F.A.Q. Frequently Asked Questions and Myths

Won’t we have an Explosion of Addicts? – Studies show otherwise. Are you just waiting for heroin to become legal because you can’t wait to give it a try? Me either. How many people do you know who are just waiting for it to be legal so they can try it out?

All addicts steal – Addicts are just people with a medical problem. They will be as different from one another as any of us is from the people we meet. The current way we treat addiction will push some addicts into certain behaviors because they have no other way to get the drugs they need to function as normal members of society.

Chasing the high – Everyone’s brain chemistry is different. We all know people who have struggled with depression for most of their life. For many of these people, the set points that their body tries to maintain for Serotonin, Dopamine and other neurotransmitters is a level that keeps them depressed all day long. The systems in their body that maintain those levels is just wrong for them. Many find relief from depression by taking a small amount of medication that adjusts the levels of these chemicals in their brain. They are not taking a “happy pill” that replaces depression with happiness. They are taking medication that adjusts their brain chemistry so they can be happy or sad just like the rest of us. Most of us who understand this realize that people treat their depression to get to “normal” we don’t think of it as chasing a high. Many addicts report that after a very short period they are no longer chasing the high of opiates. They’ve come to the realization that they will probably never get anything like that first high ever again. From that point on, far from chasing the high, they are just trying to not be dope sick. Tim told me many times that dope sick is like the worst Flu you ever had. It’s probably not going to kill you but it makes you so miserable that the temptation to get a fix is insurmountable. From a behavior modification paradigm, a hit of dope when you are dope sick, could not have been designed any better as a reward for taking it. The effect of a hit of dope on your Flu-like dope sick is immediate and complete. The addict knows that hit will take away the dope sick every time like clockwork. Have you ever taken an aspirin for a headache but it takes 45 minutes to provide relief and even them the relief might not be 100%? That doesn’t provide strong encouragement to take an aspirin the next time you have a headache. Heroin is exactly the opposite! It’s going to work every time; giving complete relief and you don’t have to wait 45 minutes to tell if it’s going to be effective.

Fighting paramedics because they ruined their high – The addict waking from Narcan doesn’t understand what they are seeing. Lying on the floor or strapped tightly to a gurney, surrounded by two or four uniformed public servants all wearing very serious expressions. The “fight-or-flight” response kicks in. Also called hyperarousal, or the acute stress response is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival.[1] The same response is seen quite often in hospitals when, after surgery, a patient wakes to find themselves in a situation that they just can’t wrap their brain around. I’ve seen it many times. The patient gets wheeled into the recovery room and no one is sure what will happen as the patient cones out of the anesthetic. Most of the time, they will be reassured by the recovery room personnel that everything went fine and they’ll be a little groggy for a while but not to worry there will be someone there to help them every step of the way.  Even with all that, I’ve seen sweet little old ladies come out of the fog loaded for bear and wanting to punch someone out.  Contrast that experience with an overdose victim coming awake very quickly to a scene they can’t wrap their brain around often with nobody offering to ease them back into consciousness.  It’s absolutely NOT that the addict is angry because the paramedics or police messed up their high! It’s just a very normal “Fight or Flight” response.

We just need to spend more time or money to make criminalization work – It only took America twelve years to realize that Prohibition didn’t work when we tries to use it against the drug called alcohol in the 1920’s. We’ve spend $1 trillion dollars and 40 years trying to prohibit drugs since 1984. I don’t think we are in much danger or being called cheap or impatient. Still not sure? Then look at the numbers. The more we spend the worse the problem gets. There has never been a period where it looked like just a few more billion would make the difference.

Longer prison sentences will help – We’ve tried this, even going so far as tying Judge’s hands with “determinate sentences” prescribed by the legislature to be sure that Judge’s won’t be tempted to be lenient. This idea has exploded our prison population. America has 2.1 million of it’s citizens in prison. We are the poster child for mass incarceration. America has 5% of the world’s population but we have 25% of the world’s prisoners. We have only two ways to do. Either we stop locking up so many Americans or we need to find new lyrics to the “star Spangled Banner” because leaving the phrase “the Land of the Free” in our National Anthem makes us look stupid to the rest of the world.

Pushers – There have never been any pushers in America. This is a made up group that gave us somebody to blame for America’s prodigious appetite for drugs. As long as we believe there are “pushers” we don’t have to face the fact that many Americans really like their drugs. This is very counterproductive because as long as we blame pushers we can avoid looking in the mirror and researching why so many Americans are attracted to drugs.

Other countries contribute to our American drug problem If we didn’t love our drugs, there wouldn’t be a pipeline through our neighboring countries. The huge amounts of money that Americans spend on drugs fuels these illegal operations in our neighboring countries. SPOILER ALERT! VERY HARD TO ACCEPT STATEMENT COMING NEXT. If you understand this paragraph, then you should understand that America owes a huge apology to our neighbors. We need to stop pointing to the violence in our neighbors and apologize for the damage done because that violence would not be there accept for the corrupting amount of money flowing through our neighboring economies because we can’t get a handle on our appetite for drugs.

Surely the War on Drugs is working a little. In 1999 Philadelphia’s overdose drug death rate was 18.7 per 100,000 residents. That was the highest rate in the country. In 2016 Philadelphia’s overdose drug death rate was 46 per 100,000. That’s a 300% increase thanks to 16 years of the War on drugs. But that’s an extreme case. Right? No, the highest numbers come from Allegheny County (Pittsburgh) where the increase in overdose drug death increased 500% in those 16 years.  The numbers for the whole country show only a 200% increase during 16 years of the War on Drug.64