Afraid because I believe drugs have stolen a fundamental place in our national teen culture replacing integrity, respect and other centredness with an entitled, false empowerment, an arrogance that doesn’t respect its elders nor authority.
Cocaine makes you feel invincible then drops you paranoid from a great height, demanding more; weed ridicules effort and perseverance and heralds ‘chill’ as a demi God, – it IS a gateway drug, without a doubt; and opiates shut you down. This culture is dangerous to us in so many ways and it approaches with stealth under a blanket of denial – ‘everybody smokes dope / it’s a stage he’s going through / I used to smoke dope, don’t over react / its all a part of growing up / its only a line or two / it was fun etc etc.
The work I do in schools and with young adults informs me of how deeply entrenched drugs are in our culture and I am worried. Do we know how to react, how to cope? Are parents, teachers, doctors educated enough on how to behave around drugs and those developing a dependence? And as a nation are we ready? I have children on the threshold of adolescence, I have worked for 20 years in addiction and I know what’s coming. I know what to do and how to react to addictive behaviour, yet in the face of this conflict even I find it difficult to do the right thing and not play into the illness. This is not easy. Addiction is a powerful adversary. The original Trojan horse.
When a person repeatedly uses something outside of themselves in an attempt to cope emotionally, they abandon their opportunity to learn, stunt their emotional growth, do not invest in and exercise their own resources, and so become dependent and resource-less. It is vital for the strength of the nation as much as for the health and well being of the individual that a person build up their sense of self, strength, resilience and resourcefulness as they grow up, and this will not happen if the opportunity to learn is swerved. When that coping mechanism is drugs then an even more pernicious dimension is added of chemical interaction with the brain. Drugs have a physical impact – and those who say they don’t are either lying or being ripped off. The artificial high creates extreme mood swings, getting stoned increases anxiety and potential for depression, opiates shut a person down and all of them disturb a natural rhythm, that once out of sync will pitch and swing so that a person doesn’t know which way is up. And that’s the best-case scenario.
I am angry because even in my small radius of contacts I know some excellent therapists: brilliant, inspiring people who are driven by vocation as much as practical need to earn, to do the best they can by the clients they support. Addiction treatment and good therapy works. This chronic relapsing condition is notoriously difficult to treat, but recovery IS possible. We need the country behind us to help train and resource us to field this emerging culture before it takes over our national climate.
With drug addiction comes low self-esteem, bullying, deceit and crime, fear, shame, guilt, obsession, control, isolation, resentment and suppressed emotion. A terrifying recipe for the UK on a grand scale.
I want the government to invest in treatment – not harm reduction, but to get behind a concept of abstinence. I believe we have become an indulgent nation and as a nation we need to learn how to self regulate. We need self-respect and a sense of identity and pride.
My relief is simply that I do believe the Government is seeking a solution. My relief is that Kenneth Clarke does not believe in de-criminalising drugs. My relief as a parent and as a therapist is that for now the message to my own children and the young adults I work with, remains one of integrity – I do not endorse something I know is harmful, and nor does our country. But this is not enough.