Today we will continue our discussion on drugs by addressing substances that slow down (suppress) the thought process – such substances as alcohol and opiates (heroin, morphine, hydrocodone, etc.) and tranquilizers (Valium, Zanax, Ativan, Halcion, etc.). These types of drugs, sometimes called downers, are used to relieve pain and to treat anxiety and insomnia.
People often seek help for drug abuse because they have gotten in trouble by self-medicating and use of prescription medications for anxiety. While this sometimes involves alcohol abuse, I have seen a number of individuals who received DUIs for driving while taking a drug prescribed by their doctors to treat anxiety and insomnia.
Side effects of downers can include confusion, dizziness, weight gain, and memory loss. Continued use can cause psychological dependence so that when one tries to stop taking the drug, one suffers from severe anxiety, insomnia, and seizures; the very problems that prompted drug use now come back with a vengeance.
Anxiety can be a huge problem. It dominated my mother’s life, set the tone for my family as a boy, and its influence followed me into adulthood. In anxiety, thoughts of concern dominate our conscious mind. Very often, the obsession with worry causes more problems than what a person is worried about. We attract into our lives the things that we fear.
Downers prescribed by a doctor are at best a temporary treatment for anxiety, and they often cause more problems than they cure. They fail to get to the root of the underlying life situation; downers fail to correct unconscious and unhealthy beliefs such as “Obsessing about my daughter’s friends will help her grow up safe.” The daughter naturally rebels from the controlling nervous mother, choosing the very friends her mother fears and fails to learn how to make healthy choices such as whom to trust.
What we give attention to in our lives grows. I was talking with a woman yesterday about her family’s financial problems. She was on the brink of tears; it was as though a dark cloud was hanging over her head. In this condition we are stuck operating in the less evolved emotional part of our brain. We miss opportunities because we are not working smart. We attract bad luck. We create more problems than we solve in this mind set. We then mumble under our breath, “It’s just one problem after another,” not realizing that the source of many of these problems is rooted in our anxious, fearful mind.
Marijuana and alcohol are frequently used to escape the hell of one’s anxious, over-active mind. It is the only way that many people have found to get some peace. The problem, of course, is that a person can’t stay drunk or stoned continuously, and the problems multiply under addiction like rabbits in springtime. The bills are still there in the morning; the money spent on the drugs is not available. Now a person’s wife may be very angry or may have left, and the chance of staying employed or finding a job has decreased. Add to this a hangover. When a person using drugs is finally arrested for a DUI or possession of a controlled substance, it introduces a whole new world of problems.
Most people assume that the cause of anxiety is outside them. It is not. Anxiety is caused by our reaction to our circumstances, not the circumstances themselves. Don’t live your life in anxiety or addiction. Get help. In our next article we’ll continue to discuss downers including dealing with anxiety without drug use and dealing with life’s pain.
This article is one of a series on the faces and forms of addiction. It is a collaboration among Alden Brindle, intensive outpatient director at Hope House; his wife Marie, Hope House counselor; and writer Nancy Jackson.