An American Addiction Centers Resource

New to the Forums?Join or

Is Switching To a 'Less Harmful Substance' Helpful?

Discussion in 'Questions About Treatment' started by Rainman, Oct 22, 2014.

  1. Rainman

    Rainman Community Champion

    The logic of it is that if someone who's been using hard drugs starts using something different which may not be as bad [like weed] then once they get over their craving for the hard drugs they could easily stop using the other drug they started taking to stop them from having a relapse.

    Isn't this approach flawed? Shouldn't one actually try to stop using drugs altogether rather start using something different? Or does it work for some people?
    Jen S. likes this.
  2. Davienna

    Davienna Community Champion

    As the old saying goes, different strokes for different folks. This goes to say, what works for you may not work well for me and we are all unique beings. One has to study his/herself, in order to realize what would work best for them. Taking a less harmful substance may help you to break the addiction as well as it may start a brand new addiction in itself. Reducing the dosage gradually, may be a very good strategy however.

    Image: mine, eating mashed potato
    Rainman likes this.
  3. Jen S.

    Jen S. Guest

    I was substituting one addiction for another when I went to a methadone clinic. Obviously there are several advantages to quitting heroin. I was not putting my life risk in the same way, so that's a positive thing.

    Substitution didn't end up being the right choice for me, though. It allowed me to continue the same pattern of unhealthy and compulsive behavior. Those are what keep me sick - not necessarily the drug I'm on at the time. So while the physical benefits were obvious, there wasn't a whole lot of difference for me psychologically. Abstaining from all mind/mood altering substances is the only way I found I could be who I wanted to be. As a person.
    wellpostlooper, januz101 and Rainman like this.
  4. xTinx

    xTinx Community Champion

    Substituting one addiction for another does not lead the person out of the tunnel even if the substitute drug is supposed to be a "lesser evil." There shouldn't be any gradation or hierarchy when it comes to addiction. However you look at it, you're depriving yourself of a normal human existence by letting something take precedence over living your life. The person must harness sufficient motivation and determination to break off the addiction and slowly but surely embark toward recovery.
    Rainman likes this.
  5. Nick W.

    Nick W. Community Listener Community Listener

    You have to be honest with yourself. At the end of the day you're still an addict, and still "doing drugs". The severity might be different but you're still doing something bad for you, that's going to have consequences.
  6. vegito12

    vegito12 Community Champion

    Some may think, taking less harmful is a good think as it not that bad to take and will not do harm to them. They forget that, they are still going to be addicted and will be harming their body and using drugs to live each day of their life thinking it is the only way. Abstaining from drugs is the right way, as your health is important and you only have one life and will not get another one if you lose yourself to drugs. The results of taking another drug will show, and affect the thinking and will affect the body when changing between drugs.
    Nick W. likes this.
  7. Nick W.

    Nick W. Community Listener Community Listener

    I agree that it's still harmful, still a drug, and still addictive.

    Also, I'd like to remind all of our members that it is against the community rules to endorse or support ANY illegal drug, or substance abuse.
  8. JoshPosh

    JoshPosh Community Champion

    I for one do not agree with trading one evil for a supposed lesser evil. An addiction is still addiction. It might sound like a probable solution if you are using, but you are clean like me, then it just sounds ridiculous.
    Nick W. likes this.
  9. bluekknd2

    bluekknd2 Member

    If it alters your mind, it will leave you vulnerable to a relapse. Getting really high on marijuana may cause you to want to smoke some crack. You will be less inhibited, hard drugs are not easy to quit, or manage. You need a good support system and goals you don't want to give up on.
    Nick W. likes this.
  10. oraclemay

    oraclemay Community Champion

    Everyone is different and this may be a temporary solution for some, however this is a behavior pattern that needs to change as it is destructive. Taking a lesser drug is still taking a drug.
    Nick W. and Jen S. like this.
  11. KNH

    KNH Active Contributor

    I think for some people it may be "helpful", but in my opinion, switching from one substance to another is still an addiction. The addiction needs to be treated, and simply substituting something else isn't a solution.
  12. Nick W.

