The Fine Edge of Withdrawal

sayarsan's picture

It seems to me that every junky must enjoy some aspects of the withdrawal syndrome. I know i do even though the avoidance of acute withdrawal is what will drive me usually, in the end to use again. So what is there to enjoy about hanging out you all cry. Something, I am sure otherwise you would stop and recoil from the stuff forever. Every long term habitual user has resigned themselfe to the experience of withdrawal and we are all familiar with the popular portrayal of the agony, aches, sickness, distress, sleeplessness, fear and disassociation of being junk sick but how much is the public aware of the more delicate nuances of the condition? Before the signs which are identifiable to outsiders we are all privy to our own psychological, psychic, even spiritual nature of the condition. At the stage where withdrawal meant nothing more to me than distress and sleeplessness a friend who had access to various S8 drugs told me of his experience shooting up the opiate antagonist naloxone which decades later surfaced as a major component of Subutext. His description was "it's like shooting up fear" which is an insight into why people grow to love opiates. What a pity he died from a barbiturate overdose while trying to kill an opiate habit.
Being plunged into withdrawal by unforseen or unavoidable circumstances is something anybody would rather avoid and it seems perverse that someone would seek it out but when circumstances dictate and one resigns oneself to the unavoidable it is something far more subtle than a horror show which descends. Always my first feelings are of a return to thoughts and emotions that have been absent for the duration of the previous habit and herein lies an endorsement if you like of the shorter acting opiates of which heroin is an example. Heroin and morphine require a top up every six hours or so for a terminal habit while with methadone, especially on a large dose, will hold for a day or so if you don't play around on the side. This extension of the time span provides something like a longer runway or long range tanks for a pilot looking to land. The ability to negotiate the terrain if you like allows extra insight into the experience of withdrawal and i first noticed this when i took some Suboxone orally while on a very high dose of methadone. Compared with missing a dose the withdrawal came on much more quickly but as i was paying attention to the effect of the Suboxone i noticed the onset of feelings which i thoroughly enjoyed until they were surpassed by those which were horrid.
I felt wonderful as a sadness and melancholy, not depression but sober pensiveness descended and i was reminded of past experiences which had inflicted the sort of pain which makes taking an opiate seem justified. It was Alexander the Great i believe who said "opium soothes all grief and quenches all anger", a description which sums it up beautifully. After a prolonged absence of these feelings their return is associated with memories of times, experiences and people that got close enough to signal a reflex 'shoot up' behaviour far preferrable to the confusion and distress which triggered the behaviour.

What i am describing is the result of years spent taking large, daily, oral doses of methadone which prevents an absence of opiate from the system and herein lies the key i think. I spent five or so years shooting up heroin and/or morphine every day, several times a day using up to a gram a day but still noticed some level of withdrawal on a daily basis but not with methadone. The roller coaster experience using drugs which wear off in a few hours becomes so tiresome once the intake reaches a terminal level that the prospect of becoming immunised against withdrawal has its appeal not to mention the relief of being able to walk into the chemist and picking up a dose and paying a fortnightly bill that wouldn't do an hour on smack. The rut which results from prolonged methadone use is the hidden cost which few doctors, none in the public clinics would be aware of.

This bind is born of a social inability to understand and deal with one of the most important class of drugs known to people and this inabiltiy is self-reinforcing. It breeds an ignorance among our experts who are silly enough to be swayed by an emotional and punitive response to a simple enough disorder and it breeds a reliance on fantasy, fallacy and deceipt among users who have no time, means, or inclination to rely on anything else. Just go where people have been cultivating the plant and using the derivatives for centuries and it becomes obvious but don't dawdle because the urge to control this stuff is deviant and devious. Such places are being systematically converted in the name of civilization, health, best practice even santization but more accurately profit and control until opium is totally replaced by hydrocodone or some such. The logic insinuates that in most cases people will be taking an antagonist instead of an agonist which is delusional behaviour, insane. The people in these places are neither ignorant nor foolish but the new seems to have a momentum which enables it to roll over their understanding. How apt that areas where opium is cultivated most intensively are often those where the west is at war with traditions which are not its own. The wars are far from won and pockets of peace and sanity persist if you know where to look but this is small comfort to the urban western junky encouraged to feel helpless and fearful of going anywhere off a trusted route just like the rest of the population.