I have written before about the footballer Ben Cousins in the post, Drug use and prohibition. He has done a biographical documentary type of thing which gives some good insight into a particular type of drug use and the psychological dynamics behind it. He refers to himself as a functional drug addict.
The term drug addict is an nebulous term that is used in a wide variety of ways. Functional drug addict, usually refers to a person who can use recreational drugs regularly, in significant quantities and still maintain their life style, in particular their work life, in a functional way. The drugs do not debilitate the person in the place of work in any significant way.
This is a bit of a contradiction in terms because the term addict often means a person whom is consumed by their drug use. The person who wakes up in the morning and the first thing they think of is how are going to get their next hit. And if they manage to find some drugs then they take it. That means they will take it before going to work or even in the work place. This will effect their performance in the work place and thus they cannot remain functional in this way as sooner or later this will be noticed and they will be ‘sacked’ from the job or at least their performance on the job will be significantly reduced.
Ben Cousins functioned at a very high level in the workplace (the football field) over a long period of time. He was amongst the best of the best in that occupation. He states in his biopic that he never took drugs on game day or the day before game day. This must have been true most of the time because any drug use would quickly reduce his level of performance at such an elite sporting level.
So he is not a drug addict in the usual sense of the word. Just go and meet a few such addicts and one quickly sees they are physically wrecked. The drugs quickly take their toll on the physique. There is no way a drug addict can function at an elite physical level. They can’t even function at a moderate physical level. They would struggle to run around a football field a couple of times let alone run a marathon every game of football they play.
The other thing about him which he states in his biopic and has been reported by others on many occasions is his work ethic. It was unparalleled. He would train longer and harder than all other footballers and thus his fitness was at the highest level amongst a group of very fit men. This is where the psychology behind his drug use starts to become apparent.
To train in such a way means he has a driven quality that others do not have. He can deprive his Child ego state more than most others. When others are exhausted and stop he keeps going. To do that he must have a very large internal critic inside his head. It pushes his Child ego state relentlessly and thus he has that driven quality about him such that he can keep training when others can’t.
The problem with such a psychological structure is it can’t continue on for too long without some symptom developing. The Child ego state is being deprived of pleasant feelings and comfort such that sooner or later some symptom will develop and thus we have the psychological basis of such drug use. He even says this, that the drugs were his reward after training so hard. The good feelings provided by the drugs were the relief for his Child ego state. After training so hard he allowed himself to party and thus he could continue on psychologically. The Child aspect of the personality felt looked after and thus the sense of deprivation subsided. In this way he would be described as a symptomatic drug user rather than a drug dependent user. The drugs solved the problem of physical and psychological deprivation.
If he had not found the drugs worked then some other symptom would have developed. This applies for any person who is highly driven in any kind of workplace. It cannot continue on for any length of time with out something happening. If the drugs or alcohol did not work for him he could have developed depression or had panic attacks which is the Child ego state stating that it can no longer handle the deprivation. It is the Child ego state putting up its hand and saying, “Hello!! I am still here, take notice of me” as indeed any child will do when it is being ignored. If it cannot get noticed for being good it will start doing bad behaviour to get noticed.
This type of drug user does not have the ability to self regulate. As shown in the diagram the Critical Parent ego state is so dominant in the personality the Child ego state is overwhelmed and its needs are lost under a tsunami of parental directives from the CP.
Thus the treatment strategy for this type of drug user is clear. Reduce the CP allowing the Child ego state to gets its needs met, then the desire for the drugs looses its importance, or the depression lifts or panic attacks subside. The person learns how to listen to their Child ego state thus allowing them to self regulate.