From Harry Potter to Pot
Published as part of ‘Raising Drug-Free Kids’ Sept ’08, Issue 27.
Children are at home in fantasy and imagination. Could it be that turning to marijuana in their teens is an attempt to hold on to that magic?
Hundreds of millions of people use marijuana. Consumption has been steadily increasing (ten per cent per year since the late 1990s) and according to experts, is continuing to increase at a faster rate than other drugs. Marijuana is the drug most people start with, and often the drug most finish with. My drug journey began with a joint when I was 16 and then, after LSD, cocaine, speed, heroin, mushrooms, mescaline, and everything in between, it ended with a joint when I was in my 30s. I still remember those two joints (despite all the drugs I took in between); how magical the first one was and how mechanical the last was. In retrospect, marijuana was the drug that allowed my childhood dreams to resurface, and all my drug experiences after that were really an attempt to recapture the initial magic of marijuana. If the experience had stayed magical I would probably never have stopped using it.
By the time I was 20, I was smoking marijuana or hash, daily. Now, in my therapeutic practice, I regularly see school children who smoke dope daily. They tell me that they hardly know anyone who isn’t taking drugs. A recent American survey of high school students revealed an eleven per cent increase in the use of ecstasy. Australia probably has similar statistics. It is obvious that drug use is dramatically increasing amongst young users and for most the journey begins with a joint.
The young users I treat seem to use marijuana for a similar reason that I did, but they start at a much younger age. This is not only because the drugs are so much more widely available now, but also because they are not prepared to give up their dreams as easily as past generations were. They tell me that they take drugs because they want something drugs bring. If I ask them to clarify this, they find it hard to put into words, but refer to fantasy computer games or the Harry Potter books or movies. The latter keeps cropping up in these conversations. For many young children the unseen world of magic and mysticism that Harry Potter represents is real; they don’t know how, exactly, but deep down they sense it. When they grow older, and parents, teachers, and other adults tell them that this is all just fantasy, they turn to marijuana, ecstasy, or LSD and make it reality.
Not surprisingly these young clients don’t want to give up drugs, and they are usually brought to see me by their parents. I recently treated a 16-year-old girl who smoked dope every day after school. Her mother desperately wanted her to stop and had taken her to various mainstream health professionals who had all told her drugs were bad but then suggested antidepressants. The girl obviously thought I was going to deliver a similar lecture about giving up because the first thing she said was, ‘I can’t give it up, I’ve just started.’ I knew exactly what she meant. As a teenager I felt like an outsider and marijuana opened the door to a colourful, warm, exciting, new world where reality felt like a dream and dreams felt real. I was captivated, and there was no way I was going to stop.
In my therapeutic practice I never tell someone not to do drugs. People told me that for years when I was a heavy drug user and it was a total waste of time. I took even more drugs to wipe out the memory of those experiences. In the cases of young drug users, I always start by explaining that what they are chasing with the drugs is what I have now achieved without the drugs. The focus is not on the drug, but on working with recapturing what the drugs provide.
The 16-year-old girl was typical of many young drug users I see. She would spend hours each day playing computer games and smoking dope to try and recapture Harry Potter’s world. She hated school because it didn’t allow her to discover herself. This is a common complaint. I always point out to young users that only five per cent of the universe is known, and that school and everything these kids hate belongs in that five per cent. What they are seeking with drugs, however, lies in the 95 per cent of the unknown universe, the realm of the spirit. The future lies in interaction with that invisible world and these kids sense this. I always acknowledge their intention for wanting to explore this, because there is much more to the world than what we see. When you take drugs you can consciously experience the non-physical aspects of yourself. This is one of the major attractions and definitely one of the things these young drug users resonate with.
I always ask my young clients what else they feel on drugs that makes it so good; ‘action’ is often the response. Every drug user can relate to the sense of inner action that drugs provide. This can’t be described, it can only be felt. This idea of inner action becomes my next focus point in the therapeutic process because this is what they chase. They all agree that drugs can only provide it temporarily but they want it permanently.
