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05/29/2006 Archived Entry: "Common sense on opiate addiction"

COMMON SENSE ON OPIATE ADDICTION. Bill St. Clair pointed toward this excellent article on the myths and realities of opiate addiction. Congratulations to Theodore Dalrymple for having the guts to bust one of the anti-drug establishment's biggest myths -- the near impossibility of kicking heroin without vast "help" from a medical/political establishment. It just ain't so.

Heroin is dangerous, no joke. It's more seductive than sex and it can kill you dead (although that's largely a function of illegality and the inevitable uncontrollable doses). But people kick it all the time with relative ease. The few heroin addicts I've known have invariably told me that their addiction to tobacco was far harder to get rid of. Years later, they didn't crave opiates but still longed for cigarettes.

I recall a conversation with a rehab nurse who told me something similar. She also told me that within the realm of her knowledge, only one heroin addict had ever died from the attempt to quit (the cause in non-medical terms; hopeless constipation), while a substantial number of hard-core alcohol addicts who quit cold turkey die. (She said 25 percent. I doubt that figure & expect much depends on how you define hard-core.) But I did lose one of my closest friends, a dear old lover, to alcohol rehab. He was an awesome consumer of vodka; I've never seen anything like his ability to hold liquor. Again, I'm going to be non-scientific. But his body seemed to have stabilized around his enormous chemical consumption. He was vigorous, energetic, a do-er. After his new young wife persuaded him to enter cold-turkey rehab, his health gradually declined until after a year of utter misery he was gone.

Of course his chemical consumption was killing him, anyway. But the decline after rehab was sudden and precipitous. This is only anecdotal. But it was hard not to notice the connection.

Our capacity for self-deception about drugs is awesome and undiminished.

Posted by Claire @ 11:53 AM CST

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