do you have a drug problem?

Addiction is a primary, progressive, and fatal illness which responds to medical treatment. If left untreated, addictions result in insanity and premature death. Addiction has also been described as a pathological relationship to a substance, person, behavior or process.

The idea that addicts are weak willed or morally corrupt has long ago been debunked. That attitude keeps people from seeking treatment and fosters shame and fear around their illness. Addicts and the people who love them are often the last to accept the disease concept - this relates to shame, denial and the need to prove that they are in control.

"Shaming" addicts for their use and using behavior is counter productive, creates barriers to recovery, and greatly complicates the recovery process once begun. Addicts feel enormous shame as it is - adding to this shame is not only cruel, but may spur greater use.

Addicts medicate shame, fear, anger and pain. Increasing the burden of shame can lead to overdose and / or suicide.

signs + symptoms of addiction

- When you drink or use drugs, does it take more or less to get you drunk or high than it used to? (Increasing or decreasing tolerance is a sign of addiction.)

- Do you ever drink or use more than you intended to? (This indicates loss of control over your use.)

- Do you make sure you have a supply of drugs or always keep a bottle on hand? (Do you call the dealer before your stash is gone, drive across town at rush hour to refill that prescription, or lay in a case on Saturday night so you'll have it when the liquor stores are closed on Sunday? Preoccupation with supply is a characteristic of addiction.)

- Do you have blackouts or brownouts - forget what you have done or said, or "lose time" after drinking or using? (Blackouts are indicative of late stage alcoholism or addiction.)

- Do you ever drink or use drugs in the morning to reduce anxiety or cope with a hangover? (This indicates progression of addiction, hangovers are actually the onset of withdrawal.)

- Do you ever find yourself wishing for a drink or drug to calm down or steady yourself? (This indicates preoccupation and self medication, as well as progression of addiction, as what prompts this is often physical withdrawal symptoms.)

- Do you ever drink when taking prescription medications which advise against drinking alcohol? (This shows powerlessness over your drinking. It is also very dangerous. Remember Karen Anne Quinlan?)

- Have you ever gone to work or school drunk or high? (This indicates powerlessness and unmanageability in your life.)

- Do you have a history of relationships with addicts or alcoholics? (Codependent alcoholics and addicts often unconsciously find addicted partners - it allows them a smoke screen to hide behind. "I may drink or use, but I'm not like them.")

- Do you find yourself using alcohol, drugs or sex to reduce anxiety or help you sleep? (Addicts medicate emotional pain, anxiety and fear. Benzodiazapine based anti anxiety drugs - Xanex, Valium etc. -are highly addictive. Most sleeping meds are very addictive, and often have a paradoxical effect - making sleep disturbances worse with continued use.)

- When prescribed medication, do you take more than prescribed? ("If one is good - two is better": this belief is at the center of addictive thinking.)

- Have friends, family or loved ones ever commented on or expressed concern about your use? (Addicts are usually the last to recognize their disease - denial is an automatic and unconscious component of addiction. If you insist that you don't have a problem you probably do! If this makes you angry - ask yourself why?)

- Do you conceal your use from family, friends, therapists or loved ones, or "edit" stories involving your drinking or using? (Secretiveness, denial and lies about use are characteristic of active addicts and alcoholics.)

- Do you ever drink or use alone? (Indicates you are not a "social" drinker. Also, isolation and a feeling of "being different" or "not fitting in" are a common personality trait of addicts / alcoholics.)

- Do you do or say things you later regret when drinking or using? (Impaired judgement from drinking or using indicate powerlessness over use. Behavioral changes when drinking or using are a sign of progression, loss of control and late stage addiction.)

- Have you ever had a DUI, driven drunk, or had a drug or alcohol related accident or injury?

- Have you slept in your car, or away from home because you were too drunk to drive?

- Are you relieved when someone else drives so you are free to drink or use? (Drinking and driving indicates powerlessness over use, and is a part of the unmanageability of active addiction.)

