The controversies surrounding drugs, alcohol, addiction and recovery abound. In our community of those struggling with addiction and those of us in recovery, opinions differ greatly on what’s right and wrong.
Is recovery comprised of behaviors that avoid all drugs and medications, or does staying clean only pertain to the substance we experienced problems with?
These kinds of questions arouse our sensibilities as recovering alcoholics and addicts. There are so many important questions, and so many issues that need fixing. The answers are worth debating. Everyone’s unique experience is valuable, and every voice matters. Let’s delve into these controversies together.
The Great Marijuana ‘Detox’ Debate
Many rehab facilities still offer treatment for marijuana addiction, while some individuals are turning to pot to ease their detox symptoms or using the drug as a substitute for opioids or more potent drugs.
Is it OK to smoke marijuana? Is it OK if you’re using it to get off harsher drugs like heroin? What about if you are smoking weed as a permanent substitution for stronger street drugs or prescription drug abuse?
We know marijuana is addictive, at least psychologically. It probably won’t kill you; however, if you’ve ever been in the home of a heavy pot smoker, you realize it can certainly make your life unmanageable.
Our country is undergoing a major debate and law reformation regarding a natural plant that has been used since pre-modern times. Here are the facts, as of the publishing of this article:
- Marijuana is legal for recreational use in nine states plus D.C.
- Marijuana is decriminalized in an additional 13 states plus the U.S. Virgin Islands.
- Cannabis is legal for medical use in 30 states plus D.C., as well as in the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico.
- The federal government is considering a proposal to join Canada in decriminalizing marijuana nationwide.
Is It Cheating to Use Drugs Like Suboxone and Methadone?
Suboxone, Subutex and methadone are commonly used for detox purposes and even pain management. Research shows these medications are often more addictive than the drugs patients quit.
Some people are using “Subs” and methadone, while others claim these individuals are cheating in their addiction recovery and short-changing themselves, as well.
Complicating matters further, unscrupulous clinics seem to intentionally dispense high doses of Suboxone and methadone to get a daily customer for life. There is no difference between drug dealers and these clinics.
Substituting one drug for another isn’t getting clean. Is replacement therapy helpful and life-saving, or merely a poor attempt to cheat addiction?
Heroin Users Blaming Others for Their Addiction
Another controversy is people addicted to heroin who are placing the blame on someone else for their addiction. Whether it’s the pharmaceutical companies, doctors or other people in their lives that have caused stress or left them emotionally broken, they put the responsibility for their addiction elsewhere.
In American culture, we revere doctors and trust their professional judgment above our own. Besides, they are paid the big bucks and studied at a university for eight years. They must know more than us, right? Yet heroin addiction often starts with prescribed opioid medications.
Some argue personal responsibility trumps all. But opioid use is at phenomenal levels. The death toll from opioids surpasses loss of life in any U.S.-involved war. Personal responsibility pales in the face of such horrific numbers. Handing out painkillers like candy does patients no favors either.
We know pharmaceuticals are big business. For-profit companies are most concerned with their bottom line and their shareholders. They are not in business to put patients’ best interest first. But is it a cop-out to place all of the blame for opioid and heroin addictions on Big Pharma and doctors?
Antidepressants: Beneficial or Detrimental?
Antidepressants are another class of medications that are handed out as freely as after-dinner mints. It makes us wonder if everyone in the world is depressed. For the number of antidepressant prescriptions written, you’d think so.
These brain-altering chemicals are very expensive. Pharmaceutical reps frequently show up at doctors’ offices pedaling their wares like gypsies of old. Free samples fly from attractive, well-dressed salesmen and saleswomen.
Some individuals can’t handle the side effects brought on by antidepressants. Others are non-compliant or erratic with their medication. Yet another group of people says the drugs help.
Additionally, getting on antidepressants can carry the risk of not being able to get off them or causing severe withdrawal when you do quit them.
Are antidepressants over-prescribed? Are they helpful or hurtful? Or are they necessary only in extreme cases?
The Business of Rehab
Ooh, now we’ve hit a sensitive nerve, haven’t we?
Those among us who have spent time in rehab can’t help but wonder if it’s all about money. Sure, the clinicians want to see people get better; therapists don’t do their jobs solely for their measly paychecks. The staff – well, some of them – are vested in helping people, while some have trouble finding other work. Tattoo-clad addicts in recovery with a record aren’t at the top of headhunters’ lists, let’s be honest.
Our rehab-experienced friends tell us they are threatened with leaving against medical advice (AMA) if they wish to leave treatment before their insurance benefits are maxed out. Yikes!
Rehab centers claim everyone needs to stay in treatment as long as possible, and there is some truth to that. Statistically, people are more successful in beating addiction the longer the treatment program is. And, alarming numbers of people trying to escape the grasp of addiction are relapsing.
Nowadays, it is more common than not for someone to enter rehab more than once. Sitting around sharing your feelings starts with your self-intro of:
- Your name
- Why you’re in treatment
- Whether this is your first rehab trip
Really? Relapse and repeated rehabilitation is so abundant that clinicians have to ask everyone how many times they’ve previously been in rehab?
The First Time Is Not the Charm
Something’s wrong with a system when we – through our insurance companies – are paying tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars for a treatment that may or may not take the first time around. Damn. That does sound like it’s about money.
Treatment centers have become big business, big money makers and big salesmen. Some people say when they call a treatment facility, the promises given and the depictions of the facility are in stark contrast to the reality they see upon arrival.
Some patients are moved quickly through the typical stages of rehab:
- Partial hospitalization program (PHP)
- Intensive outpatient program (IOP)
And other patients are kept longer in each stage. The therapists say it has to do with clinical decisions in conjunction with the patient’s insurance. Those with better insurance are held back longer while their peers move on. This can be discouraging and make clients wonder if they are not progressing as fast as they should be.
Your Two Cents
We’ve presented a number of questions and controversial material to ponder. We want to hear from everyone. All of our voices matter, and we need each other. AA teaches the principle that our brains are diseased by our addictions, and only in sharing and getting feedback do we come to good conclusions.
Leave a comment below and/or head over to our online forum or our Facebook page to let us know how you feel. The controversies are out there. How will we address them as a community and as a society at large?