How to Quit Drugs for Good
From the book
How to Quit Drugs for Good
(for more about the book, click here)
How This Book Can Help
Almost every day, we hear something more about society’s “War on Drugs.” Newspapers and magazines routinely barrage us with new details of America’s “drug epidemic.” Government officials and local school board administrators call for more drug prevention programs in the schools.
What is happening? Can our drug problem be so big that we need an all-out war to fight it?
There are different points of view concerning drugs. Many people ask, “What’s the matter with catching a little buzz now and then?” This is a common question. You’ll hear it especially among those who’ve just started into treatment for a drug problem.
Yet answering this question can be difficult. To be realistic, we must answer, “Maybe nothing.” Maybe there’s nothing wrong with catching a little buzz now and then. But we need to be specific. Maybe nothing’s wrong if it’s really only a little buzz, if it’s really only now and then, and if it’s not causing some kind of problem in our lives. A morning cup of coffee once a week would qualify.
Of course, it’s not easy to content ourselves with little buzzes. Many of us go for bigger and bigger buzzes, perhaps even a veritable din of buzzes. Some of us will settle for nothing less than having a blast. And it’s not easy to limit ourselves. If something gives us a rush, some overwhelming sense of pleasure however brief, we want to do it again. And again. We don’t care to wait. And once we start going for it, going for the buzzes and pleasures in a big way, these substances—no matter how innocent they might seem—begin to cause problems in our lives.
Recent statistics from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services show that nearly five million people have, at least some time in their lives, entered treatment for a drug problem. This is just the number who entered treatment.
How many more have a problem with drugs who didn’t enter treatment? SAMHSA’s National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (1996) showed that 23 million Americans had used some variety of illicit drug during the past year. What was counted as an illicit drug? Marijuana, cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, phencyclidines (PCP), methamphetamine, inhalants, and the nonmedical use of psychotherapeutics (e.g., stimulants, sedatives, tranquilizers, and analgesics). Among this 23 million, 3.8 million were teenagers, aged 12 to 17.
The same survey revealed that more than 13 million people used an illicit drug during the past month, a figure that included more than two million teenagers. Any or all of these 13 million “current users” could have some kind of problem with drugs.
Things Haven’t Always Been this Way
Sixty-five years ago, hardly anyone used illicit drugs. A few people used reefer. A few people were hooked on morphine. Most of them were started on it for a medical reason—to kill pain. A few people were hooked on barbiturates. Again, most had been started on it medically—to help with sleep. Only one person had tripped on LSD, Dr. Albert Hoffmann, who ingested it inadvertently in 1938 after he had synthesized it at Sandoz Laboratories in Switzerland. Hardly anyone was addicted to cocaine. In fact, an initial wave of cocaine use had already come and gone. From the late 1800s to the early 1900s, cocaine had appeared as a key ingredient in numerous “medical” tonics (including Coca-Cola from 1886 to 1903), and a small but significant percentage of people got hooked on these. The smokable forms of cocaine, known as freebase and crack, had not yet been invented. Hardly anyone had touched heroin. A small percentage of people were hooked on amphetamines, primarily because of a popular bronchial dilator known as the “Benzedrine inhaler,” developed by Smith, Kline, and French and available in the 1930s and 1940s. It became known on the street as the “B-Bomb.” Tranquilizers had not been developed yet, nor had PCP. If anyone got high from inhaling solvents (e.g., glue or gasoline), it was almost always a mistake, usually from working too long around these substances in an enclosed area.
Sixty-five years ago, the main drugs of choice were the legal ones—alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine. They were all used by significant percentages of people. But whatever drug people chose to use, the people doing the choosing were almost invariably adults, over the age of 18. In the 1950s, drug use began to increase. Marijuana led the way. It started among young adults, people mainly in their twenties, often in college or just graduated from college. A key segment of this group who popularized the use of marijuana called themselves “beatniks.” During the beatnik era, smoking opium and using one of its derivatives, heroin, became popular, but only on a small scale and once again only among adults.
During the 1960s, things changed dramatically. In this decade, we witnessed significant increases in the use of nearly all classes of illicit drugs. This was the era of the “hippies.” It too began among young adults—people who had already graduated high school. By the late 1960s, a whole generation—nearly everyone aged 18 to 25—had tried, or were currently using, some kind of mind-altering drug. The leading edge of the baby-boom generation, these folks could be found almost everywhere, from the back streets of big cities to college campuses.
In the 1970s, the hippies’ quest for peace, love, and flower power continued. Not only did more and more young adults begin using drugs, but more and more older children began using them. It was during this era that we witnessed a steady lowering of the “age of entry,” and by the late 1970s drug use had become common among high schoolers.
