Deaths from prescription opioids have increased 471 percent among women in the last two decades.
Most people don’t understand why someone would choose not to drink anymore.
That’s the thing about recovery: if you stick with it, it introduces you to yourself.
“We’re talking about extreme alterations of normal brain function.”
“I have to actively stop myself from having affairs. I fail a lot.”
My name is Luisa, and I’m in an unhealthy relationship with my Chapstick.
Drugs softened the edges of the stranglehold of depression.
I’m grateful for the six years I spent drinking to blackout and snorting various substances.
I have no control over myself when it comes to consuming candy.
A woman and her vibrator: a love story?
It’s not easy – and you can do it.
Let your phone cover do the talking.
It’s a hard life, but somebody’s gotta do it.
Mark Twain said that quitting an addiction to tobacco was easy; he had done it often. But what is an addiction? According to Psychology Today, an accepted definition for an addiction is: ‘a condition that results when a person ingests a substance or engages in an activity that can be pleasurable but the continued use/act of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities.’
We intuitively know what an addiction is; when a behaviour becomes an addiction is more problematic. Is someone watching television for eight hours a day an addiction? Do two cigarettes a day constitute an addiction? Is gambling £10 a day an addiction?
Quite what causes a treat to lapse into an addiction is open to debate. Addictions such as smoking and drug abuse will arise as some form of biological alteration, where the brain and body decides that it likes a certain chemical and wants more. When an attractive and pleasurable behaviour occurs in the animal brain the neurotransmitter dopamine is released into the system, but the brain can grow to desire more, and the initial hit is not enough – combine that with cues around us such as availability and advertising, and the hit becomes irresistible.
Other addictions may be generated by one’s life situation or state of mind. Behaviours such as polishing off pints of alcohol, placing £100 on Arsenal to win, and purchasing wigs do not seem rational or even comparable, but each may counteract a feeling of emotional stress. That stress might be counteracted by one behaviour, or many; a highly-addictive personality might swap between an uncontrollable need for alcohol or drugs, simply because they must quell the needy parts of their behaviour.
This substitution method at least gives an option for the person desperate to kick a habit. Smokers worldwide, for example, have tried many methods of breaking their addiction such as gums and nicotine patches, with varying results. E-cigarettes however not only recreate the addictive chemical element of nicotine, but also the physical actions of lifting a tool to the mouth and drawing.
It is perhaps no surprise then that sales of patches and gum fell by 3% last year, dropping for the first time since 2008. Meanwhile vaping device sales grew by 75%, thanks to the efforts of scientifically astute companies such as EL-Science, creating an alternative to traditional smoking that’s fun, funky and a viable alternative to smoking.
According to journalist Johann Hari, who has researched drug addiction across the globe, a combination of cues and an unhappy, deprived lifestyle can often be the impetus behind an addiction. His theory, revealed in the Huffington Post, was partially based on experiments on rats that had developed an addiction to drugged water before being placed in more pleasant conditions and subsequently kicking their habits.
Combine that with worldwide evidence that seems to suggest placing people in recuperative, replenishing and pleasant environments to conquer their demons, as opposed to punishing them, and the likelihood of success is higher. Much like prisoners, removing negative cues and giving a sufferer a desire to achieve, and more than anything, human connections, seems to work.
Ice, also known as Crystal Meth, has been blamed for causing many a tragedy. Recently, the murder of Phil Walsh, coach of AFL’s Adelaide Crows, was yet another one. Obviously there’s far more to that particular case than just Ice use, yet from a bystanders perspective it’s hard to imagine any drug fueling that type of rage.
What’s scary from a public perspective is that violence has become highly associated with Ice and use is reaching epidemic proportions. Paramedics, ER staff and mental health specialists all acknowledge a link does exist between Ice use and violence. So what is it about this particular drug that makers users so aggressive?
I’ve done a bit of research on why Crystal Meth can make users so agro and it does appear to be correlated with various things. Firstly, it’s related to how the drug interacts with chemicals within the brain. Neurotransmitters such as dopamine are affected which predominately relates to impulses, mental processes and the brains pleasure centre. You see, it’s the release of dopamine that makes people feel euphoric, hence why Ice can be so addictive. After all, who doesn’t want to feel good?
What happens after the dopamine is released in Ice users is unlike what occurs with natural dopamine release and reuptake absorption in non-users. Ice users don’t experience reabsorption. Instead, they experience a gradual accumulation, meaning it doesn’t go anywhere and basically just sits there.
The drug also affects other neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and epinephrine. These then affect noradrenaline and adrenaline systems which are responsible for our flight or flight mechanisms – the brains chemicals that cause us to experience fear. So given the intensity of this feeling, plus the fact that this drug can last for days, paranoia can easily set in. The brain of an Ice user is in a constant state of preparedness to fight or flee.
Obviously, this isn’t normal and can in itself cause exhaustion. Think of the times when your flight or flight mechanisms have kicked in; and now imagine having that sensation for a prolonged period. Seriously, how exhausting!
The other neurotransmitter Ice affects is serotonin, which is directly linked to emotional well-being. If serotonin is lacking a person can feel flat, depressed, anxious or angry. This isn’t the only avenue where anger enters the equation, however. There are still some other elements.
One is the pre-disposition of the user. If they are generally angry or irritable, Ice can highlight this trait. Then there’s the lifestyle of users; prolonged drug use can cause a heap of social, financial and legal problems. Therefore, most don’t have perfect lives and frustration would be a regular experience. All this can effect their perception, ability to cope, mental health and their environment, given they often mix with other users experiencing similar circumstances.
With this combination of factors all occurring simultaneously it’s easy to see how this drug can fuel aggression, even in the most placid person. If you think about it, it’s hard enough functioning with no sleep let alone neurotransmitters acting abnormally, life at it’s worst and things generally spinning rapidly toward a downward spiral. Eventually somethings got to give – and it does. This is generally when the violence occurs, like a perfect storm of circumstances which have accumulated and then erupted. Unfortunately, though, much of it isn’t rational or proportional and is predominately why this drug is rapidly becoming so deadly.
Image via Herald Sun