This leads to my introduction to the ‘art of action’, of focusing on becoming ‘that which can only be felt’. Drugs show but they don’t create, and after drugs you have to create what you were shown. This can’t be done by mental processes, it requires the body or more specifically the organs. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) our organs are not just mechanical parts to be replaced when they break down, they are a small reflection of our limitless cosmos. It is said that they hold the secrets to the universe. Our organs have physical, emotional and spiritual roles. They are the gateway to the invisible worlds and the only way through is to build up the organs through a healthy diet, nutritional supplements, kung-fu, aikido or similar arts, and eventually a meditative practice. This allows the organs to function perfectly and create heightened states—just like drugs do.
This is esoteric stuff, but these kids grasp it instantly. There was a lot of discussion about psychedelic drugs as an evolutionary tool in the ’70s but this was peripheral thinking at the time. I now think drugs are an evolutionary tool in many ways. I think they have significantly changed the consciousness of the West, but this change is manifesting in the young drug users. They have inherited a morphogenetic field that was altered by my generation’s desire to expand consciousness and create a new age. When I deal with teenage drug users, I am communicating with a consciousness that is years ahead of the teenage consciousness of 30 or 40 years ago. This next generation have moved beyond the stage of talking and theorising about the new age, they expect to live it. But as there is no evidence of this new world, they feel confused. For them, drugs make sense of everything and I hear this all the time. Drugs allow them access to the world they expect to live in.
If someone is to blame for their drug use—for their reluctance to live in the ‘five per cent’ material world of mortgages, credit card debt, and what is now popularly termed ‘affluenza’—it should be my generation. Instead of increasing penalties and criminalising drug use, we have to ask what it is that drugs are providing and find some alternatives, fast. The US is constantly pushing for tougher drug laws and harsher penalties for drug users and Australia tends to follow their lead. But this is not a solution. ‘Just say no’ isn’t going to cut it with this next generation, either, because they are saying yes in the thousands. It is obvious that we can’t work against drugs in this manner. Instead we have to provide other options to meet the needs of the new generation. We have to work with drugs. Ideally, programs should be introduced into schools about what drugs do, and how they work from a body-mind-spirit perspective. This is the only approach that can satisfactorily describe drug experiences and the invisible worlds.
This would then prepare the path for teaching alternative strategies to achieve the drug-induced state they seek. At least then, not so many children would go from Harry Potter to pot, and often on to heavier drugs. If the kids are kept in the dark, or fed anti-drug propaganda, many will experiment with drugs. This is dangerous. A big problem with young users is increasing symptoms of what Western medicine would term psychosis, particularly from hydroponic marijuana. This is a much more potent form of the drug. It is grown in water and often saturated with toxic chemicals. It can create massive imbalances in the five-element cycle. In TCM, marijuana impacts upon the liver and the wood element. It also sets up an interaction between the wood element and the fire element. Wood is connected with ideas and fire with excitement. If the marijuana is really strong, it can generate a rush of ideas. The excitement/fire runs out of control. The natural inhibition is not provided by the other elements and this can set the ground for panic attacks and delusions.
This can’t be redressed mentally; it requires work on the body and the organs. From the body-mind perspective these symptoms arise because young users are so open to the altered states that they go right ‘out there’ but are then not able to process what they see, feel and experience. It is as if they have downloaded new software but the body, their hardware, is not capable of running it. In addition they are told they are wrong, bad, etc, for what they have done. Consequently the drug experiences linger as unresolved memories in their body-mind.
Drugs are energetic in nature (that inner sense of action is energy, or ‘Chi’, moving). As energy cannot be created or destroyed, if it is not directed or processed, it is stored in the body, and prone to generating uncontrollable or unforeseen future actions. In my one-on-one sessions for young users, I implement strategies to use this energy beneficially. I also use the principles of traditional Chinese medicine and the martial arts to provide a sense of magic and a method to make it real. Because once the magic becomes graspable, drugs naturally lose their power, since real experiences always over-ride false experiences.
References available upon request.
Published in Kindred, Issue 27