In the 1980s, the age of entry into the drug scene dropped even further. During this decade, drug use became even more common among high schoolers but also had started a trend among middle schoolers. Today, significant percentages of middle schoolers have tried, or have begun using, at least one illicit drug.
Also, there’s another key trend. From the 1970s to the present, people in all age-groups have begun using a greater variety of drugs. In terms of the numbers of people who have used one or more illicit drugs, marijuana leads the way, followed by cocaine, hallucinogens, inhalants, analgesics, amphetamines and other stimulants, tranquilizers, PCP, sedatives, and heroin. Based on SAMHSA’s 1996 survey on drug abuse, the following percentages of Americans have used the following drugs at some time during their lives: 34.8% (marijuana), 10.3% (cocaine), 9.7% (hallucinogens), 5.6% (inhalants), 5.5% (analgesics, i.e., painkillers), 4.7% (amphetamines or other stimulants), 3.6% (tranquilizers), 3.2% (PCP), 2.3% (sedatives), and 1.1% (heroin). This comprises the list of drugs that you’ll find specifically detailed in this book. However, I’ve also included some information on alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, and over-the-counter medications, especially concerning their role in the use of, and recovery from, drugs.
Clearly, our society has changed in many ways. During the past 50 years, an ever greater number of people have begun using an ever greater variety of drugs. This has become most obvious among people in the younger generations. Indeed, their whole world has changed. In his book Familyhood, Dr. Lee Salk reported the top seven school problems of the 1940s: talking in class, chewing gum, making noise, running in the halls, cutting into line, dress-code violations, and littering. He then compared these to the top seven school problems of the 1990s: drug abuse, alcohol abuse, pregnancy, suicide, rape, robbery, and assault. Of course, a person’s involvement in the first two problems of the 1990s (drug and alcohol abuse) often leads to the other problems (pregnancy, suicide, rape, robbery, and assault). What might help in our schools? What might help in our society? Would it help if more people decided to quit using drugs?
Would it help you in any way if you could quit using drugs?
Approaches to Quitting
If you’ve ever tried quitting drugs, you know it can be difficult. In fact, without the right approach, it can be nearly impossible. What’s the right approach? The right approach is whatever’s “right for you.”
Each person needs to find his or her own way. The best approach for you will be the one that feels comfortable to you and that offers techniques suited to your individual needs. But it’s up to you to learn what will work for you. You must decide.
Many programs have been proven to work. Yet treatment professionals still recommend one specific program, Narcotics Anonymous (NA), more than any other. Unfortunately, many drug users who want to quit don’t want to join NA. They don’t like NA’s approach for one reason or another. You might feel this way, too. Here are the two main reasons people give for disliking NA:
- NA bases its program on a specific religious and moral philosophy. If the philosophy doesn’t match your own, you’re more likely to fail, no matter how hard you try. Part of this approach requires a moralistic attitude that many people aren’t willing to adopt.
- NA offers group therapy with a social support network. This can be very successful for those who feel comfortable in groups. However, many drug-dependent individuals feel extremely anxious in a group. These people can’t function in a group unless they’re high.
There’s one other problem with NA. Along with its parent organization, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), it has been stubbornly resistant to change. The Twelve Step program has remained basically the same since its inception in 1935. Even when new discoveries show how recovering individuals can improve their health, AA and NA haven’t incorporated these techniques into their programs. In fact, AA and NA neglect to offer any information on how to treat the physical damage caused by addiction.
But repairing the body must be an essential goal of recovery. This becomes clear when you consider that drug addiction is a biological disorder causing damage to every one of the body’s cells. The ongoing cellular damage leads to numerous diseases with serious physical and mental side effects. When you quit drugs, you can improve dramatically by using healing techniques that repair this damage.
Other important treatment goals include the fulfillment of your social, emotional, and spiritual needs. To meet these other needs, it helps if you have a variety of options. That way, you can choose the options best suited to your nature.
A New Self-Help Approach
At present, many programs offer alternative approaches to breaking a drug addiction. Many of these new alternatives, including the self-help approach in this book, allow you to choose your own specific techniques. Within a given framework, you discover what works for you and then begin to use it. In this way, you plan an approach uniquely suited to your needs.
The self-help approach in this book is based on one simple premise: You can take responsibility for your own health. By doing so, not only will you want to stop taking drugs but you also will learn how. Once you know the specific problems you need to overcome and the best methods for achieving your goals, you can do this with relative ease. With this book you will examine your individual need for drugs, decide when to quit, develop your own treatment plan, choose the techniques that will work for you, and create your own success.
It’s up to you. This self-help approach offers you everything you need—the latest facts, the best new treatment methods, and an organized plan to guide you. Now, more than ever before, you can choose to help yourself.