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News From the Field

News From the Field

No Place to Hide: Drug Abuse in the Heartland

by Gary W. Smith,
Executive Director, Narconon Arrowhead
Part I

The Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University has recently released the results of a study on drug abuse in rural American communities. This study was funded by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The results are shocking and are rattling the rafters of Mid West America. Per this study, 8th graders living in rural American communities are 34% more likely than their urban counterparts to smoke marijuna; 83% more likely to use crack cocaine; and 104% more likely to have used amphetamines within the last month.

The study also reports that drugs are as readily available in rural areas as in large urban cities. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) seizures of meth labs jumped from 263 in 1994 to 1,627 in 1998 - a sixfold increase, concentrated in rural areas of the Heartland.

Besides scaring the hell out of middle America and painting a pretty black picture of the fate of our youth as far as drug abuse is concerned, what is the message we should be receiving from this study? To answer that let's backtrack into history 45 years.

It is the mid 1950's. The illegal drug problem is not yet on society's radar screen. In the 1950's all anyone knew about illicit drugs like marijuna was that jazz drummer/bandleader Gene Krupa and actor Robert Mitchum smoked it, got caught and the media damned them for it. Cocaine? That word was in a line from the popular Cole Porter hit "I Get A Kick Out Of You". As for heroin, that is a drug of horror used only by the most degenerate and despairing individuals. Frank Sinatra's character in the movie "Man With A Golden Arm" teaches us that. Most Americans tend to view drug addiction as an affliction of the urban poor or an evil obsession of a handful of musicians and actors who are too far left of center to worry about. In short, Americans are completely naive to what drug addiction is. And we are most certainly clueless about the role illicit drugs will play in the course of our precious country's future.

Moving forward 10 years, it is now 1965. The country is in the post-mourning years of JFK's assassination. The first onslaught of the English rock 'n' roll music invasion with the Beatles and Rolling Stones hits our shores and takes American youth by storm while President Lyndon Baines Johnson is grappling with the escalating Vietnam War. LSD is finding its way from the experimentation laboratories of the Hoffman LaRoche drug company to the streets of San Francisco.

It is also at this time the first indications of increased heroin abuse in urban ghettos catches the attention of President Johnson's White House staff. The increased use of heroin, considered small by today's numbers, is of enough concern for Johnson to convince Congress to enact the Drug Rehabilitation Act and ask for an annual appropriation of $15 million. At the time no one in government at the Federal, state or local level has any idea that, in just over 20 years, heroin abuse in the U.S. will escalate to a point where it will cost taxpayers over $50 million annually to treat the problem. Society's radar screen is beeping. Unfortunately not enough of us notice.

In the mid 60's adult Americans still tended to view drug addiction as a problem inherent to the underprivileged. By the end of the decade, however, America's view on drugs began changing. Drugs, in particular marijuana, hashish, LSD, cocaine and other hallucinogens, became socially acceptable on a large scale during the Flower Power era. And while this was alarming to many parents of this period, most of us thought of mid-size cities and rural America as drug-free oases that would insulate our kids from these pro-drug influences. The truth was that drugs did not respect geographic boundaries: they broke out of the big city limits and began to swarm into the heartland of mid-sized cities, rural towns and farm communities. Hindsight is 20/20, and in looking back it is easy to see our nation's failure to fully recognize and act effectively to stop the drug problem then. However, if we look closer we will see that this failure was driven in no small measure by the assumption of the masses that it was someone else's problem, not our problem. And it is this assumption that allowed drugs the time they needed to seep into every neighborhood in every city and class across America without prejudice. As we begin the 21st Century in America the message is loud and clear: There is no place to hide from the problem of substance abuse and addiction.

Drug Rehabilitation: A New Perspective

FASE Report

"The use of morphine in the place of alcohol is but a choice of evils, and by far the lesser" Cincinnati Lancet
- Clinic. 1889

"Heroin will take the place of morphine without its disagreeable qualities."
- New York Medical Journal. 1901

"Some (heroin) addicts readily admit that they prefer methadone as their drug of abuse"
- International Journal of Pharmacology. 1975

"Clonodine has recently gained prominence as chemotherapeutic agent for the detoxification of individuals dependent upon…methadone."
- NIDA Treatment Research Monograph. - "Research on the Treatment of Narcotic Addiction. 1983

The war against drugs, now well into its third decade, is faltering. The disturbingly high rate of recidivism, even after repeated treatments, has been unchanged by the panoply of strategies implemented at federal and state levels. The fact that they have failed to prevent a majority of drug users from returning to their addictive behavior has led some experts to conclude that addiction is incurable.

