We currently endure a dire lack of inspirational stories that investigate how to convert problematic ice addiction in our society into a powerful catalyst for positive, even amazing, personal change.
Heartbreak and devastation are now the tell-tales of Australia’s newest most addictive drug, and health services are stretched beyond breaking point as our Western dominated medical model threatens to implode under the strain. Does the Eastern medical and philosophical approach hold the key to meaningful long-term answers?
It’s 10pm…the carpark is cold. Drizzly rain pools in the dark as the deal goes down, ‘Shane‘ (not his real name) scores the ‘gear‘ and laughs, “Only two sleeps till Christmas.” It’s June.
‘Ice’ or crystal meth (methamphetamine) is readily available, affordable, high in purity and easy to use; a potent central nervous stimulant (CNS) that turbocharges through the body, passing across the blood-brain barrier hitting the brain hard.
Smoked or injected, it creates an immediate euphoric rush that overcomes any user, adding high confidence, mental clarity (of sorts), a decreased need to eat or sleep, coupled with extreme focus and hyper alertness that takes hold and leads the user well into the night and beyond.
Economically speaking, the Australian ice market generates hundreds of millions of dollars each year and is apparently causing migraine style headaches to enforcement agencies, health services, government policy makers and certainly massive heartache for problem users, their families and loved ones.
With one arrest every six minutes on average reported, police say the worst is yet to come. In Victoria alone, the number of deaths from ice addiction has more than doubled. These figures are reflected across Australia, with ice second only to heroin in contributing to overdose deaths via illicit drugs.
Problematic misuse is apparently occurring fast, with the hospitality, construction, sport and gymnasium industries reported as areas of particular concern as workplace use becomes more common. The statistics of violence and criminality continue to rise, as do large increases in ice-related ambulance call-outs.
Ice addiction affects all strata of society; apparently no one is immune. We are confronted by media reports that write up and frequently display clichéd, depressing stories about addicts, crime and disease, complete with distorted facts and sensational headlines. Is it it possible that our mainstream media has become part of the problem?
We currently endure a dire lack of inspirational stories that investigate how to convert problematic drug use into a powerful catalyst for positive, even amazing, personal change.
Every time we feed negative stereotyping about drug users, the stigma associated with drugs increases and it makes it harder for anyone to change.
It looks grim, but is it really as hopeless as we are being lead to believe? Millions of people use drugs, both legal and illegal everyday, and intriguingly, the proportion of our population that uses stimulant drugs, such as ice, remains small. So what makes ice such a problem and is there a pragmatic, meaningful solution?
…It’s November now, ‘Shane’ is in his early 40s, formerly an elite level AFL player, respected by his peers, and loved by the fans of practically an entire state of Australia. I took the call. It’s 4am.
“I’m in deep shit. I thought I could handle it. It got the better of me. I thought I was God. Then I was the devil. My partner, gone. My baby girl, gone. My mind doesn’t work the way it should. I can’t face my friends. I haven’t left the house in weeks. The rumours are everywhere. Someone leaked. The media have started to show interest. There have been phone calls. I’m scared. If this gets out, I am totally f***ed…”
Predominately a social drug, ice is used mostly amongst friends, typically in a party setting, with weekends being the favourite time. Once taken, ice releases 1250 units of dopamine in the brain, our natural feel-good reward bio-chemical. By comparison, a pleasant sexual experience releases around 200 dopamine units.
Do the maths: Taking ice feels six times better than having sex–tough competition for what is arguably the most pleasurable activity we know.
Taking ice induces multiple effects, both mental and physical, such as intense pleasure, energy, alertness, a self-esteem boost, increased sex drive, longer lasting sex, erased tiredness, perceived freedom and reduced appetite. This equals weight loss, stronger self-confidence and the ability to work longer hours.
However, as day follows night, and as yin follows yang, the net negatives will, over time, outweigh the positives. Symptoms such as cramps, increased blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmia, tachycardia, paranoia, anxiety, toxicity, overdose, coma and seizures. Add to that suicidal thoughts, paranoia, psychosis and crippling depression when use ceases –an addiction to ice is destructive.
The ‘highs’ are extremely powerful, love without fear, pure joy without despair, ecstasy without misery, clarity without confusion, one-ness without separation, pleasure without pain, transcendence without any hard work.
The higher the level of these states, the greater its power to reprogram a person’s entire life, and, as we are discovering, just one instant in a very high state can completely change a person’s orientation to life, as well as his or her goals and values. These higher states are so powerful that, once experienced, they are never forgotten, and are sought ever after. It is to this experience of higher states that people become addicted.
According to the Eastern medical/philosophical (cosmological) point of view, such higher states may be legitimately attained; through a lifetime of dedicated inner work. There is a systematic approach to re-capturing these high states without the need for ice or drugs in general.
