let's play q'n'a

several people irl and in the Wired have asked me what it's 'like' having a drug addiction. since the last one of those was yesterday, i'll explain. people who are only here for the guro, feel free to disregard this. fellow addicts, also feel free, since what applies to me will likely not apply to you; i'm fairly sure the experience varies from individual to individual.

first off, i'd like to quell the myth that a dependent's life is some fever-crazed, constant, desperate chase after "the next fix". this is definitely not the case for all of us, and in fact, i don't know anyone for whom it is - not even the homeless guys on the street, who are actually pretty cool if you take time to actually talk to them and get to know them. most of them do heroin, which i don't, although it's in the same family of drugs as my poisons of choice. namely, that's the opiates, including morphine, fentanyl, heroin, opium, DHC and codeine. when i can't get decent hospital-grade stuff, which is all the fucking time, i subsist on a mixture of other people's black market prescriptions, poppy straw (proto-opium) tea, and pharmacy-sold rubbish pills catalysed with paracetamol.

i am fully aware of the toxicity of said catalyst. on most days i do not care, for reasons it is better not to go into, about the hepatic failure that will doubtless occur in a decade or two because of this. i'm also aware that i will not be allowed access to a transplant list.

physically, then, one's need for a drug on which one is dependent (as distinct from 'addicted', although i'd be classed as both) is just like any other chemical need the body has, from glucose to oxygen; if the chemical reserves get too low, you don't feel so good. there's no feeling as distinct as hunger or thirst; over time, though, you get to recognise the flu-like withdrawal symptoms, and calculate dosage and timing to avoid them. it takes about two days for whatever shit is in my bloodstream to trickle out, and another day before i'm really fucked. if i wanted to quit (and we'll get into that in a second), it would be about another six before i was done with the physical withdrawal and my brain's need for it was gone.

so, a small part of my life is dedicated to calculating dosages for each day, keeping the levels steady, running it down every other day to slow down tolerance, finding the shit in the first place, budgeting, etc. most of it is automatic for me by now. personally, i consider this and the financial impact (roughly similar to your average smoker's, not to say that i don't smoke a pack or two a week as well) to be fair for what i get, which is relief.

opiates take away pain. not just my back (which is mildly fucked, such that there's a low level of pain all the time and a high level some of the time) or any other physical pain, but mental pain as well. it's why i sound so deadened most of the time; i am, in a positive way. the white halo of an opiate helps counteract the foggy depressive aura that the world has otherwise, along with my regular antidepressants. the balance is an acceptable view of the world; without, it's not particularly pretty. that's why they call it the White Angel, or Morpheus' Kiss: it's a help, for weak motherfuckers like me who need help.

in no way do i suggest that this is a mentally healthy way to cope; i'm not a mentally healthy guy, and just about all my coping mechanisms are fucked up. i like to think that back in the Victorian times when every fucker smoked tar and ladies all used laudanum, i'd have been able to pass as a normal person with some normal health problems, but like as not nowadays i just look like a junkie.

so, there you go. that's what it's like for me, and might be for you if you take up this shit, which i recommend you don't. like i said, it's not a major part of my thinking; i don't have nightmares about what it would be like without any pills, i don't spend my days roaming the streets trying to buy dope or shoot up in alleyways or mug passers-by for junk money. i just take shit to cope, and it's one of my biggest weaknesses, the others being hubris and financial irresponsibility. it's one reason i correct people who call me a "hero".

heroes can cope on their own. so could Tesla, for that matter.



Max said...

Hrm, hrm. Tesla couldn't cope. After his dreams had been struck down by the capitalist Edison, he kind of became a crazy hermit who lived in a hotel. He could only live in a room with a number that was divisible through 3. He was still a genius and a pioneer. Nobody's asking you to be perfect.
(Also, I'm generally reluctant to call anybody a hero. Most 'heroes' are war veterans, and I think war is pretty much the dumbest thing we've come up with as a species.)

Then, try not to let society get you down with all that 'mental health' thing. It's only relative to the average population, and all the people that have ever made a difference weren't average.

For what it's worth, the post is very informative.

malces said...

Fun fact: Grapefruit juice contains a lot of the flavonoid known as naringin, which is thought to be responsible for grapefruit's inhibition of the CYP3A4 enzyme. This effect results in the increased bio-availability of many orally administered opiates (including Tramadol :D), as well as many other drugs like sildenafil, zolpidem, dextromethorphan, and possibly even caffeine!

The more you know!

j said...

You may dislike the term hero, as, like Max has pointed out, there are so many bullshit connotations/stigmas attached to the word.

But, being someone who takes risks in the name of science and humanity, whilst sharing the experience with those less brave/capable - I think on these terms people find you rather heroic. If not a hero, then certainly an inspiration. If not an inspiration, then at very least the coolest IRL-sci-fi h+ shit on the internet.


melladh said...

