Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Man’s desire to experiment new modes of pleasures can be traced back to the time when Adam took the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. History says that, every culture, in various parts of the world, has used several methods to derive pleasure. However, drugs that alter mood, thought and feeling have been sought the most.
Any substance or product that is used, or intended to be used to modify or explore physiological systems or pathological states for the benefit of the recipient, is termed as a drug according to the WHO. An ideal drug is one, which has maximum efficacy with least or no toxicity and a large therapeutic index. No drug known today can be proved absolutely safe, because in practice, no drug produces only a single effect but has a spectrum of effects.
Of all the drugs used to derive pleasure, opium and its derivatives, and related synthetic compounds enjoy a unique place and have to their credit a very long history. Reference to opium dates back to 3rd century B.C. and it is believed that the Arabic physicians used it widely and introduced it to the Orientals. The Orientals used it to treat several ailments. Many others found it efficacious to relieve suffering. However, the drug fell into disrepute for a short while due to its toxic effects and inappropriate use.
Inappropriate use of a drug can be inadvertent or intentional. Though inadvertent in the beginning, it can become intentional very quickly, when the experience is pleasurable. Unrestricted availability (until early 20th Century), curiosity and influx of opium smoking immigrants from the Orient, caused accentuation of opium abuse in USA. The situation worsened with the invention of the hypodermic leading to parenteral morphine use, thereby causing a severe variety of compulsive drug use.

How people get hooked to this thing in under-privileged societies?
".....As he puffs deeply on his opium pipe in the evening gloom of histhatched-roof hut, Kya Teh is wreathed in clouds of sweet, heavy smoke.And slowly his pain disappears. The 56-year-old farmer started taking it as a form of medicine. Like most of the impoverished villagers in this remote drug-producing land in northern Myanmar, opium is the only medicine he can afford."

"....His addiction grew. Soon he was smoking three or four pipes of opium every morning, another three or fourpipes in the afternoon, and 10 or more every night. But a few years ago, Kya Teh felt a severe new sickness, a sharp pain in his lungs, and he began coughing up blood. Now his only happiness is the opium pipe. "If I don't smoke it, I feel the pain more and more," he said. "It's easier to sleep when I smoke. But then later I worry about tomorrow. I worry how I will get the opium tomorrow."

What happens when one decides to quit this thing?
".....At 28, Joe has become something of an expert at heroin detox - he's tried it nine times. Between programs, he's attempted to quit on his own. Once, when the cravings got the best of him, he tried to knock himself out by hitting his head against a brick wall. So late last year, when Joe checked himself into a New York outpost of Phoenix House, the country's largest residential rehab program, he knew exactly what to expect: the plastic cups of methadone to wear down his dependence, the sedated days and sleepless nights, the chill of the toilet seat, the sickening sight of food."

What is Methadone?
It's amber syrup that offers similar relief from opiate cravings but is highly habit-forming. First synthesized in the 1940s by German scientists and scooped up after the war by pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, methadone attracted attention in the addiction community in the 1960s. That's when a husband and wife team, doctors Marie Nyswander and Vincent Dole of Rockefeller University, found that with a daily dose of methadone and some counseling, opiate addicts had a much better chance of staying clean.

By law, methadone must be dispensed at special clinics and, for most patients, only in single daily doses. Widely prescribed beginning in the 1970s, methadone was medical science's first real attack on addiction, and study after study showed it prevented relapses and deaths by overdose. But public opinion swelled against it. Neighborhood groups battled methadone clinics, where patients congregate daily for their medicines. Politicians charged that junkies were merely swapping one habit for another. Methadone has been controversial among addicts, too. Some rejected it for producing a powerful sedative effect that makes it difficult for a recovering addict to perform job duties. Others took methadone illegally as a cheap tranquilizer.

The discussion
After reading all this I started asking myself, why do we blame people for getting addicted? What can Governments do to stop their citizens getting hooked to this thing? Many Governments still cannot provide basic amenities like water, electricity, and food to their citizens; then how can I believe that they provide medicines to them. And is the situation really different in developed countries? I say, No. Causes of getting addicted may be different but state of addiction is same. And the irony of situation is that policy makers and thinkers keep on discussing on putting end to "causes" while very little attention is given to end the "effect" also. We, the people, believe that due to tremendous growth in research in medicine, these old sufferings must have a medicinal solution. The truth is far from our imagination. People who want to get out of this killing habit have few options of treatment. Another angle is our viewpoint about addicts as weak people. We easily say, how difficult for anyone is to leave a habit if he exercises his willpower? Tell me, how many days one can survive without having water? Can one exercise his willpower and not sleep for 90 hours? One can exercise will-power to avoid things that one does with his will. For addicts it's the case of physiological dependence. Their bodies ache, they feel nausea, they vomit, they struggle to breathe, they bleed. And yes they do become "weak". Their sufferings are limitless.


Blogger autumn leaf said...

Harjesh, I chose this platform to reply to your comment you left on my piece on cricket. Thank you for taking time out and writing.

To answer your question, we are so used to taking injustice that small incidents don't ignite us any longer. But what happened y'day and the manner it happened got me angry enough to pick up my pen.

To me it is the "how" that is more important. A process oriented old fashioned person, thats me!

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