at least not when it comes to NA's own defenition of the term. AA, which is where everything in NA was borrowed/stolen from, made up their own defenition of alcoholism that didn't have much to do with medical science. They sometimes like to 'retcon' this by using modern scientific data about alcoholism to back up their story, which is a very cheap trick. This would work if they actually changed their own defenition. But they don't.

Anyway, NA took AAs defenition of alcoholism and said that addiction is a physical, mental and spiritual disease. 

Let's start with the physical part. I almost have to give NA this one -- some drugs are physically addictive. Opiates, for instance. I was mildly addicted to Subutex, which is a synthetic opiate drug that is used as a surrogate to 'treat' heroin addicts. A terrible idea, I think. I almost laugh when I think about the fact that I became addicted to Subutex without even having tried heroin. In my opinion, Subutex is even a 'better' drug than heroin. Druggies 1 - Society 0.

But there are also many, many, controlled substances that are not physically addictive at all. THC, LSD, Amphetamine, etc. A lot of people in NA have used those drugs almost exclusively, or they didn't have time to get addicted to the hard stuff before they came to NA. So for them, we can scratch that part.

Now for the mental part. NA often describes this as an obsession.

An example of this would be the former speed freak who gets a few lines in front of him when carelessly going to a party where there are drugs present. He starts to experience 'symptoms' and can't stop himself from doing the lines. Hey -- he's sick. He needs help.

Of course he does the lines. He's like Pavlov's famous dogs. When he sees the lines, he automatically relates them to having awesome fun, which he may very possibly have if he does them. (of course he may also lapse into that good old speed psychosis again, but... Its hard to remember the rough times).

What our speed freak is experiencing, I believe is called an involuntary reflex.

Every time Pavlov's dogs get food, a bell rings.

After this repeats itself enough times, the dogs start to salivate every time the bell rings. Even if there is no food.

Are the dogs obsessed with food?

Are they addicted to food?

Hardly. The difference between the speed freak and Pavlov's dogs is, that the speed freak has a much greater capacity of making his own decisions and drawing his own conclusions. This leads us to a huge problem with the NA model of addiction as a disease. NA teaches the 'addict' that he is powerless over his disease. According to NA, the 'addict' is incapable of making his own decisions when it comes to drugs. What a drag, since the only way to stay clean, is to not take drugs.

What it all boils down to in the end is that the addict can only stay clean by the grace of a mysterious 'higher power', but I will write more about that later.

The irony of this is that NA-people often use this 'powerlessness' as a justification (another fave NA word, I seem to remember) for their continued drug use*.

Hey man, I suffer from the disease of addiction. I'm powerless of over my disease. It's my disease popping these pills into my mouth and putting these lines in my nose. Not me. God must hate me since he is so cruel, making me suffer so awfully... Damned this is some good shit.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons there are studies that show going to NA leads to a higher relapse rate than doing nothing at all about your problem -- except trying not to use, of course. That's right. Nothing at all.

If you don't believe me, google around a bit about twelve step stuff, and you'll see.

(I can't vouch for the veracity of all internet sources, but I've seen material that I must believe to be based on unbiased scientific research. The absolute truth? Well, there are lies, and there are damned lies... and then there's... you know what.)

Next time I will probably talk about the real magic show – the spiritual component of the NA 'disease'.

Until then:

BE A GOOD KID. SAY NO TO DRUGS.

*: It is important to remember that the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop using drugs. This means you can be using, and still be in NA.

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Comment by sk8eycat on April 9, 2014 at 10:04pm

About cars    ...both the vehicle and the driver have to be licensed by the state, and the driver has to pass both a written and a driving skills test.  At least the first time they apply for a driver's license.  And after a horrible accident about 10 years ago, older drivers now have to re-take a driving test.

Guns can be bought with NO license at gun shows, or out of the trunk of a car.  With no record of who bought what. 

Any time someone mentions licensing gun owners, the National Rifle Association has a fit, sends their (well-paid) lobbyists to congress and state legislatures to lean on elected representatives, and all the gun control advocates shut up or vanish.  Even though the majority of citizens here want some kind of control...especially when it comes to military type weapons that are good for nothing but killing large numbers of people at a time. 

That is NOT what the 2nd amendment is supposed to be about.

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
We now have a standing army (and other service branches) PLUS each state has a National Guard...we do not need every yayhoo to be armed to protect our nation anymore.  Especially not against religious nitwits who use airliners full of civilian passengers as bombs..

