I haven’t updated my blog in a long time and I want to start off the cycle by writing about something I’ve always felt the need to hide. I’m not even sure why besides a vague sense of it being right, and I’ll explain that the best I can now. I have had problems with substance abuse in the past and I’ve let my misadventures with methamphetamine, heroin and other fun and interesting chemicals define me. I’m the guy who was all for “better living through chemistry” and I wasn’t afraid to say it out loud to everyone who wanted to hear (and the ones who didn’t as well).
However, as I have grown older, I found myself looking askance at people like that. Admittedly there aren’t many people like me, and even less who has built up such an impressive chemical resume as I have. But the ones who have told me straight out that they’re users, I find that I tend to judge them a little. Even though I used to in the past? Especially coz I used to. I knew what kind of deviant I was and I’ll have no part of that. Now that I’ve quit for so many years, I find myself wanting to dissociate myself with other drug users.
My point is, most people have something against substance users, no matter if it’s recreational or a dependency. It speaks volumes about your character that you’re not willing to make your personal life private and maybe that’s why I stopped divulging so much. It doesn’t matter if you pop MDMA once a year or you’re shooting up smack every morning and lunch in the toilet. People don’t need to know.
There is an odd comfort in being truthful though, as long as you’re not shoving your personal politics down people’s throats. I’ve stopped using all illegal drugs for many years. However, a lot of my legacy is still there. I’m still on buprenorphine (Suboxone) and benzodiazepines.
I’ll talk about Suboxone first. It’s a very, very expensive and legal opiate substitute that the government has been pushing for several years. Government? So it’s free then, you say? No, it’s not. It costs RM 40 per 8 mg tablet and I take 2 per day. I used to run up RM 80 daily, RM 2,480 per month, RM 29,200 annually. RM 30,000! 30 fucking k per year! It was ludicrous.
I got on Suboxone as a legal way to get off OxyContin in 2012. I had a HUGE oxycodone problem. I was a monster. I would take 280 mg per day. That’s 14 tablets (one blister pack) of 20 mg OxyContin. It was, strangely enough, about the same price as Suboxone and offers a much superior high. However, it wasn’t legal, since I obtained them via doctor shopping, and that’s why I ultimately chose to switch over to the government Suboxone program. It was expensive but it was legal and I could travel all over the world with my prescription (except Singapore, who considers buprenorphine a Class A drug).
I was happily on Suboxone for several years before I realized I was hooked on it. Yes, that’s how buprenorphine works, it has a STRONGER binding affinity to your opiate receptors, that’s why you don’t crave other opiates like oxycodone. It’s not very pleasurable, but it’s good enough to prevent you from seeking other MORE pleasurable opiates like heroin. The buzz is acceptable, and it staves off withdrawals. Many Suboxone users already know this but I bet the general public doesn’t. Suboxone works by making you dependent on it. That’s why you don’t get withdrawals, it’s coz you’re still on opiates. In other words, you become addicted to Suboxone.
Quitting was hard. It was harder than OxyContin due to the longer half life of Suboxone. I tried once with the help of my better half and I’m not ashamed to say that I tapped out after 4 or 5 days, just when the withdrawals hit me really hard. I’m not embarrassed coz with my life experience now, I know that you’ll know when the time is right to quit. It’s when you want to, above all else, without any other reason, no pressure, no one to nag you, no guilt. You quit coz you want to be rid of it. That’s when you succeed.
I tried cutting down and I got down to 1 x 8 mg Suboxone tablet per day. After a few weeks, I cut it down to 1/2 then 1/4. It’s hard to get rid of that final bit, the “boost” you need each morning and which comforts you, but when you cut it out of your life, it’s a lot better. I wonder why I didn’t do it sooner but I know the answer to that. It was coz I wasn’t ready to.
The same thing with benzodiazepines. This is the most insidious drug I’ve ever taken. Not worse than meth, methamphetamine is the worst thing I’ve ever taken, all in all. But I personally think benzodiazepines are more insidious than opiates. You know why? There is no honest “value proposal”. I took benzos for fun at first, then to help with the come downs from meth, then I obviously got addicted to them. The one time I tried to quit was cold turkey, in drug rehab, coz the sick sons of bitches at the center didn’t know anything about benzodiazepines or how dangerous it is to quit cold turkey.
I seized in the jail cell while my ankles were shackled and my hands were handcuffed. I cried, I had multiple seizures, I thought I was going to die, and I wept again. It was a fucking nightmare, going from 10 mg clonazepam (Rivotril), 2 mg alprazolam (Xanax) and 20 mg diazepam (Valium) in a day to complete zero, cold turkey, back in 2007. I’m not sure if I can do it a second time. That’s what I thought for the next few years anyway, since I started taking them again after rehab.
However, and I’m really not sure what the catalyst is, I somehow decided to take less and less starting from last year. I was on 2 mg clonazepam (Rivotril) daily for many years and then I decided to start taking 1/2 of the tablet. Thus, I was on 1 mg. It felt better, and my head was clearer and I was feeling a lot more emotions and I thought that was good. It was. I cut again to 0.5 mg of clonazepam (which is 1/4 of the tablet).
One day, my doctor said he ran out of clonazepam and it’ll take 2 weeks to get the new stock so he gave me diazepam (Valium) instead. It was a 10 mg pill which is about equivalent to 0.5 mg of clonazepam (don’t look at the mg, trust me when I say these two doses are “similar” – think of clonazepam as being 20 times stronger than diazepam) but it wasn’t. I felt significant amount of anxiety and had mild panic attacks but I liked the clarity. Clonazepam has stronger anti-anxiety effects but it’s not as hypnotic as diazepam. I felt sleepier and I hated it coz it felt like I was “going back” on my progress.
I didn’t want to let myself acclimatize so I cut it again by 1/2 to 5 mg. I cut it again the week after to 1/4 of that and within a week I titrated the dose to 1/8, 1/10 and 1/12. Then I switched to 5 mg Valium (diazepam) – it’s half the amount of my previous 10 mg tablet so it’s easier to split for a smaller dose. The doctor didn’t have 2 mg ones. I then started splitting the 5 mg pill to 1/20 until I had to pinch just a bit. It was effectively nothing coz it was about 1/30 of a 5 mg pill – or 0.16 mg daily. Most people take 5-10 mg and I managed to cut it down to zero with my own super fast taper plan. I was essentially clean. The last bit to get rid off was more psychological than anything.
It wasn’t pretty but it wasn’t as bad as when I kicked it cold turkey in rehab. I kinda like the new clarity. It gives me purpose. It also made me feel bad about the time I’ve spent “under the influence” (kinda). Now, this is not medical advice, everyone is different and you should never cold turkey quit benzodiazepines coz you might die of a seizure.
However, I have grown to belief that it’s more like US FDA precaution. I’ve done plenty of things which should have killed me. I’ve taken things which I KNOW as a fact that’s over the LD50 (lethal for 50% of the population – everyone is different) many, many, God so many times and I’m still alive. There’s nothing wrong with being on benzos, some people need it for anxiety.
I just didn’t want it anymore. It was a personal decision.
This is probably the last thing I’m going to write about drugs. I’ve said I was off all illegal drugs. Well, now I’m off it all – legal and prescription included. I don’t want it to define me anymore. I just want to write an appendix for the blog. This is it.