LET'S SEE IF "THE FIRST USE OF THE ĎDRUGí IS VOLUNTARY"
LET'S SEE IF "THE FIRST
THE 'DRUG' IS VOLUNTARY"
A CONVERSATION BETWEEN STUPID
OLE ME AND SMARTY-PANTS ALAN LESHNER, THE AUTHOR OF THAT QUOTE
AND DIRECTOR OF OUR COUNTRY'S INSTITUTE FOR DRUG ABUSE
Ya know people, I sit here everyday at
this new fangled computer knockin' my head against all these other
people's heads who say they're experts on addictions, want to
prevent addictions by educating those stupid kids about how bad
drugs are and all that, want to treat all these addicts, even
in jail if it comes to that, and get those damned irresponsible
parents to make sure their stupid kids don't do no drugs. Fifty
years later they're still sayin' the same stuff and the kids and
even their parents are still takin' drugs. None of them seems
to mind these experts one bit. Be that as it may, and you know
it's true as the day is long, these garsh-darn experts keep doin'
it anyway. Ya know, I call them on the telephone and tell them,
"They're hearin' ya but they get drunk and high and stoned
anyway. And there's a reason for why these not so stupid people
keep ignoring your advise and laws. It's not cause they're deaf,
dumb or blind. There's something about how their brains work that
makes them take drugs (and alcohol) even when they know better.
These smarty-pants experts don't give a hoot or a hollar about
my theory, though, or my book. They are polite and listen to me,
but I never hear from them again. They wouldn't read my book if
I paid them. Just don't want to know how stupid I really am. I
guess they feel sorry for me being such a jerk cause if they read
the book they'd have to tell me so, and they don't want to hurt
my feelin's. So it's simpler just not to read the book. God bless
'em. What nice people will do to keep from hurtin' my feelin's.
Gosh. I'm not that naÔve not to comprehend their real motives,
One day, however, I was lucky enough to
catch Alan Leshner on the golf course nearby and we tee'd off
together without him knowing who I was. What luck! He's chief
of NIDA and author of the Hijacked Brain Hypothesis of addictions,
the current incorrect addiction paradigm, uncritically used by
most addictionologists, whose first sentence states, "The
first use of the drug is voluntary, but then the drug hijacks
the brain and produces what we know to be addiction," or
something to that effect. In fact, he's so emphatic about the
first use being voluntary, he definitively states this sentence
every time anyone asks him about addictions. No one has ever questioned
him about it's validity though; not congress when they pass laws
about addicts, not DEA when they arrest addicts, not the press
when they write articles about addictions. This simple and seemingly
innocuous and seemingly obvious and true statement about the first
use being voluntary is actually the most damning of all misconceptions
about addicts because it makes them responsible for causing and
subject to blame and punishment for their addictions. Leshner
admits addiction is a disease, but, he insists, only after the
addict actually caused the disease voluntarily by taking the first
drug. The following socratic discourse shows how wrong this misconception
is, how mistakes in critical thinking and biased misinterpretation
of neurobiology result in this misconception, and finally puts
addiction into the context of all other blameless diseases. In
doing so, addiction can be perceived in the realistic light necessary
for real improvements in recovery and helpful changes in public
policy. Remember, addiction is not the disease but is a symptom
of the underlying inborn and genetic disease of Hypoism.
In the golf cart on the first fairway after
we tee'd off, I said to Leshner, "Alan, you know better than
to say the first use of the drug is voluntary. You ain't no jerk.
The first use by future addicts is involuntary and against their
will even though it appears to be voluntary. People who never
get addicted, well, for them, yes, possibly voluntary, but not
the future addicts. You know that, right? Why do you keep saying
that same ole thing over and over about the first use of the drug
bein' voluntary and makin' those addicts feel like real jerks?"
He said, "What are you talking about?
I'm the chief of NIDA. Don't you have no respect?"
I said, "Well, no, not if your dead
wrong I don't," and then started to ask him some questions
he thought were really stupid, but answered them anyway. Lucky
"You know, Al, "I said, "that
word voluntary, it's a doozy. That's one hell of a word that can
really turn ya on your head when you actually start thinkin' about
it. Let me ask you some simple questions about that damned word,
OK?" He looked at me kind a funny but, what the hell, we
had 17 holes to play. Where was he goin' anyway?
"You know how little babies are when
they're born? They're hungry, right? They come out screaming for
something to eat, not havin' eaten in nine months. Let's say we
served them up a tray with sand, leaves, grass, rocks, milk, styrafoam
chips, and clay. Which do you think they'd eat?"
"The milk, of course," he grimaced.
"Now how do they know to do that,
"Look here," he snickered, "that's
what babies eat. Everyone knows that."
"True, but how do they know it? They
didn't go to school yet. They don't even know their names yet.
