There is No Free Ride
By Clark Carr
The drug problem:
and tested solutions
nother bombshell struck America when the 1997 National Drug Control Strategy, released by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), noted that adolescent drug use had increased yet again as it has every year since 1990.
Its clear that youth exposure to drugs is continuing to go up, said Barry McCaffery, director of ONDCP, at a June 1997 press conference. Drug use, he reported, has doubled among American youth in general since 1990, while it has almost tripled among eighth graders. The bulge is at the younger end of the population, he said.
A host of street drugs are now in wide circulation, including cocaine, LSD, marijuana, methamphetamines, Rohypnol (the so-called date-rape drug), ecstasy and ketamine a powerful, PCP-like anesthetic. Medical drugs are part of the problem, as witnessed by the 14 girls, aged 13 to 16, recently hospitalized, 10 in critical condition, after one of them distributed baclofen, a prescription muscle relaxant, at a dance at a Boys and Girls Club in Woburn, Massachusetts ironically intended to keep them off the street and away from the perils of drugs.
Addicts today smoke a cheaper yet more potent form of heroin. This deadly substance has found its way into wider circles, tricking a once-cautious audience into its embrace. A 1996 study by the University of Michigan, Monitoring The Future, found heroin use up 92 percent among eighth grade children.
Why the upsurge?
In America, children at young ages face strong pressures to experiment with alcohol or illegal street drugs.
Because of this, they need to be armed with true information about drugs harmful effects.
Lets take a closer look at the problem.
After more than a dozen years of work at Narconon (which means no drugs) drug rehabilitation and drug education centers, I know that a common denominator exists to all drug use. It doesnt matter whether it is an over-the-counter substance, a prescription drug, alcohol or any of a wide variety of street drugs. This common denominator is to try to feel better than one is feeling.
It can be found in aspirin for headaches, penicillin to kill an infection or alcohol at a social function.
Wanting to feel better is natural. It is the method used that, with drugs, can become a life-destroying problem.
Through the years, I have delivered drug-education lectures to thousands of children and teen-agers. I encourage them to honestly look at the facts and ask three questions when contemplating the use of any drug. Are the benefits going to outweigh the liabilities? Will I experience more pleasure than pain, or more pain than pleasure? Will the drug do more harm than good?
Anyone who honestly asks and answers these questions will decide against use of illegal substances.
The Cornerstone of an Addicted Society
Drug use falls in two categories: I) Drugs for physical problems and II) Drugs to alter ones emotional or mental state.
Physical problems are addressed by many over-the-counter substances and by prescription drugs, such as antibiotics, vaccines, anesthetics and painkillers.
Drugs to alter ones emotions or consciousness include alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, heroin and other painkillers, LSD and methamphetamines.
Alcohol, tobacco and marijuana sometimes called the gateway drugs because their abuse opens the door to other substances fall into the second category, as do most street drugs.
The drug most frequently chosen to alter emotions or consciousness is alcohol. The cornerstone of the drug problem, alcohol is what addicts usually revert to when other drugs become unavailable. It lies at the bottom of an addicted society.
In category I above, one can find drugs that bring more benefit than harm if used for a limited period of time. In category II, one is likely to have drugs that bring far more harm than benefit.
This is not simply my opinion. It is based on many years of personal supervision of the recovery of hundreds of addicts at Narconon centers internationally and on observations of life.
I have never met any tobacco users who will extol the virtues of tobacco, or consumers of alcohol who are convinced of how positive the influence of alcohol has been in their lives. Likewise, I have never seen a crack or heroin addict stand up to endorse his drug of choice.
And while I have seen a few marijuana users expound upon their drug, all one needed to do was look at them, observe their lifestyle and listen closely to what they were saying to realize that marijuana also causes serious problems. Like other drugs, marijuana produces a disassociation from reality which is painfully obvious in chronic users.
Drugs Essentially Are Poisons
Problems inherent in drug use can be viewed from physical, mental, emotional, educational, social, spiritual and legal aspects.
The physical effects of drugs range from temporary stimulation or sedation of the body to coma and death.
The man who developed Narconons method of rehabilitation, author and philosopher L. Ron Hubbard, said it best. Drugs essentially are poisons. The degree that they are taken determines the effect. A small amount gives a stimulant. A greater amount acts as a sedative. A larger amount acts as a poison and can kill one dead.
When one consumes a drug, the body attempts to eliminate it as quickly as possible through urination, excretion, vomiting, sweating, exhalation or through the sebaceous glands of the skin. Liver enzymes attack and break down drug molecules. At the same time, drug residues move to fatty tissues of the body and lodge there. All of the above processes occur in varying degrees after taking a drug.
Drugs affect the nervous, digestive, respiratory, circulatory and reproductive systems. They cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies, altered eating habits often leading to malnutrition, and altered sleeping states. Extended use increases wear and tear on the body. We have all seen such cases; many wind up on our streets, addicted and uncared for.