Nor do we need to hunt our food in what's left of the wilderness areas.

Comment by Sven Andersson on April 9, 2014 at 5:53pm

No, I don't think wheat should be illegal. (!?)

I strongly dislike that way of arguing.

'Handguns should be illegal. Mostly they used to kill or injure people, and often by accident.' 

'Cars hit people and kill them by accident, too. Does that mean cars should be illegal?'

I think its a form of sophistry.

In my home country the legislators have always been hardliners when it comes to drugs (not the penalties though). Even alcohol, to an extent. That may be the reason that I, as well as many other Swedes, are sceptical toward such things as legalization. We've always lived in a society where drugs are a big, big no-no. It should be said also that there are a lot of double standards, especially when it comes to alcohol. 

I am on the fence, but sort of more against than for legal marijuana.

On the other hand. A man who drinks too much may go home and beat the shit out of his girlfriend over some imagined slight. A man who has only smoked a joint is very unlikely to do such a thing, I believe... 

Comment by Luara on April 9, 2014 at 11:54am

There seems to be an association between consuming gluten and schizophrenia also - should wheat be illegal, then? 

People would probably say - look, if you are worried about the effects of gluten, don't use it, but let the rest of us eat what we like!

If marijuana use in adolescents causes schizophrenia, it doesn't cause much added risk.  If half or even 10% of teenage smokers became schizophrenic, people would notice and the drug wouldn't be used.  About 1% of people have schizophrenia anyway; the article you cited said that about 2% of teenagers who are heavy marijuana smokers become schizophrenic.  So percentage-wise it isn't much added risk. 

The marijuana/schizophrenia correlations are for heavy teenage users.  Especially for young teenage heavy MJ smokers. 

Most of us would figure that someone who is stoned a lot of the time, has emotional stuff going on.  And most of us would think that isn't a good way to live, even if we have nothing against recreational drugs. 

Using too much LSD can cook someone's brain.  That happened to Sid Barrett, he turned into a sort of potato from huge amounts of LSD, as I've heard.  But lots of things that are OK in moderation, are harmful in large amounts.  Like food :)

And, there are huge costs for the War on Drugs.  Here in the USA, the drug war and its side effects - people stealing, etc. to get money for drugs, murders committed in the context of the illegal drug trade, etc. - clog our court system.  One former prosecutor writes about the horrible effects of the drug war on our criminal justice system. 

I would say that altering one's consciousness is a fundamental right that people have - so that even if there were bad consequences to how people use that right, we should deal with the consequences. 

In the paper you cited, they talk of various epidemiological studies where they tried to control for confounding factors that might cause both heavy marijuana use AND schizophrenia.  Because those confounding factors were considered, they thought heavy marijuana use caused schizophrenia. 

However, the more recent study that I cited, sounds like they DID find a confounding factor that causes both heavy marijuana use and schizophrenia.  That confounding factor was the familial risk of schizophrenia.

Loren recently made a post about emotional abuse causing schizophrenia.  This could explain the marijuana/schizophrenia link.  Emotional abuse is passed on from one generation to the next in families, so families with a high incidence of schizophrenia are likely to be emotionally abusive families.  And, teenagers who become heavy marijuana users are probably doing this because they're in emotional pain from their abusive families. 

Anyway, the best way to keep marijuana away from adolescents is probably to make the illegal market as small as possible, by legalizing it.  And have stiff penalties for anyone who supplies marijuana to an adolescent. 

Comment by Sven Andersson on April 8, 2014 at 6:37am

I found an interesting article in English here.

There is a lot of material to read concerning cannabis and psychosis/schizophrenia. I won't pretend to have read even 5% of it.

Nicotine is a terrible drug in some ways. It's been shown to be more addictive than heroin. Although I no longer smoke, I am still using nicotine in the form of Swedish Snus, and have failed to quit several times.

As to how I got over my addiction... I'll tell you some things about that later!

Comment by Luara on April 8, 2014 at 6:14am

Sven,

You said something similar on a "should marijuana be legal" thread, but didn't give any links or references.

People are eager to blame things on drugs, so it doesn't mean much when they do.  There is also likely to be more funding for research that might implicate a drug. 

I looked around a bit on the marijuana/schizophrenia issue, and I didn't see anything except some research suggesting that teenagers, especially young teenagers, who smoke a lot of marijuana - like daily - are more likely to become schizophrenic. 