How do they know to eat milk?"
"Cause it's built-in, that's how,"
"Right. It's built-in. All babies
eat milk. It's built-into their brains before they're even born.
In fact, Al, even horse babies, and cow babies, and elephant babies,
all babies whose mamas have teats eat milk as soon as they're
born. It's built-in. No one needs to teach 'em that. Is that voluntary?"
"Is that voluntary?"
"No, I guess not," he said. "But
babies aren't adults no less even twelve year olds yet. Twelve
year olds aren't babies. When they drink milk it's voluntary."
"Right. They're not. But what do twelve
year olds eat? Do they eat leaves, and dirt, and grass, and clay?
No. They only eat what their intestines can digest, even if they
don't know they have intestines. Stupid people have been eating
'the right stuff' since they existed, even without knowing anything
about it. In fact, all living things eat 'the right stuff' and
have been doin' so for millions of years, actually billions of
years, without a single lesson from their parents or teachers.
Would you call that voluntary? Is what you eat voluntary?"
"Within limits, yes, it's voluntary,"
"Is it voluntary?" I repeated.
"Well, if you want to be picky, no,
it's not voluntary. All people must eat. Adult people can and
do only eat certain things and they don't need to go to school
to learn which things to eat. It's built-in. But, everyone eats
the same stuff, voluntary or not."
"True," I said, "but only
because it's built-in to all of us to eat the same stuff. If someone
came along who could digest grass, and that was all that was available
to eat, he'd eat it and you still wouldn't. He'd live and you
would starve to death. His mutation for the ability to eat grass
would be lifesaving for him, as stupid as it looked to you, but
you would die and he would live. Is his eating grass voluntary?"
"No," he barked, "but there
are no people like that."
"True," I said calmly, "but
that's the way the first drug use is to addicts-to-be (hypoics),
and that's why hypoics use drugs involuntarily the first time
while nonhypoics voluntarily do, or don't. It makes no neurobiological
difference to nonhypoics, but makes a big neurobiological difference
to hypoics. The difference in voluntariness is neurobiologically-based.
Do you get it yet? Left to their own devices, following their
own neurobiology of which they are ignorant under the current
incorrect paradigm of addiction, they use addictors involuntarily
from the get go; from the very first time. Hypoics are born with
a different biology in their brains that inexorably leads to addictor
use and ultimately, addiction. All addiction science is showing
this to be the case. Twin and genetic studies are confirming this
"No, it's not the same," he insisted.
"Yes it is," I insisted. "Let
me ask you some more questions?"
"Do you do sex voluntarily?"
"Of course," he blurted. "I
always choose to have sex. It's always voluntary."
"When was having sex voluntary for
you? When you were five, seven, ten, twelve, fifteen?"
He said, "Hey! I didn't have sex that
early. No one has sex at five. I didn't feel like or even think
about having sex until I was sixteen, then I waited. I chose to
have sex the first time when I was twenty three."
"So," I responded, "was
not having sex at five voluntary, a choice?"
He blurted, "No one has sex at five
years old. The necessary brain biology isn't there yet. It only
appears at puberty with the right hormones and stuff. Oh. I guess
it wasn't voluntary then after all. But after sixteen, it was
voluntary. I waited."
"True," I said, "but your
getting closer to the meaning of the word voluntary. If the brain
biology isn't there, it's not voluntary, having sex or not having
sex, either way, at five. A five year old doesn't even think about
it for real because there's nothing in his brain that resonates
with actually having sex for real. The biology doesn't exist yet.
You know, Al, that if this five year old boy was castrated, he
never would have sex, right? His testicles would not be there
to produce testosterone, the hormone necessary for sex in an adult.
Is not having sex voluntary for a eunuch? Is not getting addicted
voluntary for a nonaddict-to-be?"
"No, I'm beginning to see what you
mean. Maybe my use of the word 'voluntary' was presumptive,"
he whispered, starting to understand the actual meaning of the
word voluntary. "The word voluntary has different meanings
when the biology is there compared to when it isn't there; built-in
biology, that is."
"Right," I continued. "Now
we're getting closer to the meaning of the word voluntary. It
can mean two different things in different people depending on
the underlying or built-in biology."
"But," he blurted out, "what
does this have to do with addicts voluntarily using drugs for
the first time? All people start out with pretty much the same
biology before they take drugs. All people voluntarily take drugs
the first time. It's only after they take the first drug that
their brain biology changes and they become addicts."
"Al, PLEASE !!" I shouted, having
little patience for this nonsense. "We both know this isn't
true. Your theory, The Hijacked Brain Hypothesis, doesn't fit
with the facts, biological facts, genetic facts, or behavioral
facts. You know damned well that people who 'become addicts' are
biologically and genetically VERY different before they take the
first drug from the people who will never be addicts, even if
they take an addicting drug, and are, in fact, incapable of being
addicts. Let's go back to that sex question again. Everyone with
the correct built-in biology for sex, most people that is, has
sex at some time in their lives."
