treatment of abuse. If you agree with the ideas in these pages, you might ask the person to read this book as a basis for your initial discussions.
If all of our warnings and cautions sound discouraging, it is because the treatment of drug abuse is discouraging. For that reason we stress prevention as the better course and come back to solid, truthful information about drugs as the single best measure.
Suggested Reading lists follow most chapters, and we urge you to use them as a guide if you require more detail on a particular subject. The more you inform yourself on the complicated and ever-present issue of drugs, the more you can protect yourself and those around you from trouble, and the more you will be doing your part to steer society onto a less destructive course.
Appendix: First Person Accounts and Comments
Drugs in High School A lot of kids in my high school were into drugs. The upperclassmen — myself included — smoked pot regularly and drank (mostly beer) on the weekends. The big status drug was cocaine, only no one could ever afford it. There was one kid who used to steal it from his parents, though, a little every day, and save it up for parties.
The main reason most kids took drugs — in my opinion — was peer pressure. Of course, we didn't admit that to ourselves. We weren't even conscious of it, really. It wasn't too obvious; if it had been obvious it probably would have been a lot easier to resist. But it was a subtle thing, an attitude. We didn't think about it, but it was there.
— twenty-eight-year-old man, carpenter
The Coffee Cantata Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) wrote the Coffee Cantata around 1732, when the new drink began to leave the male society of coffee houses in Germany and invade private homes, where ladies began to consume it. In the cantata, the father is angry because his daughter is a coffee addict. He threatens not to provide her with a husband unless she promises to stop drinking it. Here are a few excerpts from their dialogue:
Father: O wicked child! Ungrateful daughter, why will you not respect my wishes and cease this coffee drinking? Daughter: Dear Father, be not so unkind; I love my cup of coffee at least three times a day, and if this pleasure you deny me, what else on earth is there to live for?
Daughter [continues in solo aria): Far beyond all other pleasures, rarer than jewels or treasures, sweeter than grape from the vine.
Yes! Yes! Greatest of pleasures! Coffee, coffee, how 1 love its flavor, and if you would win my favor, yes! Yes! let me have coffee, let me have my coffee strong.
Father: Well, pretty daughter, you must choose. If sense of duty you have none, then I must try another way. My patience is well nigh exhausted! Now listen! From your dress allowance I will take one half. Your next birthday should soon be here; no present will you get from me.
Daughter: . . . how cruel! Rut I will forgive you and consolation find in coffee . . .
Father: Now, hearken to my last word. If coffee you must have, then a husband you shall not have. Daughter: O father! O horror! Not a husband? Father: I swear it, and 1 mean it too.
Daughter: O harsh decree! O cruel choice, between a husband and my joy. I'll strive no more; my coffee I surrender.
Father: At last you have regained your senses.
|The daughter sings a melancholy aria of resignation.]
Tenor: And now, behold the happy father as forth he goes in search of a husband, rich and handsome, for his daughter. But the crafty little maiden has quite made up her mind, that, ere she gives consent to marriage, her lover must make a solemn promise that she may have her coffee whenever and wherever she pleases.
Coffee Has Never Failed Me In the morning I drink two cups of coffee. If I don't, I feel irritable. If I drink three cups, I get a little speedy, but with two I feel just about right.
If I drink coffee after about three in the afternoon, I cannot fall asleep when I like to, about eleven-thirty. If I drink coffee after dinner, as little as a half cup, I lie awake long past midnight. If I have something important or risky to do the next day, especially some public performance, coffee late in the day invariably interacts with my nervousness to produce stark insomnia.
This sleeplessness after coffee feels pharmacological. I can reach a dreamy peacefulness and experience some of the floating state that usually precedes sleep for me, but then I just hang on the edge, never quite slipping into unconsciousness. When 1 get up the next morning (angry at myself for not having slept), I feel relaxed but not rested by my seven hours in bed.
When I know that I have a long drive ahead of me, one that will mean driving late into the night or straight through it, 1 don't drink coffee for two or three days before. (I settle for lower doses of caffeine in tea or cola.) On the night of the drive 1 drink coffee twice, first a cup or two when 1 get drowsy at my usual bedtime, then two cups or more about three hours later. It I have been drinking coffee steadily for the few days before, I seem to get less stimulant effect from drinking it at night. It is almost a matter of "saving up" the coffee
I would have consumed on the two or three days preceding and then drinking it on a particular night to keep me awake on the road. Used in this way, coffee has been a great help to me and has never failed me.