- Have you ever stopped or cut back on drinking or using because you felt it was causing problems in your life? (Life difficulties around use indicate a problem - many alcoholics and addicts temporarily modify their patterns of using in an effort to prove to themselves that they have control of their use. Non-alcoholics don't need to prove they are in control!

Stopping drinking or use for a period is usually not difficult, staying abstinent from all mood altering substances for long periods is nearly impossible for untreated addicts.)

- Is your life increasingly chaotic and turbulent? (Unmanagability is indicated by accidents, missed appointments, unpaid / late bills and rent, work and relationship difficulties, a generalized sense of desperation, and pervasive sadness or anger. A life out of control is often traceable to the progression of addiction. Addicts typically project their unmanagability outward - blaming everything but the addiction for their problems. Addicts drink or use because they are addicted. Difficult life events may trigger addictive acting out - but they are not the cause of an addict's use.)

- Do you switch from one substance to another, or change drinks in an effort to regain control? (Switch from Scotch to Beer? Stop drinking but start taking pills? Give up marijuana but start drinking? Quit drinking but become sexually promiscuous? This is called cross addiction.)

- Do you believe you're not an addict because your drug of choice is legal or prescribed? (Go ask Elvis about this one! Many Medical Doctors are shockingly unaware of addiction issues, and of the addictive nature of many commonly prescribed drugs.)

If you answered yes to any of these questions you may want to look at your using and drinking patterns. If you answered yes to two moderating your drinking or use would be a good idea; three or more you would be well advised to seek professional help.

If you have an addict or alcoholic in your life the prudent course is compassionate and loving confrontation of their addictive behavior coupled with presenting a treatment option. This is called intervention.

If you just took this test for someone else - you may wish to learn more about codependency. Addicts cannot be "made to recover" - effective recovery work requires personal willingness. If someone you love has a problem you can (and should) confront their use and using behaviors. You cannot control, cure or fix the problem. Sometimes you have to let go and let them continue in the addiction until things get so bad that their misery outweighs their fear of change.

Copyright 2003

a superb book about addiction + depression

I still have the telephone bill listing the charge for my last exchange with Michael, a singularly scarifying argument. "I feel fantastic!" I later told my psychiatrist. "This sense of freedom is intoxicating. It's the first time he heard no love in my voice at all." Michael's appetite for my love (in whatever form) was insatiable. Our connection had disturbed me for seven years. There were times I called him and he was so drugged he grunted, dropped the receiver, and passed out; my efforts to alert his neighbors were frantic. He may have overdosed! I was distraught (hitting the wall until I hurt my fist, panicked by images of his corpse, rendered near-insensible by tears). Bizarre on hallucinogenic drugs, he once laughed madly in my face (this was the worst moment between us). He rang me, drunk, to say he had dialed the number of a certain man. Why? I asked. And he slurred: Because he loves you, too. After I left, he did not change the bed linen for weeks. That pink and white pin-striped cotton, so redolent of blood and come. He said: I need your smell. Few knew of our intense connection. How could I explain the certainty that he would fall?

Buy The Eclipse: A Memoir of Suicide by Antonella Gambotto-Burke

cocaine, ecstasy causes DNA mutations

Cocaine and ecstasy not only cause addiction and raise the risk of cancer but also provoke genetic mutations, Italian scientists said today.

"Cocaine and ecstasy have proved to be more dangerous than we had imagined," said Giorgio Bronzetti, chief scientist at the National Centre for Research's (CNR) biotechnology department. "These drugs, on top of their toxicological effects, attack DNA, provoking mutations and altering the hereditary material. This is very worrying for the effects it could have on future generations."

The use of ecstasy, a drug popular at all-night dance parties, increased by 70 per cent between 1995 and 2000 according to a United Nations report published in September. Ecstasy and amphetamines have overtaken cocaine and heroin as the fastest growing global narcotics menace, the study said.

The CNR report, which took more than three years to complete, said animal tests had shown a direct relationship between ecstasy and cocaine intake and the effects on DNA. "In other words, the longer the time frame of drug consumption, the greater the damage to DNA," Bronzetti said.

