Lurker, soon to be contributer on the topic of addiction.
Opioids+Ethanol - Calming my brain down
I loved this site the minute I stumbled upon it. Nothing quite like this has ever been done. Noticed that there was no page on 'physical dependence' and felt like I might be able to help. Hoping to contribute up to date, rational, and evidence based information regarding the neuroscience involved in the grossly misunderstood and all too human phenomenon that is addiction.
I myself am a 25 year old retired but once prolific self-medicator. I spent 10 years using something habitually in an attempt at achieving what I perceived to be normalcy, or at least what I assumed other people felt like at baseline. Social/Generalized Anxiety, Panic Disorder, OCD, and Major Depressive Disorder began to emerge at about 7 years old, and marked the beginning of my quest to feel 'ok'. I was consistent in attending therapy, taking prescribed medication, and had access to familial support at all times. Unfortunately, although these things were helpful, the negative affect felt intractable and I took a keen interest in the idea of altering one's consciousness through (my understanding at the time) the deliberate and precise use of biochemical keys. By 13 I was sure I wanted to identify as a 'psychonaut' and set out to break the repressive suburban bubble keeping me from an opportunity to find contentedness. I soon found regular access to the essential teenage starter pack- marked up ditchweed, shitty beer, stolen liquor/cigarettes.
The rest of the story is pretty involved but at the same time very predictable. My addictive journey moved me through psychological dependence on marijuana, a year spent in a psychedelic whirlpool that resulted in physical dependence on ethanol, and into pain pills, heroin, and the needle. All very quickly and with a jarring violence, digging myself into a hole and crossing personal boundaries at every turn.
I'm retired now, and owe much of my wellbeing to methadone and other psychiatric medications. I feel very strongly about advocating for and advancing the overhaul of the treatment industry and replacing the dubious, behaviorist, unfounded, expensive, non secular, and often traumatic/dehumanizing practices therein with evidence based medicine. There is no reason that the field of addiction should be so far outside of the mainstream body of medical science, and the consequence of continued negligence and greed regarding those affected will continue to ruin and take human lives.
I am a skeptic, a student, an aspiring scientist, an atheist, and an advocate for social justice derived from compassion and humanist philosophy. I believe drug use in complex organisms is an entirely natural phenomenon that has a very long and complicated relationship with human history, culture, and theology. We must move past the idea that the attraction to novel experiences is in any way sinful or aberrant. We must exercise understanding, and value empathy over authoritarianism and arbitrary structure.