— thirty-nine-year-old man, college administiator
Coffee Addiction My wife and I have drunk a lot of coffee for many years. 1 used to be a cigarette smoker but stopped with great difficulty twelve years ago; she still smokes, and I don't think she will ever be able to stop. I begin the day with two cups of coffee and drink about six more cups until dinnertime. Recently we started drinking decaffeinated coffee with dinner, because we found the regular kind made-it hard for us to fall asleep at bedtime.
A few years ago 1 developed a shake in my left hand. The doctors call it a tremor and have no explanation or treatment for it. In the past year it got worse and made me self-conscious. A number of people told me that caffeine might be causing it or, at least, making it worse, so I thought it would be a good idea to cut it out. Since I never thought that coffee did much for me or was much of a drug, I never thought it would be hard for me to stop.
My wife also thought of coffee as just a pleasant drink that we liked, and she agreed that we should switch to decaffeinated completely. So we did. I didn't notice any difference the first day, but on the second day I got very tired at my office and started to get a bad headache. I decided to come home early. When I arrived, I found my wife lying on the couch groaning. She said she had one of the worst headaches of her life and couldn't even stand up. Since my headache was steadily getting worse, I realized we must be experiencing a reaction to lack of caffeine. I told my wife that, but she refused to believe me. I told her I would prove it. I went to the kitchen and fixed us both cups of strong regular coffee. Within ten minutes of drinking them, we both felt our headaches disappear as if by magic and felt like our old selves. It astonished me to see how addicted we were to caffeine; my wife could scarcely believe it, since she was even less aware than 1 that coffee can be an addicting drug.
Since then we have been trying to wean ourselves off caffeine by gradually substituting decaffeinated coffee for regular. We've cut our consumption in half so far but still cannot do without the two cups in the morning, even after a year of trying. We're determined to do it, however, and I know we'll succeed. Seeing the addiction for what it was gave us the motivation we needed.
— sixty-eight-year-old man, lawyer
Kicking the Chocolate Habit Five years ago, hoping to kick a chocolate habit that was significantly affecting my life, I enrolled in a program at the Shick Center for the Control of Smoking, Alcoholism, and Overeating, in Los Angeles. I was then thirty-three. I could not remember the last time I had managed to get through a whole day without eating chocolate in one form or another, usually in quantities most people would regard as excessive, if not appalling.
Though not overweight, I indulged many of my chocolate cravings in secret, often in the middle of the night, when, if I had no chocolate in the house, I would think nothing of getting in my car and driving halfway across L.A. to an all-night supermarket for a fix. Although the Shick people told me they could cure my chocolate addiction in ten sessions, I was skeptical. My behavior was so compulsive and out of control that the best I thought I could hope for was a slight, temporary reduction of the cravings I suffered constantly. Still, I was willing to try anything.
The Shick Center places no importance on willpower, since it believes any form of self-imposed denial is doomed to failure. Instead, it uses a behavior-modification technique so simple as to seem ludicrous. Following instructions, l arrived for my first session with plenty of my favorite food (Hershey bars) and was seated in front of a mirror and handed a paper plate. A gadget was then strapped to my wrist that could give a very low-level electric shock. Far from being painful, this sensation was barely noticeable. I was told it was meant to have a purely subliminal effect. Thus equipped, I spent the next half-hour chewing mouthfuls of chocolate, which, instead of swallowing, I had to spit out onto the paper plate, all the while watching myself in the mirror.
During this first session, my skepticism hardened into utter disbelief. The mild revulsion I felt at the sight of seeing myself spit out the chocolate was more than offset by the pleasure of having it in my mouth. I couldn't see how such an absurd procedure could even scratch the surface of a problem as profound as mine, and were it not for the program's money-back guarantee, I would have dropped out then and there.
The following six sessions were carbon copies of the first. Toward the end of my seventh visit, I remember thinking, "This can't possibly be working; I still love the taste of chocolate as much as ever." Meanwhile, the program made no attempt to restrict what I ate on my own, and my chocolate consumption continued unabated.
It was not until the eighth session that I experienced a trace — it was the merest inkling — of something changing. It wasn't that I liked the taste of chocolate any less, but somehow I did not feel quite so compelled to put it in my mouth. Then, midway through the ninth session, I sensed a subtle but definite change. I didn't experience anything like distaste, but somehow eating the chocolate became automatic and without pleasure. I was still doubtful, especially about lasting effects, but the change was a revelation.
