The story of a drug addict: Opium was my drug, my addiction, my mistake

Published: February 21, 2014

PHOTO: AFP

As someone who has been dependent on drugs twice in their life so far, if I had to tell you one reason why you shouldn’t do drugs it’s this: withdrawal is a b****.

There are many reasons to do drugs, but the only reason not to that really matters, is really vivid and visceral is that withdrawal is extremely rough. Having regulations won’t stop anybody anywhere, not in Pakistan, not in the US, nowhere.

This took me a while to understand, but here is my story, I hope it helps you.

My love affair with drugs

I started out pretty much like everybody else does, socially with hashish. I told myself that I was strong, I really did function quite well on drugs by the way; no one at university could tell I was using, my grades were fine, it wasn’t affecting my health and I had it under control. I thought to myself, what’s the harm in this? Clearly there was none thus far.

Now, for those of you who don’t know a lot about drugs, let me explain a little about hashish.

Hashish, weed and any cannabis derivatives do not cause physical dependence – there’s only psychological dependence. Which basically means if you haven’t smoked up and you’ve developed a habit of using cannabis, your body isn’t going to change in any way to tell you to smoke. However, your brain will. It’s like an itch on the inside of your head and at the roof of your mouth, and you want to make a joint and relax. That’s pretty much all that happens when you stop using hash, also known as charas.

Then how can withdrawal be such a b****, you ask?

It’s because of hard drugs.

My hard drug of choice was opium. After getting hooked on to it, I realised the Chinese predicament and how a whole nation, for a whole lifetime, didn’t want to do anything except sit and smoke opium and dream and be in peace.

That doesn’t sound so bad?

Yeah, that’s what happens before you’re addicted.

After you’re addicted, this is what opium does to you: your entire day and all of your thought processes are focused on making sure you have enough stash – always. You spend a lot of your brain power trying to find the perfect time and place to do drugs without being disturbed or caught.

Money, money, money!

And then comes the money problem.

Good drugs are expensive, so you end up spending a lot of money and everyone wonders if your employers are paying you anything at all because you haven’t bought anything new in months. When you’re using, you’re always looking for the next score, for better quality regardless of the expense and you’re always thinking about using. When you’re sitting in a presentation, all you can think of is getting high.

The hermit

You go through public and social life just waiting to be alone for a while so you can use and satisfy your craving. Slowly you end up a hermit.

Addicts isolate themselves – our relationship with our drug is all-consuming; family-life or any life not including drugs seems useless. Soon you realise that when you do make the effort to go out and maybe see people, you will always choose people that you can use in front of; people who wouldn’t care what you put in your body.

One day, as I was sitting at a friend’s house and had an epiphany; I looked around me and there were five people in various degrees of passed-out, sprawled randomly all across the room. It was so sad. Brilliant, healthy, young individuals wasting their lives like that.

So if I recognised that it wasn’t healthy, then why did I continue to use?

Did I have a self-destructive streak?

No.

Did I want to kill myself?

God no!

Did I think life was too dreary to be lived without drugs?

Partly yes, but that wasn’t why I couldn’t stop.

Was I depressed?

Yes, but again that still wasn’t why I feel like I couldn’t stop using.

Did I grow up in a family which thought that stuff like this was normal?

No, not at all.

Then why couldn’t I stop?

I’ll tell you; because withdrawal is a b****.

Ever wonder when a recreational drug user turns into an addict? Let me speak to the smokers here first. You will understand this. You know how when you don’t smoke, you get this headache and you’re irritable and agitated and all you want to do is smoke? Imagine how you feel after a trans-Atlantic flight.

So why do you smoke then? Because if you didn’t, you’d feel like crap.

To prevent feeling angry and irritable, you smoke, upping your nicotine levels again so you don’t bite someone’s head off. That’s when you become an addict: when someone uses a substance because the withdrawal is too much for them to handle.

For the non-smokers, imagine this. Have you ever asked a smoker why they smoke?

A typical question is,

“Do you do it because you feel good after you smoke?”

And what has every smoker in the history of time replied to this question with?

“No. No one smokes because they like what it does.”