"Right," he said.
"This, of course is not voluntary
as we have defined it. It's a biological fact. People have sex.
It's built-into practically everyone."
"OK, right," he agreed.
"Not having sex or having sex superficially
appears to be voluntary in terms of when, but when you look at
it closely, it's just a matter of time before everyone has sex.
Doing sex is, thus, instinctive, built-in, and not voluntary,
only when, not if. The same with eating. The same with breathing.
The same with taking a leak or a dump. Everyone does it, so volition
about sex is not an issue for the vast majority of people, except
in eunuchs, where not having sex is not volitional either, but
for the opposite reason, absence of the biology."
"OK, right," he agreed.
"Let me hammer this point in a little
deeper," I enthusiastically continued, seeing that Leshner
might be opening up a little. "We agree that sex is instinctive
and not voluntary as people commonly misuse that word. What about
homosexuality? Now, there's a variation on the sex instinct behavior
whose origins and biology is less well understood than addiction.
Straight folks have for eternity considered homosexuality an abomination,
even to the point of it being illegal in most states and many
countries around the world, no different from addiction. Yet,
if you ask a homosexual about his sexual preferences he would
say, without any hesitation whatsoever, that he was born this
way, and, thus, it is not voluntary at all. To homosexuals, same-sex
preference is as instinctive and involuntary as heterosexuality
is to straight people, even before the first sexual experience,
and even without any knowledge of the actual biology that differentiates
them from nonhomosexuals. They, and most people today, accept
that without hesitation, even though they may not like it, and
although it has taken many years of discussion for us to have
reached this level of acceptance. Homosexuality used to be believed
to be a choice, voluntary, but today it is clearly recognized
to be involuntary. Yes?"
"Yes, alright, alright. That's right,"
"So, for some people homosexuality
is built-in, instinctive, and involuntary due to unknown biological
differences. In fact, if you think about it, there are countless
instinct-derived behaviors that are clearly involuntary even though
they appear to be voluntary when viewed superficially and with
prejudice. Why is it so hard to know that the first use of a drug
for a hypoic whose biology and genetics is much better understood
than homosexuality isn't voluntary too? You are aware, aren't
you, that all drugs of addiction work within the reward cascade,
a neurobiological mechanism that has evolved to reinforce all
instinctive behaviors? Why isn't it possible that use of these
drugs, even the first use, has a biological origin at the same
level as a biult-in instinct; that for hypoics, drug use is biologically
Before he could answer, because he didn't
seem to want to, I continued. He was looking for a ball he mistakenly
hit in the deep rough.
"Now, pretty much everyone is having
sex of one sort or another. Why do some people get addicted to
sex and others can choose when they have sex and when they don't?
Why do these sex addicts have sex against their will while others
have a choice about it? Hasn't sex hijacked everyone's brain?
No. It only appears that sex has hijacked certain peoples' brains,
the sex addicts, but in reality, sex hasn't hijacked anyone's
brains. Sex addicts' brains have hijacked sex addict's bodies,
not the other way around. In reality, sex was never voluntary
for sex addicts, whereas sex seemed to be somewhat voluntary to
nonsex addicts, in terms of when, but even then, not if. According
to your hypothesis then, only drugs hijack people's brains, not
instincts, yet, notwithstanding, addictions exist to both drugs
and instincts. There are countless behavioral addictions all related
to one instinct or another. There are people, the so-called checking
or harm obsessive-compulsives for example, who can't drive their
car two blocks without checking to see if they've run over someone
while most people never think twice about such a possibility,
no less stop their car and look for a dead body underneath it.
These people aren't voluntarily stopping their car every five
blocks any more than normal drivers are voluntarily not stopping
their cars. The first time they stopped to check wasn't voluntary
either. Yet, they got addicted to this peculiar behavior. Volition
is absent in both situations. There are dozens of behavioral addictions
that work exactly the same way: gambling, risky behaviors, people
addiction, etc. Your hypothesis in reality doesn't fit either
drug addiction or behavioral addiction. The addictor doesn't hijack
anything. The brains of hypoics hijack the wills and the behaviors
of these people from birth. The brains of hypoics are that much
different from nonhypoics. That's what Hypoism is all about, and
that's what your hypothesis misinterprets and disregards.