Preposterous as it may sound, 1 walked out of the tenth session completely cured. Although chocolate does not disgust me, I have no desire to eat it, ever. Flavors I never cared for before — vanilla, for example, or strawberry — appeal much more to me now, and I will choose them over chocolate every time. I don't consciously avoid chocolate out of fear of getting hooked again, either. I suppose I could get hooked again if I worked at it, but even though 1 test myself occasionally, my indifference to it remains the same.
Frankly, I am mystified by what happened and to this day cannot explain it. Being addicted to chocolate was so much a part of my definition of myself that it constantly amazes me to think that I am free of it. Needless to say, I am very grateful. The only problem is, I am now addicted (though somewhat less severely! to cake . . .
— thirty-eight-year-old woman, social worker
Trouble with Cocaine I first tried cocaine in the early '70s. I had been using speed to help me with school work and with my art. Cocaine was much more expensive than speed in those days and seemed less powerful, but I began to read a lot of information about the dangers of speed and thought cocaine might not be as harmful.
A few years later 1 sold cocaine for a short time, although I still was not very involved with it. When I went to Europe on a vacation, I gave away what I had.
By the mid-70s cocaine was more common, partly because the drug generation was older and had more money and partly because the dangers of speed were then well known. 1 found that coke gave me a good boost for getting work done. When I snorted it, I would feel inspired, brilliant, and energized. My art work went much faster with it because I could really focus on it and feel good at the same time. The ideas I got on coke were good ones, and I could get them down on paper. I came to see cocaine as an inducement and reward for getting work done.
Four years later I began to realize that I could not work easily without cocaine. If I didn't use it, I felt bored, tired, and out of focus, which made me want to have it around all the time. As a result I spent more and more money on it. I think I also began to get less patient, more critical, and paranoid. I started selling coke to friends to cover my needs, although I found dealing with friends as customers confusing and stressful. I got more and more difficult to be around. I was under a lot of work pressure, too, having to renovate a house I had acquired. I felt the need to rely on coke more and more to squeeze creative energy out of myself.
In 1978 a number of personal problems built up to an emotional crisis. A long-term love relationship broke up, and I ran into a dry spell with my art. 1 turned even more to coke to sustain me during this period. At first a gram might last me a week, but soon I was using half a gram to a gram every day, sometimes having the first snort as soon as I got up. I would go for days without sleep. Also, I paid little attention to my diet. At one point, 1 had to go to the hospital with severe pain that turned out to be a kidney stone. I think it resulted from episodes of bad dehydration, since coke made me urinate more, but I would put off getting something to drink for hours while I buried myself in work.
In order to relax while using cocaine so heavily, I had to drink alcohol or take Valium. Even so I would often lie in bed for hours with my heart racing, unable to fall asleep. I was really living in the extremes — either groggy and depressed or speeding. Finally, all that coke made me crazy. It gave me false inspiration and a kind of tunnel vision that hurt my creative efforts. Also, I began to suffer severe depressions. I'd play hide-and-seek games with the coke, locking it away and telling myself I wouldn't use it today. But as long as I knew it was there, I couldn't stop thinking about it and finally would give in and use it. Then I'd feel guilty as well.
I finally stopped taking it because the depressions outweighed the highs. After a few months I tried it again but got the same results: depression and no high. I never again used cocaine, but I missed it for several years and had to relearn how to work without it. I feel strongly that I have to avoid any contact with that drug from now on.
— forty-eight-year-old man, artist
Speeding through European History I was miserable and homesick during my first year at college and, as a result, wasn't a particularly good student. In fact, I spent the better part of my time bad-mouthing the school and sitting around feeling sorry for myself, and very little time studying. Therefore, when midterms came around I had little hope of distinguishing myself. I decided to try and make up for lost time by staying up all night to study for my European history exam, but by midnight the text was blurring before my eyes. I was studying in the dining room of my dorm with several other girls. Seeing me losing my struggle to stay awake, an upperclassman took pity on me and offered me a green-and-white capsule along with the promise that my drowsiness would be cured by taking it. I took it without a second thought, and within half an hour or so found myself studying like mad. Not only was I completely engrossed in European history, I felt exhilarated; I was actually enjoying myself for the first time in months.
