Stupid search strings (they don’t get much stupider than this)

Once again… this is one of those posts where I respond to a search string that brought a reader here. This one is short. I’m only bothering with one of these…
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ways to counter negative crystal meth effects

  1. Don’t use crystal meth.

There. That was simple enough. Seriously, if you’re wondering “How to counter negative side-effects of shooting myself in the foot?”, you need to consider maybe not shooting yourself in the foot.

 

Magical thinking is dangerous, especially now

I guess on some level I’ve always been aware of magical thinking. What I didn’t know was how widespread it is. I first noticed someone whose beliefs were unusually aggressive when I was in school, standard 4 (grade 6 as they call it now), with a teacher, Mr Barnett, who would somehow include the words “Lord Jesus” at least twice in every sentence. I thought he was whacked in the head, and he no doubt was a little off-kilter, but no more so than many others whose extreme beliefs are less in-your-face.

It was a few years before when I’d learned the Bible stories from the Old Testament, and I realized then that people used to ascribe natural disasters to an angry god, a god who would punish the people for their wrongdoings unless they repented. I grew up being taught those things as if they were true, but never believed them, and assumed (incorrectly) that everybody else also didn’t believe them. (Because obvious nonsense is obvious.)

Then, years later, having messed up quite seriously and become addicted to crystal meth, I entered into “recovery” with unfortunate naivete, expecting addiction treatment to be evidence based. (It isn’t.) There I found that addiction treatment is in fact based entirely on a religious foundation, filled with platitudes and magical thinking. It took me four years altogether to find my own way of staying clean and sober, one that works for me and does not involve those ridiculous 12 steps of woo.

But now, we are facing COVID-19, a virus still mutating, one for which there is no cure, where we are infectious but asymptomatic for 14 days, a virus that is killing people and potentially on par in terms of fatalities with the Biblical plagues. This is a time when we all need to take the necessary precautions, but instead of that happening, we have religious people fucking it all up for the rest of us.

There are people sharing misinformation and conspiracy theories about the disease; people sharing prayers and claiming that their faith will protect them – it doesn’t work like that, for fuck’s sake! Inhaling the contaminated air that an infected person exhaled is all you need, and the easiest way for that to happen, the most effective way of spreading the virus, is large gatherings, crowds, in confined spaces. This is a problem particularly because you can have massive viral loads and be highly infectious while asymptomatic. Yet many religious leaders are refusing to back down and encouraging their believers to carry on as usual. This is, of course, a reckless and irresponsible abuse of their authority (for a change?), considering that believers trust them.

Meanwhile, we also have people who blame every disaster, including this virus, on minority groups who make easy victims for them, such as same sex couples or transgender people, claiming that their god is angry with those people. It seems we have not moved on at all since the OT, and collectively we remain driven by this dangerous magical thinking.

Why, oh why… would you believe that this god created the entire universe, but has a problem with what members of one particular species of great ape do with their gonads? It is absurd that people believe this. But they do. We are a race of fucking idiots.

 

 

 

 

 

In the cold light of morning

A strange thought occurred to me this morning.

I was driving, having stopped in the front at a traffic light. It changed to green, and since I didn’t immediately pull forward, the person behind me hooted in those 400 milliseconds or so of my hesitation (one of my pet hates by the way). It didn’t really worry me but as I pulled away, I remembered how differently this would have been several years ago when I used meth.

I cannot emphasize enough how horrible it was driving to work in those years. I’d shower and change for work, not having slept the night before – sometimes several nights before, then have a last few hits of meth to “wake up” and drive to work.

The drive to work thus served two objectives:

  1. Get to work. (Obviously)
  2. Get the edge off. (i.e. lose the worst immediate effects of the meth high)

Objective number two didn’t always work, and even when it did work, that drive while extremely high, anxious, paranoid, and depending on how many days I’d been awake, on one hell of a downer, was highly unpleasant. You can be high and on a downer at the same time. You can be out of your mind high and depressed from a downer simultaneously. And that’s how I usually was in the morning, so high I’d sometimes forget sections of roads I drove every day, overly anxious and paranoid, and prone to bursting into tears because the meth downer is brutal. I’d also be  paranoid to the extent that sometimes I’d think I was being followed, and someone hooting at me would have put me into a manic panic.

One of my favourite bands is Placebo, and one day, having bought their album Meds, it reached track 12 (track name used for the title of this post) for the first time. The song described my life exactly, and I burst into tears while driving. It didn’t help that track 13, A song to say goodbye, was in my mind a song about giving up on somebody who had ruined their lives with drugs. I took that one personally too.

I still love both of those songs, especially In the cold light of morning. But fuck those years, I never want to feel those feelings again.

