Monday, 11 March 2013

Understanding addiction and alcoholism

I wonder if people who are not addicts can ever really understand - even the really clever ones.

I'm drawn to this question again having watched a fantastic programme about addicition that was on the BBC last Friday.  If you can watch it in your locale and want to here is the link go the BBC iPlayer page for it

Frankly I don't like Mr Brand as a performer I don't find him that amusing as an entertainer but I know he is an addict in recovery so thought this would be an interesting watch.  It was.  Maybe others can watch this and start to get in the head of people like me when Russell sees a video of himself taking drugs from some years ago he admits to jealousy of his older self.  I'm similar - I just wish I could drink and not have the consequences of someone who drinks too much.  But I can't I'm an alcoholic and so that I know if I did go and have a drink today it would all be bad not good for me.  As Russell says it would slowly take everything from me, money, jobs, homes, friends, family, health and eventually, inevitably my life.  It is that simple as I cannot control my drinking once started I cannot stop or reduce.

There was one part where he remonstrates with a doctor who prescribes Methadone to Heroine addicts.  Russell argues strongly that this is not helping the "junkies", they just use more on top he states and his meeting with drug users throughout the programme seems to bear this out, but you could possibly argue editorial control dictating what we were shown perhaps.  However I went to the Office National Statistics and got a spreadsheet of deaths in UK due to drugs.

In table 6b "Number of drug-related deaths where selected substances were mentioned without other drugs, England and Wales, 1993–2011", Heroin and Morphine are number one with 332 for 2011.  Methadone is second with 231.  Now to me this does seem like madness - a substitute we are prescribing to help people has a death rate of nearly 70% the drug we're "protecting" people from.  Is this only about making drug users  legitimate and pushing down crime as they no longer need to use crime to fuel their habit or about getting people to live a drug free life, free from the risk of a drug poisoned death?  I'll leave you to decide but 231... makes you wonder doesn't it.  

Btw - for alcohol in another set of data from ONS - namely "Age-standardised alcohol-related death rates (with 95 per cent confidence limits) by sex and age group, United Kingdom, 1991-2011" the total for alcohol deaths in the UK in 2011 (same year as above) was 8,748.  I'm not out to make alcohol illegal, that won't work, in fact my personal view is to legalise drugs through a controlled environment as part of helping addicts find treatment and reduce the risk for addicts using stuff where they have no idea what it has been cut with etc., however there is a bold stat of all death due to drug poisoning was 2,652 for 2011 - that includes all prescribed and over the counter medicines as well like paracetamol etc.  Alcohol is still over 3 times that figure.

Sobering stats - pun intended people.


  1. For all his flowery delivery brand made a lot of sense and to me sounded rather compassionate....

    Ps no booze for me since December!

  2. can't watch the video from here in the states. but i tend to agree with the methadone -- don't know the treatment protocols, but had always believed it was a short term transition. that (to me) would be a reasonable use, over permanent substitution.

    i drink a lot - and do tend to monitor my consumption. more than actual consumption, i tend to monitor consequences of drinking. it does not (for now) disrupt relationships, cause me to miss work, etc. i can go several days without a drink - even though it's in my home, and easily accessible. even though it's not a 'problem', i am quite convinced it's just rotten for my general health, so adjustments may be made... i appreciate your insights, as it drives me to reflect a little more deeply.

    congratulations, by the way, for keeping the addiction in check!

  3. I hope I don't come over too preachy about drinking. Answer is the vast majority of people drink sensibly and safely and that is fine long may they do so, my wife, my son both for example are examples of ordinary drinkers and I have no issue with that.

    My comments and observations are firstly from the position of someone who never ever had a functioning relationship with alcohol and secondly someone who has discovered that from the pit of despair that was rampant active alcoholism there are ways to get out of that and I hope people in that place take heart from my experience, recognise they are not alone and seek some form of help.

  4. You don't come over preachy at all, to me, Furtheron. I wasn't able to watch the whole thing but I was able to catch it in snip its on Youtube. I loved the part where he spoke to the doctor about Methadone. It resonated with me on a personal level because I have an uncle who used it until the day he died. Awful stuff. He would walk into the Methadone clinic then the heroin dealer's right after. Once he finally decided to quit heroin for good, he was addicted to the Methadone. It was heartbreaking.

  5. Like you I'm not a fan of Russell Brand at all, but on your recommendation I might actually watch this. He's to be admired for doing something useful here.