Drug addiction is one of those problems that is growing year by year, with authorities trying their best to combat this scourge but ultimately fighting an uphill battle.
What is it that drives a person to illegal narcotics though?
Is it merely peer pressure? Is it genetic? Does it stem from past trauma?
The Courier spoke to a Dolphin Coast resident who had spent years living with the anchor of drug addiction, to try get a feel for what led him down that road.
Also read: Positive start for NarcAnon
James (not his real name) said he does not believe the causes of addiction can be boiled down to simple phrases and catchy soundbites.
“From my experience, it is usually a variety of things that lead to drug abuse,” he said.
James explained that he had a verbally abusive father who was himself an alcoholic.
“So there you have two reasons right there, the insecurity of having grown up with an abusive male role model and a family predisposition towards addictive behaviour.”
Of course, peer pressure is also one of the big factors in addiction, particularly during the teen years.
“When I was in standard six I started smoking cigarettes, mainly because all my friends were doing it. By the time I was 16 we had progressed from the usual teenage experimentation with weed to smoking it regularly and we were huffing benzene every day.”
He said he did not believe in “gateway drugs” and explained that social settings, friend circles and the like led to his increased dabbling with drugs.
“All of that was pretty tame though. After high school I started experimenting with kat and cocaine and that nearly ruined my life.”
He said many people tried some of the so called “party drugs” such as ecstasy and he was no exception to this rule. He also tried other drugs such as acid and heroine but said they did not appeal to him.
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James told the Courier he was addicted to kat for seven years before he managed to kick the habit.
“When you are on kat – or most drugs that you sniff – you are totally engaged with whatever you are doing, whether it be a conversation, drawing like I used to get lost in, pornography or anything else.
“This is a big draw for people like me who suffer from depression; when everything is hard and motivation does not come easily for you, when you struggle to enjoy any activities or to get along with people, then this feeling of enjoyment and utter engagement is amazing. It just lights up that part of your brain that makes you feel that way.”
Drugs such as kat and cocaine prevent one from sleeping and leave you with no desire to eat.
“In the average week I would get maybe three night’s sleep and would eat something small once a day – maybe once every second day – not because I was hungry but because I understood that I had to force something down.”
Eventually, James lost his job, estranged his family and watched his friends drift away as they started building lives while he was stuck in the same rut.
“One day I woke up in the middle of the night and had a powerful realisation that I was not the one in control of my own existence.”
James said the self loathing he felt while an addict helped to fuel the addiction and added to his depression.
“So, what is it that leads to addiction? I do not know, there are many factors and no one thing can ever be said to be the cause. My brother went through the same childhood I did, has the same DNA I do and did the same teenage experimenting everyone does and he was never an addict.
“In the end it is better to just say no; we all told ourselves we would just try it once, the problem was that after that once you are definitely not addicted, so you tell yourself you can do it another time, then another – and that is how it gets you.”
If you are suffering from drug addiction and need help, Narcotics Anonymous has meetings every Saturday at the Ballito municipal library from 5pm to 6.15pm and all are welcome, even if you do not want to share.
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