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Book Review: Tweak: Growing up on Methamphetamines
This paper aims to discuss drug addiction, and the use of illegal drugs as a victimless crime. Drug addiction is defined by the Mayo Clinic as “a dependence on an illegal drug or a medication” (2011). The Mayo Clinic describes drug addiction further by stating that when an individual is dependent on a drug they may ignore the damage they are doing to themselves, or they may even acknowledge the damage being done, but will still abuse the drug because they feel that they have to feed their addiction by getting high (2011). Essentially, they lose control of their ability to say “no” to drugs because they’re mind is telling them that they need to do it to survive. The effects of drug abuse and addiction are numerous, and none are positive. The abuse of illicit drugs is seen as a victimless crime. In the Textbook Victimology: Canadians in Context, Hannah Scott explains that a victimless crime “is a crime in which the victim and the victimizer is the same person” (2011).
In the novel Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines the author, Nic Sheff, details his time spent on his relapse with crystal meth after being sober for 18 months. He talks about how he got drunk for the first time when he was 11 and he started smoking marijuana when he was 12. He became a habitual marijuana user in high school, and smoked it every chance he had. When he was 18, he tried crystal meth for the first time and fell in love with the feeling that it gave him. He spent the rest of his addiction trying to get the feeling of that “first high” back, but had no success. After a few years he entered a treatment program so that he could sober up and live a normal life again. Unfortunately, 2 days after the anniversary of his 18 months of being clean, he relapsed. He makes the choice to become clean again after relapsing for about a month and feeling like he had hit rock bottom. Feeling like he’s dying, he calls his sponsor, Spencer, for help. Nic flies out to Los Angeles, where his sponsor is there to help him get back on track, and with a lot of work he manages to sober up again. He gets a job, and starts finding a lot more meaning to his life, but he is still plagued with feelings of hopelessness and depression. His father refers him to a psychiatrist that diagnoses Nic with having bipolar disorder. While he is living a clean life, he runs into Zelda, and ex-girlfriend, that has had trouble abusing drugs in her past. They start dating again, and Nic devotes his entire life to her, much to the dismay of his family and friends as they feel she is unstable and a threat to his sobriety. After being together for a month or so, she gives him a Suboxone (like methadone) pill to alleviate a sore stomach. It makes him feel high, and then he spirals out of control and relapses once again. After having relapsed for a couple months, he has a psychotic episode that was induced by drugs. He was caught breaking into his mother’s garage, and she gave him the ultimatum that he could be charged criminally or he could go to treatment. He detoxed at a hospital and then went to Arizona to a treatment centre where they recommended that he stay for at least three months. After receiving many counselling sessions and participating in group therapy he started to make progress and learned why he did the things he did. After a lot of lengthy sessions, he started to realize that being with the woman he thought he loved was detrimental to his health and sobriety. The author shared that after his treatment in Arizona he had relapsed for a short time, but with pills and not crystal meth. He talks about how it’s still a struggle, but he chooses to live one day at a time and is still striving to live a clean and sober life (Sheff, 2008).
The author’s drug of choice, which ultimately led to his addiction, was methamphetamine. Methamphetamine is part of a group of drugs called amphetamines, they are highly addictive stimulants that affect the user’s central nervous system and produce feelings of euphoria, energy, and increased strength (Government of Canada, 2013). Methamphetamine is a man-made drug and created by using a number of harsh chemicals making it very dangerous to consume. Meth can be made from chemicals anyone could purchase at gas station or hardware store. It’s easy to make, but dangerous to do so, and because it’s so easy and inexpensive to make it can be sold at fairly low price. Therefore, meth is a very available and affordable option for anyone looking for a high. It is becoming increasingly popular with young people as a party drug because it’s cheaper to buy then cocaine while producing similar effects (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 2012). Meth is taken a number of ways and can be either snorted, taken orally, injected into veins, or smoked. The first time the author tried meth, he snorted it, but after a while he escalated to injecting it directly into his bloodstream. Abuse of methamphetamine can produce various harmful side effects to users. It can cause meth mouth (teeth rot and fall out), memory loss, heart attack, psychosis, stroke, paranoia, brain damage, and death from overdose (Government of Canada, 2013). It also causes problems for the user with their relationships with friends and family, the law, and it can create financial distress. When a person is addicted to drugs, their only concern is getting their fix and they will do whatever it takes to achieve their goal of getting high. The author talks about how his addiction led him to steal from his family and break into their homes in search of a place to sleep, food to eat, and stuff he could sell to make money. He decimated his relationships with people he loved over drugs. People he cared about didn’t want to talk to him anymore and he lost all of their trust. Getting his fix was his only priority, and he did whatever he could to satisfy his cravings. He sold drugs and sold sexual favours in order to get money or drugs. The author’s examples of things he’s done as a result of his addiction are evidence that addicts aren’t in their right mind, and can’t think rationally. When an ex-girlfriend from college asks Nic why he doesn’t just stop doing drugs and get clean he explains that it’s more complicated than just quitting he says that “it’s like I’m being held captive by a monster that will not let me stop” (Sheff, p. 12, 2008).
