香山リカのココロの万華鏡:使用一瞬、依存一生 /東京

July 06, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Addiction recovery can take a lifetime
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:使用一瞬、依存一生 /東京

A man recently drove his SUV onto a sidewalk in Tokyo's Ikebukuro area, leaving a woman dead and seven others injured. The man has admitted to purchasing and smoking a so-called "legal loophole herb," and it is believed that he was under its influence when he caused the crash. What he did is unforgivable.

Although the substance is called an herb, it is no simple plant concoction. These drugs, which are not technically illegal, are made of leaves processed with chemicals, resulting in a product with effects similar to those of stimulants and marijuana. Most of these chemicals were first developed for medical uses including as pain killers for people with cancer or other diseases.

Some people try them out thinking they are made of natural ingredients and that they are simply relaxing, but the chemicals with which these leaves are laced are strong. Examples of these drugs' symptoms include hyperactivity, hallucinations, tremors, nausea and disorientation. Repeated use may cause chronic psychological illnesses, and those who become addicted to the substances oftentimes end up destroying their lives. The strength of these loophole drugs and the horror they can cause are incompatible with the deceptively innocuous term "herb."

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has designated over 1,300 chemicals as harmful drugs and bans the use and possession of such substances like marijuana and stimulants. However, the ministry is having a hard time keeping up with new chemicals that evade existing regulations and controlling the circulation of new substances.

There used to be a road safety ad that went, "It only takes a moment to pay attention, but it takes a whole lifetime to recover from a car accident." When I see patients suffering from the aftereffects of addiction to these "herbs," I'm reminded of that ad and always think, "It only takes a moment to take a drug, but it takes whole lifetime to recover from addiction."

They might have used the hallucinatory herb for only a short time in their lives, but addiction patients must use a lot of energy trying to beat their dependence on the drug. They must pay the price for abusing these loophole drugs, including but not limited to quitting their job due to the substance's aftereffects. In other words, by the time a user regrets taking the drug, it's already too late.

You may come across pills and drinks that are labeled as "herbs," "aromatherapy goods" or "supplements." Some people take these substances without thinking very much about it, especially when they come from friends or significant others, possibly worrying that to refuse would endanger these relationships.

That one sip or one pill may be the beginning of the end of the person's life. I want readers to refuse to take these substances. Make excuses if you have to. Say you have an allergy. If the person offering the pill takes offense, that person does not care about you in the first place. We have to do whatever it takes to prevent "loophole" drugs from spreading throughout our society.

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2014年07月01日 地方版

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