April 30, 2020

How true is it that drugs are so chemically powerful that if you use them enough they will hijack your brains and change your neurochemistry and make you crave the drugs forever? How true is it that anyone who regularly uses addictive drugs will surely become addicts eventually?

Johann Hari, a multi-awarded journalist, spent years travelling around the world talking to drug addicts and drug pushers, as well as police officers, doctors, and social workers for his book, “Chasing The Scream: The First And Last Days Of The War On Drugs.”

Chasing The Scream is Hari’s journalistic masterpiece written in beautiful prose that strings together moving true stories of the people he met in America, Mexico, Canada, Switzerland, England and Uruguay.

One doctor whom Hari befriended, turned a hotel into a home for addicts. He trained volunteers to listen to the addicts, take care of them, not judge them, not tell them how to live their lives, not walk away or abandon them, not leave them, not kick them out. The addicts were at first incredulous and couldn’t believe there were no strings attached. Hari explains, “They were so used to being made to feel disgusting and ashamed all their lives that they took drugs to escape reality. Heroin was a warm soft hug for them.”

It was in this hotel-turned-home that the doctor and the volunteers observed the addicts had one glaring thing in common. Their psyche had the same pattern of horribly disturbed childhoods marked by violence sexual assault or both. Hari muses, “Could it be that hard-core addicts had all been terribly damaged BEFORE they found their drugs?”

Hari wonders the connection to another strange phenomena: “Badly injured patients who had been given powerful drugs every day to deal with their pain – did not become addicted to the drugs they were taking. Yet patients who were not regularly given powerful drugs, became addicts!” It’s not true, after all, that anyone who regularly uses addictive drugs will undoubtedly become an addict.

What was true, Hari learned, was that gamblers, alcoholics, and heroin addicts were the same in their essentials. “It’s just that gamblers don’t inject a deck of cards into their veins and don’t snort a roulette wheel.”

Hari’s concludes that a drug isn’t addictive in itself. “Addiction is always the result of a combination of a potentially addictive substance and a susceptible individual.” Most susceptible of all: an impressionable child who has had a traumatic experience. Childhood trauma is the biggest cause of how one grows up to be prone to drug addiction.

The American Psychologist published a long-term study that monitored children from the time they were five (5) to the time they were eighteen (18). Hari remembers the study showed a great difference between children with loving and supportive parents and children with indifferent and nasty parents. Children who grew up in households devoid of loving relationships felt more angry, distressed, and impulsive a lot of the time. Their drug use was a symptom and not a cause of personal and social maladjustment!

We couldn’t stop reading Chasing The Scream because it offers overwhelming proof why the tragedy of drugs in the Philippines cannot be dealt with by more jail cells and EJKs.(Visit to hear the voices of all the people from the book while you read.)

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