How do people get off drugs without professional help?
I don’t have any definitive answer to this question and I’m sure there isn’t a single solution. But, the question has been raised due to a couple of cases I’ve examined in our interview transcripts.
Let’s name the first example ‘Heath’. Heath was a cocaine user. He maintained employment and earned enough money, by both legal and illegal means, to live independently and fund his habit. But Heath decided he’d had enough. He’d been losing weight, losing sleep, and gotten involved in a number of fights. He left his job and his home, making himself intentionally homeless, to assist his drug use cessation:
“I decided to go cold turkey and make myself homeless to get myself off it”
And this was, for Heath, a rational and premeditated strategy:
“If I haven’t got a home, I haven’t got no money have I? And if I haven’t got no money, I can’t have it”
Without the money to support his habit he reports experiencing a period of six months ‘cold turkey’. He simply waited. Heath also perceived the absence of social support as a positive in his ‘recovery’:
“I was on my own, I wasn’t seeing anyone. I was hiding everywhere. It was nice weather though so you can go a field, just sit, chill out, think about what you want to do with yourself”
And what’s more, his homelessness was perceived as a ‘small’ issue compared to the main goal:
“I knew that being homeless was for my own good. There was a greater purpose to it, wasn’t there?”
And so that was Heath.
Let’s name the second example ‘Kieran’. Kieran used amphetamines. His motivation for giving up his habit was to prove to a family court judge that he was ‘clean’ and fit to see his children. His strategy was to accompany a friend who drives a truck long distances:
“I started going with him, just in the wagon, away all week and I did it through going with him really. Just slept it out really, ‘cos there’s no medication they can give you for withdrawal off amphetamines, just sleeping tablets really.”
What Heath and Kieran have in common is they both identified a need and motivation that was powerful enough for them to undertake a ‘cold turkey’ withdrawal. They also considered they had to significantly disrupt their lifestyles by means of changing the ‘place’ in which they occupied and, by implication, the company they were keeping. In Heath’s case, too, short-term poverty was crucial for his plan to succeed. They knew what, in their current lifestyles, would harm their chances of succeeding and so they removed themselves from those potential dangers. But, they seemed to act alone: neither Heath nor Kieran talked about enlisting the support of drug cessation agencies to help them.
These sections of the transcripts are of interest because they seem to run counter to what we (or at least ‘I’) may think of as a standard pathway for drug cessation – if there ever could be such a thing. There is little or no talk of medication, counselling or other professional intervention, and no talk of social support systems, networks, or role models. As a small chapter in a life story interview, these individuals talked about their drug cessation period as a time in which they were motivated, empowered, rational, and resourceful human beings. And they also valued isolation and freedom from possible interference and disruption from the world around them.
So this leaves me thinking: is there a ‘kind’ of motivation do people need, or harness, to cease drug use? And, what are the factors that affect whether someone decides to ‘go it alone’ or to access professional drug cessation support? To what extent can the quest for permanent cessation from drug use be considered a personal journey, and when and how can it succeed with the intervention of others?
Entry filed under: Findings, Psychology, Research, Rough sleeping, Substance misuse. Tags: amphetamines, cocaine, Cold turkey, drug use, empowerment, homelessness, isolation, professional services, Rough sleeping, substance misuse.