From our years of experience in working with drug users and their friends and families, we know that many users come to a point in their lives where they really want to quit. Sadly this is not always easy and many become dejected when they first try to give up using and fail. Your relationship with your drug of choice is like a friendship or a love affair. – you need the drug not only physically, but emotionally. You know it’s causing you problems – health, money and relationships. OK – at times briefly it makes you feel good – but there is a payback – you often feel bad, lonely, angry, afraid despairing. Walking away from a friend you have been very attached to is painful; some would even describe it as a kind of bereavement, but take heart – others have been at this point too – and, given help, they have eventually stopped using and are now leading drug-free and happy lives.
For anyone reading this page who is currently using tobacco, alcohol, cannabis, ecstasy, speed, cocaine, crack or heroin and who feels that life is chaotic, that they simply cannot continue to use drugs but are scared of trying to get off, or worried about failing – we would ask you to first contact a self-help group and then possibly consider residential or non-residential rehab. Throughout the world there are agencies and organisations dedicated to helping people give up drugs and get a life. We list on this site a few places where you can get advice and help on-line, and you can always check the telephone directory for local groups in your home town.
A SPECIAL MESSAGE FOR POT USERS
Cannabis (or marijuana, pot, blow, hash, dope etc.) is the most-used drug after tobacco and alcohol. Many who use this drug begin when they are very young – and they mistakenly believe it will be a relatively harmless substance. Quite often parents of new young users will have smoked pot in the 60s or 70s and will not worry too much about the ‘experimentation’ of their children. However, 30 and 40 years ago the THC content of joints was much lower – sometimes as low as 0.5%, but nowadays, typically, a joint contains 5-7% THC – and some kinds of genetically modified marijuana (like ‘skunk’) can be up to 25%+ – hardly the same substance.
Those of us who have worked with users will know that the earlier they begin to use the more problematic their use becomes. During the teen years young people are learning and preparing for life in the adult world. They need to learn how to become independant from their parents, how to deal with their emerging sexuality, how to cope with disappointments and frustrations without stamping their feet like a 5 year old, how to learn the skills of negotiation and compromise, how to control anger and so on. When 13/14 year old cannabis users face disappointment they quickly learn that smoking a joint will (temporarily) help, when they cannot face other problems they can take refuge in another joint … and so on. The result is that these young people fail to mature in the way nature intended – and when they seek help at age 20 or 25 to get off drugs, counsellors find an individual with the physical body of an adult and the emotional age of 13/14 years. Behaviour which is acceptable to others in a 13 year old is not acceptable in a 20 year old. This may explain why research show that pot users are more likely to have many more relationships and broken marriages and are less likely to be able to hold down a job except for short periods.
From the 1930s right up to the 1950s, cigarette smoking was seen to be glamorous and smart. Old films showed actors lighting up frequently and advertisements even suggested that cigarettes were good for you. We now know differently. What’s more we know that even back then the tobacco industry had research that showed nicotine was harmful – but these research studies were hushed up and not made public. At the University of Mississippi they now have over 13,000 research papers about cannabis – and none of them give it a clean bill of health. We now know that this substance is far from benign – as the strength of genetically modified cannabis has increased so have the side effects. THC is fat soluble – it affects all the organs in your body, it affects your emotions, your moods, your drive, your productivity, your memory, your attitudes and your thinking (see the cannabis page on this website). And yet young people are being let to believe that cannabis is harmless, could be used for medicine, should be legalised, and ‘everybody’ is doing it. The media (television, newspapers, films, pop music even advertisments) give pro-pot messages constantly; NDPA Director Peter Stoker, has observed that this is part of a propaganda process which might be termed ‘The Beast with Six Eyes’ – first trivialise the use of pot, then glamourise it, sympathise with users, normalise use, decriminalise and finally legalise.
Young people are confused by these mixed messages – and if they are led to believe that pot is harmless, if they pick up leaflets which tell them ‘pot makes you feel relaxed and makes you giggle’, if they are told pot is not addictive (untrue), if they find hundreds of websites promoting pot – then some may decide to try for themselves. In both Britain and the USA the numbers of young people who try pot are around 46-50% — but they do not all continue use. Sadly, of those who do continue to use, a sizeable proportion will become addicted and at some time in their lives needs help to quit. In the USA over 100,000 people every year contact hospital emergency rooms asking for help because of problems from cannabis use. Also, the website for Marijuana Anonymous, a site for people experiencing marijuana problems, received more than 350,000 hits last year.
So – remember – you can quit – many others before you have done so. Help is available. Stop using, and after two years of being clean you will being to notice a huge improvement in your life – you’ll be able to remember more, you’ll sleep better, eat better, smell better. You’ll save money, your family and friends will stop nagging you to quit, you’ll drive better and more safely, you won’t have to worry about being arrested, you’ll get fewer fungus infections, fewer coughs and throat infections, your reactions will speed up.
You don’t need drugs to have a good time, you will never regret quitting!
For those of you who may have been users for many years, relapse can be a problem. You may have won the first battle – stopping use – but there may well be times when you are at risk of using again. Joining a self-help group will give you the support you need, the following points may well help you too:
1. Cravings may continue on and off for a long time after you cease use.
2. Cravings can be triggered by various experiences – for example remembering that you had used in this particular place when re-visiting.
3. Any occasional use – just one joint – will keep the triggers strong – so abstinence is the quickest way to reduce craving and the only way to ensure you will stay clean.
4. After a while it is important to de-sentitise yourself to triggers – being able to face the situation and not get high will eventually extinguish the craving.
5. Returning to the places where you used to score or use (certain pubs, clubs, houses of friends who used with you) may trigger cravings months or even years – so take great care.
6. You may even need to change your friends – or at least only meet ‘using’ friends in public places where smoking a joint would be impossible. Don’t expect using friends to help you stay clean either – they are more likely to urge you to join them and you will need to stay strong in your resolve. Remember that over time you will find it easier and easier to stay clean, even when you are with others whom you know still use.
7. You might slip up – if you do use, it is very important to get back on track at once – don’t use one slip up as an excuse to ‘use tonight and I’ll quit again tomorrow’.
8. Have a plan of action to deal with negative feelings. If you are sad, angry, lonely, guilty, in pain, bored, fearful or anxious you will be tempted to escape by resorting to a joint. A good friend or mentor from a self-help group at the end of a phone will be invaluable.
9. Don’t get into any discussion with others about how good it was to get high, or what a great time you had on a particular week-end etc.
10. Don’t play music you used to get high to ! Get rid of those CDs or tapes.
11. Be extra careful when you have money in your pocket.
12. Take up new hobbies or interests and seek the company of others who do not do drugs.
The following websites may also help you to quit.
We hope this information will help you – we wish you luck in your endeavours to get a life without drugs and we congratulate you on your decision to quit!