What, you might exclaim, we have two wills
operating in the same person? Right. We have a conscious will
that runs the show most of time in nonhypoics although even
they can screw up occasionally. But they don't get addicted because
they don't have the biology necessary to get addicted. This same
conscious will, although just as ever-present and powerful, works
less well in hypoics. All humans have a second will, a biological
will, an unconscious will, the built-in will, the limbic will
so to speak, that pushes nonhypoics around quite a bit, but not
enough to allow addiction. In hypoics, on the other hand, this
unconscious will consistently overpowers their conscious will
and ensures their use of addictors and eventual addiction. Addictions
to both drugs and instincts (behaviors) occur in exactly the same
way. This distinction between the brains of hypoics and nonhypoics
is exactly like the distinction between the normal sexual person
and the eunuch, although it isn't recognized as such by you addiction
experts yet. Hypoic's and nonhypoic's biologies are that different
at birth. That's what the genetics is saying. That's what addicts
are saying but no nonaddicts are listening because it doesn't
make sense to them. They just can't relate to it just as eunuchs
can't relate to sex while noneunuchs naturally do. How could they?
Their brains don't work the same way as hypoic's brains. Thus,
they can't conceive of the enormous neurobiological difference
that would make one person involuntarily use a drug, even for
the first time, when it appears to them that they themselves voluntarily
don't use a drug for the first time. However, neither case is
voluntary and for opposite reasons: opposite biology of the brains
of these different people. Nevertheless, this differentiation
is true and will be definitively proven true as soon as we're
willing to do the experiments to prove it. The human genome project
will prove it. Animal experimental addiction studies have already
proved it, but because the experts don't like the idea of it,
the results of these experiments are being minimized. The COGA
Study will prove it if it is done correctly, but the results are
quite slow in getting published and, even then, will probably
be misinterpreted by its authors. It will only be proven definitively
when the nonaddicts have the imagination and courage to ask the
right questions of the hypoic's biology and interpret the results
with an open mind. Hypoics have the biology at birth to be addicts
while nonhypoics don't. The built-in biology to be addicts exists
in certain people just like babies know to drink milk instead
of grass, just like you're going to have sex again and the eunuch
isn't, just like homosexuality, just likeÖ.
This is the way nature works. This is the
way the brain works. The brain can only do what it's biology allows
it to do. Brains only do what resonates with their biology. The
word 'voluntary' has no real meaning when it comes to addictors in either hypoics or nonhypoics
because neither have a choice. Hypoics will always be addicted
to something and thus their first addictor use is involuntary
while nonhypoics will never be addicted and their first addictor
use is not really voluntary although it is definitely inconsequential.
This is true even when it appears to be untrue. This is the paradox
of addictor use. This is the piece of the jigsaw puzzle of addictions
that we have been missing for ever. Not only is the first use
of the drug involuntary in hypoics and volitionally inconsequential
in nonhypoics, but the word is meaningless in both groups. This
is the only way it can be. Nature works this way and only this
Thus, Al, your use of the word 'voluntary'
is wrong and ignorant. It is based on the wrong concept of how
the brain works especially when it comes to addictions which arise
from a built-in brain mechanism altered by certain genetic alleles
and only in people who have the right combination of these alleles.
Moreover, they get these alleles from their parents, and in just the right
combination to produce the addiction producing mechanism in these
people. All the twins studies show this has to be the case. Volition
is just not a part of addiction or its absence, one way or the
"But," he interjected, "these people have no right to take the first drug. Itís against the law! Itís against the bible! Itís against accepted morality! Itís antisocial! Itís detrimental to society and even to themselves! They still do it anyway! This proves itís voluntary!"
"Al," I retorted, "thatís exactly the point and exactly why it is proof of just the opposite. For the most part, addicts, including alcoholics, who seemingly took the first drug voluntarily, are law abiding citizens and moral in all other aspects. Many are deeply religious people, even clerics. Your calling their first use voluntary make them have to all be assholes and antisocial defiant schmucks. Of course, this includes all the behaviors we have discussed today as well such as homosexuality, compulsive gambling, various forms of sex addiction, etc., behaviors still illegal and immoral in many areas of the country and in the bible as well. You know this is wrong, and your theory has no way to reconcile this. You canít have it both ways, Al. Either youíre wrong about this word voluntary and your entire Hijacked Brain Hypothesis is wrong, or its not. In fact, itís wrong.
"Oh Christ," he said sheepishly,
"will you hit the ball and shut up?"
"No. Just one last thing. Until you
change your paradigm of addiction to one consistent with the actual
neurobiological realities and stop deliberately lying to the public,
addictions will remain the large problem they are today. Until
you reconceptualize NIDA's addiction paradigm to fit what we just
discussed and publicize it, you are guilty of voluntarily and
unnecessarily hurting millions of americans and the whole of society
both in their misconceptions of what they're recovering from and
from the drug war, public health policies, and criminal justice
legislation derived from these wrong concepts. I suggest, with
all due respect, if you truly deserve any, you either quit your
position or make amends to the public, and fast."