Other research suggests otherwise - that the family predisposition to schizophrenia is the cause, not marijuana use:

While cannabis may have an effect on the age of onset of schizophrenia it is unlikely to be the cause of illness

Correlation is not causation. A long time ago, someone observed to me that people seemed to choose drugs that were similar to their own natural tendencies.  So people with a tendency to schizophrenia might choose marijuana, since it's a mild hallucinogen.  

Or, BOTH the schizophrenia and marijuana use might be encouraged by someone's preference for fantasy.  We don't know which way the causation works. 

Anyway, nobody (at least around here) wants to make recreational drugs available to teenagers.  And it seems likely that that legalized drugs are less available to teenagers than illegal drugs, since the sale is controlled. 

Tobacco is an example of a truly dangerous and addictive drug that is legal.  About 90% of smokers started when they were underage.  A lot of the reason is teenage rebellion and the sensitivity of teenagers to peer pressure.  Teenage smoking has decreased recently. 

Probably a lot of the smoking problem is because of the difficulty in quitting.  It seems to me that reducing drug use is better done by improving the help for people with drug problems - because most of the people who realize they have a drug problem, do want to quit.  If there were better help with quitting, smoking (and other drugs) would be less prevalent and teenagers would be less exposed to cigarettes. 

And when teenagers see so much exaggerated propaganda against drugs, it makes them skeptical of valid health warnings also. 

So how did you get over your addiction?  If drugs were legal, or even if just marijuana were legal, would you be afraid you would end up using more of them?  I can see how someone who feels out of control around speed, say, might have a hard time going into a drug store, if a drug they're addicted to was sold there.  Suppose advertising for speed were illegal, and speed was something that was behind the counter in a drug store, and you would have to ask for it?  Suppose that when you bought speed in a drugstore, you also got a referral to a drug treatment program?

Comment by Sven Andersson on April 7, 2014 at 9:36pm

Luckily for the rest of the world, I am not Global Emperor (yet) so I don't get to decide if Marijuana should be legal or not.

Comment by sk8eycat on April 7, 2014 at 8:58pm

What about people who can benefit from judicious use of marijuana...people on chemo who can't eat (no appetite and/or constant nausea), or people with glaucoma...THC seems to reduce the pressure in the eye at a MUCH lower cost than prescribed eye-drops.

I don't like the effect grass has on me, clogs my sinuses for one thing, but I know one successful author who smokes needle-thin joints from time to time.  It doesn't seem to affect his productivity, creativity, common sense, and sense of humor.

Comment by Sven Andersson on April 7, 2014 at 7:32pm

Well I smoked some back when I used too, but not any more. As I said -- I used to think that THC should be legal, but I don't really think so nowadays. Apparently they have recently figured out that THC can lead to a dramatically increased chance of developing mental illness, especially in people who have a predispotition of some sort. Schizophrenia being the most common type of disorder, I seem to remember.

When I read about this I thought of a former friend of mine. He had trouble with staying away from hashish, and once he came to a meeting clearly baked. Then all of a sudden, he started to scream and shout, running around taking off all his clothes, storming around the church where the meeting was completely nude ranting and raving about God talking to him. They had to put him in a psych ward. Apparently he is still severely psychotic and on heavy medication, many years later. I've heard it was a psychotic break probably brought on by smoking THC. 

Comment by Luara on April 7, 2014 at 7:01pm

Here, the users of hard drugs tend to become part of a criminal underclass.  They steal, sell drugs or prostitute themselves for drug money.  I don't know how often people end up in jail just for having drugs - but they may end up in jail for what they do to get the drugs. 

I used marijuana for 25 years, about every couple weeks.  It was always an interesting experience, I would write poetry stoned and think differently. 

Comment by Sven Andersson on April 7, 2014 at 6:26pm

Well, the sentences are pretty mild in Sweden. Almost all people who get convicted for drugs are only fined, or sent to a treament facility (if they don't behave themselves, they are sent to prison, however. But even then the time they have to spend behind bars is very short).

I've never been in trouble with the law, so I don't know much about this stuff, really.

It used to be that possession for own use and/or having controlled substances in your body wasn't a punishable crime in Sweden, but they changed the law. Ironically, use of illegal drugs in Sweden has skyrocketed since then. Good job, law!

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