Here's a followup question. If you have a period of absence, do you find yourself more sensitive to drugs than you were to begin with?

Compare to alcoholics, who reach the peak where they barely need any alcohol at all to get drunk anymore, because they're already out on the other side. This is probably due to a bust liver, that's simply stopped filtering the input, but I'm sure it applies in other ways as well.

I've never actually heard anyone talking about drugs that way, and I hadn't thought to ask if it hadn't been for my own recent onset of oversensitivity. I was sick a lot as a kid, taking morphine cough medicine from the age of three, and as much antibiotics as this country would willingly prescribe. In high school, the IT crowd never slept, getting high off multiple cans coca-cola washing down some caffeine pills, morning and evening. (the high being the awakeness mixed with an extreme lack of sleep, nothing more). None of it was ever a problem.

Nowadays, I have to think twice before having a single glass of coke for dinner, in case that means I won't sleep at night. My entire system breaks down almost immediately when I take antibiotics (though it works just fine without them, there's no permanent damage), cipro causes intestinal bleeding, paracetamol causes severe headaches, and even non-prescription NSAIDs act as proper anaesthetics (I accidentally scratched off a bit of my toe nail - the part attached to the toe - without noticing), and cuts my IQ to a quarter. I think I spent 15 minutes looking at the MSN butterfly, in fascination of all the colors. The doctors hadn't even heard of such side effects from diclofenac, only accepting it to be true when I'd experienced it twice, with no other chemical influences.

Ok, that was a bit of a rant. But the question still stands. Have you ever experienced a peak that gave you higher sensitivity?

Lepht said...

Max - i know. the man is something of a hero of mine. he still wasn't a drug addict. also that's weird; in Murka heroes are soldiers? over here they're mostly scientists or old-school musicians. fucking amen on the war comment.

i don't consider myself mentally unhealthy because of society, anyway, it's because before i started seeking knowledge i genuinely did not have a reason to live, and tried to off myself three times rather intentfully. that's not healthy even in a vacuum.

malces - i love you.

j - thankyou. i think you all are more cautious rather than less brave, though.

melladh - i don't know if morphine tolerance and sensitivity can persist long term. i've heard anecdotes to suggest so, but you know the value of those, and i know my own reliance on the drug comes from high doses of it in hospital. interestingly my post-16 education was a similar caffeinated blur, but nothing has changed these days.

also, if it makes you feel any better about leaving it, Coke does make you fat.

that was also a rant, but in short - yes, but not over the years or decades of time you're on about, only over days.


Max said...

What I meant to say was:
Mental health doesn't mean shit. There's a lot of dangerous, sick people in this world that seem more normal than you, and there's a lot of perfectly normal people who seem way out of control. As long as we manage to not directly kill ourselves or our peers, that's fine by me.
Also, most geniuses are/were mad. You have to be mad to be a genius, in a way. To quote Lewis Carrol: "We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."

In the UK, scientists are heralded as heroes? Cool. I'd think they'd be called eggheads seeing as intelligence seems to be generally discouraged these days.
Oh and by all means, Tesla /was/ a hero if there ever was one.
(I don't live in Uh-mericuh but...)
As far as I can tell yes, soldiers are heroes to the public. Why else would good ol' homo habilis george W. Bush spend so much money making people believe he was a 'war hero'? People think military shapes character, and veterans are the kind of people you should ask for anything. (Not in Luxembourg though. Here, joining the army is tantamount to tattooing 'idiot' onto your forehead)

malces - so... in short, grapefruit juice increases the effect of many orally taken drugs? Oh, that's always good to know.

Lepht said...

Max - i know, it's a relative construct. i'm still reluctant to explain what the fuck happened to my arms when people see them irl, though; i usually end up lying. still, i would not willingly kill another person if i had an option; fetus, absolutely, food animal, definitely, but not a sapient.

myself... that's another matter. ("How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.)

yeah, Newton was voted one of the country's heroes, although he was beaten by Churchill of course. maddeningly, you are right about the discouragement of education in wider society, and i hate what it's doing to people.


Max said...

I guess scientists must be well-regarded in the UK, seeing as Darwin is on the face of a £-bill...

I'm paraphrasing, but...
"Of course, you're mad. Otherwise you wouldn't have come down here." said the Chesire Cat.

I don't get the whole thing with suicide. I've never been (seriously) suicidal, and I hope to never be, but I guess it's one of those things that can't really be explained. I just think it's way too much of a waste. So much manpower, so much raw processing, so much potential... gone simply because it didn't see a reason to remain...

Lepht said...

