Pitfalls Drug Alcohol

11-17-2017

We are not all equal in the face of addiction

In a previous article (Are We All Equal in the Face of Addiction?), I mentioned a fascinating study that Pier Vincenzo Piazza, a leading expert on drug addiction, conducted in 2004 on a group of rats. After getting unlimited access to cocaine for three months, only 17% of the rats had become addicted to the drug, while the rest had no difficulty either in reducing their intake or in stopping it entirely when the drug wasn’t available anymore, or when it triggered a painful incident, like an electric shock.

Simply put, the study showed that an individual’s personal degree of vulnerability is a determining factor in the development of an addiction. Which begs the following question: Is there a way to measure our personal vulnerability? Unfortunately, no. It can only be discovered after we’ve fallen into the drug’s devious trap, much like the fly in the deadly nepenthes…

Pitfalls Drug Alcohol

 

 

The fly probably thinks it has wandered quite by chance into a fabulous, all-you-can-eat fast food joint, when in fact, the poor insect is being set up to be the flower’s main course. Along with gravity, the slippery inner lining of the flower pulls the unwary victim downwards.

 

 

The fly and its nemesis, the nepenthes

The nepenthes is a carnivorous plant that supplements its nutritional intake by attracting unsuspecting insects into its clever and unforgiving trap.

“The plant is shaped like a funnel, the inside of which is coated in a sweet, slippery nectar and at the bottom is a pit containing liquid. The fly lands on the rim and begins to drink. As it does so it feels itself slipping down the funnel towards the pit, in which the drowned bodies of other flies are slowly being digested. But instead of flying away, the fly continues to drink. The nectar tastes good—it seems like the best thing in the world, but it’s the very thing that is luring the fly to its death.

Just as the full horror of its predicament doesn’t dawn on the fly until it’s past the point of no return and it realizes it can’t escape, drinkers don’t realize they’re stuck in the trap until they’re well and truly hooked. They believe that they’re in control and drinking because they enjoy it. Only when they try to quit do they realize they’re trapped.” [1]

The fly probably thinks it has wandered quite by chance into a fabulous, all-you-can-eat fast food joint, when in fact, the poor insect is being set up to be the flower’s main course. Along with gravity, the slippery inner lining of the flower pulls the unwary victim downwards. Is the parallel with drug addiction becoming clear? Think about it: why would the fly see reason to worry? It’s got wings! Even when it notices a few floating corpses down below, it’s pretty sure it’s got things under control, and that it would be utterly foolish to fly away when such delectable, free goodies are available. Eventually, the insect cannot carry its own weight and fly away. Worse: the harder it tries to flee, the lower it sinks, until it finally meets its tragic demise, among its unfortunate companions…

 

Pitfalls Drug Alcohol

 

Think about it: why would the fly see reason to worry? It’s got wings! Even when it notices a few floating corpses down below, it’s pretty sure it’s got things under control, and that it would be utterly foolish to fly away when such delectable, free goodies are available. Eventually, the insect cannot carry its own weight and fly away. Worse: the harder it tries to flee, the lower it sinks, until it finally meets its tragic demise, among its unfortunate companions…

 

Should the fly be ashamed of its failure?

The fly realizes it’s been caught only when flying away has become impossible. You could say it’s become addictus, a Latin term that means “to be in state of slavery.” In a previous article (The Two Faces of Drug Addiction) I described how I found myself in this exact same situation, after I was put on a course of pharmaceutical grade drugs to deal with anxiety issues. I caved in and asked for help only once I realized that the more I tried to free myself, the more I was sucked into addiction’s darkest depths. I was, quite literally, caught in its trap.

I might have asked for help sooner, had I not felt a burning shame about what I had become. Some of my friends had been prescribed the same drug, at a 1 mg dosage, and they had been taking it for years without any apparent problem. How could they understand that I craved it so much more than they did, to the point where I was using 10 mg of it every day, meaning 10 times more than they did? I was afraid my friends and my family would judge me. So I concealed and lied about the true extent of my problem, hoping all along I would sooner rather than later manage my way out of this nightmare.

I didn’t want people to say I lacked personal will. To be honest, I sincerely wanted to break free. But cutting my intake, even progressively, actually led me to increase it later on, to compensate for the crushing withdrawal symptoms. In general, the withdrawal symptoms of a drug are at the opposite end of its purported benefits. I was on benzodiazepines, which have anxiolytic, hypnotic, muscle relaxant, and antiepileptic effects. Therefore, reducing my dosage brought on terrible bouts of insomnia, anxiety, muscle pain, and epilepsy or convulsion seizures.

But David won over Goliath, right?

 

Pitfalls Drug Alcohol

 

 

 

Unlike the fly stuck in the nepenthes, drug users can escape from their addiction. But, just like David did with Goliath, they must use a trick.

 

 

 

Unlike the fly stuck in the nepenthes, drug users can escape from their addiction. But, just like David did with Goliath, they must use a trick. They must not rely on their addicted mind that only tells them that more drugs are the solution.

This trick is simple, but it entails three, well-coordinated steps:

  1. They have to admit there is a problem, and that they can’t solve it on their own;
  2. They must ask for help and accept it (by calling Portage, for example);
  3. They have to uncover the reasons why they use drugs in the first place (Portage’s therapeutic community can help us do that).

 

Historical insight

Nepenthe is an Ancient Greek word that Homer used in his Odyssey (700 BC). It means “that which chases away sorrow,” and is believed to be a juice-based drink made with the plant and used to ease painful emotions, such as grief, anger, and hatred. Which goes to show that men have been using psychotropic substances to deal with distress for millennia. Therefore, should we judge the individuals who fall into its trap?

 

Isabelle Saine

Blogger for Portage

Lan Vi Pham

Editor and Translator

 

Read From Jail to Sobriety, testimonial of a resident

Read How Marijuana Destroyed Me, testimonial of a resident

 

[1] Carr, Allan. Easy Way to Control Alcohol. Arcturus Publishing, London, 2002, pp. 68-69.

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