creators home lifestyle web
William Moyers


Bread and Butter, Raw and Real You had to be there to really feel what you are about to read. I was, and I share it with you knowing that what I write won't compare with what I felt. But it is too good not to try to pass it along. This past week, I made a quick swing through …Read more. My Days Not Drinking When it comes to measuring success in recovery from addiction, it seems as though only those with consecutive days free from substances proclaim the tally with the same passionate aplomb as they count them. "It was 90 days ago today I woke up in a …Read more. That Elusive Broadway Debut My stops on the road close to home and far away the past few weeks have included: Two days of presentations at a Catholic college in central Kentucky. Two invitation-only "friend-raisers" for Hazelden Betty Ford, where I work, in the Twin Cities. A …Read more. Hooked on the Phone In a rush to clear airport security and get to the gate at the opposite end of the terminal, I discovered that my cellphone wasn't with me. I'd left it in the car in the parking lot. My tolerance is thin for travelers who slow the process at the …Read more.
more articles

A Drug Was a Drug Isn't Anymore


In my days as a teenager who got high on weekends, a drug was a drug was a drug. Not counting heroin — that was hardcore, relegated to junkies who got their fix in squalid shooting galleries in the bowels of inner-city neighborhoods, far away from the suburbs or small towns or respectable communities most of us called home.

A drug was a drug was a drug — marijuana grown and harvested in Mexico, cocaine propagated and processed in Colombia, a six-pack of cold beer from the corner 7-Eleven or a pint of vodka from the liquor store in town. It didn't matter that my choices came from the al a carte menu. I knew what drug I was ordering.

It's not like that anymore.

The other day, I moderated a conference on the topic of synthetic drug use, mainly by young people. The panel included an emergency room doctor, a chemist, a police chief, a drug-trends data wonk, a school counselor, a treatment counselor and two teenagers who've been there and done that but don't anymore. All of them are the experts, not me, which explains why I probably sounded perplexed by what I heard them say. People who use drugs today aren't ordering from Mother Nature's recipes.

"Bath salts" are popular right now. The high is similar to stimulants like cocaine. But I doubt users can pronounce, much less spell, some of the manufactured ingredients found in "bath salts" they're ingesting: methylenedioxpyrovalernoe, mephedrone and methyone. Chemicals made by humans, packaged as plant food or herbal incense and labeled as "not for human consumption" so that they can be sold legally in smoke shops to users whose intent is to do just that.

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, the number of calls related to bath salt exposure increased from about 300 in 2010 to more than 6,000 last year.

Dealers peddle and consumers buy manmade pot known as "Spice" or "K2." Ask them what's in it, and few really know, though they'll swear it is nothing more than a fine blend of traditionally used medicinal herbs.

The only problem is that chemistry analogs don't lie, and while the compounds in synthetic marijuana are intended to mimic those in natural cannabis and, hence, create the same effects (to wit, a high), the two are very different. In fact, researchers have been unable to identify all of the chemical fingerprints in synthetic marijuana. Emergency calls related to adverse effects of using this substance have jumped fivefold in the past three years, proving that what we don't know can hurt us.

And remember heroin, that opiate reserved for hardcore junkies? It is making a comeback, thanks to what the Centers for Disease Control officially calls "an epidemic" of prescription painkiller overdoses.

We're a nation hooked on avoiding what hurts us, and nothing eases the pain better than what pharmaceutical companies make and doctors hand out in hundreds of millions of prescriptions each year. Except that now tighter regulations are making it tougher on users to manipulate their doctors and pharmacies. That leaves them no choice but to seek relief in what comes mainly from the poppy fields of Afghanistan, a drug that today is easier and "cleaner" to smoke or snort than shoot with a needle into the vein.

Heroin isn't the drug it once was, just like a drug was a drug but isn't anymore.

William Moyers is the vice president of public affairs and community relations for the Hazelden Foundation and the author of "Broken," his best-selling memoir. His new book, "Now What? An Insider's Guide to Addiction and Recovery," was published in October. Please send your questions to William Moyers at To find out more about William Moyers and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



0 Comments | Post Comment
Already have an account? Log in.
New Account  
Your Name:
Your E-mail:
Your Password:
Confirm Your Password:

Please allow a few minutes for your comment to be posted.

Enter the numbers to the right: comments policy
Other similar columns
Dr. Sylvia Rimm
Sylvia Rimm on Raising Kids
by Dr. Sylvia Rimm
Dr. Rallie McAllister
Your Health
by Dr. Rallie McAllister
Dr. David Lipschitz
Lifelong Health
by Dr. David Lipschitz
William Moyers
Oct. `14
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
28 29 30 1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31 1
About the author About the author
Write the author Write the author
Printer friendly format Printer friendly format
Email to friend Email to friend
View by Month