‘A Personal Story’ by Kerrie

This very moving Story was written for our Wired In To Recovery website in August 2011. I published it on Recovery Stories in August 2013.

‘Hi, my name is Kerrie. I am 37 years old. Both my parents died as a result of heroin addiction. My mum when I was 8 years old and she was 28, and my dad when I was 15 and he was 43.

I grew up in the madness of their addiction; needless to say we were a very dysfunctional family. I don’t remember my parents ever getting any real support. The only people involved with our family were the police and social services.

I learnt at a very young age to tell them nothing, as I knew if I told someone, for instance, that my sister and I had been left alone or had not eaten properly for a few days, that my parents would get in trouble. And I was fiercely loyal and very protective of them.

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The Drug Experience: Heroin, Part 2

Heroin can have a devastating effect on human lives, although as we described in the last Briefing, evidence indicates that it has this impact on only a minority of people who first try the drug.

In this Briefing, we start to describe the experiences of people whose lives are seriously affected by heroin. The experiences are based on those described in the seminal book Beating the Dragon: The Recovery from Dependent Drug Use by James McIntosh and Neil McKeganey, and our own research with clients on the Peterborough Nene Drug Interventions Programme.

The majority of people in these studies committed crimes to fund their heroin habits. In fact, the Peterborough project recruited many of the highest-level offenders in Peterborough. However, it must be emphasised that this does not mean that all people who take heroin commit crimes.

Many people who use heroin describe a steady progression from use of legal substances (alcohol, solvents), through to softer drugs such as cannabis and then on to heroin.

The most frequently cited reasons for trying heroin are curiosity and a desire to comply with the expectations of others, particularly of a peer group. However, there is little indication that heroin users are pressurised to take the drug for the first time—the vast majority feel that they have made their own decision.

However, this decision is often not well-informed. Many of our interviewees emphasised that they were naïve about the effects of heroin before they first tried the drug. Some believed that it was no worse than other drugs; others were not even aware that they were trying heroin.

Some people admit to not thinking about the consequences of their actions, and in fact do not think much about their drug use at all. Many others, when they first start taking heroin, are confident that they will not become addicted. A common belief is that:

‘… addiction is not something that could happen to me; it happens to other people.’

Many of our interviewees discussed the ease of availability and frequent exposure to various substances, including heroin. Drugs were rife on the housing estates in Peterborough on which some of our interviewees had been brought up.

Many people who first try heroin will say that they experienced a feeling of great relaxation and detachment from the outside world. They may feel drowsy, experience a clouding of mental functioning, and feelings of warmth (from dilation of blood vessels). They may also experience feelings of euphoria, particularly after intravenous injection. Heroin also reduces anxiety and emotional pain—it helps people escape from reality.

There is a reduction in respiration, heat rate and pupil size. Many first-time users feel sick and vomit, although this vomiting is often not enough to stop them using again, as the pleasurable effects far outweigh this negative side effect. This vomiting subsides in many people after the first few experiences of heroin.

Many first-time users try the drug again because they enjoyed the first experience. Others, some of whom may even have had a bad initial experience, continue taking the drug because they remain in the same social circles that led them to their first use.

Some people very rapidly move towards daily use of the drug, whilst others may continue to use on a periodic basis over a period of weeks or months. Our Peterborough sample, whose lives were badly affected by heroin, all ended up using the drug daily.

Heroin users develop a tolerance to the drug, such that increasing amounts of the drug must be taken in order to achieve the same positive effects. This tolerance results in the drug habit becoming more costly.  Some users will shift from smoking heroin to injecting the drug because the same effects can be achieved with much smaller amounts of the drug.

They may also start injecting drug as part of a continued desire to experiment and to find new “highs”. As part of this process of finding new “highs”, some people use multiple drugs, sometimes at the same time. Use of benzodiazepines, legally and illegally obtained, is common amongst heroin users.

Many heroin users recognise the decision to inject as having been a significant step in their drug using career. Injecting is an invasive process that heightens the risk of overdose and introduces additional risks such as contracting hepatitis C, HIV and other blood-borne infections.