You always hear stories about people taking exams on amphetamines and thinking they've done brilliantly only to find out later that they wrote page after page of incomprehensible gibberish. I almost wish that had happened in my case. I got an A on my history exam — as I was sure I had — and have been involved, to some extent, with amphetamines ever since.
— forty-eight-year-old woman, writer
A College Speed Freak I was a speed freak in college but did not know it, because a doctor got me to take it and never told me I could get hooked. I was about thirty pounds overweight and had never been able to diet for long. A school doctor started me on daily doses of Desoxyn and told me it would suppress my appetite. It did. It also made me feel great, at least at first. He also gave me a diet to follow, and I soon lost most of my excess weight. After several months, however, I began getting irritable and depressed and also didn't sleep well. I ate more when I was in these moods and gained some weight back. I found that taking more Desoxyn made me feel better and eat less.
It never occurred to me that the Desoxyn could affect my mood. I was completely ignorant of what it was; I think I considered it a kind of dietary supplement that took away hunger. My doctor never made me feel I needed to worry about taking it all the time. Soon I was taking three times the original dose.
Even when speed began to get a bad reputation in the late 1960s I didn't know I was on it. I was really shocked to learn that Desoxyn was just a brand name for methamphetamine and even more shocked to find that I couldn't stop taking it. If I tried to cut down the dose or stop, I would be groggy, depressed, and unable to concentrate or do my schoolwork. I would also eat a lot and gain weight. By the way, I also drank a lot of coffee and smoked cigarettes, so I was really a heavy user of stimulants.
When I told the doctor I was worried about being addicted, he made light of my fears, saying Desoxyn was a safe drug. It took many-visits over the next year to convince him that I had a drug problem and took me another year beyond that to get off speed entirely. When I did, I was back where I started as far as being overweight. I feel I was a victim of that doctor's ignorance and probably of the drug company's promotion of the stuff for weight loss. Also, I know I was not an unusual case, because I have met other people who had similar experiences. I do not think I will ever take any kind of amphetamine again, because I am afraid that I would easily fall back into the same pattern of addictive use. Maybe those drugs have some good uses, but not in the way I took them.
— forty-six-year-old man, lawyer
Speed in College: Another View As a college student in the 1960s I used speed to take important exams. Caffeine never helped me stay up; I could drink all the coffee I could stand or take many times the recommended dose of No-Doz and still fall asleep. So I went to the student health services, where a doctor listened to my story of getting sleepy when I had to study. He gave me a prescription for Dexamyl. The first time I took the stuff I felt so good that I wrote a paper for a course effortlessly. I took another capsule the next day and got about half the effect. That made me realize I should not use it regularly.
The pattern I developed was to save the speed for the day of a big morning exam. I'd stay up studying as late as I could — say till 3 a.m. — then go to sleep and set the alarm for seven. When I woke up, I'd study a little more and take a Dexamyl capsule when I left my room to walk to the exam. By the time I got the questions I'd be buzzing with energy and confidence and be eager to start writing.
I did well in all the exams I took that way and never got any complaints that I'd written my name over and over. For me Dexamyl really increased concentration and mental performance. (Of course, I had to know the material; it didn't put information in my head if I did not study.)
After I had made several visits to the student health service for new prescriptions, the doctor gave me an unlimited one that I used for several years and enabled me to give Dexamyl to classmates who also needed it at exam time. I never used speed in any other situations, and no one I knew in college had problems with it. I suppose that kind of prescription is not allowed anymore, and I know amphetamines have a bad reputation today, but I think we used them sensibly, and they helped us cope with a system that paralyzed many-students with anxiety.
— forty-nine-year-old man, corporate executive
A Nonaddicted Smoker Like Mark Twain, I find it easy to give up smoking; I have done it countless times. In fact, I consider myself a nonaddicted smoker, since I have been smoking cigarettes on and off for twenty-five years without ever getting so hooked I couldn't stop just like that whenever I chose to. I would see nothing extraordinary about this, were it not for the wonder and admiration it excites in other people. Since it is mostly unheard of to smoke cigarettes only now and then, acquaintances regard me as a woman of superhuman willpower, a notion I hate to disabuse them of.
However, the sad truth is, I have no more willpower than anyone else and probably less than many. What saves me from being a cigarette junkie is that I recognized early how easy it would be for me to get hooked on tobacco, and, knowing that if I did get hooked I'd hate myself, I have always been very careful to keep my smoking under control.
