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Alternatives on the road to addiction

People who first take drugs feel cheated. It feels great, wonderful, (at first), and they, especially if they're young people, might be forgiven for thinking, 'Those old people lied to me; these illegal substances feel fantastic'. After all, remember what the young man in 'Train Spotting' said: 'Imagine the best orgasm you've ever had, now multiply that by a thousand'. He was talking about heroin.

That's how good it feels, he was saying. Of course, he left a bit out. We might reasonably add, 'Now imagine the worst hangover you've ever had, all that headache, dry throat, dizziness and bad stomach. Multiply that by a thousand,' because that's how you're going to feel the next day. Heroin does that to you too.

And the next day, and the next, and the next. As long as you take it, it'll be partly about avoiding the withdrawal symptoms. It won't be about how good it makes you feel, not any longer; it will be all about trying to avoid how bad it makes you feel. Forever. So, in one sense at least, drugs work. Remember the Bert Jansch song: 'Your troubled young life has made you turn/ to the Needle of Death'.

Well, that's a great thing, if you've got a 'troubled' life, because whatever the trouble happens to be, whether it's an abusive family; or shortage of money; or homelessness; that trouble will soon be behind you, completely overtaken by a new and all-engrossing trouble - the need for drugs. Whatever it was that got you there, down that road, will soon seem like a distant memory. Your life won't be 'troubled' anymore, it will be completely overwhelmed, by one thing and one thing only, the search for the next fix. Then, if you need to rob from your neighbours or steal from your parents, mug people, lie, cheat, forge or pretend, anything goes, as long as you can get some more of the powder into your bloodstream. You'll be like a traveller far from home.

Imagine meeting a hitchhiker in Albania and saying to them: 'What brought you here?' He might think for a moment and say, 'I'm from London, so I guess the answer is: the ferry from Dover to Calais'. No, that's wrong. That was merely the first step on your journey.

Lots of miles have been covered since then, from Calais to Paris, to Berlin, to Vienna, and so on. That first ferry journey becomes increasingly irrelevant the further away you get. By the time you get to Albania it's neither here nor there. It's the same with the drug addict; after three or four years, the 'troubled young life' is gone, lost forever in the mists of time.

The 'trouble' now is all in the illegality and what vile efforts it takes to score on a regular basis. Well, maybe older people know a thing or two, after all. Like, even back in the 1950s, people felt sorry for anyone addicted to heroin. The general public knew that that person was out of control, no longer able to think about anything but the drug; feel anything apart from the thrill of a temporary hit; and a total prisoner in their life, with drugs ruling them and not the other way round. Of course, the addict will always try and justify themselves.

These days, we are told, there are people on Wall Street with a drug habit. Yeah, sure, very believable. The facts, as I'm sure we all know, is that there are far more stockbroker addicts in Dirt Alley and down the Avenue of Broken Dreams, than are still operating on Broadway and the Golden Mile.

Some people manage to keep it together, but it's only temporary. When the calling in your veins starts becoming demanding, then no client, no business deal, and no audience, is going to seem that important, compared to what your body is asking you for. No, the addicts who survive, whether in business or entertainment, are the ones who conquer their habit and stop giving in to it. Not the ones who try and combine business and pleasure. The thrill of the chemical is a much more dangerous boss than any entrepreneur, manager or agent. If this means anything, it means one thing: it's all very well saying, 'I feel sorry for young people these days.

All those pressures, no wonder they turn to drugs'. Yeah, no wonder. But realise this, once they've done the 'turning', the initial motivation quickly loses force and vanishes into oblivion. They are now on the carousel of drug taking, and the important question now is how to get them off that horse. They are in the market of the drug dealer and it matters very little which door they came in. It's not much help, at this stage, to be 'understanding'.

That merely provides the justification for the addict to carry on their miserable way of life. The cure now becomes a two stage process, at least. First, you stop taking the drugs. Next, we discuss what got you into this mess and try and resolve some of those problems.

Because it doesn't work the other way round. If people are pointing to the ghettos and saying, 'With such bad living conditions, who can blame people using drugs?' Okay, go ahead, provide better housing. Good idea. Unfortunately that won't make addicts give up their habit. That's a different issue. People on the road of drug-taking need to be taken off the road.

Their train needs to be derailed first. Then you can back up and find them somewhere better to live and something useful to do. In fact, that's what happens. People who come clean somehow find that their lives do turn around.

They can hold down a job and discover a place to live. They make new friends and establish a place in society. Their 'troubled young lives' lose the trouble.

Trying to explain what causes young people to set off on a dangerous and self-destructive road shouldn't be the thing that allows those very people to continue in the wild direction they have found for themselves. We need to get them off that road and following a more positive heading, while still making time to rebuild the slums and create more jobs for a longer term solution.

Mike Scantlebury is addicted to words. Based in Manchester, England, he creates articles, stories and novels, and sends them out to the world using the means of the internet. Check out his many websites and see what all the fuss is about. You could start at

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