Earlier on in the journey that is your life, the Land of Substance Abuse seemed safely in the distance. You could see it on the horizon; the crack vials, lines of coke, and vodka bottles of a land far, far away. But it was never stuff that littered your own path.
Then doctors started over-prescribing medication and under-monitoring their patients. And you could suddenly see the Opioid Crisis flooding the landscape all around you. It rushed in so fast that you didn’t even notice, at first, the friends and family who were in some way impacted by it. If they were not taking the stuff, they knew someone who was. And then you started to hear about the overdoses. Oxycodone, tramadol, hydrocodone, and, of course, the lethal and potent fentanyl; all of these once obscure names became all too commonplace.
How realistic is this view? The Land of Substance Abuse has existed since time immemorial, so why do we think of it as such a far-away place? If you want to give it a historic and religious context, priests would use psychedelic drugs in ancient rituals. And if you want a literary context, Aldous Huxley was high on mescaline when he wrote ‘what a labyrinth of endlessly significant complexity’ (when he was commenting on the folds in his trousers).
The Land of Substance Abuse and the Male Label
If you look carefully at the Land of Substance Abuse, you will find that many people who frequent this place are the Male Labelled. Why is this so? Some say it is because the Male Labelled are conditioned to ignore their emotions. As a result, they turn to the Land of Substance Abuse when they experience emotional distress; it is a coping mechanism that they have learned to use. Perhaps.
Others say that even if the Male Labelled are connected to their emotions, and they do attempt to talk, then they are met with a stone wall of gender bias amongst the helping profession. Studies have shown that the behaviour of the Male Labelled is more likely to be interpreted as ‘angry’ or ‘aggressive’ when they are communicating emotional distress (I comment on this in my article Surviving the Dark Void of Depression Part 1). As a result, they may turn to the Land of Substance Abuse because they have nowhere else to seek shelter from their pain.
The Land of Substance Abuse, Gender Identity, Sexuality, and Ethnicity
APA Report 2018
In 2018 the American Psychological Association (APA) issued a report where they identified Substance Abuse as one of the critical issues facing sexual minority people who have been labelled Male, and persons of colour who have been labelled Male (APA Report 2018b).
The APA claimed that these groups of the Male Labelled occupy a difficult position because:
It is as if they are straddling a deep ravine, with one foot on either side. The APA claims that a response to this awkward position is to turn to the Land of Substance Abuse. That is, after all, a coping mechanism, even if it is far from ideal.
I have discussed Minority Stress in my article Surviving the Dark Void of Depression Part 2, but in short, it is stress experienced as a result of a person’s minority status. If a person consistently experiences transphobia, biphobia, homophobia, or racism, they will inevitably experience stress. I.H. Meyer called this Minority Stress, and it is an additional reason why people who are Gender Diverse, other members of the LGBTQ+ community (because of their sexuality), or Persons of Colour, may seek shelter in the Land of Substance Abuse.
In Part 2 of this article, we will look deeper into the Tools we have available to Survive the Land of Substance Abuse. For now, what do you think about all of this, including the APA’s findings? Get in touch by sending me a message privately via the Contact Page, or add a public comment below, and engage in the debate.
Chris Warren-Dickins LLB MA LPC
Therapist, writer, educator, and LGBTQ+ advocate