When Nic was a young child his parents got a divorce and Nic went to live with his father fulltime. Nic and his father had a very close relationship and spent a lot of time together. On the outside looking in, it would appear that the relationship between the two was very healthy, and for the most part it was. Nic’s father loved him deeply, but treated Nic more like a friend than as his child. This led Nic to grow-up a little too fast, and robbed him of his childhood. Nic and his mother have a loving relationship as well, and we would visit her during holidays and summers. Nic’s parents both remarried and Nic’s father had 2 more children. Nic doesn’t talk much about his stepfather Todd, but does recall the times that his mother and Todd would fight and Nic would try to tune them out with movies. Nic does mention that he and Todd would sometimes play sports, but he found Todd to be too critical of him. Nic’s stepmother Karen took Nic to a lot of museums and art galleries and took him a lot of fun outings. Nic loves her very much, but he resented her a little when she first married his father. Nic felt that she changed the relationship between Nic and his father because they didn’t do as many of the fun things together anymore. It appears that Nic was dealing with pent up frustrations and needed and “escape” but chose the wrong one (Sheff, 2008).
I have learned that drug addiction is a very complex issue that extends beyond just a person being too weak to just say no in the first place. It can result from a multitude of other underlying issues like past victimization, mental illness, unresolved past issues, unresolved emotional conflicts, and the list goes on. No one person is the same, so the reasons for their addiction will vary greatly. This novel helps to provide a little insight into the mind of a drug addict and makes it easier to gain a little understanding as to why they may act the way that they do. I also learned that simply placing someone into a treatment program won’t make them change their ways and that it takes the individual actually wanting to become sober to make that kind of lifestyle change.
As a professional I would recommend that individuals battling a drug addiction have a treatment plan tailored to their specific needs, as everyone is different. I would advocate that treatment centres, if possible, be located outside of cities. A country setting would be an ideal location because there aren’t as many drug dealers around, and there isn’t much else around to tempt the addict to begin using again. I would also recommend a lot of counselling, therapy sessions, and a psychiatric evaluation. I think that it is necessary to have a lot of outlets for the addicts to focus on to keep their minds off of their cravings. Possible outlets include, but are not limited to; work programs within the centre, art classes, movie and game nights, and exercise programs. I would encourage the person to find a healthy way to cope with their feelings and encourage the sharing of their feelings about their progress. I would make the addict aware of resources that they can utilize in their area to assist their recovery process and I would also recommend they follow the 12 Step Recovery Program and attend meetings once they are out of treatment and attain a sponsor, or individual they can call when they need help fighting cravings or just to talk.
In the 1930’s Alcoholics Anonymous developed the 12 step recovery program as a means to battling the dependency an individual has with alcohol. More recently it has been adapted and used to work through drug addiction and other behaviours. It can be an effective way for a person to address their issues and make peace with themselves and others they have hurt. An individual must progress through each step in the order they come in, and not just pick through which ones they want to do (12step.org, 2013). The 12 steps are:
- Admit powerlessness. The user has to admit that they no longer have the power to control their life and they need help.
- Find hope. The user has to find faith in some higher power; it doesn’t have to be any specific God or deity, just that there is a power greater than them.
- Surrender. The user must surrender to the higher power and trust that the higher power to aid in their recovery.
- Take inventory. The user must make an inventory of the dysfunctional behaviours that led them to their addictive behaviours, and also take note of their current positive traits.
- Confess. Tell your higher power and another person about your past behaviours.
- Become ready. The addict becomes ready to turn his problems he can’t fix over to the higher power.
- Ask God. The user asks God, or another higher power, to remove their defects and help them heal.
- Make list of amends. The user makes a list of wrongs they’ve done and whom they’ve done them to.
- Make amends. The user then makes amends with the people they have hurt, whether it’s an apology, a repayment of monies owed, or even replacing a stolen item.
- Continue my inventory. The user must always be evaluating their behaviors and actions in order to correct any behaviour that may lead them to use again.
- Pray and meditate.
- Help others. This is where the addict can “pay it forward” essentially, and help others that are going through the same addictions they had. (12Steps.org, 2013)
In conclusion, I chose to base my paper on drug addiction and the effects of methamphetamine, and how difficult it can be to quit. It’s important for people to remember that if they are having issues and feel the need to self-medicate with alcohol or illicit drugs, they need to speak to someone they trust. The feeling of happiness a drug may produce is only temporary, and the effects of a drug addiction can have a much more negative impact on a person’s life. There are many reasons why an individual may decide to try illicit drugs (family problems, depression, peer pressure), and no two people have the same reasons. Education is always necessary to help prevent drug addiction from happening in the first place. People need to be made aware of the harmful effects of drugs, the power addiction has, and the lasting effects a drug can have after just one use. Treatment for addiction should be tailored to meet an individual’s needs, and they should be provided with outlets to relieve their frustrations. For further reading, I would suggest reading similar stories of addicts and further research on the success rates of the 12 step program.
12steps.org. (2013). The 12 steps. Retrieved from http://12step.org/steps/the-12-steps.html
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. (2003) Methamphetamines. Retrieved from http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/health_information/a_z_mental_health_and_addiction_information/Methamphetamines/Pages/default.aspx
Government of Canada. (2013, February 6). Methamphetamine (speed, crystal meth). Retrieved from http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/health-sante/addiction/methamphetamine-eng.php
Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Treatments and drugs. Retrieved fromhttp://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/drug-addiction/basics/treatment/con-20020970
Scott, H. (2011). Victimology: Canadians in context. Canada: Oxford University Press.
Sheff, N. (2008). Tweak: Growing up on methamphetamine. Ginee Seo Books: New York, NY.