Often, these are not the factors that make people reluctant to start injecting. Rather, they appear to be apprehensive about the actual process of injecting. Many users have a fear of injections and, of course, generally people do not know how to inject. Other users help first-time injectors and continue to do so until the latter person feels confident in the process.

There are variations in individuals’ experiences when they first inject heroin. Many people experience a pronounced euphoria almost immediately after injection. Other people do not experience this rush, whilst others report feeling very ill.

However, many of those who initially have negative experiences continue to persevere taking the drug and eventually became intravenous drug users.

In our next Briefing, we will continue to look at the experiences of those people whose lives are seriously affected by heroin, focusing first on the withdrawal syndrome.

Recommended Reading:

Beating the Dragon: The Recovery from Dependent Drug Use by James McIntosh and Neil McKeganey, Prentice Hall, 2002.

The Heroin Users by Tam Stewart, Oram Press, 1996.

Using Heroin, Trying to Stop and Accessing Treatment by Aimee Hopkins and David Clark, 2005.

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> Part 3

The Drug Experience: Heroin, Part 1

Heroin is the illegal drug that has the worst reputation. The popular press never tires of informing us of new ‘heroin deaths’. Government considers heroin to be the cause for much of the acquisitive crime that occurs within the UK. Local officials will often ignore heroin problems in the community because of the stigma associated with the drug.

Heroin is also the drug of which myths are made. In their book Heroin Century – Heroin Addiction Care and Control: The British System 1916-1984, Tom Carnworth and Ian Smith point out that no drug has been subject to more misinformation and moral panic.

Here is a drug that is pilloried on the one hand, and yet is used [diamorphine] in the UK without controversy to treat severe and intractable pain, such as that arising from illnesses such as cancer.

It is a drug that is so controversial that when two Scottish researchers published a paper that identified 126 long-term heroin users in Glasgow who were not experiencing the health and social problems normally associated with the drug, there was an outcry from certain circles. Some people considered it irresponsible that such research was published.

In one sense, the first part of the title of this Background Briefing is misleading: ‘The drug experience…’ There is, of course, no single drug experience, rather a multitude of experiences. It is important to emphasise this point, particularly when considering a drug as controversial as heroin.

Heroin has terrible long-term consequences for some people who try the drug. They become addicted to, or dependent on heroin, and experience withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug. They reach a point where the drug is more important to them than anything else. They need it on a daily basis in order to function normally.

Their addiction to heroin has many repercussions, which can include a deterioration in their physical and mental health, breakdown of family relationships, loss of employment, housing and material possessions, and participation in criminal offences to fund their habit. They risk overdose, as well as catching blood-borne viruses, such as hepatitis C or HIV, from sharing needles and syringes.

However, only a small minority of people of people who try heroin take this drastic path.

This is clearly evident from statistical data from the US National Household Survey. The vast majority of people who try heroin do not become addicts. This fact is evidenced by findings from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use & Health in the US showing that approximately 1.9% of Americans aged 12 years or older have ever used heroin. In the same survey, the percentage using heroin in the last 30 days was 0.2%. Therefore, about 89.5% of people who have tried heroin at some time in their lives have not used it during the past month, i.e. i.e. they were not using heroin in an addictive manner.

It is easy to consider drug effects in a simplistic, physiologically pre-determined fashion. However, as we have discussed in various Briefings, the subjective effects of drugs are determined by drug, set (e.g. a person’s personality, expectancies, emotional state) and setting (the physical and social setting in which drug use takes place). This fact is no less relevant to heroin, than to other drugs that are considered less dangerous.

Whilst some people experience great difficulty in stopping use of heroin, I have previously described a large-scale study which showed that the vast majority of American soldiers who were addicted to heroin in Vietnam, did not show addictive behaviour in the twelve months following their return to the US.

If we are to understand the factors that underlie problematic drug use and addiction, and help people recover so that they can lead healthy lives, then we need to look at the lives of people who use heroin, (and stop or try to stop using the drug). Ethnographic studies dating back to the work of Robert Park and his colleagues in the US in the 1920s have provided important insights.