A review of the literature regarding existing drug rehabilitation techniques reveals many uncertainties. In fact, none of the prevalent approaches to treatment has been conclusively established to be reliable. Success rates as low as 33%, not substantially higher than those anticipated from no treatment at all or treatment with placebos are generally considered to be very good.

In view of this, it is surprising that such hazardous measures as electric shock, drug-induced nausea, and chemically-introduced respiratory failure continue in current use. The application of such "aversion therapy" techniques has been particularly discouraging. "Behavioral Therapies for Substance Abuse," published in 1985 in the International Journal of the Addictions. Examined more than two decades of research in the use of behavioral interventions for the treatment of drug and alcohol abuse. The authors concluded, "none of the studies using chemical or electrical stimuli with drug abusers has demonstrated physiological evidence of conditioned aversion."

The insistence on the use of chemicals to handle chemical abuse is so ingrained that NIDA currently defines drug detoxification as "planned withdrawal from drug dependency supported by the use of a prescribed medication."

FASE Associate Dr. Bernard Rimland (see "Associated Update"), himself a psychologist, is convinced that psychotherapy has proved equally ineffective as a means of resolving drug abuse. "Psychotherapy has not demonstrated value in any sort of disorder," he says. "Not depression, not delinquency, not schizophrenia, not neurosis, not phobias, nothing. It's absolutely worthless, as far as all the research goes, and yet it's a very common component of so many drug and alcohol treatment programs."

The use of comparatively "benign" drugs as a means of breaking an addiction to dangerous drugs has also proved to be frustrating, as the journal citings referenced above illustrate. Repeatedly the intended medicine has itself become a substance of abuse.

For example, the usefulness of methadone in reducing drug cravings remains questionable. A study completed this year by the General Accounting Office (GAO) found that between one-third and one-half of the patients at 15 methadone clinics continued to use heroin, cocaine, and other illegal drugs while receiving methadone. Nonetheless, the insistence on the use of chemicals to handle chemical abuse is so ingrained that the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) currently defines drug detoxification as "planned withdrawal from drug dependency supported by the use of a prescribed medication."

More than 6 million Americans are estimated to require treatment for drug abuse problems. New approaches to treatment are urgently needed.

An increasing number of researchers are moving away from a reliance on Pavlovian conditioning techniques such as aversion therapy, and questioning the advisability of using drugs to combat drugs. They have begun to examine the biochemical imbalances, which are created by drug abuse, and to develop means of treating them with nutrients rather than further medication. Promising research is also being done regarding the use of detoxification - in a more complete and accurate sense of the word, the elimination of accumulated drug residues from body tissue - as a treatment approach.

Dr. Rimland is convinced that a nutritional approach will prove to be as effective in treating drug problems as it has been found to be in resolving disorders such as autism and schizophrenia. "If there's any approach that's going to work," he says, "it's going to be changing the body chemistry using original equipment, like vitamins and fatty acids, amino acids, minerals and so forth."

Although not always widely acknowledged, support for the use of nutritional supplements to combat drug and alcohol dependence has been accumulating for several decades. The use of the amino acid glutamine in the treatment of alcoholism was described in the literature as long ago as 1957. Nutrients such as niacin ( vitamin B3 ), zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B1, among others, have also been reported to be effective means of treating substance abuse. Bill W., the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, advocated the use of vitamin B3 in the treatment of alcoholism.

FASE Associate Dr. Joseph Beasley is a member of the American Medical Society on Alcoholism and Other Drug Dependencies, and Medical Director of Brunswick House, the largest private alcoholism treatment facility in New York State. "A wide-ranging treatment protocol, with a strong nutritional component, results in comfortable abstinence for more than 70% of our patients with very low attrition," he says, "We have observed this kind of success even in patients cross-addicted with drugs, a condition we find in 40% of those we treat."

The accumulation of drug residues in the adipose tissue is a consequence of drug use which is not addressed by most treatment programs. Once lodged in fatty tissues, drug residues may subsequently be released into the blood. Some researchers believe that this ongoing exposure could be the basis for the "flashback" phenomenon, and contribute to continued cravings for drugs.

To examine the phenomenon of drug storage and to determine the extent to which true drug "detoxification" is possible. FASE associates have endeavored to track body burdens of commonly used drugs. A 1982 study examined the presence of THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) and its metabolites in the blood, urine, fat, and sweat of persons undergoing treatment with the Hubbard detoxification method. (It is noteworthy that although a number of studies have demonstrated the method to be an effective procedure for reducing body burdens of commonly encountered environmental compounds, its developer, L. Ron Hubbard, originally conceived it to alleviate problems associated with drug accumulation.)