    Nick W. Community Listener Community Listener

    What exactly is a "less harmful" substance in these cases? A drug, no matter what it is, that sucks money from you, forms addictions, hinders growth, and can potentially put you in jail, is not helpful in any way. Period.
  13. Jen S.

    Jen S. Guest

    A lot of substances, but I considered (and still consider) methadone "less harmful" than heroin. Don't get me wrong. It is evil. Like I said, substitution was not the right choice for me for many reasons. But it is clearly the lesser of two evils, and here's why.

    1. It's legal (not going to jail for taking or being in possession of it)
    2. It's given orally (rather than intravenously - so at the very least no abscesses or collapsed veins let alone risk of contracting HIV/Hep C)
    3. I know what it is (rather than injecting street heroin into my bloodstream that could be cut with who knows what)
    4. I'm not at risk of overdose (they won't give you enough of it unless you decide to do multiple take home bottles at the same time after spending several months proving you can handle that privilege by testing negative for heroin)
    5. The clinic is a safe place (instead of the back porch of a Detroit trap house wrapped in plastic - just in case the guy who opens the door with a semi-automatic decides to pull the trigger)

    This doesn't mean I necessarily endorse or support methadone. It's just common sense.
    Nick W. likes this.
  14. Nick W.

    Nick W. Community Listener Community Listener

    I can see how they would be "less harmful" but I don't think any are helpful in any real way.
  15. Jen S.

    Jen S. Guest

    I totally understand and respect your opinion. I believe substitution was helpful for me in some ways, but it wasn't my solution. I had to find that out on my own.
  16. calicer1996

    calicer1996 Community Champion

    IMO going cold turkey is the best. I know the withdrawal effects are overwhelming, but it's better than switching to a 'Less Harmful substance'. This approach is flawed.
  17. notodrugs

    notodrugs Community Listener Community Listener

    Yes, I think it is wrong to use a less harmful substance to replace one's addiction for a more harmful drug. I mean it is just one and the same. It is still continuing the bad habit. No matter the effects, it will ruin one's mind and body in the long run. Besides, the use of the hard drug has already done enough damage and we don't want further ruin by continuing the other drug.
  18. Jen S.

    Jen S. Guest


    Here's the thing. When someone asks me "Is switching to a less harmful substance helpful?" my response is "For some people it can be. For several reasons." (reasons like the ones I've listed above).

    If someone were to ask me "Do you recommend substituting one addiction for another?" or "Do you think substitution can help someone recover?" my response would be "No".

    I believe abstaining from all drugs is the only way to truly recover from our addiction. At the same time, if one of my loved ones abused heroin and asked me if substituting it with methadone would be HELPFUL, my answer would be "Yeah. I think you should abstain from all drugs period, but if you're not willing to - of course switching to methadone would be helpful. It would be better for your health and safety all around than doing heroin. OBVIOUSLY."

    I try not to think of everything in black and white terms. Obviously substitution won't allow us to recover, but to deny it can be helpful for anyone in any situation is just plain ignorant. It's a "big book thumper" kind of attitude. You're not understanding more than one question is being asked here.

    I'll give you an example of a big book thumping attitude: "The book says to abstain from ALL mood and mind altering substances. Therefore, you are not in recovery if you're taking anti-depressants." ....Well, I believe some people are mentally ill and need to take anti-depressants.

    Do you know why the book says we must abstain from ALL mood and mind altering substances?
    Because we're addicts and alcoholics who are always looking for a loophole. If it were written any other way, we'd convince ourselves substituting one drug for another is the key to our recovery.

    I think for myself today. In black, white and gray.
    Rainman and Nick W. like this.
  19. I think it is better to quit once and for all. Switching to a less harmful substance is just another way of switching dependency on one drug to another. Everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for another. But I think the main goal is to depend on oneself and not a substance that will enable you to function in your day-to-day life. It begs the question, who is in control of your life?
  20. jackslivi

    jackslivi Active Contributor

    I agree with you that someone should not try to get on another "not as bad drug". I think it defeats the whole purpose of even trying to quit the addiction. I do think that if people have a problem, they should go see their doctor. Honestly though, withdrawal is the hardest part. All the pain of not having the "drug" becomes so unbearable. I think if someone got hooked on another drug, it is just going to cause even more problems once they try to quit overall.