Chuck Faupel (1991), on the basis of interviews with heroin users in Delaware, talked in terms of heroin ‘careers’. He described a career as, ‘a series of meaningful related statuses, roles and activities around which an individual organises some aspect of his or her life.’

Faupel provided a chart of four common patterns of heroin use which depended on two key elements: the availability of the drug and the underlying structure of the user’s life. Structure was considered as a function of the regularity of social networks and patterns of behaviour.

Four types of user were described by Faupel: the occasional user, the stable user, the free-wheeling user and the ‘street junkie’.

The street junkie is the type of user most described by the popular press, the one that most people perceive as being the ‘typical’ heroin user. The street junkie is the most visible heroin user—and the one most likely to attend treatment services.

The most common route into ‘junkiehood’ is through lack of life structure. Many people who become street junkies do not have a life structured around conventional jobs and activities, and do not have a commitment to a conventional personal identity, factors which can help keep drug use under control. They commonly lack adequate funds to purchase heroin. In fact, many of these people have had bad life experiences (e.g. social deprivation, long-term unemployment, sexual abuse) before they started taking heroin.

In our next Briefing, we will look at the heroin experience from the perspective of people of whose lives have been seriously affected.

NB. That the statistics relating to heroin use shown in the Background Briefing linked to below have been updated here.

Recommended Reading:

Heroin Century – Heroin Addiction Care and Control: The British System 1916-1984 by Tom Carnwath and Ian Smith, Routledge, 2002.

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Learning From Wired In To Recovery

As part of our Wired In strategy, my colleagues and I launched the Wired In To Recovery online community in November 2008. Our initial aims with Wired In To Recovery were to:

  • Highlight role models who show that recovery from addiction is possible, and illustrate the multitude of paths to recovery.
  • Provide information and tools that help people better understand and use the options they have to overcome the problems caused by their own, or a loved one’s, substance use.
  • Create an environment in which people can inspire and learn from each other and provide mutually beneficial support.
  • Establish a ‘people’s journalism’, or Voice of Recovery, which acts as a strong source of advocacy both for recovery and the Recovery Movement.
  • Identify key individuals who would join, or collaborate with, Wired In to help us realise our ambitions.

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Treatment and Recovery Disconnection

William White describes how somewhere in the process of the professionalisation of addiction treatment in the US, treatment got disconnected from the larger more enduring process of long-term recovery.

He points out that we are recycling large numbers of people through repeated episodes of treatment. Their problems are so severe and recovery capital so low, there is little hope that brief episodes of treatment will be successful. We end up blaming them for failing to overcome their problems.

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Gabor Maté: Our Strange Indifference to Aboriginal Addiction

Unknown-8“Addicts are made, not born, and the most common precursors are early childhood privation, neglect and abuse. For several generations, Canada’s native children have been far more likely to suffer grinding penury, abuse and childhood substance addictions than non-natives.” Gabor Maté

Marlene, a 46-year old native woman, sat in my office last week, slumped on her chair, blinking away her tears. I’d just shared the news that her most recent blood test confirmed she had “seroconverted” to HIV, become infected with the AIDS virus.

Although an injection drug user, Marlene had always been careful to use clean needles. Her route of infection was sexual contact – with the resigned naiveté characteristic of so many aboriginal women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, she had trusted a man, himself a drug addict, who assured her that he was a safe partner.

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Addiction and Psychological Pain

During the many years I spent working in the addiction and mental health field, first as a neuroscientist and later helping empower people to facilitate their recovery (healing), I rarely heard the word ‘trauma’ being used.

Few practitioners I met mentioned that the person with the substance use problem might be self-medicating to ameliorate psychological pain. And yet in society, there were plenty of people visiting their doctor and obtaining a prescription of benzodiazepines such as librium, which are highly addictive substances, or antidepressants, which also produce problems, to help them deal with unpleasant psychological states of anxiety or depression.

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Factors Facilitating Recovery: (Gaining) Recovery Capital

Here’s the last of the 11 factors facilitating recovery that I wrote about in my book Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol AddictionJust because it is last, does not mean it is the least important factor. In fact, it is one of the most important!