For one thing, I never smoke before five o'clock in the afternoon. That, in itself, might seem adequate insurance against addiction, but, even though I have no desire for a cigarette before that time, I have been known to smoke up to five in a row once I begin — making myself very sick in the process. So I limit myself to one cigarette before dinner and try not to smoke more than five or six in the course of an evening. Also, I monitor my consumption very closely, and whenever I notice a rising trend, I swear off entirely for a few days.
Since my husband is a confirmed and heavy smoker, it requires some effort on my part to refrain entirely for days at a time. On the other hand, having him around helps me in the long run because he provides a living example of the sort of dependency I want so much to avoid.
— thirty-seven-year-old woman, housewife
Love versus Cigarettes These days I run into lots of people who have stopped smoking, and they always say, "You could do it, too." I suppose they're right in theory. I mean, in theory I could run the triathalon if I put my mind to it, but in practice I know it isn't so.
I come from a long line of smokers. At seventy my mother still smokes heavily. Her mother smoked well into her eighties (and lived to be ninety-three). I took up the habit at age thirteen, and for the next twenty years I never once seriously considered denying myself the pleasure smoking afforded me.
Then, several years ago, 1 fell madly in love with an ex-smoker, a man who, though broad-minded in other respects, was a fanatic on the subject of cigarettes. He forbade smoking anywhere in his vicinity — not only in his own house and car but also in other people's houses and cars, as well as in restaurants and movie theaters, where he would not hesitate to browbeat people into putting out their cigarettes even when they were legally within their rights to smoke.
Very early in our relationship, I realized it would be futile to expect him to compromise on this issue. Not only did he object to cigarette smoke in the air he breathed, he hated the smell of it on my breath, in my hair or clothing. He was also highly sensitive to the odor of cigarettes, and though I bent over backwards to avoid offending him, my efforts were mostly unsuccessful. I grew increasingly defensive and insecure, and soon had to face the fact that we couldn't possibly have a long-term, intimate relationship unless I quit smoking. 1 therefore resolved to do so, and one day, feeling very virtuous, I tossed out my cigarettes and went cold turkey.
My friend assured me that 1 would soon begin to feel great as a result of not smoking, but in fact the discomfort I experienced from abstinence was intense and unrelenting, even after five weeks. Smoking had become so woven into the fabric of my life that everything seemed to come unraveled without it. I could not get my mind off cigarettes for more than ten seconds at a time. I craved them not only every minute of every day but also in my dreams at night.
Naturally, my agony put a lot of stress on what was still an untried and untested relationship, and the relationship did not bear up well under it, I'm afraid. No doubt I wanted much more credit and consideration from my friend than I deserved, but I also deserved, I think, somewhat more than I got. Having gone through the ordeal himself, he was, if anything, less compassionate. He did not want to hear about my suffering and put me down for continuing to make such a fuss. Then, after five weeks of steadily mounting tension, he had to go to Europe on business for a month. I started smoking again as soon as his plane took off.
When my friend returned from Europe, he was most unhappy to find that instead of being out of the woods 1 was right back at square one. He was willing to try again, but this time, instead of urging me to quit for reasons of my own health and well-being, he wanted me to do it for him. What meant more to me — him or cigarettes? That was the choice I was faced with. In other words, it was a test.
Well, to make a long story short, I failed the test — not once or twice, but repeatedly, almost every day for ten straight months, in fact. Had my lapses been matters merely between me and my conscience, they would have been bad enough. But, as 1 said, my friend was very sensitive to the odor of tobacco. No matter what precautions I took, he was able, even hours after the fact, to smell the evidence on my breath. So I was constantly humiliated as well, and my failures became the subject of endless arguments, and, toward the end of the affair, the cause of several knockdown, drag-out fights. There were, of course, other differences between us, but the issue of smoking became a sort of lightning rod, attracting more and more of the emotional charge.
I had always thought I'd be able to kick my addiction for someone I loved. That assumption turned out to be wrong. In the end, when forced to choose between love and cigarettes, I chose cigarettes. It was that simple.
I did make one resolution at the time, which I have stuck to ever since. It was that I would never again become involved with a man who does not smoke cigarettes.
— forty-one-year-old womati. teacher
I Like Alcohol I like alcohol. It is a powerful drug and, God knows, for some people a hellish one, but if used carefully it can give great pleasure. After a long, hard day, the splendid warm glow that strong drink provides is one of my favorite feelings; it starts in the pit of my stomach, then spreads to my limbs and brain. I know that alcohol is a depressant, but it acts and feels like a gentle relaxant — of the spirit as well as of the physical body. |ust notice the increased vivacity and noise level at a cocktail party after a drink has been served to see how alcohol can put people at ease emotionally.
