Several readers join the conversation:
As a recovered alcoholic with almost four years of sobriety (I’m 31 and luckily caught my disease early), this post truly hit home with me. When I initially sought treatment for my drinking at the behest of my then fiancee (now wife – thankfully!), I was one of those individuals who had never done anything other than drink a lot and occasionally smoke pot. I knew I had an addictive personality and wouldn’t be able to just dabble in cocaine, as some of my friends did in college. When I received details of the Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) that I would be going through for three months for my drinking, I learned that I would be in the program with people suffering from all substance based addictions, including heroin, cocaine, meth, alcohol, etc. and in many cases a combination of two or more.
I was initially very distraught about this, as I did not put alcoholism on the same level as cocaine addiction and definitely nowhere close to heroin. It was unthinkable to me that I’d have anything in common with individuals who suffered from those maladies. Admittedly, I was passing judgement on them when I myself had absolutely no foundation to do so. But society as a whole conditions us that way and the war on drugs only reinforces this stigma. Upon entering the program and successfully graduating, I found out just how wrong I was. Addiction is addiction – period.
Regardless of what substance my peers were addicted to, we could all speak candidly about our experiences, struggles, mistakes and breakthroughs, and we all completely understood each other. I grew closer to many cocaine and meth addicts in that program than I did to even many of the other alcoholics. Even in recovery circles such as Alcoholics Anonymous, there exist “closed” meetings where only those suffering from alcoholism are welcome. I’ve heard men boast of kicking out cocaine addicts who mistakenly came to a closed AA meeting. I never understood that.
I am hopeful that as society begins to normalize around the recreational use of marijuana, and as more and more stories pour into the public domain about otherwise respectable people (Rob Ford may be excluded from this group) struggling with all types of addiction, we can start realizing that there is absolutely no difference between these substances, just the degree to which each individual become enmeshed by them and how deep or shallow their respective “bottom” is. I genuinely wish Congressman Radel the best in his recovery … regardless which substance he is in the process of recovering from.
Another responds to a related post:
I have to weigh in on “Worrying Over a Wonder Drug.” Alec MacGillis writes, “The fact is, there is no silver bullet for the country’s growing opiate addiction problem.” But there is. You’ve posted about it before – it’s called ibogaine. It’s an instant cure for a variety of addictions, including opiate addiction. Obviously it doesn’t guarantee that users won’t return to addiction afterward, but it does remove the need for constant doses of opiates and opiate substitutes to be administered.
Another reader on that post:
I have two people very close to me who were addicted to opiates, and Suboxone (buprenorphine) worked very, very well in helping them get off the stuff. Financially it just about killed us, because the drug is expensive, and you have to take it for 3-6 months, although they do taper the doses as time goes on. My insurance didn’t cover it.
Watching addicted people using Suboxone get through the terrible opiate withdrawal symptoms made me a true believer. The benefits vastly outweigh the risks. I think the Times is looking for a big problem where only a small one exists. It would help if Suboxone was cheaper and more widely available. It truly is a wonder drug for many.
Update from another:
I’d just like to push back against the claim that ibogaine is an instant cure for addiction. From my experience, it is not. My heroin addiction muscled past its ibogaine encounter. I wanted it to work and payed more than my daily fix, which at the time was a several hundred dollar a day, to take the drug. In all honestly, ibogaine just made me feel really really sick to my stomach. After a long and mildly hallucinogenic trip I found myself perhaps more in thrall to opioids than before. I can guarantee you that was not the expected outcome.
I’m certain it works for some -I have friends who had other more positive experiences with ibogaine – but for me it didn’t do a thing. And of those friends who had better outcomes, I don’t think any of them would claim ibogaine was a wonder drug. Not that it matters, but I quit getting high when it became like a full time job working for a super shitty boss. In the end, it was just easier to quit than to keep showing up. I can say that in my case being a lazy man probably saved my life. I quit cold turkey, which felt like getting beat up while you had the flu, and it sucked.
I tried bupe later, after a narcotic relapse, and realized that for me the only way to quit getting high was to just quit getting high. That’s just me though, and I’m not gonna judge anyone who manages to stay sober regardless of the means.