Vice Squad
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Drugs Blur Vision...

...oops, I mean, Blur's Drug Vision. David Rowntree, recovering addict, aspiring barrister/politico, and the drummer for the British band Blur has an op-ed on drug policy in Tuesday's Guardian. First, Rowntree points to the ineffectiveness of drug policy, or at least to the paucity of data pointing to policy efficacy: "there seems to be no evidence that any country's policy has had any lasting effect on the number of recreational or dependant [sic] drug users at all. Ever." He then suggests that in shaping policy it is sensible to consider dependent and non-dependent users separately, recognizing that for most users, there are no negative long-run consequences from a standard recreational drug career that fades away by the age of thirty. Eventually, Rowntree proposes "a strategy based on research, education and harm reduction." But en route he offers what I consider to be some profound insights into his own addiction. At first the alcohol and coke seemed to be problem solvers.

However, my experience of life when not on drink or drugs got progressively worse. The world became an increasingly hostile place, relationships got more difficult and an all-encompassing sense of dread and paranoia set in. Drink and drugs became progressively less effective in soothing those feelings. At some point, the drugs stopped working, but life without them had become impossible. It was a catch-22 situation where it was impossible to live without alcohol or drugs but impossible to continue using. I managed to get help before they destroyed my life, and these days I'm active in the recovery community. The key point is that all the way along, I thought my behaviour was normal and it was the rest of the world that had gone mad. I had no idea my experience was different to anyone else's because I had nothing to measure it against.

So if my experience is typical, and I think it probably is, many addicts aren't interested in treatment because they don't believe there's anything wrong with them.
Incidentally, both Rowntree and Blur hail from Colchester, where Vice Squad was happily seconded for a year in the mid-1990s. Speaking of secondments, I have returned (sans luggage) to Chicago, allowing me to pick up the Guardian in one of the too-many airports that I visited today; I hope that more regular Vice Squad posting will ensue.

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