Aside from the pleasureful intoxication of strong drink, I also enjoy the tastes of lighter forms of alcohol. Few sensations are more delightful than the wet but dry taste of cold beer to a parched throat. The subtle, taste-enhancing, enriching relationship of wine to food is a subject that has inspired many poets and writers far more capable than I of putting words together, but I can tell you that what they say is true. The fascinating, complex flavor of good wine can be profoundly sensual.
— sixty-two-year-old man. psychoanalyst
Bad Drinking Habits I was sixteen when I first got drunk. It was a revelation, more fun than a barrel of monkeys. I screamed and hollered and carried on and did somersaults and hugged my friends (who were also drunk) and just had a blast. Naturally, I kept wanting to repeat the experience.
Pretty soon a group of my high-school friends and I got into regular weekend parties where we'd get drunk (usually on hard liquor) and lose our inhibitions. Sometimes we'd even bring a bottle to school and sneak out between classes to drink a little. No one knew anything about pot or other drugs in those days. Alcohol was it. It was our main way ot getting high and so was very important to us.
When I went away to college, 1 continued my pattern of using alcohol to get high, mostly at weekend parties. But two things began to happen that bothered me. First, from doing it over and over, the alcohol high lost a little of its fascination for me. Although I still liked it, it didn't measure up to those early experiences in high school. Secondly, I started getting bad hangovers. I mean I'd really be sick as a dog the next day, and I didn't like that at all. The price seemed much too high to pay for a few hours of fun.
I used to tell myself I'd only drink to the point of getting pleasantly high, but every single time I'd go beyond it. Before I'd know it, I'd be stumbling around, being loud and jovial, insensitive to pain. I'd feel great at the time, and I'd also know what was in store for me. Usually, the sick effects would start when I'd try to go to sleep drunk: terrible nausea with the room spinning. Every serious drinker knows that one. And the next day I'd be totally out of action, feeling as if I'd been poisoned, which I guess I had. I got really scared one time when I woke up like that and couldn't remember anything of the night before.
Although I kept trying to use alcohol moderately, whenever I'd set out to get high on it, I would always keep on drinking till I got drunk, no matter how many resolutions I made not to.
About that time, pot came along. It took me a little while to learn to get high on it, but when I did, it seemed much better than alcohol for me. There was no problem of taking too much and behaving badly, no getting sick, and no hangover. Becoming a pot smoker got me out of my bad drinking habits. I think if I'd kept them up, I would now be in real trouble.
I've tried various drugs since those days and don't think anything comes close to alcohol in terms of raw strength and potential for trouble. I couldn't learn to control it well, and I see many people around me who have the same problem.
— thirty-seven-year-old man, college professor
An Overdose of Downers The old saying "The cobbler's children go without shoes" applies to the children of physicians, too. Because they deal with sick people all day long, doctors tend to give short shrift to the complaints of family members. As the daughter of a medical doctor, I should know. When 1 or any of my brothers or sisters came down with anything more serious than a hangnail, my father's standard procedure was to ply us with sleeping pills.
When I was very young, his prescription was for a half grain or so of phenobarbital, but by the time I was in junior high school, whenever I had a sore throat or stuffy nose, I was sent to bed with two Seconals or Nembutals as a matter of course. The theory behind this treatment was that a good night's sleep would cure just ahout anything, and though it did not always work out that way, 1 never doubted the basic principle or questioned the wisdom of using drugs to implement it.
Later, when I was living on my own, my father gave me an assortment of sleeping pills to have on hand just in case. Falling asleep was never one of my problems, so 1 never resorted to them on my own. Then, one night when I had come down with a severe cold, my father stopped by and advised me to take some sedatives to be sure to get a good night's sleep. I said okay, produced the grab bag of pills, and asked him which to take. He chose two of the biggest gelatin capsules I had ever seen. They were Placidyl, he told me, 250 milligrams each. I protested, sure that one would more than do the job, but he insisted they were very mild, and that 500 milligrams was the standard dose. After I'd taken them, he left.
Meanwhile, I had been waiting for a neighbor to come and walk my dog in the park across the street. After twenty minutes or so, when she still hadn't arrived, I decided I'd take the dog out quickly myself. I was starting to feel groggy and wanted to go to sleep.
