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Support Services: Risk Control for Heavy Users

If your purchase record shows you are on a path to addiction, staff would speak to you about practical steps you can take to avoid, reduce, or reverse physical addiction. There first step prevents or reduces physical addiction, the second and third reduce or reverse it, and the last step just keeps you as healthy as possible until you are ready to take one of the other steps. If staff weren't able to help you use one step well enough to evade addiction, they would move on with you to the next step. In the modern Western world, approximately 10 to 15 percent of all users would be spoken to about one of these steps at some point.

All of these steps would of course depend on you recognizing that you are at risk, which people normally deny in the early stages. Fortunately, staff can be clear, friendly, and persistent. They would say to you, if you continue to use buzz drug X at the rate you have been for the last two weeks (or the last three or four for people whose abuse level is less extreme but still worrying) you will become physically addicted to it somewhere between dates A and B. Then only continued frequent use of the buzz will prevent you from going through difficult withdrawal symptoms. Buzz drugs can generally be used once a week heavily (within reason), or twice a week moderately, without you developing tolerance (meaning you need to take more than before to achieve the same buzz). That is the sustainable rate. Staff would look to speak to people who have been buying enough stuff to indicate they may be using it heavily at least 3 times a week, roughly, for at least a couple of weeks. Maybe you are just doing the buying for a few different people. Once your file was flagged, staff would use their personal judgement to identify who the customers journeying into addiction are. Then they could be supportive, but very clear - they'd say, here is a chart showing when your use will cause physical addiction, here are the symptoms you will experience if you don't do something about it. Here is a card explaining how to rotate the buzzes you use, so you don't develop tolerance, which will later become physical addiction.

Before we go over exactly how rotation, and the other steps, would work, it should be said that current anti-addiction programs work really badly, which is why they would not be used. There would be no requirements to quit cold turkey, stay 100% clean, or avoid any and all buzzes. Those approaches work so rarely over the long run that there is no evidence it was the rehab that did the trick. Any quack treatment will seem to be working part of the time, because there are always some patients who get better for other reasons. Since most addicts cure themselves without any formal therapy, this is especially true of quack rehab programs. The measures listed here are minor variations or augmented versions of techniques that definitely work, but are usually discarded because they aren't 'cures'. They purely focus on keeping buzz use within safe, sustainable limits, while allowing you to continue to enjoy your favourite buzzes (which you are probably psychologically dependent on, if things have gotten to the point where you need to be spoken to) in a way that won't threaten your health.

Rotation

Using one buzz drug very heavily is going to lead to physical addiction way faster than heavily using a series of buzz drugs that all have similar effects, spreading them out so you use the same one as long after the last time you used it as possible. Since every buzz drug affects your brain differently, rotating through a series of buzzes causes it less stress than using the same one over and over. It's like the difference between being slapped repeatedly in one spot, and being slapped the same number of times but each time in a different place.

Addictions, broadly speaking, fall into three categories: depressant addictions, stimulant addictions, and dissociative hallucinogen addictions. Sometimes people will have what is called poly-drug addictions. Basically, these are cases where someone has an addiction in one category that is so severe, they use buzz drugs from a second category to try to control their symptoms, and end up with a second physical addiction. Sometimes a depressant addiction occurred first and was followed by a stimulant addiction, or it can be the other way around. Anyways, the root of the problem will still be one of these three things: you have an ongoing, pressing need to artificially relax, artificially pump up, or artificially get out of your head.

For those with a continuous need to relax, depressants are the logical choice. There are six planned for legalization. Two involve a high degree of cross-tolerance, meaning if you develop tolerance to one, you have it to the other as well - alcohol and bretazenil, which is a kind of benzodiazepine. Bretazenil is somewhat different than other benzodiazepines, so hopefully the cross-tolerance would be partial. Partial cross-tolerance likely happens with kava as well - all three of these buzzes work on the GABA receptors of the brain, but kava in particular has a number of other actions that so far are poorly studied. So the scheme that would be generally recommended would be something like this: opium, bretazenil, ghb, kava, cannabis, alcohol, repeat. Use them one at a time in that order, spread out over as many days as you can before returning to the beginning. People might tend to have favourites, but it is hard to say how attached they would get to one if they were accustomed from early on to using all of them. The current typical pattern of addiction to one particular thing may have a lot to do with habits and associations, not to mention lack of access to a range of quality depressants, and lack of knowledge about how tolerance works.