People smoke because they can’t stand not doing it, not having adequate nicotine levels, because the cravings are insane. Guess what’s more addictive than nicotine? Morphine, which is present in opium and is also used to make heroin. Their withdrawal cravings just don’t let you be.

Opium

Since my downfall was opium, I’ll tell you how opium withdrawal works.

There are a myriad of physical symptoms. You feel nauseous, throw up a lot, have diarrhoea and cramping, your hands and feet tremble, you can’t really take a deep enough breathe because it hurts and worsens the nausea. Body parts hurt randomly and hurt quite a lot. You feel tired and agitated all the time. Anyone trying to talk to you gets something thrown at them. No hunger, a lot of thirst, more nausea. Everything is too loud, too bright, too irritating and too stupid. You feel uncomfortable and restless in your own skin.

Your heart races, your breathing quickens, you can’t stop shaking your leg even if you’re in bed, you perspire a lot, your nose runs, you tear up randomly, you can’t feel the cold and all you really want is to lie on the cold bathroom floor.

It’s a feeling of uneasiness like nothing else you’ve ever experienced. Think of everything that has ever made you anxious/ uncomfortable/ restless and then imagine all of them happening to you at once.

Reading these might not give you such a good idea of how bad it is but maybe this will: all of this happens for a week on average – an entire week of this. Imagine that for a minute.

To handle the physical symptoms of withdrawal you end up taking lots of medications but the entire time your brain and body knows that if you got your fix, all of this would stop at once. This is where the psychological dependence comes in.

Opiates basically increase, and with enough use replace, natural endorphins in the brain. Endorphin is what makes you happy after you’ve run. Every time you’ve ever felt good, it’s because of endorphin, dopamine and serotonin.

Back to opium; your brain becomes dependent on opium for the production of natural endorphin. Which basically means that if you become dependent and stop taking opium, then your brain can’t resume its normal mood level and for a week you live without any positive feelings at all.

But that’s not the worst part. The cravings are the worst part.

Remember how I said hash makes you feel like there’s an itch inside your head and on the roof of your mouth?

Yeah, when in withdrawal from opium, you feel like someone’s taken a rusty nail and tracked it down from the top of your mouth all the way to the back of your throat and down to the top of your windpipe. It’s an uncomfortable feeling, like everything is raw and agitated and you can’t swallow or breathe without being aware of it.

Sometimes it takes the form of a headache. You know how you feel when you haven’t gotten your morning chai? That dull headache you get? Yeah, that doesn’t happen in withdrawal.

In withdrawal, it’s worse, much worse! The headache is absolutely debilitating. Everything makes it worse. If you’ve ever had a migraine, imagine that; now imagine a pile-driver throbbing against the inside of your skull. Now imagine that happening after you’ve taken all the heavy duty meds you know to work against brain racking headaches.

You feel like someone has taken a rusty spoon and used it to gouge out pieces of your skull behind your forehead and your eyes.

And so it begins…

You want to use again but suppose you can’t get any immediately. You try to tell your brain,

“Don’t worry, I’ll get some tomorrow.”

But your brain keeps freaking out. You keep having these thoughts and you can’t think of anything but smoking up again. All you want to do is crawl up where you used to make your joints and smoke and just lie there till it passes for hours. You need to smoke, everything smells like your drug and you resort to holding the bag that used to contain the drugs and sniff and sniff.

I distinctly remember when I did that once. I don’t remember how long I sat on the floor of the bathroom holding the empty bag that once contained my opium. You regret every time you threw those random shreds of the mix after you made the joint and there wasn’t room to use that stuff. You think,

“I have enough; I can throw those dregs away.”

A few days later, when your stash is all gone, you want to hit yourself for doing that.

You feel like you’re missing something vital, like nothing feels comfortable, like you’re not whole any more. There’s this anxiety that consumes you. You feel like you’re going to die. You’re sitting in bed curled up and look outwardly peaceful, but on the inside, you’re repeating “oh no, oh no, oh no!” for hours.

Your brain just keeps saying,

“I’m not okay, this is not okay” over and over again, for days.

