Overcoming Drug Abuse and Addiction

A terrific battle occurs within every person who tries to be free from drug addiction. Addiction is the dependency created by the use of narcotics and other drugs which have the property of inducing such dependency. The use of narcotics produces both psychological and physiological dependency on that drug.

Some people may be more prone to addiction than others. However, there are many factors that bring on addiction. Emotional upheavals, unstable emotions early in life have been shown to create attitudes of despair and hopelessness in developing adults. Obviously the physical differences in people contribute to some being more severely addicted than others. But over all, any use of any of these kinds of narcotics produces addiction. Research has discovered that drug dependence is easier to acquire in people who may have an endorphin deficiency. Charles R. Carroll explains.

Drug dependence may be an endorphin deficiency. Within a theoretical framework, endorphins act somewhat like hormones (body-regulating chemicals in the blood) in a negative feedback relationship with the pituitary gland. When the concentration of a particular circulating hormone is high, the pituitary gland that triggers the release of the hormone stops production. On the other hand, when the concentration of the same hormone falls below necessary levels, the pituitary speeds up production once again to supply the need.

Applied to drug dependence, this theory suggests that the use of morphine or heroin effectively ties up the receptor sites and fools the natural feedback system. Natural endorphin production is halted. Now when the external narcotic is withdrawn, the system experiences an acute shortage of endorphins that cannot be quickly supplied by the manufacturing centers. Thus narcotic withdrawal symptoms appear. It seems likely, then, that long- term use of any narcotic would produce an endorphin shortage. If so, this deficiency could explain the craving for a particular narcotic that exists even after a drug-dependent person goes through withdrawal.” (Drugs in Modern Society, page 164-165).

Breaking narcotic dependency is definitely not easy. It is not as simply as just stopping the use of drugs. Once drugs are inhaled, injected, or ingested, they become part of a person’s physical functional life. Suddenly quitting drugs is called “Cold Turkey.” The name came from an effect called “the goose flesh effect.” The skin of the addict who suddenly stops all narcotic use resembles that of a plucked turkey. It is possible always to simply stop, but the likelihood of success is remote.

The most harmful addictive drug is heroin. Heroin is an extremely strong drug creating dependency on it the very first time it is used. In fact, there is really only one “high” users receive – the rest of the time they use heroin to ward off withdrawal pains.

Scientists have discovered that the use of a chemical called methadone helps in withdrawing one from heroin dependency.

German scientists developed heroin during World War II as a substitute for morphine, which has been used in Public Health Service facilities as a substitute for heroin. Methadone produces much the same effect as heroin but the feeling lasts much longer than heroin. It tends to reduce the user’s craving for a drug as well as other demands heroin puts on a user. Doctors felt it was a good alternative, especially since it is taken orally and not injected into the blood system, thus eliminating one of the adverse side effects of complications from unsanitary needles.

But methadone is but one addictive drug that is being substituted for another. At best it is possibly the lesser of two evils. Those who endorse the methadone programs argue that at least the addict is not forced into criminal activity to satisfy his craving. No one claims this is the definitive answer to breaking drug dependency.

Marijuana is a dependence creating narcotic. When users of this illegal substance begin smoking it they have a very small internal resistance to its effects. But with increased use that resistance increases thus making it necessary to smoke more and more with larger and larger doses of the plant to enjoy (?) its effects. Marijuana does not create the severe dependency that heroin does but continued use definitely creates a dependency that is not easy to overcome. Those who try to break the addiction experience such things as being very restless, very irritable, lesser appetites, increased perspiration, inability to sleep well, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea.

Carroll writes, “Some people experience losing control of their own marijuana use, eventually becoming dominated by the drug. Getting more marijuana can become a primary concern. Hopefully, the number of such people in the United States will make up only a small part of the total marijuana-using population.” Carroll then warns, “If only 5% of marijuana users reach this state, the nation will nevertheless have a monumental social and health problem!” (Ibid. page 305).

Nicotine is addictive and dependence producing. Smoking tobacco is perhaps the most widely accepted practice of drug abuse in society. It is a practice most have grown up with. The use of tobacco is something people learn – not something inherited as a basic part of their existence. I dare say nobody ever enjoyed the first inhaled smoke from a cigarette, or the first chew of tobacco. Everyone learns to like the effect of inhaled tobacco smoke or develop a taste for tobacco. Learning to use tobacco can be unlearned. Breaking nicotine dependency is not easy. Many smokers will appreciate the sentiment, “I am either going to quit – or quit quitting.” The old saying is, “Quitting is easy – I’ve done it thousands of times.” But it is far from easy.

