I began seeing clients at South Bay Human Services, a clinic for court ordered for drug and alcohol related offenses in Torrance, California.
My first day sitting in on a group I remember feeling completely inadequate and pretty sure I could never do this. Afterwards I looked at the director and said “I have no idea what anyone just said. They’re speaking a different language.” She wasn’t phased at all and didn’t question my abilities to relate to them as I had. She smiled and said, “Don’t worry, it doesn’t matter. They don’t care, they’ll teach you everything.”
That’s absolutely what they did for the next year. I went from innocent midwestern girl who knew nothing about drugs or intense trauma to feeling it along with people who had lived through the most outrageous atrocities. Stereotypes were shattered; in fact my entire view of reality was shattered and rebuilt to include a new spectrum of emotions and knowledge.
I took multiple classes about addiction, but I didn’t learn about drugs from a powerpoint lecture. I learned about drugs from the swollen bicep eaten alive by the darkest bruise you could imagine. “I missed”, he said. “Missed what?!” “The vein. It’s was a speedball; mixed heroine and meth. It feels like the gates of heaven opening without the anxiety rush you get from meth alone.” That was the only time I’ve ever literally gasped in a session.
Through weekly groups and individual sessions with these clients I began to understand the lingo and typical external worlds they lived in. “So and so overdosed and died in my arms last night. I put him in the tub but he wouldn’t wake up.” It was a sentence stuck on repeat week after week.
As the months went on, they taught me much more than external. A pattern emerged and I began to predict types of trauma and personalities based on their drug of choice. Cocaine and Codeine were two different people with different trauma and different emotions to escape.
Some meth users don’t know that they’re suicidal after coming down because during the 10days they’ve gone without sleeping their brain has used up a finite supply of feel good neurotransmitters. Wait it out and they’ll replenish. But the users don’t know that, so they shoot up again and the addiction strengthens it’s chains around them.
Why do you care?
Telling your kids “drugs are bad” leaves them curious. You’re safe to go into more detail about why they are bad. The more knowledge they have, the more likely they’ll know what to say in cases of peer pressure. Or what to do if they’ve tried something.
Downers slow down your nervous system and chill you out. I didn’t tend to see depressed people using heroine. They were too amped up and wanted to be brought down and escape the intensity of their demons.
- Alcohol removes your rationality and ability to consider consequences
- Benzo’s (Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, etc) remove anxiety. If you take them too often, you can start to need them all the time and your anxiety will get worse without them.
- Tranquilizers (Valium, Rohypnol, etc) slow down your heart beat and can be super dangerous if you mix them with other downers like alcohol
- Opiates (morphine, codeine and methadone etc) dull out everything
- Heroin. There’s is NEVER a reason to try heroine. It’s not recreational in any way shape or form. You will end up choosing to live in skid row instead of your home. Then you’ll begin telling stories of your buddy who died last night.
Uppers wake up your nervous system and make you hyper and excited. They also can give you intense focus and paranoia.
- Caffeine can help you focus or can give you anxiety
- Nicotine is gonna kill you and waste all your $. Don’t start what you don’t want to have to stop.
- Adderall (it wakes up the part of your brain that is responsible for concentration)
- Cocaine feels awesome for a few hours and as long as you don’t do anything dumb and dangerous and you got clean coke with nothing bad mixed in it, you might be alright. …Until a day or two later when you’ll be sitting there thinking “my entire life is so awful, I can’t possibly do this anymore”. The feeling will go away on it’s own if you wait it out. So many people use more cocaine to feel great again immediately. Pretty soon it’s everyday and coke is expensive. You’ll do “anything” to get money to get more.
- MDMA, Molly, and Ecstacy feel awesome as well. But same as coke you will wake up and be miserably depressed and that’s only as long as you don’t do anything harmful while you’re high and the drug isn’t mixed with anything else.
- Meth. Like heroine, there is NEVER a reason to try meth. Clients tell me it makes them skinny. I’ve never seen a pretty meth user. It will make you super ugly, and suicidally depressed. Your life will be over.
- Acid. It’s great if it’s good and horrible if it’s bad. On the + side, you hallucinate and walk around for hours and feel a deeper connection to everything. It’s really hard to find clean acid these days and if it’s bad you end up in a mental institution for the rest of your life. I know two people this happened to. Even if it is clean, you might have a bad trip and panic and get paranoid. There’s no way out of it for approximately 12 hours. You’re trapped.
Lots of kids don’t know what each drug feels like. I once had a client who said he wanted to smoke pot and get high so he could be super excited and bounce off the walls. I explained that it doesn’t quite work like that. We went through all of the drugs and what they do and what they feel like.
Risks in adolescent language:
- Good quality drugs are super expensive. You will do crazy stuff to be able to afford more.
- Even if you think they’re good quality, you’ll never know if it’s pure or mixed with something.
- There is a comedown depressed period where you feel terrible and your life is awful
- You might do things you wish you hadn’t and get in situation where you’re in danger and not in control
- You might get paranoid or have a bad trip and panic. You can’t get out of it for hours.