You feel the anxiety and the fear. Your chest is tight and you can’t breathe or swallow. Everything hurts. Oh and by the way, there’s never any sleep – ever. Even after a week of your physical symptoms calming down, there’s still no sleep. Not really.

The worst I’ve ever felt while detoxing is the first time it happened. I realised I looked exactly like the charsis they show on TV. I was rubbing my arms because I had goose bumps, I kept rubbing my chest and picking at my clothes and skin; I kept tugging at my hair, I couldn’t find any comfortable position to lie in so I ended up shifting for hours…

If you haven’t tried drugs, please don’t start. It takes a lot out of you as a person and it’s a lot to handle without completely ruining your life and your future. Every time you want to do something stupid, like snort coke or do hash, read this, and remember that there’s a price for doing drugs.

And the price is you and your life, because the drugs will end up owning you – make no mistake.

Anna o

Anna O

I like long walks on the beach, the wind in my face, rain, rainbows, unicorns, food, and music.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Mohammad Ali

    why to even touch these censorious things when you know that these are made only for marring your being, its not about trying something new it about deserting your life.Recommend

  • Nandita.

    @author: oh boy! Are you okay now? Hope you are off these drugs or atleast trying to get off them. Since you realize the downside of these drugs, maybe then it should be easier for you to stop doing them..I have no knowledge about drugs and addictions but if one has the willpower, you can probably get rid off the addiction.It’s easier said than done i guess and since my knowledge about this is so limited i will just Wish you all the luck, happiness and strength in the world.( If you are still not off them though, go straight to your parents. They will get professional help to aid you in your battle against addiction.)Recommend

  • Supriya Arcot

    Brave girl. I like the way you came out of this with your sheer grit.Recommend

  • Parvez

    That was strong…… and your reason for not doing drugs being that withdrawal is a painful process, is a good reason. Why didn’t you touch upon the reasons for experimenting with drugs in the first place and give first hand advice on how to avoid falling into this…………after all, prevention is better than cure.Recommend

  • Saad

    I had been smoking hash for the past one year .I didn’t miss a single day that I didn’t smoke.It was an awesome feeling . I never really felt like it was a burden or a problem for me as everything was going good for me but then I thought of quitting for a day a week ago and I had no idea how much of a bitch withdrawal could be for me even for hash. Opium is just unbearable but just seeing how hash withdrawal was effecting me and how I was unable to keep my mind off of it, led me to decide that I wanted to quit because I couldn’t smoke all my life and I have been one week sober and its been one heck of a ride. I hope I stay off it and I hope none of you ever get to the point where they have to be dependent on something to have a good time because that is what is was for me. I used to enjoy the high . It was like a high session for me that I couldn’t imagine living without but since I have quit I have realized that I was missing on so many things and that I was living in denial .I wish all of you best of luck in quitting your drug of choice because no matter how we justify it to ourselves.It is negatively effecting us and people around us.The withdrawal is almost over for me and to all those people who are trying to quit just know : It gets better!Recommend

  • SK

    i don’t have any sympathy for you…!!Recommend

  • afzal

    I do hash too but 6-8 times in a year and i have been doing it since 8 years and I never became an addict because of self controlRecommend

  • Modi

    Most of the people dont do drugs because there scared to
    Mess up thier future and they have no self control. You can do drugs if you have the money and time and self control.Recommend

  • Anna O

    Thank you for your support and wishes Nandita.Recommend

  • Anna O

    Hash doesn’t cause addiction. so it’s not your self-control Afzal. Hash just doesn’t do that to a person, how about you read the hash bit again.Recommend

  • BlackJack

    Extremely well written … kudos.Recommend

  • Nandita

    What you sow, so shall you reap . . .Recommend

  • afya

    i hope you made it off opium, i’m sorry for you that you had to go to all through that..
    i do not agree with you on the hashish part, i think it’s not necessary to get hooked up on other stuff just cause you smoke hash… on the contrary, hash can be used as medecine for certain diseases and as a pain killer, to get better sleep etc.. as you yourself said there is no physical addiction..
    i understand that from your perspective it is like the point you got started with drugs, but it can also be used without such an outcome and i wouldn’t condemn it or put it on the same level as opium.. i’ve been taking hash since 5 years, not constantly, cause i even forget to smoke for several months or weeks, it’s a fine line between habit and addiction when it comes to hash but if you are not suffering from depression or dont have other mental diseases, i don’t see why it should be a problem to smoke..Recommend