Within the problem, is revealed the solution
When people came to Guatama the Buddha for assistance, he often advised the following; “For the next 12 months, sit near to me, focus on your breath, be silent”. This technique is known in our modern time as ‘mindfulness’ and is gaining popularity and traction in our modern world.
Rightly so. As we are trained to over-think our way through the day, a ‘mindful’ approach, is a perfect antidote. However, for recovering ice users, something a little more ‘high-end’ may be required, because sitting still is not plausible, or even really possible.
Traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda or Indian and Tibetan medicine exist largely outside the institutions where conventional Western medicine is delivered and are gently suggestive of another approach: if you give the body-mind-spirit what it needs, it will repair itself.
Repair on all levels is always possible, without exception. All illness is seen as psychosomatic in nature because we are mind-body-spirit; not just bodies. This reality influences therapeutic strategies in managing repair and a long-term return to health and well-being.
Eastern repair and recovery strategies
The following is a brief overview of strategies that are dynamite-effective for recovering ice users and all people who wish to transform a substance misusing lifestyle:
- Actively engage the spiritual dimension, by identifying a sense of purpose, value and meaningful connection.
- Learn how to connect and to appreciate the nature of the healing process as a whole.
- Establish rhythm and routine in life to generate a stable framework for development.
- Engage the services of body work professionals to shift accumulated blockages through the body’s energy system, relieving any musculoskeletal stress to facilitate the ‘letting go’ of stored and repressed emotions.
- Consult a nutrition expert who works with food as medicine and learn abut poisons in food and how to avoid them.
- Transform negative emotionality by processing traumatic events and developing skills to face oneself with authenticity.
- Engage in transformational exercise, weight and endurance training, pursuing the study of yoga, qi gong or martial arts to develop and harness internal energy and personal power.
- Develop creative skills such painting, poetry, dancing sculpture, craft and music to harness the passion of your heart.
Where you do not have the skills, confidence or expertise, seek out and engage with quality, intelligent, gentle, industry specific professionals that can help guide your transformational journey forward. This part is very important because ‘bear traps’ on the pathway of repair and recovery are many. Whatever you can manage to do on your own, you do.
…It’s just past Christmas. ‘Shane’ adapted to a training program designed specifically for him utilising the Eastern medical approach (24 hour chi cycle friendly). He stayed out of the hostile media glare. He re-engaged with his former partner and 18 month old daughter and re-established contact with his mum and dad…his employer kept his long abandoned job open (part of the perks of being a ‘hero’), and he returned to it.
The ‘high’ experience can be reached temporarily by artificial means, such as ice, but the balance of nature dictates that to artificially acquire that state without having earned it creates a debt, and the negative imbalance results in negative consequences.
The cost of such ‘borrowed’ pleasure is the desperation of addiction, and finally, the addict, the family and the loved ones pay the price. The addicted turn into skeletons, unable to commit to work, study, relationships or deadlines. People who attempt to help or intervene are often assaulted. Families are torn apart, parents and loved ones seek answers.
In Western medicine receptor sites within the brain dictate our moods and construct our reality. The Eastern medical approach offers a contrasting view–bodily organs, not the brain, dictate our moods and are responsible, at root, for the construct of our view of reality.
Addiction is not seen as the problem
Attaining balance is the real issue. According to the cosmology of the East, it is our destiny to feel good, and we get that by creating balance. Symbolically, addictions represent an imbalance searching for balance.
Working with ice users, the Eastern medical model offers positive potential for the therapeutic considerations and beneficial outcomes that the former drug using community seeks, integrating body-mind-spirit and acknowledging that our spiritual nature needs to be nurtured. It is an efficient, humane and cost-effective method of providing therapeutic assistance for people wishing to tackle ice addiction by providing a meaningful and positive way forward.
Progress is hard won and creates fundamental, lasting change and has a tendency to go way beyond giving up ice, into losing interest in ice altogether.
In truth, the pleasure of life energy is humankind’s best capital. The Eastern medical point of view shows respect to this principle, imparting true ‘power’ over substances based on a sustainable lifelong foundation.
Drug use, in general, is a spiritually unsophisticated endeavour and usually lacks the context with which to comprehend the drug high experience, lending itself to the belief that the ‘high’ is created from something ‘out there’.
Adopting the repair and recovery framework of the Eastern medical tradition and experiencing first hand its transformative power, with time and patience, you will discover that what you were seeking was inside of you the whole way. I know this to be true, as I am the beneficiary of this Eastern wisdom. It has worked for me. It can work for you too.
Anthony is an economist, kinesiologist, bodyworker, counsellor, breath-worker, MORA colour and chi cycle recovery therapist, with 15 years’ experience in drug and alcohol crisis intervention. For the past 10 years he has trained under Jost Sauer.
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