I’ve had so much time off in the past 15 months that I sit around and think a lot. One of the things I think about is how my life was nearly ruined by drugs and alcohol. I recently wrote an article about my best friend Joe whose brain was permanently damaged by drugs and who still resides as a homeless “fixture” in my old hometown. I’ve thought a great deal about the reasons why young people in our society start taking drugs to begin with and I’ve tried to determine the underlying reasons why the rebellion of young people is carried out to such a degree that many die of drug overdoses and suicide and such.
My son went through a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program a few years back, and the gal who ran that program told me something amazing. There was one young man in the program who only took drugs 4 times in his entire life, but each time was an overdose, and the last time killed him. I ask myself “How on earth did we cause our kids this much pain?”
You must understand my position on drugs, I would never deny to anyone that they make you feel good. In fact, drugs make you feel GREAT – and that is part of the problem. Let me show you a picture of how I view the impact of drugs on a person’s “Psycho-Emotional” state.
As you can see from the chart, a person’s psycho-emotional state is sometimes viewed as a continuous, but variable condition where some of the time that person is relatively happy (above the zero line) or relatively unhappy (below the zero line). In a “normal” person, you could define those “normal” boundaries as being a total of one away from zero in the positive direction (normal happiest state = 1), and one away from zero in the negative direction (normal unhappiest state = -1). It’s important to define some of these parameters, and I think that “normal” curve presented as a wave form on a chart like this is easiest to understand for even a non-mathematician.
Others may have seen this curve presented before and referred to as a “Biorhythm” chart. That, in fact, is what it is. It doesn’t imply that “Normal” people are always cycling between happy and unhappy in a continuous fashion, nor that those transitions are smooth as the curve in this diagram implies. The only thing to note are those parameters as I stated above. You might also note that some people may be relatively happier, and some relatively unhappier, in that they still fit in these normal parameters, but they may or may not experience a balance of happy and unhappy moments in their lives. “Normal” then becomes only a stake in the ground for the sake of argument, a definition that implies that most people only achieve that level of happiness or unhappiness in their lives as a usual result of the outcomes of their daily existence.
If you look again at the chart, you will note that “Normal” line is the blue line. You need to have a baseline if you’re to understand the effects of drugs on a person’s psycho-emotional state. So, if we accept the definition for “normal” then we have a means to determine the effects that drugs produce on the psycho-emotional state. My “theory” is, and this is borne out both by personal experience, and interviews with thousands of drug addicts, is that drugs produce a profound effect on the psycho-emotional state of a person, pushing a person way above the “normal” psycho-emotional “happy” state. The consequence of this, however, is that then later on, without the drugs (or when the drugs wear off), a person is dropped way down below the “normal” unhappy state. If you now look at the chart again, you will see that I have defined that line (the “on drugs” line) with the red line.
I want you to pause a moment and consider the implications of that statement: Drugs make you feel GOOD! They make you feel a lot better than you normally do even when you’re at your normal happiest levels! Like I said, I never would deny that fact, and in reality, that more than anything else is one of the primary reasons why folks use drugs! They help you get HAPPY! But, and this is the BIGGEST but there is in relation to drugs, those same drugs that made you happy, later on when they wear off will make you feel unhappy because the natural reaction of our physiological systems in response to a huge rush of happiness is to have a huge fall towards unhappiness, and even depression. Does that fit with evidence that others have seen? That’s what I’m wondering about, does that fit with mood swings and such that are observed in drug addicts? It fits my theory to a very great degree.
So, folks who have a natural aversion to “false” feelings, feelings that are not produced by experience, but by something that came from without their system, those folks will naturally not want to put drugs in their bodies again, because they realize very quickly that the consequence of the drug is not worth the “high.” But, those who are addictive, like me, will instantly just want more of the drug, in order to feel happy again. This doesn’t depend on anything that modern science has been able to measure yet, it may be genetic, it may be environmental, but as yet, the defining characteristic that makes one person “addictive” and another not, has not been discovered by modern science.
Now, what are the long-term effects of drugs on the psycho-emotional state? Obviously, there are consequences for those who engage in long-term drug use that are more profound than the simple effects described above. In fact, the long-term effects are what I would term “The addictive cycle.” Let’s go back to the theory so far: Drugs push you above your normal “happiest” state, and below your normal “unhappiest” state. Over a period of time, as the body reacts to the stimulus of the drug, the effects of the drug in the upwards (happy) direction are not as profound as they were in the beginning, such that it either requires more drug or more frequent drug use in order to get back to a “happy” state.
In the chart, you will notice the yellow line. This third line demonstrates that part of my theory, that over time, a person who becomes addicted to drugs starts to not be operating near their original normal “happy” state. In fact, after enough time, a person who’s addicted to drugs may operate completely in the “unhappy” state, having gotten to the point where drugs won’t even push them above the zero level any longer! Those that have reached that point are hopelessly addicted and have no options but intensive rehabilitation for their drug use.
I know from my own personal experience that I am “hypersensitive” to any type of drug now. In fact, I only take over-the-counter medications, having an extreme aversion to any type of drug or alcoholic substance. After having been clean and sober for nearly 28 years, and studying this for so long, my theory says that my psycho-emotional state has returned to near normal, though even after so many years, it’s hard to recognize that “happy” state, and I must admit that most of the time I operate near the zero level. Excessive drug usage produced a suppression of the body’s normal mechanisms in other words, and even after so many years with no drugs, those mechanisms are not completely repaired, irreparable damage was my consequence. That is probably the best reason in the world to never do drugs to begin with.
What I set out to do in this article was to lay the groundwork for my theory on how drugs impact a person, both the psycho-emotional state of a person, and the physiological consequences of long-term drug usage. I have not attempted to link this to any sociological reasons or consequences for drug use in our society. I’ve written elsewhere about the reasons why drugs are prevalent in our society, and I hope to write again on this subject because it is of great importance to me to try and save our young people from the tragic consequences my friends and I suffered as a result of drug use.
As a Christian, I have a worldview that presents the world as a spiritual battleground. Since this is so, it must be proposed that drugs are a tool of our enemy Satan. The Bible makes it very clear that there is a real enemy of our souls and he has only one goal: To DESTROY us. My theory fits well with what the Bible says, and I will say that a drug user is the ultimate “selfish and self-centered” (or rebellious) person, responding only to his or her own needs and completely shutting out the rest of the world in order to try to satisfy their needs. Again, this is a tool of the enemy who lies to us and says things like “You deserve it.” The answer to these issues is love, Jesus’ love which tells us that we must humble ourselves, and put others first. Humility demands that I give up my desire to satisfy my own needs first, and take care of those around me. In future articles I will show how that basic premise of Christianity doesn’t fit with our modern “Me first” society.