Copyright 2003 Reuters

ecstasy can ruin mental health for life: study

By John von Radowitz and Brigid Delaney

Taking just one or two ecstasy pills could cause long-lasting brain damage and lead to depression, scientists have warned.

A team of British psychologists found that people who had tried ecstasy only a few times had depression levels four times higher than those who had taken a range of other drugs, but not ecstasy.

Although they did not qualify as clinically depressed, they were left susceptible to problems triggered by stress or emotional turbulence, the findings found.

Researcher Lynn Taurah, from the London Metropolitan University, said: "People often think taking ecstasy just once or twice won't matter, but we're seeing evidence that if you take ecstasy a couple of times you do damage to your brain that later in life will make you more vulnerable. Many of these people are working professionals, and you can imagine if they have a problem or a bit of stress in their life their depression levels could go up. Taking ecstasy is really not a good idea."

Ms Taurah said the findings supported evidence from animal studies suggesting that even small doses of ecstasy destroyed brain neurons that produced the chemical messenger serotonin, which is closely linked to mood.

However, Paul Dillon, information manager at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, said the findings were "alarmist and misleading".

"It's important to note that the animal studies and psychological studies are separate," he said. "It's still a leap to say one or two ecstasy pills causes long-term brain damage. A link between human use and brain damage has yet to be established."

Mr Dillon said findings that linked ecstasy use to depression are inconclusive as "many people who take the drug already have a predisposition to depression".

He said research should be conducted as to why the "drug is taken in the first place".

The researchers, who presented their findings to the British Psychological Society at the weekend, studied 519 volunteers. These included some who were current or past ecstasy users and others who had either never taken drugs or taken several drugs other than ecstasy, including alcohol and cannabis.

They were also broken down into those who had used the drug more or less than 20 times. Participants in the study were given a standard psychological questionnaire designed to discover to what extent they suffered from depression.

The results produced scores which once they passed the figure of 25 indicated that they were clinically depressed.

Non-ecstasy users, including those taking other drugs such as alcohol, nicotine, cannabis, amphetamines and cocaine, had average scores of about four.

Scores of non-frequent ecstasy users, including many who had only tried the drug once or twice, reached levels of 16 or 17.

For the frequent users, score values of up to 28 were found which put them in the category of clinically depressed.

Seven years after the initial damage there was no sign of the neurons repairing themselves.

Copyright 2003 John von Radowitz and Brigid Delaney

quick facts on american drug abuse

- Babies born to drug-abusing mothers cost taxpayers $20 billion dollars a year;

- Illegal drug-related deaths are estimated at 20,000 annually;

- Drug-using teens are 3 times more likely to commit suicide than their non-using peers;

- Drug abusing parents account for 50% of all child abuse cases;

- Drug abusers collecting SSI disability payments cost taxpayers over $1.7 billion a year;

- Three quarters of illegal drug users are employed - 15% of them admit to working while under the influence of drugs;

- Workers who use drugs are responsible for 40% of industrial fatalities;

- Drug abuse costs an estimated $65-$76 billion a year;

- Medical and benefits cost paid by employers for drug-using workers are more than 300% higher; and

- Health care cost directly attributable to illegal drug use exceeds $30 billion a year.

2001 NDEOA

not if you were the last junkie on earth

I never thought you'd be a junkie because heroin is so passe
And today if you think that I don't know about depression and emotional pain
You're insane, you're a fool who hasn't paid attention to a word that I say

In a way I can't help but feel responsible
I always knew that you were insane
With your pain

But I never thought you'd be a junkie because heroin is so passe
Heroin is so passe, heroin is so passe
So passe nowadays

You never thought you'd get addicted just be cooler in an obvious way
I can say:
Shouldn't you have got a couple piercings and decided maybe that you were gay

In a way, I can't help but feel responsible
I always knew that you were insane
With your pain

But I never thought you'd be a junkie because heroin is so passe
Heroin is so passe, heroin is so passe
Heroin is so passe, heroin is so passe, heroin is so passe

Copyright 2003

ecstasy's legacy

Several studies have now shown that the popular drug causes permanent brain damage.

