Pubdate: Wed, 03 Nov 2004
Source: Surrey Now (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 Lower Mainland Publishing Group Inc., A Canwest Company
Author: Tom Zytaruk


Second In A Two-part Series On Crime And Violence Among Today's

Some people dismiss junkies and alcoholics as weak characters who live
only for happy hour and deserve scorn for the misery their
self-destructive behaviour inflicts on others.

But, according to a leading expert on addiction, their condition
likely has much less to do with selfish hedonism than with
self-medication gone awry.

Dr. Edward Khantzian - a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical
School who has studied psychological factors associated with drug and
alcohol abuse for more than 30 years - shared his observations
recently at the Caring For Our Youth symposium at Stenberg College in

He sees substance abuse as a "self-regulation disorder" and drug
addiction/alcoholism as an individual's misguided attempt to fix
problems rooted in infancy.

Substance abuse usually manifests itself in adolescence but has
antecedents in childhood, noted Khantzian, a founding member and past
president of the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry (AAAP).

According to him, drug or alcohol addiction can be traced to an
individual's failure, during early development, to develop the
capacity to care for him or herself. Khantzian sees this lack of
self-governance or self-care - which should have developed through
parental nurturing, protection and ministrations in early infancy - as
an ego defect.

"I'm seeing addiction not as a place where one falls down, but it's
where someone starts out to solve a problem only to have it backfire
for them," Khantzian said.

"This is not about pleasure seeking," he stressed.

"I've yet to meet anybody who primarily got hooked because they were
pleasure seekers _ people are trying to solve problems with their use
of drugs, and it's a solution that ultimately brings them to their

Khantzian is famous for his self-medication hypothesis, which holds
that drugs ease psychological suffering and that addicts tend to
choose their poison, so to speak, because of its psychopharmacological

Heroin, for instance, might suppress rage, while alcohol relieves
anxiety and isolation. Cocaine, on the other hand, might relieve depression.

"Happy people - people who are reasonably comfortable inside their
skin - people who feel better in their surroundings, are less apt to
get addicted," Khantzian said.

"Drug addiction is less about seeking pleasure or self-destruction but
it's much more to do with self-medicating one's kinds of distress one
struggles with." 
- ---
MAP posted-by: SHeath(DPFFLorida)