Introduction to Interview Draft



Some people are able to use recreational drugs (like ecstasy and cocaine) or prescription drugs (like Codeine and Percocet) while never experiencing undesirable magnitudes, or addiction. For many others, though, substance abuse can cause problems in the home, at work, at school, or in relationships, leaving the user and those that love them feeling isolated, destitute, or humiliated and powerless.

It’s easy to understand why drug use is an important thing to study, because by learning what the warning signs are, more addictions can be prevented. Learning about the nature of drug abuse and addiction such as how the addiction develops, what it looks like, and why it can have such a powerful hold gives doctors, scientists, and psychologists better understandings of the problem, and how to best deal with it.

The experiences that drug use can produce are often unique, especially for those who are more or less vulnerable to addiction. As with many other conditions or diseases, your genes, mental health, and environment can and do play a role in addiction. Risk factors can include a family history of addiction, “abuse, neglect, or other traumatic experiences in childhood, mental disorders such as depression and anxiety” (1), the method of administration of the drug, and how early someone begins to use. People who experiment with drugs will then continue to use them because the substance either makes them feel good, or more likely, because the substance stops them from feeling bad. Usually, though, there is a very fine line between regular use and drug addiction. The reality is that very few addicts are able to recognize when they have crossed this invisible, hard-to-pin-down line. While “frequency or the amount of drugs consumed don’t in themselves constitute drug abuse or addiction” (1), they can often be indicators of drug-related problems. The high-functioning myth that addiction is a disease that cannot be solved is toxic, because it is preventing people from getting the help that they need. Most experts will agree that “addiction is a brain disease, but that doesn’t mean you’re a helpless victim” (2). The brain changes associated with addiction can be “treated and reversed through therapy, medication, exercise, and other treatments” (2).

Harm reduction is one of the ways that drug addicts are regulated and treated. Harm reduction incorporates a spectrum of strategies from safer use, from managed use to abstinence, to meeting drug users in the middle by “addressing conditions of use along with the use itself” (3). Because harm reduction demands that “interventions and policies designed to serve drug users reflect specific individual and community needs, there is no universal definition of or formula for implementing harm reduction” (3). The people that I interviewed are all involved in harm reduction in some way, and this helps to legitimize the work that harm reduction is doing. This interview-study is meant to show people that while addiction may be scary, the people that are involved in it are not horrible bad guys that should be tossed to the wayside, as well as reach a conclusion on how drugs on the Upper West Side affect the average person living there.


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