Recovery is better predicted by someone’s assets and strengths, rather than their ‘pathologies’, deficits and weaknesses. People can make progress by identifying and building on their personal assets and strengths. Interventions to facilitate recovery must focus on helping individuals build their recovery strengths, more often referred to as ‘recovery capital’. 

Recovery capital is the quantity and quality of internal and external resources that one can bring to bear on the initiation and maintenance of recovery [1]. It takes three main forms:

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The Drug Experience: Cocaine, Part 2

While cocaine is portrayed as having a very high addiction potential, the majority of people who use the drug do not have a problem. Research by Dan Waldorf and colleagues reveals a number of social and social psychological factors that influence how a person uses a drug. (887 words)


Cocaine is often portrayed as having a very high addiction potential, and that most people who use it are risking serious physiological and psychological harm. Whilst some cocaine users do develop difficulties, the majority do not.

The most comprehensive ethnographic study of heavy cocaine users was conducted by Dan Waldorf and colleagues in Northern California. They interviewed 267 current and former heavy users of cocaine, a sample that did not include people in treatment programmes or in prison. Most of the respondents were ‘solidly working- or middle-class, fairly well-educated, and steadily employed.’

These researchers showed that about a half of interviewees maintained a controlled pattern of cocaine use, some of them for even up to a decade. According to Waldorf, controlled use can be defined as either, ‘regular ingestion without escalation to abuse or addiction, and without disruption of daily social functioning’, or ‘a pattern in which users do not ingest more than they want to and which does not result in any dysfunction in the roles and responsibilities of daily life.’

Based on their observations, Waldorf and colleagues described the ideal type of controlled users:

  • ‘Controlled users tended to be people who did not use cocaine to help them manage pre-existing psychological problems, and did not also abuse other drugs, especially alcohol.
  • Controlled users generally had a multiplicity of meaningful roles which gave them a positive identity and a stake in conventional life (e.g., secure employment, homes, families). Both of these anchored them against drifting toward a drug-centered life.
  • Controlled users, perhaps because they are more anchored in meaningful lives and identities, were more often able to develop, and stick to, rules, routines, and rituals that helped them limit their cocaine use to specific times, places, occasions, amounts, or spheres of activity.’

This research suggests that a stake in conventional life and identity are central for understanding continued controlled use. Such stakes seem to keep a person’s drug use from overtaking their life and identity. They also facilitate an individual reasserting control after a period of problematic use (I will discuss this issue in a later Briefing).

The fact that these social and social psychological factors mitigate against cocaine misuse and related problems suggests that not everyone need develop a problem with cocaine, even when using heavily as this population was.

At the same time, it follows that those people with the least stake in conventional life may be at the highest risk for problematic cocaine use. Cocaine, and in particular crack, have had a marked impact in poor neighbourhoods, causing problems to many individuals and communities.

Obviously, these forms of social control are not fool-proof for maintaining controlled use. Some people with a large investment in conventional life did lose control of their cocaine use and develop serious problems. Waldorf and colleagues report that:

‘… after scouring our other interview transcripts, we could not put our fingers on any one magical ‘factor X’ that explained why some people get into trouble and others did not.’

Other researchers in the US and other countries have reported controlled use of cocaine by a significant proportion of users (see Decorte, 2000 for review).

Waldorf and colleagues recognise that some well-intentioned parents and policy makers might not want to broadcast findings about controlled use for fear of facilitating the denial of some misusers or increasing the risks for some new users.

However, they contend that the:

‘… considerable possibilities for exercising control over cocaine use can be seen as cultural resources that can facilitate personal capacities for control and social capabilities for harm reduction.’

The researchers made the very good point that if the only frameworks in society for interpreting one’s drug-using behaviour are addiction and abstinence, then the idea that one can and should exercise control can atrophy. The interviews revealed that one important reason that control was possible for so many of the participants was that they believed that it was possible. They believed that cocaine was ‘not necessarily addicting, that it could and should be used in a controlled fashion.’

Whilst cocaine is often portrayed as a powerful reinforcing psychoactive drug, we sadly do not often hear that its powers are also mediated by users’ norms, values, practices, and circumstances. We underestimate the powers of social, social psychological and cultural aspects, whilst overestimating the pharmacological power of the drug.