Drugs have varying degrees of toxicity, but the gateway drugs and the common street drugs methamphetamines, cocaine, heroin, LSD and ecstasy put tremendous stress on the body.
The old line about gambling, When you play, you pay, applies to drugs. There is no free ride.
The Emotional Roller-Coaster
Anyone who has used alcohol or another drug can tell you about the emotional roller-coaster ride. First its up, then its down.
What does an addict do to remedy the terrible depression that follows drug use? He takes more. The lows, unfortunately, keep getting lower, and it becomes harder and harder to reach a high.
That is one of the problems inherent in using psychiatric drugs to treat emotional problems. These drugs mask the problems they certainly do not eliminate them.
And drugs do affect the mind. Among other things, they cause blank periods in memory anything from temporarily lowered consciousness to total memory loss. The degree depends on the person and the dosage.
It is more than just a metaphor, when one wants to get drunk or high, that he or she says, Lets go get stupid. Or stoned, smashed or wasted. Wasted is probably the most appropriate word.
Drug use harms concentration, mental recording and the ability to recall. Barring permanent brain damage, effective substance abuse rehabilitation can restore these functions to the individual.
Destroying Initiative and Educational Abilities
One of the worst aspects of street drugs is their impact on ambition. Drugs have insidious yet devastating effects upon children and their ability to envision hopes and dreams. Ambition enables a person to learn to enjoy life and to pursue happiness without drugs, but it can be destroyed through drug abuse.
When a person is intoxicated by drugs, important functions are adversely affected, including concentration, recording and recalling. These tools are essential to learning and without them, education is impaired.
Addiction becomes the all-consuming focus of activities aimed at procuring more drugs. Education, careers, relationships and life itself take a back seat.
In my opinion, the damage that drugs wreak upon ambition and the ability to learn are among the most serious long-term effects of drug use.
Sticking our heads in the sand and hoping that all will somehow get better is no solution. More stringent drug laws and bigger prisons may lock away the problem, bringing an illusory peace of mind to some, but those solutions have already proven not to solve the problem, but to be part of it.
Answers will not be found simply in the halls of justice.
We cannot arrest and imprison our way out of this dilemma.
Sweeping changes are needed on our approach to this problem, from the government and from individuals.
The way out will come through honesty and hard work. You and I are going to have to roll up our sleeves and, one by one, rehabilitate those that have become addicted by making substance abuse rehabilitation widely available upon demand.
These addicts are our brothers, sisters, sons and daughters. Sometimes they are our parents and grandparents, husbands, wives and neighbors. They can conquer addiction should we choose to make substance abuse rehabilitation a shoulder-to-shoulder effort in every community. It is simply too late for any other approach.
In these dangerous times, our children must be brought to understand the true nature of alcohol, marijuana and other drugs as well as they understand the three Rs.
Parents, teachers and those who run drug education programs must dig in to ensure each child understands why society has become so addicted to drugs. Most importantly, children need to get the picture, to see the tremendous costs in terms of human life and misery that a decision to experiment with and use drugs means. Equally important is that they be given knowledge of how to obtain pleasure in life without drugs. A drug-free life, they will discover, has its own unique and wonderful rewards.
Freedom from Drugs
What should our priorities be?
We can spend our money and resources to chase drug dealers until we all die or become too worn out to run after anyone any longer. But, to be effective, we had better concentrate on prevention and rehabilitation if we want to see the drug problem decrease.
Two little-used but potent tools to combat substance abuse worldwide are:
I. Substance abuse education to prevent the coming generations from becoming consumers of drugs starting with tobacco, alcohol and marijuana, and
II. Effective substance abuse rehabilitation made available upon demand for those addicted to drugs both inside and outside prisons.
These tools are the essence of the Narconon program.
Through the years, Narconon has carried its public education campaign about the truthful effects of drugs internationally to many millions of people.
Its methods have freed tens of thousands of addicts from the shackles of drugs. Independent studies show these methods are uniquely successful with up to 72 percent of Narconons graduates still off drugs two years later.
While talk of drug and alcohol abuse is endless, the bottom line is results. I have seen addicts of virtually all descriptions chained to every manner of deadly drugs come through their personal barriers and emerge victorious and free at last.
The drug problem can be beaten. This, too, is not a free ride; it requires resources and determination. But think of how much less costly it would be to solve the drug problem than not to.
We are living today on borrowed time. Eventually we will have to pay. If we pay now, we can save generations to come. If we choose to pay later, it is not us but those future generations that will bear the cost.
The drug problem can be handled. The way to do so is there. We need only the will.
Clark Carr is president of Narconon International. His book, Ending Addiction, is scheduled for publication later in 1998.