I’m always sceptical of theories that try to explain how addiction works. Do we look to neuroscience or society itself for answers? Are some of us more susceptible or are we all just a moment away from it?
In light of what seems to be a peak time for ‘ice’ use in the gay male community, a video shown to me by a social worker colleague of mine, Kurzgesagt-In a Nutshell’s ‘Addiction’ really struck me.
While this may not resonate with everyone’s experiences of addiction, for me it steers a conversation about addiction in the right direction, away from pathologising and individualising the issue and more towards collective accountability both for its causes and potential solutions.
When you inject someone with a drug like ice, the process itself is a bonding one that connects you intimately through a mutual act of hedonistic euphoria.
Sex on ice, known on the hook up apps as ‘PnP’ or ‘wired’, can also broaden the range of men who may otherwise be ‘out of your league’. The drug offers some of us a momentary sense of togetherness with each other. It allows us incredible intimacy and pleasure without the insecurities we may otherwise have about our bodies and our identities.
Whether you’ve tried ice or not, you can probably remember the times you were high on MDMA or ecstasy on the dance-floor, that feeling of looking around and being with a crowd of friends and strangers alike and feeling connected to your community. Drugs can offer a pretty powerful point of connection, especially when coupled with music and with sex. Drugs can bring us together.
We often conceptualise drugs as a person’s individual choice. You knowingly choose to take addictive drugs and you’re also choosing to deal with the potentially harmful consequences. There is an implicit assumption though, that choice itself is this rational and deliberate thing we can apply freely and willingly in life.
But so many of the choices we make as human beings are totally irrational and unexplainable. We hurt people we love, we stay in situations that aren’t good for us, we lie to one another and we do all this without ever really anticipating the outcomes. We seek relief in food, sex, work, video-games, whatever or poison may be. Drugs are no different and can become both the cause of and relief from the pain we feel.
Without buying into the current hysteria around ice that we see in the media, how can we look to our mates who we see are losing their sense of self control and offer them collective responses of support? Most of the answers offered to us individualise not only the problem but the solution to drug addiction. We need to replace the idea of individual recovery with social recovery.
How then, would a community response to addiction look?
Allowing space in our friendships to counteract the shame and secrecy of drug addiction is a solid start. A mate of mine recently said that he’ll let a trusted friend know when he is going to have multiple day session with drugs and encourages the friend to check in with him during that time.
This makes him accountable not only to himself but also to someone important to him. Without enabling and deepening addictions, as peers, we can offer a much needed resting point from which our mates experiencing addiction can ground themselves, reflect from and draw strength.
For communities like ours who experience disproportionate amounts of trauma, isolation and discrimination, it is the strength of connectedness to each other that most of us are lucky enough to have which can prove to be our strongest tool when trying to counteract something as powerful as drug addiction.