Some Things You May Not Know About Substance Abuse, part 3
If you are addicted, even if you stop using the substance that changed you, you will look for other things (other substances, sex, shopping, relationships, rage, work, gambling, exercising, making deals, etc) to gratify you in the same way. This is called switching addictions. It’s a way of avoiding the real issue that underlies addiction: the belief that you are not enough.
The underlying illness is playing whack-a-mole by extinguishing one problem behavior, only to transfer it to another. We see this frequently with addicts who will use one drug till they get in trouble with it, and then switch to a different drug. Instead of scoring heroin on the street and using dirty needles, they get their narcotics from a doctor. You’ll think that’s an improvement, until you start to abuse those pills, too; or can’t get to the doctor.
Particularly common is the way cocaine addicts, when they are clean from cocaine, will turn to rage. Rage, you see, is the perfect substitute for cocaine, because they feel so much alike. Cocaine is nothing more than powdered rage. But you don’t need to go to a bad neighborhood to score some rage. You just need to dip into your stash of resentments. Rage will cause as many problems as cocaine, so it’s hardly an improvement.
A lot of addicts will turn to a self administered marijuana maintenance program, figuring that, just by smoking some herb, they will quell the urge to use other drugs. Whether marijuana is or is not a benign substance is irrelevant here. When an addict gets a hold of it, he will use it problematically.
Years ago, I used to work with many people who had been locked up in a state psychiatric hospital for years, maybe decades, where they couldn’t get the usual kinds of drugs of abuse. About 20% of them had what we call psychogenic polydipsia. They were addicted to water. They had a dry mouth, caused by their medications, and discovered that, if they drank enough water, which was always around, they could get high. Yes, it’s possible, but you’ve got to drink a whole lot and it will ruin your kidneys.
You see, you can turn anything, any substance, any action, any person, into a drug if you know how. All you have to do is relate to it as a thing that will change your mood, not as something in and of itself. All you have to do is become dependent on it, so that you do not have to stand on your own two feet.