FREE PSYCHOTHERAPY THURSDAY: Corey Haim, how overdose works

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Why would an experienced drug user overdose?

After all, once an individual uses drugs over a long period they come to understand what to expect from doses.

I’ve worked as a drug counselor or college professor on the topic since 1985.

Corey and Corey

The answer to the overdose question lies mostly in the dynamics of getting high and addiction.

Some commonly used drugs of abuse cause the user to develop physical tolerance. Tolerance means it takes more of the substance to get the same effect. This is a physical dynamic, the body adapts to the substance and it simply takes more and more of it to produce the desired high.

Sometimes the user, depending on the substance, progresses to the point where the dose they are taking has come dangerously close to the fatal dose. One day they take too much and the nervous system slows down or speeds up and breathing stops or a heart attack occurs.

Elvis Presley had gotten to the point of taking a “six-pack” cocktail to go to bed. Most of the drugs in the cocktail caused tolerance. On August 16, 1977, he couldn’t sleep and asked for a second six-pack. That dose probably came too close to the first and Elvis’s heart stopped.

There’s something else.

The dynamic of getting high also leaves the user with always wanting to experience more, better, intensified, bigger highs. Their first use of alcohol led to the desire to try pot which led to a curiousity to try, say, cocaine which turned into a desire for freebasing and on and on. The desire to alter one’s consciousness keeps upping the ante.

John Belushi loved cocaine and one night kept upping the ante with heroin to experience the speedball effect of combining an upper and a downer.

Michael Jackson appears to have been dependent on painkillers but also progressed to anesthesia–which is a wildly significant progression and ridiculously dangerous.

What about suicide?

Sometimes users decide to kill themselves but more often they get sloppy with their use. Sometimes they mix desires and think to themselves that if they get really high and don’t wake up it wouldn’t be so bad.

Sometimes a user gets a new dealer or a dealer gets a new supplier. Street drugs are wildly inconsistent in the amount of the actual mind altering substance contained in them. The same amount of heroin injected on a Monday may look like Tuesday’s dose but it might actually be double. That causes overdose.

Drugs differ in what they do in the body. Some classes of drugs don’t have a physical tolerance. Marijuana, LSD and XTC don’t cause physical tolerance though they certainly can cause the user to develop a psychological tolerance. Medically speaking, cocaine doesn’t have a tolerance or a withdrawal dynamic but if you ask anyone who’s gotten addicted to it they’d argue with you quite a bit.

People don’t die from smoking a lot of marijuana or tripping a lot. Alcohol, narcotic analgesics, barbiturates and benzodiazepines all cause tolerance.

We’ll find out about Corey Haim after toxicology reports come in.

If it shows that drugs caused his death he won’t be alone.

  1. BD says:

    It’s always a bummer to see such a waste.

    Poor Corey never escaped the cycle.

    It’s tragic when the world gets glimpses of the misery and progressive degeration ala ‘People’ & TMZ and it’s equally so when no one sees the end result- an anonymous, unclaimed ‘nobody’ found dead in an abandoned building.

    To have abundant social, gov’t, private resources, some money, some fame, access to rehabs etc and to still be unable/unwilling to break free from the inner emotional-demons and physical addictions is a testament to the seriousness of drugs.

    Not that the usual losing custody, getting a DWI, getting fired, vomiting on your date/priest/boss/marigolds are picnics but it’s hard to remember the gravity of addiction sometimes.

    I heard it best put by a grizzled old timer: “This ain’t no f***in’ kids game.”

    I hope Corey has found some peace. Same for the sick & suffering out there right now.

  2. D. B. Dean says:

    SFPD is currently having a problem with its crime lab. Head lab tech was sampeling the evidence as it came through. Cocaine was used on job from the evidence bags. Now thousands of cases will be thrown out because the evidence is contaminated. What could cause a 20 year vet of a crime lab to use the evidence they are working with, knowingly comprimise case after case for a free high?

    Drug and alcohol abuse in those who have made it I guess goes to yesterdays topic as well. When you live your life in silk pajamas and lose touch with who you really are, maybe they turn to the drugs to find what they have lost?

    Sometimes life sucks. I mean it really really really sucks. But if you numb yourself to lifes lows, you end up missing lifes natural highs as well. I would rather experience the pain and hurt in my life and pair it with the joy of watching my children be born, the joy of experience renewed love and perhaps the joy some day of being published…then be numb to it all.

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