By Kristin Leutwyler

It now appears that the fleeting sense of euphoria resulting from a hit of the club drug comes with a very long-term cost. That price, exacted through some strange system of neurochemical accounting, is a lack of one of the key brain chemicals contributing to feelings of well-being and happiness.

BRAIN CHANGES appear prominently in positron emission tomography (PET) scans of Ecstasy users as well as people who abstain. Drug users, though, have far less serotonin activity, as is indicated by the dark areas, compared to the controls. New studies show that this difference may contribute to permanent brain damage. In a paper appearing in the July 25 issue of Neurology, Stephen Kish of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto reports that Ecstasy causes a severe depletion in the brain of serotonin - the very same neurotransmitter that many antidepressant medications aim to augment.

To reach his conclusions, Kish compared the brain of a 26-year-old man who had died from a drug overdose to those of 11 subjects who did not use drugs. "The levels of serotonin and another chemical associated with serotonin were 50 to 80 percent lower in the brain of the Ecstasy user," Kish notes. Serotonin was particularly scarce in the striatal area of the brain, which helps coordinate movement.

These consequences make sense, Kish says, considering the drug's observed behavioral effects. Ecstasy, known chemically as < 3-4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), is related to mescaline, MDA and methamphetamine. And, like these other drugs, it prompts nerve cells to release a flood of serotonin.

Initially, this release would be expected to bring about the increased awareness of emotion and intimacy and self-confidence that Ecstasy users report. The ensuing chemical low tide could explain the depression users describe when they are coming down.

"Conclusions based on a single case can only be tentative," Kish urges."Of course, these findings should be confirmed through additional studies." But there is good reason to believe that further work will back Kish up. Although his study is the first to demonstrate dramatic and lasting brain damage, it is not the first to forge some sort of link between Ecstasy and serotonin.

George Ricaurte and his wife Una D. McCann, both at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions and experts in MDMA's effects, have with their colleagues performed numerous studies in humans and animals. In one, they compared PET scans of 14 Ecstasy users to 15 controls and found that the first group had far fewer serotonin transporters, spots on neurons responsible for reabsorbing the chemical. They found a similar trend in an imaging study of baboons and, when examining the monkeys' brain tissue, discovered an actual loss of serotonin nerve endings.

The researchers went on to find functional consequences of the physical differences after giving memory tests to 24 Ecstasy users and 24 people who had never used the drug. Drug users - even those who had not taken Ecstasy recently - found it much more difficult to remember what they had seen or heard during the tests.

"Our study extends the MDMA-induced memory impairment to at least two weeks since last drug use," commented Karen Bolla of Johns Hopkins. Also, it showed that the impairment was not due to withdrawal and was heavily dose-dependent.

It will take many more investigations to fully explain the toll Ecstasy takes on the brain, but a clear idea of the kinds of costs involved is emerging. "The message from these studies," says Joseph Frascella of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, "is that MDMA does change the brain, and it looks like there are functional consequences to these changes."

In other words, rave parties just got a lot more expensive.

Copyright 2002 Scientific American


Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe; no less than the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it's clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive God to be; and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it's still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

Anger - highly recommended
Children of drug abusers
Trauma and recovery
Learned helplessness
Debt: a new perspective
Optimism - the key
The biochemistry of hope
Learn about Antonella Gambotto-Burke
The laughter page
Find your own North Star

An essential + superb site for all those considering medication * highly recommended
Inspiring material on recovering from addiction

Links to various 12 Step programs
Narcotics Anonymous message boards - NOW!
Narcotics Anonymous live chat - NOW!
Narcotics Anonymous world service
Narcotics Anonymous UK
Narcotics Anonymous Australia: helplines
Facts about NA
Narcotics Anonymous mailing list - NOW!
Great free guided audio online relaxation exercises