Waldorf and colleagues point out that heavy cocaine users have taught us:

‘… that beyond the drug itself, how users think about and behave towards drugs matters a great deal. Cultural norms matter. Subcultural practices matter. How closely we look out for each other matters. The uses to which we put consciousness-altering substances matters. The personal and social resources of users matter. The values placed on productive daily lives matters. And, of course, the social distribution of opportunities for productive lives matters…’

Recommended reading:

Cocaine Changes: The Experience of Using and Quitting by Dan Waldorf, Craig Reinarman and Sheigla Murphy. Temple University Press, USA.

The Taming of Cocaine: Cocaine Use in European and American cities by Tom Decorte. VUB University Press, Belgium.

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> Part 3

Ruby’s Healing Story

It’s hard to believe that it is over seven years ago since I launched Sharing Culture, an educational initiative to facilitate the healing of intergenerational trauma. [I don’t upload new content on the website now, but the content is still there for viewing.]

It is also over seven years since Michael Liu and I went out with Professor Marion Kickett to her home country in York to film her describing her life, country, culture, spirituality, family, education and resilience. Marion is a Noongar Elder from the Balardong language group, who is Director of the Centre for Aboriginal Studies at Curtin University in Perth.

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Voices of Loved Ones Indirectly Affected by Substance Use Problems, Part 2

Continuing the qualitative research project conducted by Gemma Salter, a talented undergraduate student working with me back in 2004. The research involved interviewing nine parents and one grandparent (who had assumed the role of parent) of people with a drug and/or alcohol problem. The participants were recruited from West Glamorgan Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (WGCADA) in Swansea and Drug and Alcohol Family Support (DAFS) in Blaenau Gwent, South Wales.

…. It doesn’t take long for the effects of stress to manifest itself in physical and psychological health problems. Physical symptoms come in the form of eating and sleeping problems, high blood pressure, stomach problems, irritable bowel syndrome and tension aches. Some parents are prescribed antidepressants by their GPs.

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Voices of Loved Ones Indirectly Affected by Substance Use Problems

Continuing to look back at my career in the addiction recovery field and what I have learnt. After reading the excellent book Beating the Dragon: The Recovery from Dependent Drug Use by James McIntosh and Neil McKeganey in 2003, I made the decision to start a research programme involving qualitative analysis of interviews. The first piece of research, which focused on the effects of substance use problems on the family, was conducted by Gemma Salter, a third year undergraduate. Gemma was awarded the prize for the project of the year in my Psychology department.

Gemma’s research involved semi-structured interviews (lasting 42 – 129 minutes) with nine parents and one grandparent (who had assumed the role of parent) of people with a drug and/or alcohol problem. The participants were recruited from West Glamorgan Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (WGCADA) in Swansea and Drug and Alcohol Family Support (DAFS) in Blaenau Gwent, South Wales.

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Factors Facilitating Recovery: Overcoming Stigma

This is eighth post in this particular Series, which comes from my book Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol AddictionIt ties in nicely with a previous blog, Nothing to mourn; just a drug addict, by Dr David McCartney.

Stigma can be defined as social disapproval of personal characteristics, actions or beliefs that go against the cultural norm. It can occur at a variety of levels in society, i.e. individuals, groups, organisations and systems. A person can be labelled by their problem (e.g. addiction to drugs and/or alcohol) and they are no longer seen as an individual, but as part of a stereotyped group, e.g. a junkie, alkie, etc. Negative attitudes and beliefs toward this group create prejudice which leads to negative actions and discrimination. 

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A Parent’s Story

I met Mike Blanche in around 2003 and he was the first person to help me understand the impact of a person’s substance use problem on family members. Mike was an inspiring figure who had played a key role in the setting up of Drug and Alcohol Family Support (DAFS) in Blaenau Gwent in South Wales. He organised a conference, Families in Focus, at which the following talk was given. We first posted this talk on our SubstanceMisuse website back in 2003.

‘Good morning ladies and gentlemen. I am a mother and I have been invited here today to talk about my experiences as a service user. I have a son who is living at home with my husband and myself. He is addicted to drugs.

