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  1. jmh105
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    jmh105 Member

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    Is this plausible for a drug addict?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by jmh105, Dec 22, 2015.

    [My apologies if I posted this in the wrong forum. I was debating between Research and Character Development, but ultimately decided on Research because I may need to do more drug research.]

    Hello! I have this character, Lorenzo, who becomes addicted to a certain drug (I am not sure which drug yet) in order to cope with the death of a loved one. Due to this addiction, he can't pay attention in class and eventually has to drop out of school. His family scorns him for this and, thus, refuses him housing. As a result, he ends up on the streets with only a cat to keep him company.

    Due to his continued investment in this drug, he neglects the cat and it dies. Lorenzo is shocked into quitting the drug--this part I am a bit iffy on, because I read somewhere that going "cold turkey" is a difficult thing to do. Soon after this, he comes into contact and forms an alliance with another homeless person, a young woman named Sonja. The withdrawal effects are somewhat prominent in the interactions between the two, but he somehow manages to stave them off long enough for Sonja to befriend him and form the alliance in the first place.

    Regardless, the withdrawal ends up becoming too strong for Lorenzo to handle, so when he gets back into contact with the drug, he insists to himself (and later to Sonja) that things are different. Sonja can cope in light of his regression because she is hardier and more capable than his cat.

    Consequently, he ends up arguing with Sonja when she bothers him for information and tries to get him to stop, and eventually, he overdoses.


    Is the above information plausible? Is there anything else I need to consider when writing his character/background?

    In addition, is there a drug that comes to mind that you think Lorenzo would have most likely taken to cope with death? (Oh, and with this in mind, is it a bit odd that he took it in the first place to cope with death, but ends up stopping as a result of death? Does it make sense to consider that the first death wasn't his fault, but the second death, indirectly, was?)
     
  2. KennyAndTheDog
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    KennyAndTheDog Member

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    In my limited experience I automatically think heroin, it's a very common drung among the homeless here in the UK and a lot of users take it once to make the pain go away and then it takes over their lives. It's also painfully addictive and many addicts relapse. there's a fantastic documentary about a teen with dwarfism who's father is a homeless heroin addict who gives ups his family for the drug, I don't know if it's available where you are but google it, it's called small teen big world. The reality of her fathers addiction is dealt with really well and seems to me to be a very good representation of how it can take the best of intentions and the strongest of relationships and break them. Hope this helps.
     
  3. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are a couple of things you can do:

    1) Do research into various drugs, their effects, recovery, etc.

    2) Think about your own addictions (coffee, chocolate, sugar, whatever's your poison) and how you handle them. That should give you some insight into addiction as well.

    And don't imagine that just because coffee et al are legal they won't give you valuable information. Try cutting out something you habitually eat or drink. Go cold turkey and see what happens. Pay attention to cravings, how often you think about wanting some and make notes.

    If you smoke, try quitting that. Nicotine is harder to kick than heroine and I guarantee you'll learn a lot about addiction.
     
  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Um, is the cat locked inside? Because if not, the cat would leave. While cats are most definitely domestic animals, they are less domestic than dogs and they are also not bound by the same social dynamics that both humans and canines have in common (dogs and people have very similar base social dynamics). If the cat is hungry and has access to outside, the cat doesn't die; it just leaves.
     
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  5. Void
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    Void Contributing Member

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    It's probably a mistake to outline the story as "guy starts taking <INSERT DRUG HERE> to the point that he becomes addicted to <INSERT DRUG HERE> but eventually decides to quit, and then suffers from <INSERT WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS HERE> but is ultimately able to cope with them through <INSERT COPING MECHANISM HERE>."

    While there are plenty of overlapping elements of various drugs and their effects on people's lives, they do effect people in different ways, especially the rituals of taking the drug that often bind addicts' lives together. You really ought to nail down which specific drug you're talking about before you start deciding how it will effect the character. This is especially true when you start involving overdoses into the story, since some drugs are easy to overdose on, and others are almost impossible.

    Heroin seems like a nice and conventional drug to write about that more or less fits with the situation, but you're welcome to research other drugs if you want. Keep in mind, the specific drugs and the culture that surrounds them depends a lot on the setting and characters (time period, location, social standing, local laws, etc).
     
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  6. jmh105
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    jmh105 Member

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    I was wondering about that, too. I'm glad you brought it up! Would it make more sense if he has a dog instead of a cat, in this case?