A person with a pattern of abusing depressant buzzes would definitely slow down the development of tolerance by following such a schedule. It is an untested method, so there is no saying by how much. It is probably safe to guess tolerance would build up half as fast or slower. That means physical addiction would take twice as long to occur, or more. People with mild abuse problems might be able to avoid physical addiction altogether. Avoiding tolerance also means you can get the same buzz on a lower dose, and reduce hangovers. Those are solid selling points when staff work to convince a customer at risk to give it a try. Staff would help out with personalized rotation schedules, tracking of your progress, ongoing advice and general encouragement.

People with a continuous need for a boost naturally choose stimulants. Nine stimulants would be in the legal system, two of those wouldn't be useful for rotation because of how they work. Poppers are a specialty item with a very quick buzz, tobacco is problematic because of its toxicity (in the format it is generally sold in). MDMA has a unique effect and is best used rarely because of its side-effects, it probably wouldn't belong in a standard rotation schedule either. That leaves caffeine, methylphenidate, khat, coca leaves, modafinil, and ibogaine. Cross-tolerance with stimulants is a big issue, partly because artificial stimulation is in general a bigger strain than artificial relaxation is, and partly because most stimulants principally affect the fight-or-flight areas of your brain, leading to the repeated-slapping-in-one-place phenomenon. Only modafinil, and maybe ibogaine, might be free of cross-tolerance with all the others. Caffeine might seem like weak tea for a stimulant addict, but that depends on dose. The issue with caffeine - and probably tobacco too - would be trying to convince people on rotation not to use it every day, but to restrict it to certain days. The extreme frequency with which people use multiple stimulants together is another thing making stimulant rotation a lot more difficult. Having options that are a lot like coffee, but with a different active ingredient, maybe would help - that would be coca tea and khat. So rotating stimulant buzzes isn't nearly as effective as rotating depressants, but it can still help. It would probably come down to keeping days on which methylphenidate is used as far apart as possible, by partying instead with modifinil, and then with ibogaine, before returning to methylphenidate. Also, separating days where stimulants are used heavily with as many days as possible where they are used mildly, and on those days rotating between caffeine, coca, and khat. Pretty complicated - an app could maybe help. Emphasizing adequate rest and nutrition would probably come into play as soon as staff started recommending rotation to those with a stimulant abuse pattern. Rotating stimulant use can only help a little, avoiding the burn-out that provokes heavier use would be just as important.

People with a continuous need to basically just disappear from life for a while choose dissociative hallucinogens. Dissociatives numb you out and carry you off. It is an unusual addiction, maybe because these buzz drugs are little known and not widely available, or maybe because few people are drawn to them enough to become addicted. Three of them would be in the legal system: nitrous oxide (which is laughing gas), ketamine, and salvia divinorum. There appears to be no cross-tolerance between them, although it is possible this has simply never been studied. Rotating among the three would thus be straight-forward. However, ketamine is the only one of the three that is known to have side-effects that can be debilitating. People with addictions to ketamine tend to develop egocentric delusions and paranoia (only temporarily, fortunately). Severe addicts sometimes also experience abdominal cramps of unknown origin, and bladder damage. The best thing would be to mostly use salvia and nitrous oxide, and keep ketamine use low. Because each of these chemicals works quite differently than the others, rotating use could still be an effective tool. Possibly, putting psilocin, which is the psychedelic hallucinogen found in psilocybin mushrooms, into the rotation would work for some. It doesn't have the numbing effect, but otherwise it causes the kind of giggly distorted perception nitrous oxide does.

Buzz Breaks

If it becomes clear rotating buzzes is not keeping you healthy, staff would work with you on taking a break. That can take a number of different forms depending on what you can handle. Ideally, you should stay clean of all buzzes involved in your addiction for three weeks. That is long enough to break a physical addiction, and reset your tolerance. You could then start taking those buzzes again, but at much lower doses than before now that you have no tolerance to them. Lower doses are easier on your body and mind, and make it easier to take another shot at preventing your use from building up to problematic levels again - or at least rotating them more successfully if you get back to that point. Staff would help you go through the process by making up a schedule for a few weeks that tapers down the buzzes in the addiction before the break starts, so there is no abrupt change, which is much harder for your body to compensate for. Tapering down doses is actually healthier and greatly reduces the withdrawal symptoms during the whole process. Staff would track your progress and give you encouragement, refer you to groups or clinics that could work with you more closely and help you get through it, and recommend nutrition and activities that could make it easier for you.