He first started dabbling with substances when he was still in school. At first it was ‘glue sniffing’, but it wasn’t long before he started experimenting with cannabis. When I tried to approach him to warn him of the dangers of drug abuse, his typical reaction was to say, ‘Don’t worry Mam, I can handle it.’

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Factors Facilitating Recovery: Gaining a Positive Identity

People with serious substance use problems lose a lot of the roles or personal characteristics that help define their normal identity (e.g. loving son, athlete, generosity, intelligence) as their dependence on their substance(s) increases, relationships wither and isolation increases. Eventually, their identity as viewed by others may become ‘a useless, dirty addict’. They will also have personal views of what they have become and these views can lead to lowered self-esteem or even intense hatred of oneself.

On the basis of qualitative research with over 100 heroin addicts who had recovered from their addiction without professional treatment, Patrick Biernacki argued that: ‘To change their lives successfully, addicts must fashion new identities, perspectives and social world involvements wherein the addict identity is excluded or dramatically depreciated.’ [1]

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The Harms and Risks of Substance Use

Reflections on the harms and risk factors related to drugs, alcohol and solvents. (979 words)


There is much discussion about the harms and risks of drug use, particularly in the popular press. The relative harms of different drugs are compared, and the law tries to operate a control system with drugs purportedly graded by their dangers, albeit with alcohol and tobacco forgotten.

Heroin and cocaine are considered to be particularly dangerous. And yet, there are people that have taken cocaine or prescribed heroin for many years and have suffered no physical harm. There is no given in the world of drugs—except that all substances (even water) can kill if given in sufficient quantity.

In his excellent book Matters of Substance: is legalization the right answer – or the wrong question [1], the late Griffith Edwards points out:

‘With drugs nothing is always. Their use does not carry a guarantee of danger, but neither is their safety guaranteed. What one needs to ask about any substance is not whether in absolute terms it is safe, but rather the degree of risk which may attach to its use.’

The harm caused by substance use needs to be considered in a variety of ways. Use of drugs, alcohol and solvents can carry risk to different aspects of life. They may threaten physical or mental health, social circumstances, educational and employment status, and may put a person at risk with the criminal justice system.

Substance use may also affect the safety and welfare of others. Other people may be affected negatively by the transmission of blood borne viruses through sexual contact with an infected drug user, through violence committed by a person who is drunk, or by someone who is driving while under the influence of a sedative prescription drug. The harmony and happiness of families can be disrupted, and in the extreme whole communities can be affected.

Harm done by substance use can be major or minor. It can also be a one-off or chronic. Harm may be caused directly by the drug itself, and/or by the lifestyle associated with use of the drug, for example, with street heroin.

For some harm, an increasing risk is associated with longer-term and heavier substance use. However, for other types of problems, the risk can be much more random: the twentieth experience with ecstasy or a solvent may trigger some reaction leading to death; the first injection of heroin may lead to infection with hepatitis C which kills the person years later; the heavy drinking session may lead to the person tripping on the pavement into the path of an approaching vehicle.

With illicit drugs, there is the possibility of contaminants in the drug which can cause illness and even death. In one example, heroin users in California injected unknowingly a synthetic drug known as MPTP, which produced symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. This movement disorder, caused by a massive depletion of dopamine in the brain, mostly occurs in people over 60 years old. In this case, young heroin users developed the symptoms within 24 hours of taking the drug. The condition was irreversible and could only be alleviated by l-Dopa or neural grafts of foetal tissue [2,3].

The particular harm caused by substances is also dependent on the route by which they are administered. Injecting drugs can lead to the transmission of blood borne viruses, smoking can cause lung damage, and drinking of alcohol to cancer of the gullet. Accidental overdose is more likely to occur following injection than ingestion of tablets. Users of illicit heroin are also unaware of the purity of the substance they purchase—an unusually pure, or contaminated, batch of heroin can cause overdose.