  • Pro Bono Publico

    Anna,
    Really glad to know you finally made it, you`re very strong..
    be the inspiration to all the other deeply embedded in this addiction.Recommend

  • Nandita

    Tsk..tsk…tsk… poor lady.
    What you sow, So shall you reap..Recommend

  • Feroz

    Anna, you have the support of all the readers here in the battle you should not have had to fight. Once the wrong choices were made it was inevitable. Be brave and courageous and HE will put you back on the right path. There are a million better ways life can be enjoyed without being dependent on anyone or anything. Next article should be about the Happiness you found post detoxification. God Speed !Recommend

  • Kashif

    Reminds me of a passage from William S. Burroughs from Junkie -1953-

    “The question is frequently asked: Why does a man become a drug addict?

    The answer is that he usually does not intend to become an addict. You don’t wake up one morning and decide to be a drug addict. It takes at least three months’ shooting twice a day to get any habit at all. And you don’t really know what junk sickness is until you have had several habits. It took me almost six months to get my first habit, and then the withdrawal symptoms were mild. I think it no exaggeration to say it takes about a year and several hundred injections to make an addict.

    The questions, of course, could be asked: Why did you ever try narcotics? Why did you continue using it long enough to become an addict? You become a narcotics addict because you do not have strong motivations in the other direction. Junk wins by default. I tried it as a matter of curiosity. I drifted along taking shots when I could score. I ended up hooked. Most addicts I have talked to report a similar experience. They did not start using drugs for any reason they can remember. They just drifted along until they got hooked. If you have never been addicted, you can have no clear idea what it means to need junk with the addict’s special need. You don’t decide to be an addict. One morning you wake up sick and you’re an addict.Recommend

  • Tammy Kafin Taylor

    That’s not so nice you knowRecommend

  • Star

    I have a son who has used drugs since he was in H.S. Started off with marajuana, then some type of pill popping occasionally, the crystal meth, now he is on his own and has changed his job several times, and I can’t understand why? He now works in a night club as a promoter, and I think he now does cocaine? I was talking to him yesterday while in his car and he started to drive recklessly…….I am so sad and I don’t know wht to do? How do I know for a fact he is on anything? I guess I am assuming? Someone please tell me what should I do………………… :(Recommend

  • IHATEHIPSTERSSS

    Why didn’t she just smoke weed while coming off opium? Wouldmake it a lot more pleasant Recommend

  • HashLover

    Drugs are good, devour yourself.Recommend

  • Olivia W.

    Even if you realize the downside it is still the hardest thing a person will ever have to do, stop using, is the harder thing ever! It hurts more than ANY THING imaginable, constant mental and physical pain that lasts for days! This is why a person becomes an addict because they are SO SCARED of getting “dope sick!” Ask ANY drug addict why they keep using and they will tell u, ” I use because I need it to feel well.” And then once your physical pain is gone, the mental pain last for months!!! I’m a recovered heroin addict. Everyday is a fight to stay clean. I look happy, pretty, on the outside but on the inside its a constant fight. I regret ONE thing I did in life and thats the night i firsted smoke heroin. People think drug addicts are stupid and weak but that’s so not true! Recovered addicts/addicts( I say both because once an addict always an addict) are the strongest, smartest people alive! Recommend

  • Olivia W.

    You can tell people over and over don’t use drugs because they are bad but people have to learn for them selves. So when it comes to addicted there’s no such thing as prevention. Especially when it comes to drugs. Recommend

  • OLivia

    It’s not about having sympathy. By that ridiculous, idiotic post you have shown what an ignorant person you are. People share their stories of recovery to help others who are suffering. Some people are forced to use drugs. They are raped and beaten if they don’t use. And once they are addict they keep using because getting dope sick hurts more then anything! There are so many reasons behind addiction and it’s not about feeling sorry for people it’s about helping people and understanding people, you obviously need God in your life maybe then you will learn how to treat people.
    Recommend