If you didn't make it through the three weeks, whatever time you did have off would still help you. If you got through two weeks, your tolerance would be mostly gone already. If you can't deal with the idea of having none of your favourite buzzes for any amount of time, they would still encourage you to taper down for a while. Another option would be to reduce or eliminate just the most troublesome buzz drugs in your rotation, assuming you are rotating. Staff would always try to put people at risk on rotation schedules, but it is hard to say how often people would nevertheless gravitate towards just one or maybe two substances. Focussing for a while just on eliminating, say, opium, or methylphenidate, or ketamine, might be what is indicated for you. Especially if you were working closely with a server in a bar, any kind of break would give him a tool he could use to show you what benefits come from cutting down. He could show you exactly how much you consumed before, versus afterwards, to get the buzz you were seeking. If you were up for it, he would track with you how reduced use changed you physically - heart rate, blood pressure, reaction time, simple tests of memory, concentration, or mood. If he can demonstrate a benefit, he can encourage you to take another shot at it sooner than you otherwise might.

Of course, breaks of longer than three weeks could also be arranged. In most cases, three weeks off eliminates a physical addiction, the only exceptions are alcohol and benzodiazepines. In the case of those two buzzes, withdrawal could last up to six weeks. Many addictions will be followed by low periods that last for possibly months after withdrawal ceases, because of the strain the buzz placed on your body at those high levels of consumption, and how you likely ignored things important to health during that time, like eating and sleeping. If the staff you have been working with know you are in a long-term recovery process, they can still work with you. These days, when someone recovering from addiction wants to go to a bar with their friends, their options are meagre. A buzz bar would work differently. If you wanted, during the whole process they would mix your drinks with little or no buzz in them, but never let on to your friends. Unlike typical bars, they would offer a range of enticing buzz-free drink options, not just pop or bad coffee. They would have fresh fruit and veggie juices, nutritious shakes - good nutrition can be very helpful in recovering from an addiction.

Ibogaine Treatment

This may sound unbelievable, so i encourage you to read its section and examine the evidence at the links below. There is no known mechanism for what ibogaine does. Then again, ibogaine is an extremely novel pharmaceutical substance. It affects most of the neurotransmitters in your brain at the same time. That is quite something. The result is uncanny.

A single high dose of ibogaine, a hallucinogen found in the roots of a west African bush, will cause you to have an intense trip lasting 18 to 36 hours in total, and after it is over, your craving for any buzz drug you were addicted to before you took it - will be gone. Completely. No withdrawal. What a difference that could make.

It is hardly making any difference at all right now because ibogaine is one of a whole slew of hallucinogens that was outlawed in the United States during the backlash against the hippie movement, when the Nixon administration started the drug war. Nobody knew anything about it at the time, but it was a hallucinogen, so it went on the list. A number of European countries followed suit. Ibogaine was extremely rare on the street even before it was made a Schedule I buzz, so only a very few of the best connected buzz users had tried it. One of those people was a heroin addict, Howard Lotsof. The day after tripping on it, he suddenly realized he should already have gone into heroin withdrawal, but he hadn't. And he didn't. By the time he got his act together and started trying to get pharmaceutical researchers interested in it, ibogaine was already illegal and research on it was next to impossible. Besides, his claims sounded ridiculous, and pharmaceutical treatments for addiction are considered a poor business proposition anyhow.

Here is a short list of the best links i could find presenting what ibogaine does, and of course there are many further links in the section here on ibogaine under hallucinogens. Please note that the addiction-interrupting action of ibogaine is not in dispute. In fact human clinical trials on ibogaine and addictions have been initiated twice in the United States, but weren't completed due to lack of funding. The evidence indicates ibogaine could be a game changer in addiction treatment.

Ibogaine would be an absolutely essential part of buzz control. People do relapse after taking ibogaine. The current estimate is about 30% of the addicts who take ibogaine quit their buzz habit long term afterwards, 30% quit for between a week and 3 months, and the rest don't quit at all, even though most of them clearly lose their physical addiction to whatever buzz they were hooked on. Some of those who go back to buzz drugs are helped by taking it again. That may not sound great, but it puts the success rate of any other addiction treatment to shame. What the failure rate is showing is that psychotherapy is an essential part of addiction recovery - and that frankly, humanity is still not that hot at psychotherapy.