 

 

The endless search

I just saw this on social media and it made me literally laugh out loud, but not at the joke, at a memory of something that wasn’t funny at all back then.

Searching

For about the first five years after I quit meth, I refused to search for anything, ever, for more than a minute or so. “If I don’t find it right away, I give up,” I’d say. “It’s gone.” It used to drive my ex nuts but I didn’t care. These days I have more patience and will search for maybe two minutes…

In fact, for a while I had two ID documents, because I thought I’d lost it and would rather go to the department of Home Affairs and sit in a queue for three hours and order a new one than search through my apartment. Of course I did eventually find the original by accident. (I only have one now because one of them was in my car when it was stolen last year.)

For once, I’m not going to explain why… This post is for the other former meth heads. If you too were addicted to meth, you know why I loathe searching for anything.

 

An interesting article about relapse

For my last post, my one bit of research, and I use this term lightly, was to link to a definition of tolerance. That led me to an interesting site.

There I found an interesting article related to relapse. They’ve found that neurogenesis, that is the generation of new nerve cells in the brain, may lead indirectly to context-driven-relapse.

“New findings from our lab show that neurogenesis—the generation of new neurons in the adult brain—in the hippocampus may strengthen memories tied to drug-seeking behavior in rodents with methamphetamine addiction-like behavior,” says Dr. Chitra Mandyam, senior investigator of the two studies. These findings suggest new approaches for reducing relapse risk. Says Dr. Mandyam, “We also demonstrated that inhibiting neurogenesis during abstinence with a small synthetic molecule prevented context-driven drug-seeking.”

They link to two recent studies so this seems legit. I suggest reading the article itself. It is quite technical but not too much, if I can follow it… What I didn’t follow was how long a period of abstinence they mean, but presumably it is the short term, as in early recovery.

They go on to describe drugs that can help by preventing neurogenesis, but I gather this is still in the early phase of testing. Still, I like to keep my mind active by mostly reading and learning new things. The idea of preventing new brain cells seems like a bad one to me (simply because neurogenesis is an expected effect of brain stimulation, which is important to me because I try to keep my brain active and thus hopefully “young”), but at least this mechanism whereby we are prone to drug-seeking behaviour due to memories when new brain cells form, is something to be cognizant of. The real work for me at the beginning of recovery was to keep my mind on other things, to be aware of my cravings but not act on them, and then eventually the interest to get drugs went away. This for me simply emphasizes how important it is to remain in control and avoid temptation in early recovery. After that, my opinion vs others related to addiction treatment diverges somewhat, since I don’t believe one need make any effort after the first few weeks. I didn’t. (Of course my experience was subjective. When I tried to quit a few years before, I relapsed after nine months, so saying “the first few weeks” might seem unreasonable. That’s just the way it went for me when I had made up my mind to stay clean for good. So it might be prudent to apply greater discipline in say… the first year.)

Here are the sources for the article:

 

A silly search string (meth no longer keeps me awake)

Excuse me for not writing much lately… I have been busy. So I saw this in a search string that reached this blog:

meth no longer keeps me awake

Lucky you! It’s time to quit. Or use more meth. The choice is yours. Seriously, one of three things is happening here:

  1. You’re crashing, because you’ve been up too long and have depleted all the dopamine in your system.
  2. It’s not meth. Street drugs are invariably poor quality, made even poorer by cutting them with other substances to give the impression of a greater amount.
  3. It’s your tolerance for the drug. The longer you use, the greater your tolerance and the more you need for the same effect, up to a point where no amount gives you the high you want.

If you’ve used for several days without sleep and depleted all the dopamine in your system, you need some sleep and you will get some whether you like it or not. Most likely it isn’t this because you’d have to be quite stupid not to realize it… It probably also isn’t number two because if the meth is cut with so much other stuff that it isn’t meth at all, you would notice there is no rush while taking a hit. That leaves number three – tolerance. If your tolerance is very high, you’ll get a rush but a high that wears off quickly, or no high at all. (It takes years to build this kind of tolerance.)

This is a good thing. If there is no high, the drug isn’t doing anything good for you any more. You probably still get anxious, and paranoid, and might even hear voices, but not get any pleasure. That’s what happened to me. I got all the negative side-effects but none of the positive ones. No pleasure means there is no point in continuing to use meth, or you could try to use a lot more, maybe inject if you’ve been smoking it. (The crystal form of meth is a salt and is soluble in water just like table salt.) And even that probably won’t do any good but will do plenty of harm. As for me, I was unwilling to ever inject that shit directly. No thank you.

But the sensible thing to do in this situation when smoking meth no longer works for you is to stop using meth. That’s what I did, and life is a lot better without it.