I lost consciousness almost as soon as I reached the street. All of a sudden there was a fantastic explosion of lights, and I remember looking up at the sky, exclaiming "Wow!" before blacking out. That must have been around ten-thirty. When I came to, it was after midnight, and people were shaking me and slapping my face. I was in the park, where some other dog walkers had discovered me on a bench in a stupor. Apparently, the dog had dragged me in a somnam-bulent state all the way up the block, across a big street, and into the park. The people who found me had been slapping me for several minutes without success. Figuring I had either overdosed on something accidentally or made a suicide attempt, they were on the verge of calling an ambulance. It was obvious to everyone that I was heavily drugged, and, of course, they were all upset. When I realized what had happened, I was beside myself with rage.
Calling my father on the telephone to rant and rave brought no satisfaction. He not only refused to accept any responsibility for what had occurred — sticking to his story about 500 milligrams of Placidyl being a mild dose — he even tried to shift the blame onto me by suggesting that I had some deep, unconscious motive for passing out in the street. I hung up, consciously motivated to strangle him.
As it turned out, my father had given me not 500 milligrams of Placidyl but twice that amount: 1000 milligrams, or, as the package insert put it, enough to knock out a woman in labor. Nevertheless, he continued to make light of the incident and deny any negligence on his part.
On the whole, the experience was very valuable for me because it taught me something people need to know — namely, that it is good to be skeptical about doctors (whether or not they are relatives) and the casual ways they dispense drugs.
— thirty-eight-year-old woman, artist
Experiences with Quaalude Many of my friends and I began using methaqualone, or Quaaludes, in the 1960s. We take them on occasion only and like the way they remove inhibitions and ease social interactions. 1 know a lot of folks who consider Quaalude their drug of choice, especially for having fun and partying.
I've seen Quaalude produce hilarious situations. One time I went with a group of friends to dinner at a fancy Italian restaurant. Most of us took Quaalude before leaving the house. We ordered dinner in high spirits, and when it came started eating. Just then, one woman who had taken a double dose passed out and fell face first into her plate of spaghetti. Everyone else stood up and applauded.
I've also seen Quaalude lead to tragic situations. Everyone knows that downers and driving don't mix. I know a woman who was trying to cope with severe depression by taking Quaalude. One night, after exceeding her usual dosage, she went out and almost lost her life in an auto accident. She ran into a parked car.
I've seen other people become violent on Quaalude, then not remember it afterwards — just as with alcohol. One man who saw me professionally told me he once took three Quaaludes and went to bed. The next thing he remembered was being awakened about two hours later by his frightened wife, who told him he had been beating her.
There is no question that Quaalude can be dangerous when used irresponsibly, or that it can be addicting. As a recreational drug, taken on occasion in a responsible manner, it seems to me safe and interesting and gives me an experience different from anything else.
One of the rules I follow is to know my tolerance so that I take the right dose. Black-market Quaaludes are more of a problem, because their quality is uncertain. Usually they contain less methaqualone than pharmaceutical Quaaludes, but they really vary. I've seen two people with equal tolerance each take one black-market Quaalude and experience different effects. So knowing your drug is important, too.
The other rules that are most important are not to mix Quaalude with alcohol and not to mix Quaalude with driving.
— forty-six-year-old man, drug counselor
Down on Valium I hope I never hear of Valium again. A university physician gave it to me as a "muscle relaxant" when I had a pinched nerve in my neck that caused muscle spasms in my right shoulder and weakness in my right hand. He did not tell me anything about the mental effects of Valium, so I was quite unprepared for them. All I remember of the next few days is that I could not concentrate in my office. Then my secretary and wife began acting strange. Only when I stopped taking the drug did I realize how bizarre my behavior had become while I was on it. I would stare blankly into space when people talked to me, not remember anything said to me, and be unable to think or reason. Also, I had no sense that anything was wrong.
I think Valium turned me into a kind of zombie for those few days. I can't understand why anyone would want to take it.
— sixty-two-year-old man, university professor
Valium as a Tool I first began taking Valium ten years ago to relieve anxiety and very quickly came to depend on it for writing, or, more exactly, for beginning to write. Once I am at my desk and have actually begun to work, I am fine; the problem for me is to get there in the first place. What I discovered was that very soon after I took a dose of Valium, I felt high, and that during the brief period that the high lasted, getting to my desk was a whole lot easier.