"And how do you know that you're mad?" said Alice.

i don't expect anyone who hasn't tried seriously to kill themselves to understand it. suicidal thinking, really, is so internal and so wrapped around your self-perception that it would be difficult to explain, and i don't care to try; suffice to use a physical analogy.

you are a patient in hospital. as far as it is possible for you to know, you are in agony, and you are sure that it won't stop, although you can still walk and talk; your mind is consumed with it. there's a C02 generator in the room, but there's also a doctor, who every time you say your goodbyes and go to turn on the machine says "No, no, you can't do that - I haven't figured out why you're in pain yet and besides, you'll maybe get better some day," and tries to block your path.

i did not try simply because i had no reason not to; that compounded it, but the state of thinking was made of many, many immaterial layers of fucked-up predictions and rock-bottom self-image. when you truly want to die, actively, other people telling you that it's silly or they don't see why you'd do it or to wait and it will all blow over only makes you want out quicker.


melladh said...

re:coke - that ship sailed before I was even born, I think

re:suicide - there are more reasons for suicidal tendencies than there are stars in the sky (to make a vast exaggeration, but it's really fun to say things like that - go ahead, try it). Watch the ways to go, and see if you can find what it's expressing. Perhaps something that destroys the head is expressing a wish to stop your thoughts. Perhaps opening your veins is showing the world "this is how I bleed already, but you can't see it". Perhaps jumping out the window is the need to escape from yourself.

Yes, it is consuming. Some people can't even manage to stand up because the pain is bigger than everything else. Even if it's only mental, it will translate itself into physical pains as well. Sometimes you get so used to not being able to breathe that you start thinking it must be better to stop altogether than to keep fighting for air.
...sometimes you're just too tired to keep fighting. Death becomes the warmth people who are in hypothermia experience in the cold.

And perhaps sometimes all it really takes is someone to say "I want you here" and really mean it. Someone who's willing to show you how beautiful the world can be. And most of all: someone who can find you in the darkness.

...okay, that can sound like awesomely pretentious emo drivel, and I know it's another rant, but the night really spanks the Jante Law's arse, so there. Just watch me find a forum somewhere and go off topic...

PS. I'm not suicidal.

Max said...

I'm sorry, but that's about as far as memory lane will take me. I don't want to have to download the gutenberg PDF just so I can pretend I know the whole book by heart. ;)

About the suicide thing: I don't want to say I understand, but I think I see what you're trying to convey here. Seems like a diabolical spiral where there is no way to help from outside. Kudos for getting out of there.

Your take on psychological analysis of how people choose their way to kill themselves is highly interesting.

Lepht said...

melladh - au contraire. nice hypothesis, but most of us choose our methods of suicide according to percieved effectiveness and painlessness of the methods, choosing the one out of all the methods we know that seems either the most guaranteed (if we want that) or the most painless. my data on this come from Geo Stone's suicide manual, which you can find scanned on the Pirate Bay, and from the Peaceful Pill Handbook, same deal.

or, in other words, nuh uh.

your writing is quite insightful; i have to correct you on one thing, though - i don't need someone to show me beauty. i find this world ethereally, heartbreakingly beautiful, so appallingly beautiful that it hurts. i see it everywhere, in all of you. it's one of the few things that stays constant for me.

i don't mind you ranting, by the way.

Max - thankyou, although i am not always as outside that cloud as i ought to be.


melladh said...

L: Perhaps my hypothesis applies more to the emo kids then, who don't really want to when push comes to shove ;)

melladh said...

Ah, hit publish too quickly..
There's lots of different values in the world beauty. Sometimes beauty lies in what makes us feel free, and at peace. I've worked too much overtime to feel like I can express this as properly as I want, but for an example: I have a friend who sees major beauty in trash based creations of all kinds, not because she thinks it's cooler or prettier than others - in fact, she does seem to prefer others when compared, in most ways - but because it makes her feel in balance with the world. The same way a rainy day is more comforting than sunlight, to some.

Mercy said...

I know this is probably no longer a going concern but, if in future times of need you resort to those OTC pills with APAP / Paracetamol in them, there's a fairly simple way to minimise the amount of horrible shit you end up ingesting.

A bit of googling will help you out, but look for "cold water extraction" or "CWE" of codeine. It's really basic shit, codeine way more soluable in water than paracetamol, and more so at low temperatures, so you can split them out to a large degree. It's still a little unpredictable, but you can get a decent pain reducing dosage without having to kill your internal organs.

Lepht said...

Mercy - i know, i used to do that whenever i could be arsed and was anywhere near my freezer. i now have a prescription for buprenorphine, so it don't matter anymore. thanks for the advice, though, i appreciate people trying to help.


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[pls no ask about the vodka. debate is always welcome. remember, Tramadol fucks you up]