    I'll definitely look into heroin! If I find that doesn't work as well as I thought, then I'll look into other drugs, too. Thanks for pointing me to a drug to start with.

    Thanks for the suggestion! I'll look into finding it on YouTube, and if that doesn't work, I can always look up a synopsis. This will be very helpful! :D

    Do addictions to common things like ice cream (my poison) or coffee compare to heroin or nicotine? In my experience, I usually eat a bowl of ice cream a night, but if I go without, I don't experience much withdrawal. Do you suggest I cut out something more vital to my diet/everyday living to see what happens? Regardless, I will look into the effects of various drugs. Thank you!

    That's some food for thought, there. I haven't really thought of isolating the effects of different drugs. Truth be told, I am a bit ashamed that I grouped all drugs into having a similar effect of "ADDICTION --> COLD TURKEY --> WITHDRAWAL --> RELAPSE." Thanks!
     
  7. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm writing a character who's using drugs to cope with her past (PTSD from the Second Lebanon War and suicide bombing in Jerusalem as well as depression from her failed engagement to an abusive man). The diff is, though, that she's quite wealthy at this point of her life and has the money to support her habit. She's addicted to pregabalin, opiates, and benzos, of which I feel like I can write pretty realistically (she also overdoses, and actually dies). You should probably use a drug or several that you feel you can write confidently about, and make sure that they are available to your character in his life situation. I'm sure some people can pull off going cold turkey. But I've seen it not happening so many times I've become to think of it as something of a romantic ideal. I think it's possible if you cannot get any drugs. Like how in Stephen King's The Dark Tower series Ed had to withdraw from heroin; it was only possible after he wound up in Roland's world where there was no heroin, not nearby anyway, and no one he could threaten to get it to him, no one he could sell his ass to for a fix, and no one he could volunteer to kill for it.

    I agree with @Void. Choose the drug first, and then build your character's journey around it.
     
  8. Adenosine Triphosphate
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    Adenosine Triphosphate Old Scratch Contributor

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    Some general withdrawal symptoms:

    Classical sedatives (Alcohol, benzos, thiopental, etc.): Nervous system overactivity, ranging from mild (anxiety, tremor, sleeping difficulties) to severe (seizure, fever, hallucinations). Eventually much more lethal than opioid withdrawal, but takes a while to get there.

    Stimulants (Adderall, meth, cocaine, Ritalin, caffeine, etc.): Fatigue, depression, concentration problems, and difficulty taking pleasure in normal activities. Can cause insomnia, but can also cause sufferers to sleep excessively. Usually not dangerous in a physical sense, but the mood effects can be severe. Some drugs in this class occasionally cause withdrawal hallucinations, but psychotic symptoms are far more likely in overdose.

    Opioids (heroin, morphine, oxycodone, etc.): Flu-like symptoms (nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, runny nose, muscle pain) combined with increased sensitivity to pain and a variety of psychological symptoms (depression, anxiety, restlessness, insomnia). Hallucinations have been known to occur as well. These symptoms are actually quite a bit less dangerous than severe alcohol withdrawal, but they make addicts feel horrible, and it doesn't take as long to get shackled to morphine or heroin physically. Many users live in constant fear of what will happen if they lose their supply.
     
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  9. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Heroin's the drug I thought of, too, or some more modern opiate, but don't forget good ol' alcohol as a possibility. Heroin doesn't have the same kind of casual availability (to most) as alcohol, so if, for example, your character sort of "accidentally" gets hooked, alcohol would make more sense. It's sitting there on the sideboard at the funeral, or a well-intentioned relative sees his freaking out and gives him a glass of "medicinal" scotch, the kid likes how it makes him feel, he starts drinking more, etc.

    Heroin isn't hard to get, for most people (especially at that age) but it's not as easy as alcohol. So if your kid was a total straight arrow before the addiction, he'd have to more-or-less choose to go find some heroin, which would maybe not fit with your characterization? Or maybe it totally would. Or maybe he chooses to go hang out with people he normally wouldn't, as a result of the death, and that's where he comes into contact with it?

    ETA: Or he could use a different opioid (like Oxy) that someone has in the house - what did the loved one die of? If it was a painful illness, there could be opiates around, and I can see your character taking them just as a sort of mindless bonding gesture...?
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2015
  10. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    What's the longest you've ever gone without ice cream?