One of the dangers of drugs and alcohol is their propensity to cause addiction or dependence. In simple terms, addiction can be seen as an impairment in a person’s ability or power to choose. The drug becomes more important to the person than other aspects of their life, which the majority of people would consider as essential. Addiction drives forward heavy and persistent drug use, ultimately increasing the likelihood of self-harm.

The particular effects of a drug, and the development of addiction, are influenced not only by the intrinsic properties of the drug and its route of administration, but also by the previous drug experience of the user, their physical and psychological characteristics, and the setting in which the drug is taken. Therefore, these factors can influence the harm caused by drugs.

Overdoses are more likely when a heroin user leaves prison, since he is likely to forget or not understand that his body has lost its tolerance to the drug. Amphetamine psychosis will be more likely to occur in an individual with a propensity to schizophrenic symptoms. Alcohol-induced violence is more likely to occur in certain environments than in others. Life-threatening seizures can occur when a person withdraws from long-term use of the prescription drugs Valium and Librium.

Finally, and not least, is that the dangers of many substances can be exacerbated by taking another at the same time. For example, the likelihood of overdose after heroin is increased if the person is also drinking alcohol.

Psychoactive substances have been used in society for thousands of years. They will remain with us for as long as mankind wishes to change his state of consciousness, for whatever reason. These substances—be they legal or illegal—will always have harm and risks associated with them.

What is important in today’s society is to keep people well-informed about the potential harms of drugs, alcohol and solvents and the circumstances in which they can be dangerous. We do not need media hype or campaigns that over-exaggerate the risks. We need to be objective and realistic.

Endnotes:

[1] Matters of Substance: is legalization the right answer – or the wrong question, Griffith Edwards, Penguin, 2005.

[2] MPTP, Wikipedia.

[3] The MPTP Story, J. William Langston, Journal of Parkinson’s Disease, 7, S11-S22, 2017.

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Factors Facilitating Recovery: Understanding

Here is the next section from my chapter Factors Facilitating Recovery in  my eBook Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol Addiction.

Understanding is essential for recovery. People with substance use problems and those on a recovery journey need information and education about a variety of matters, including: the nature of addiction and their own substance use problems; the range of interventions they can use to help them overcome or manage these problems; opportunities that allow them to exercise their strengths and assets; supports they can use to facilitate their recovery journey, and self-management skills that help them cope with situations that might lead to relapse. 

Recovering people are a major source of information that can facilitate another person’s recovery journey.

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What Happens to Women in Recovery: Stephanie Brown

In the Resources section of the website, I have a series of my posts under the title Stephanie Brown on Recovery. These posts are based on Stephanie Brown’s wonderful 2004 book A Place Called Self: Women, Sobriety, and Radical Transformation. In her book, Stephanie talks about what happens to women in recovery, how they think, how they feel, their problems, the good things, etc. (The book is relevant to men as well!) Here is the main part of the first of my posts, entitled ‘What is Recovery’, according to Stephanie Brown (Part 1).

“‘Recovery has held so many surprises for me. Some good. Some bad. I didn’t know I could hurt so much. But I also didn’t know I could love so much and be so loved. I had no idea that recovery was also learning how to be in intimate relationships, learning how to have close, wonderful friends. Then there’s my marriage. My husband and I have developed a rich life together. And get this – I really like myself now. Learning about who I am and accepting me, that’s been the hardest part of recovery – and the best. I wouldn’t trade this path for anything in the world.’ Anne, Recoveree

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Learning About Addiction Treatment, Part 5

I continue my series of blogs, starting here, about my journey into the addiction recovery field after I changed ‘career’ in 2000 from being a neuroscientist to working in the community. At the same time, I was still working as a Professor in the Department of Psychology, University of Wales Swansea (now Swansea University) in the UK.

In an earlier blog, I briefly described how I led the national team that evaluated all projects funded by the National Assembly of Wales’s Drug and Alcohol Treatment Fund (DATF) for two years from mid-2000. Here is what I wrote in my recently published book Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol Addiction about the DATF evaluation and my views about the UK drug treatment system at the time.

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Historical Perspectives: Cocaine

Traces the history of cocaine, linking the Incas, Freud, Thomas Edison, Sherlock Holmes and Coca Cola. (880 words)

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