An increasing number of researchers are questioning the advisability of using drugs to combat drugs.

Analysis of samples taken before and after detoxification verified the presence of the compounds, as well as their reduction at the completion of detoxification. Body fat was shown to be the major storage compartment for marijuana, with levels in fat tissue up to 80 times the level in the blood. An additional finding was that among the components of THC found, the hydroxy-metabolite was the most predominant. Earlier studies have demonstrated the hydroxy-metabolite to be many times more potent than THC itself, and more likely to enter the brain.

Additional research suggests strongly that cocaine, diazepam (Valium), and PCP ("Angel Dust") also store in fat deposits of the body, resulting in a slow, prolonged release of drug residues into the plasma long after the discontinuation of drug use. (Fate and Distribution of Cocaine, Diazepam, Phencyclidine (PCP) and THC (Marijuana) A Technical Review, FASE. August. 1985.)

In order to further investigate the relationship between the reduction compounds accumulated in body fat and future drug use, a survey was recently made of persons with known histories of drug abuse that have undertaken treatment with the Hubbard program to assist in the recovery from addiction.

"This survey has disclosed some intriguing information," says Science Director Dr. Shelley Beckmann. "The success rate - as measured by continual abstinence from drug use for greater than a year after detoxification - appears to be surprisingly high. We were able to contact 45 of the 79 patients treated specifically for drug abuse over the last six years. Of the 45, none now use cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, antidepressants or hallucinogens, though 41 of them had used such drugs prior to treatment.

"The alcohol recovery rate is difficult to assess due to occasional social drinking," Dr. Beckmann says. "Twenty-three of those surveyed no longer use alcohol, of the other 22, 13 commented that they drink infrequently." Significant improvements in family relations were reported, with many of the patients recommending the program to others with like difficulties.

These findings are of particular interest, as current treatments for drug abuse do not employ methods designed to actively remove drug residuals. "Although the persons interviewed for this survey would be characterized as moderate drug users - neither crack cocaine users nor heavy heroin users were included - the fact that such a large number had not returned to drugs is significant," says Dr. Beckmann. "The findings definitely warrant further study to determine to what extent the pattern will be duplicated among heavier users. If a correlation can be established between reduction of adipose levels of drug residues and lowered recidivism rates it may help to explain the failures of programs that do not include detoxification as a component of rehabilitation."

(For a summary of FASE studies regarding the use of the Hubbard methods in the reduction of tissue levels of foreign compounds. See "Detoxification A Retrospective" in FASE Reports Vol. No. 2. Winter 1988)

News from a Chiropractor

"It has always been interesting to me that the concept of drug treatment programs usually had a lot to do with, What drug could be used to help someone get off of drugs. It seemed like the drug substitute would be more addictive than the drug someone was trying to get off. I knew that this technology needed to be refined. In the 20 years I have been in practice I have had the opportunity to see many people go through drug treatment programs and the results have been very far from stellar. They ranged from being back on the drug with a day from there release to being dead. The amount of pain and suffering associated with this problem is enormous to those around the addicted person not to mention the person himself. I have seen the pain of a parent, the worry, the total frustration and the feeling of imminent disaster. The apprehension of the phone ringing, just knowing that this will be the phone call they have dreaded for so long.

The drug problem in this country is one which is engrained in a culture which takes drugs for everything. The children are indoctrinated in this, 'Have a problem, take a drug mentality' from the time that they can communicate. Is it no wonder that when they are jilted by a boy/girl friend or shunned by friend that they would not take a drug for the pain.

In the last 10 years I have seen a shift to a much more drug oriented culture. We take drugs to be happy, less happy, not as obsessive, 'mellow' , less stressed, less anxious or nervous, to publicly speak better, to be a better person to be around or to have less PMS. The list grows every day - IT IS FRIGHTENING!

I have one patient who just 'kicked' a twelve year addiction to 'Medicine' she was prescribed for 'having a hard time dealing with their husband and children'. She told me that she has lost the last 12 years of her life. The pain on her face was indescribable.

I knew that drugs were not the answer. When I first read about the Narconon® program, I thought, "What a novel idea! They are dealing with the 'PERSON', the whole person, from both physical and emotional aspects." As I researched the technology utilize I saw sheer brilliance. And after awhile I saw brilliant results from the program. I have sent several people to their program and they have transformed their lives. They confronted why they had chosen drugs as a solution to their problem and realized that they were able to choose a life without drugs and become productive purposeful member of society. From what I have seen this is the only real solution to the drug problem".

Dr. Marc D'Andrea