    If you can go a full year without ever once getting a serious hankering, then I'll agree you aren't addicted. :)
     
  11. pyroglyphian
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    pyroglyphian Member

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    Hi jmh. It is possible for someone to be shocked out of addiction, though difficult to say whether the death of a cat would achieve it. Guess it would have to be built up as an event of some significance for it to have the necessary impact.

    A potential problem is that Lorenzo has already been driven to addiction by the death of a loved one which, though I can but speculate, would seem to be an event of far greater significance than the death of the cat. i.e. If Lorenzo is the sort of character to respond to trauma with drug use, then would a traumatic cat episode not just push him further into addiction?
     
  12. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    The sense of personal responsibility for not being able to care for maybe his only companion could act as an impetus to reevaluate what his self-medicating is doing. But that motivation might be short lived due to, as mentioned, the desire to forget and ease.
     
  13. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that neither a cat or dog is likely to starve, if they have access to the outdoors. The cat would indeed leave; the dog would probably return but I'd bet that it would go foraging for garbage. I struggle to think of any pet that could survive the outdoors with him, and would also starve.

    You may need to come up with some sort of serious medical problem for the pet instead.

    Actually, I do remember reading that rapid weight loss can do permanent damage to a cat's liver. So if the cat was sleek and fat when house-dwelling, and is a lousy hunter outdoors, that's a possibility. But that may require more explanation than it's worth; something else might be better.

    For example, older male cats fairly often get a blockage that keeps them from urinating, and I believe that can be life-threatening fairly rapidly; for the last few years of one of our cats' lives we wouldn't leave him alone for more than a day, and we needed to give him a special diet and make sure he had plenty of water, because he was prone to that issue. This could be something that your character normally knows to watch for--he could even haul that cat to a vet once or twice to establish it, maybe a scene that could cement the bonding between man and cat--and then misses.
     
  14. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    If Lorenzo is not already doing drugs, or tapped into the drug culture, it's most likely that he would start off with prescription drugs before moving to something harder. What we're seeing now is a lot of people moving from prescription opiates to morphine and heroin. That's the reason heroin use in the US has increased 100% in the last ten years. Your problem is that there's no reason to prescribe painkillers to a grieving person. If you had to find a drug to give one it would probably by a benzodiazapine, like xanax or valium. There are no real street equivelents.

    Not that a benzo addiction wouldn't put him on the street, the stuff is crippling addictive, and has a high street price.

    Quitting a benzo cold turkey is extremely dangerous. Seizures and heart attacks are common, even from tapering off too fast. And there's nothing like methadone to make it easier. That's not accounting for the psychological effects. Statistically quitting cold turkey is the least effective method of handling an addiction.

    The most effective way is to work with a support group. Getting together with people who are also quitting, or have quit is the most likely way to stay off a drug.
    This is also extremely likely. Most people who relapse do it because they feel that they have a handle on their addiction. That they can control it somehow. That's not how addiction works.

    With any drug, the user builds up a tolerance to the drug the more they use. With heroin the staple is that in the throes of addiction, the user is injecting amounts that would kill a normal person. I assume benzos would be similar, but you can go here are look around at what people are saying:
    http://www.drugs.com/drug-class/benzodiazepines.html

    But to answer your main question, yes this is extremely likely and plausible.
     
  15. CGB
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    CGB Active Member

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    Benzodiazepines like Valium or Klonopin (sedative hypnotics). In that case, you can't safely cold turkey those drugs. Alcohol is the same, if you abuse it in high enough quantities for a long enough period of time, you put yourself at risk of life-threatening seizures, heart attacks, etc. from just straight cold turkey.

    Heroin is a drug which if abused could make you neglect a pet to the point of their death. You could cold turkey from that, and it wouldn't necessarily be life-threatening (but definitely uncomfortable).
     
  16. jmh105
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    jmh105 Member

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    Thank you so much for all the responses! I've been a bit busy to reply to all of them, but I just wanted to know I appreciate every bit of feedback I got. You're all so helpful!

    Anyways, I wanted to also say that I decided to omit the cat entirely from the scenario, and I also made Lorenzo an alcoholic rather than a drug addict. Thanks again for all the advice. :D
     
  17. jmh105
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    jmh105 Member

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    Sorry guys--accidentally double-posted due to the faulty internet I'm using. My apologies! Please let me know if a moderator could delete this or how I could delete it, myself. Thanks!
     

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