Dublin: BREAKING the SILENCE: 6: Becoming A Drug Abuser

8 Feb

Lost Children in the Wilderness ©

By J. P. Anderson (International registered copyright of the author 2006)


It is obvious that narcotics must be available before there can be a narcotics user. It is perhaps much less obvious that the process of becoming a drug user is closely related to patterns of association and access to drugs, as the individual must learn the techniques of drug use and to some degree, the proper way to perceive and enjoy drug-effects before he/she becomes a regular drug user. Most persons, who become addicted to opiates through non-medical channels, probably did so either by virtue of close affiliation with another addict or in the course of thrill-seeking behaviour.


Following world-war two, (most persons) or a higher proportion of those who became drug users, had been introduced to the use of narcotics in the slum areas in which their family lived. Recent addicts have tended to come from family backgrounds and life-circumstances conducive to the production of psychopathy. There is much evidence, however, that psychological difficulties are far more widespread than is illicit drug use. Research suggests that the use of heroin and other opiates, in most instances, is learned through association with peers in the sub-culture of ‘street-corner society’. The norms of this sub-culture are generally inconsistent with and are often, openly hostile to those of conventional society. The orientation on the part of substantial numbers of adolescents is manifested in delinquency and in the search for, and the exploitation of ‘kicks’. In general, the prevailing sentiment toward drug use, even on the part of residents of slum areas, is decidedly negative. Most children learn that heroin and cannabis are considered ‘bad’ by most adults.


In areas of the highest drug use, however, rejection of the standards of conventional society, distrust of the police, and relatively favourable attitudes towards drugs tend to be much more widely prevalent, even among a cross-section of school children, than in other areas of a city. A substantial proportion of young people are likely to have ‘friends’ or ‘associates’ who use cannabis or heroin.

The use of heroin is a step further along the road of alienation from conventional values. Here the prevailing attitudes even in the delinquent sub-cultures are much more negative. Here there is a promise of bigger kicks, but also at a much greater cost. Those for whom heroin use leads to a marked increase in feelings of adequacy, move quickly to the sub-culture of the addict, where ‘connections’ can be made and where the drug itself becomes the ‘addicts’ central purpose and fact of existence.

The critical importance of the individual’s ‘recognition’ that withdrawl sickness can be warded-off by further use of the drug. It is at this time that he/she becomes fully aware of the nature of addiction and of his/her dependence upon opiates. Both his /her patterns of association and his/her self-image change markedly, as he/she becomes assimilated into the sub-culture of addict society.

Within the areas of the highest rates of drug-use, users tend to come from families, lacking in a stable father figure, lacking warmth between parents, and characterised by vague or inconsistent standards. These factors would tend to contribute to psychopathy in the child-reflecting aspects of the social environment in which the addict has been nurtured.

The rate of relapse to drug use (following detoxification) is exceedingly high. Studies suggest that relapses tend to occur very soon after discharge from a treatment centre.

Psychological aspects of opiate addiction:

Extensive studies on the personality characteristics of opiate addicts conducted over a period of twenty years, classified such addicts as ‘psychopathic’. The research concluded that narcotic addicts are often psychopathic. That hospitalised adolescent and adult addict does not differ in their profiles. That greater similarities exist between adolescent addicts and delinquent non-addicts, and that psychopathology is an important *ethological element in addiction. (*Character formation in human behaviour). Similar profiles have also been found to characterize not only juvenile delinquents, but also hospitalised chronic alcoholics. Studies have suggested that ‘the social deviant’ does not engage in the daily activities that are ordinarily reinforced by and satisfy the larger society.

Counter-anxieties and inhibitions that deter unusual behaviour in the mature adult do not do so in the social deviant. Thus, he is particularly vulnerable to short-term satisfactions and can readily manipulate his personal affairs if drugs are available. The deviant who is immature and inadequate may find temporary freedom from frustration and problems in alcohol or complete elimination of such problems in opiates. In tests between addicts and non-addicts, the addicts were more disturbed-with a high incidence of *overt or *incipient schizophrenia, while with the non-addicted acquaintances of the addicts in the controlled group, half also showed evidence of significant psychiatric disorder. The controlled group had been nominated by the addicts and were close acquaintances of the addicts.

(Authors note: *overt= unconcealed. *incipient= in an initial stage or beginning.)


Becoming a drug user:


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