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Passion and addiction

Monday 27th January 2014

“So, what are you into?” 

We’ve all been asked that question countless times, in one way or another.

What’s really being asked is: What are your passions?

Ever since my early teens part of my answer would invariably include music.

What I really got hooked on, from about age 15, were all ages punk rock shows. If there was a show on, I’d be there. When there were no shows, I started organising them. They were something I wanted to share.

Those shows provided a freedom from the expectations of school, parents and work. They were about having fun, being free and hanging out with your friends. Other friends found the same things in hip hop, in sports and in theatre.

Our passions can provide escapism and identity, but they’re also linked to our beliefs and ideals. When you answer that question - “so, what are you into?”- you’re also being asked to make a statement about who you are. 

Scott Hita, a 16-year-old business student, is passionately opposed to Housing New Zealand relocating 156 state houses from the Auckland suburb of Glen Innes, where some of his family lives.

“Yes, I’ve laid down on the street under a few trucks. Once you see the truck getting ready to go it gets really emotional and you just kind of give yourself to the cause,” he tells our writer Natalie Mankelow. You can find out more about what drives him on The Wireless tomorrow.

It's important to recognise that passions are different to addictions.

"Oh, I'm so addicted to [insert TV show, drink or food type here]" is a phrase that's casually thrown around.

True addiction is dark, tormenting and incredibly difficult to break. It's a chronic disease of brain reward, motivation and memory. I’ll never forget watching a former flatmate sweat and shiver as she lay on our couch suffering through heroin withdrawal while she tried to dial her dealer.

As British psychiatrist Dr David Nutt explains to The Wireless senior producer Megan Whelan: “Fundamentally, the brain is a bag of chemicals.”  

The availability of a liked, desired commodity, like drugs, or porn, or gambling; the way in which the brain reacts to a substance – particularly with drugs; and the individual are all factors in creating addiction, he says.

Megan and Jackson Wood have already discussed their addictions earlier this month and last week we have the harrowing story of Kaylene Tahuhu, who has battled methamphetamine addiction.

“I couldn’t stop buying drugs, selling drugs, using drugs and couldn't stop drinking, in the end that was my be all and end all. I used to live and lived to use,” she tells Stacey Knott.

Kaylene’s story is also one of redemption. She now works at an addiction treatment centre and visits young people in correction facilities to tell them her story. She says that many, if not all, are in them because of drugs or alcohol. Their stories are like hers. 

This week we'll be exploring drug abuse in more depth, including the impact of cannabis use, and discussing the Psychoactive Substances Bill.

*This post has been updated since the original was published last week.