This Is Why We Need To Call Substance Abuse For What It Is

 Rosan Harmens
Rosan Harmens

For everyone in the United States that hasn’t touched a drug in their entire lives, there’s probably a handful that has. This isn’t a statistic, so don’t quote me. Some of those people played around with drugs during their high school career and probably have a “crazy cocaine story” or a memoir of a “bad trip” they saw their friend experience in their parents basement after they bought magic mushrooms from some guy with dreads at the beach.

For some of those people, it probably ended with that, and they went on to do something or nothing at all, but nonetheless aren’t doing drugs anymore. Some kids in high school smoked pot for three years and ultimately became the reason why people call it the gateway drug. Someway, somehow, the new guy in school introduced everyone to this new white powder, and so they proceeded to go on a full fledged coke binge their entire senior year. For some of them, it stopped there.

There are a select few who were not that lucky.

I’ve heard people call it an “allergy”, the way some people can touch a drug once and never do it again, while others pick up and can’t put it down until it kills them. That’s harsh, I know, but that’s true.

For some of them, coke results in crack, crack results in meth, and sometimes, any of this results in heroin. Experimentation stops when you are shaking in your bed, begging God to make the pain go away while simultaneously shitting yourself and still wondering what you can sell to get more money to buy the very thing that made you like that to begin with. Experimentation no longer exists when you’re driving a stolen car and you hold someone at gunpoint because you don’t have money for crack.

There is no such thing as experimentation when the DEA is raiding your apartment. I want to point out that I have never met a functioning addict. In fact, I think the term “functioning addict” is just a nice way of describing a person who spends their entire paycheck on a bundle and still manages to go to work the next day even though they shot up the entire thing the night before. What part of that is functioning? The crack addict that goes into work paranoid as fuck with shaking hands is “functioning”? There’s no logic in that.

Experimentation ends when you have to buy fake urine to pass a drug test because you lost your job again. Or when you find yourself around a crowd of people and in a place knowing you could get arrested any minute but not caring because you’re sniffing “the best coke on this side of the city.” When you get pulled over and they ask to search your car after you’ve left — that’s when experimenting is over.

I realized a little too late that the kids in high school that looked like they were living in the fast lane were actually just really lucky that they got out without being an addict. The way I see it, they were just lucky they didn’t have the allergy. They did what they did and they moved on and they were able to stop. They never stole from their parents or laid in bed shaking and sweating at the same time because they were detoxing from heroin for the first time. They graduated, they tell their coke stories, and their lives didn’t fall apart.

I want to speak on the ones who picked it up and never put it down. I want to speak for the ones who have are on their fifth try in rehab, who keep that white chip on their key chain from the NA meetings even though they’ve had it twelve times before. I want to speak for the twenty-three year old who lost everything more than once but is still trying to bury this demon once and for all so he can start over and see how beautiful the world really is, and teach his first born son the same thing, so he doesn’t go through what he did.

There is no such thing as experimentation. Substance abuse is substance abuse. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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