Nicotine is the number one addictive substance in terms of simple numbers. While many smokers are breaking the dependency, still among young people there is an increasing number of them becoming “hooked.” Anyone who tries to break any addictive dependency faces statistics that are not promising. Most psychologists report that among those who try to quit tobacco there is an 80 percent rate of what they call “relapse.” Psychologist Saul Shiffman of the University of Pittsburgh was quoted as saying, “Relapses are the bugaboo of every quitter.” (Reader’s Digest, October 1989, page 165).

The best way to really quit nicotine abuse is “cold turkey.” There are medicines, hypnotic sessions, chemical patches, and group therapy that may be effective to some degree, but in the final analysis the nicotine addict must make a definite commitment to quit. It might help one to realize just how harmful nicotine is to the human body. Consider some of the following facts about tobacco itself.

The tobacco plant consists of starches, proteins, sugar, and hydrocarbons. When these are burned they are then changed into a complex aerosol mixture of gases and particulate matter. Particulates are the extremely small solids found in tobacco smoke, primarily nicotine and tar. When a person lights up a cigarette about 2000 compounds are generated. The temperature of the ignited tobacco reaches 900 degrees centigrade. The smoke is cooled to about 45 degrees by the time it enters the mouth. In the smoke there are such gases as nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide.

Carbon monoxide is the toxic element in the smoke. Carbon monoxide causes a decrease in the blood’s capacity to carry oxygen to the body. Chemists have also isolated nitrosamines, vinyl chloride, formaldehyde, nitrogen oxides, hydrogen cyanide, ammonia, and pyridine in a normal drag on a cigarette. Smokers, think about just before you light the next cigarette.

The small particles in cigarette smoke are irritants to the respiratory system. Nicotine and tar make up the bulk of these particulates. These are the elements of tobacco smoke that remain in the lungs. I remember blowing cigarette smoke through a white cloth. It leaves a permanent yellow stain. Tobacco tar is a yellow-brownish sticky mass that is known as a cancer producing agent. That agent is particularly known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH).

Nicotine is a slick and odorless drug. Research shows that nicotine triggers the release of catecholamines into the human body. These are the elements that trigger a very quick but temporary stimulation when one lights up and inhales the smoke. But there is more than that temporary satisfaction going on. Doctors have shown that nicotine in the human body causes an increased rate of pulse and blood pressure. It causes the heart to work much harder by constricting the blood vessels. This lowers the temperature of the skin, increases digestive actions, and increases breathing rate.

Another motivation to quit for health reasons is seen in undeniable statistics. Death due to cancer is much higher in smokers than in nonsmokers. Among smokers 30% more women die of cancer than men. Those who smoke and also contract heart trouble have a higher death rate than those who also contract heart problems but do not smoke. Smoking women put an unborn child in danger for three reasons at least.

• First, babies born to smoking mothers weigh less than babies from nonsmoking mothers.

• Second, there is an increased risk of fetal death, placental disorders, bleeding early or late in pregnancy, and premature birth.

• Third, smoking mothers increase the risk of “sudden infant death syndrome.”

These and may other reasons should cause anyone who has any kind of drug dependency to stop and think. Think what you do to yourself, to your families, and associates. And the way to total recovery is always possible. Here are a few principles that will absolutely work.

1. Know that you need help — there is no possible way drug dependence can ever be broken (whether severe or less severe) without first recognizing the need to stop.

2. Know that help is available. There numerous Federal, State, and local agencies offering help. (If you can’t find help, e-mail us and we will send you a list of agencies that offer help.)

3. Know the underlying reason why you became addicted. And just here please consider that the misuse of drugs is sinful. Sin always enslaves an individual who practices it (Rom. 6:16).

4. Realize that man alone is helpless. Divine intervention into man’s life is needed (Jer.10:23). God Almighty has provided that help in His word, the Bible, and through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ (Phil. 4:13).

5. Realize that God is on your side to help you (2 Pet. 3:9). He is not willing for you to perish — but He depends on you to listen to Him through His word and submit yourself to His way of living.

6. Genuinely and sincerely seek His pardon and forgiveness through sincere repentance (Isa. 55:6,7).

7. Pray for strength (Phil. 4:6-7).

8. Develop your own strengths by resisting sin (Eph. 6:10).

9. Seek the fellowship of God’s people (1 Cor. 15:33; Heb. 10:25).

10. Study the word of the Lord and grow (2 Pet. 3:18).

11. Above all, realize that you can be free from any kind of chemical dependency if you really try.