By now, after ten years of experimenting, I have learned that like any tool, Valium has its limitations. It works best on an empty stomach, for example, and when it comes to dosage, less is definitely more. Two and a half milligrams is the right dose for me; more than that makes me feel groggy. Also, since I become tolerant to its effects if I take it more than two days running, I have to use it intermittently.
Even when I observe all the rules and take Valium under ideal conditions, the period of grace it affords me is extremely brief. Once its effects begin to come on, I have about fifteen minutes in which to capitalize on them. During that critical period, if I happen to be distracted by a phone call or a neighbor dropping by, all is lost. That sounds hard to believe, 1 know, but it has happened to me many times, and whenever it does, that's it: the day is shot. Besides being too anxious to get to my desk, I will be furious — positively fit to be tied.
— thirty-nine-year-old woman, writer
An Anesthetic Revelation I once inhaled a pretty full dose of ether, with the determination to put on record, at the earliest moment of regaining consciousness, the thought I should find uppermost in my mind. The mighty music of the triumphal march into nothingness reverberated through my brain, and filled me with a sense of infinite possibilities, which made me an archangel for a moment. The veil of eternity was lifted. The one great truth which underlies all human experience and is the key to all the mysteries that philosophy has sought in vain to solve, flashed upon me in a sudden revelation. Henceforth all was clear: a few words had lifted my intelligence to the level of the knowledge of the cherubim. As my natural condition returned, I remembered my resolution; and, staggering to my desk, I wrote, in ill-shaped, straggling characters, the all-embracing truth still glimmering in my consciousness. The words were these (children may smile; the wise will ponder): "A strong smell of turpentine prevails throughout."
— Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894), American physician and author, from a lecture given in 1870
The Need for Opiates The first opiate I ever took was codeine. I snorted it. It made me feel right for the first time in my life. I said to myself, "Aha, this is what I've been missing." I never felt right from as far back as I can remember, and I was always trying different ways to change how I felt. I used lots of drugs, including pot, downers, tranquilizers, and alcohol, but none of them ever really did it for me. Codeine was a revelation, and I've been an opiate user ever since.
That first time I was twenty-three. Before long I was addicted, although I've always snorted dope, never shot it. Opiates have caused me lots of trouble, but what they do for my head is worth it. Now I'm thirty-four and am on methadone maintenance. I don't think methadone is the best opiate for me; it makes me sweat terribly and has some other effects on my body I don't like, but it's great to be able to get what I need legally, so that I can spend time on things other than scoring. I hope one day more people will realize that some of us have to have opiates just to feel normal.
— thirty-four-year-old woman, rock singer
Opiate Addiction I started using heroin in high school, chipped for a long time, then finally became an addict. Presently, I'm on methadone, which works well for me. I use narcotics to keep from feeling sick (withdrawal), to relieve stress, and sometimes for fun. I like to mainline because it's the most economical way to take opiates: heroin is at least three times as active intravenously as orally, although the effects last longer if you take it by mouth.
I've read a lot about opiate users seeking a "rush" by injecting heroin. To me the rush has never been that important. It feels like a pleasant warm feeling, especially in the pit of the stomach, accompanied by deep physical and mental relaxation. (Incidentally, smoking many opiates gives a stronger rush than mainlining, but it is wasteful, because some of the drug is destroyed by heat.) In my experience, chippers are more interested in rushes than addicts. They tend to take narcotics on occasion for fun, whereas addicts take them regularly in order to make it through a troubled world. Regular doses of heroin just make many addicts feel normal; they do not give noticeable rushes.
For me, the rush is secondary to the tranquilizing and pain-relieving effects of opiates. I feel I have a metabolic problem due to lack of endogenous opiatelike drugs. By substituting external narcotics for internal ones, I have probably shut off my body's production of the endogenous substances, and now I have to take opiates regularly to make life bearable. Sometimes, I'll take a higher than usual dose for pleasure and savor the rush, but that's unusual. Oral methadone does not give a rush, and if rushes were so important to addicts, methadone maintenance would not be accepted by so many of them. As I've said, it works for me.
By the way, my health has been generally good since I've been an
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Being addicted to drugs is a complicated matter condition that's been specified as a disorder that evidences in the obsessional thinking about and utilization of drugs. It's a matter that might continue to get worse and become disastrous and deadly if left untreated.