If it was legal, ibogaine would be the mainstay of addiction treatment. The treatment requires only light medical supervision during the trip and possibly a day or two of rest afterwards under observation. If someone takes it 20 times and still relapses after a few weeks each time, so what? Each of those buzz free periods would be a blessing to that person's health. Each new attempt would give the addicted person a window of opportunity, free of withdrawal and cravings, in which they could work with a therapist or support group to change their outlook enough to get free of buzz drug urges.

A few other substances have been used to help some addicts reduce their buzz use, if their addiction is to an opiate (like heroin or oxycodone) or alcohol. Only naltrexone is of interest here, because there is a method of using it where it is taken an hour before drinking alcohol, and over the course of several months, reportedly this results in big reductions in how much alcohol the patient craves. However the method has rarely been used outside of one clinic in Finland. What studies there are of it may be biased. Naltrexone reduces the enjoyment of alcohol by blocking the opioid receptors in the brain. Since you no longer enjoy it so much, after a while you stop wanting to drink, and your consumption naturally declines. Given that it removes pleasure, only people who can cope emotionally without that pleasure are going to comply with the treatment. It seems plausible that those who have an alternate means of emotional support could use naltrexone to slowly change their feelings about alcohol, until they aren't inclined to drink more than moderately. All the other addiction-treatment pills are variants on this approach of blocking pleasure in order to remove desire, but abstinence is demanded from the outset, which is a recipe for failure. Craving and withdrawal is also blocked, as these drugs act in manners similar to the buzz that is the subject of addiction, just without the pleasure. This is the action proponents of these therapies point to as helpful. As the poor success rates indicate, it isn't enough. Taking these substances in place of the buzz you crave isn't really doing anything more than drawing out the withdrawal process. Unless you continue the replacement all your life (which is actually sometimes proposed in the case of opioid replacements) you will have to go through withdrawal from the replacement once you feel your cravings for the buzz you were addicted to are manageable (or you just can't stand it any more and you go off the pills so you can have a little fun). Slow tapering of your dose achieves the same thing as these pills do, except the user continues to enjoy the pleasure they had before, at gradually lower levels. Really, doesn't that sound easier?

Nutritional Support

Some institutional rehabilitation programs for addicts have for years now been giving patients meals and supplements designed to help their recovery. Buzz control would offer tips and products meant to reduce the impact of buzz use on your body from the outset, but where addictions become chronic, it is more important than ever. If you have not succeeded in making your buzz use safe after going through the steps above, staff would become more active in advocating that you use supplements and diet tips to help your body cope with the strain of addiction. Considering what is at stake, it would be appropriate to just go ahead and give you a big discount on the products most likely to help you. And of course, staff would continue to encourage you to try the earlier steps again, let you know about any other treatment options that might help, and keep tabs on how you are doing just in general.

Some might feel that reducing hangovers and helping people resist tolerance and health damage through supplements encourages buzz abuse. Don't worry, taking excessive amounts of buzz drugs is done to ward off stress, unless you have that level of stress you aren't interested in getting so wasted. But if you do, you will be quite ready to take things to make the aftermath easier. Buzz shop staff could put that idea in your head and recommend what will help you most. People who are in an addiction could benefit from personalized supplement regimens. Staff or servers would provide one for whatever situation - to soften the blow of occasional benders many people fall into, to help with the completion of buzz breaks, to quicken full recovery where an addiction has been halted (hopefully permanently), or to just keep you in the best shape possible if, for now at least, you have an addiction that is not going to go away soon.

We are only just beginning to appreciate how much the impact of buzz abuse can be reduced by supplying your body with the nutrients it needs, when it needs them. Nutrition is so stunningly complex, even what is best for a healthy person is still a matter of great debate. Some general measures for people with certain addictions are recognized - stimulant abusers are helped by juices to keep their electrolytes up, opiate addicts need a fiber supplement, a higher fluid intake, and probably a laxative to keep their bowels moving well. MDMA users are well-served by taking anti-oxidants before their buzz trip, nitrous oxide users should boost their B12 intake. With time, the specific ways other buzz drugs affect the body will be understood well enough to design supplements to counteract the stress of each one to some extent. Grey market head shops and online designer drug vendors already often market pills that supposedly reduce hangovers by providing your body with chemicals that restore depleted reserves. These products have never been tested or approved by any government body or scientific institution - treat them with healthy skepticism, but you might as well try them out if you take one of those buzzes. Normally, addicted people skip meals, eat a lot of fast food, and have an unbalanced, unhealthy diet. Starting from there, fortified shake mixes and meal bars designed for them would be a real help.

Next: Depressants