1. Kamikazes

There's a silent drug war and it's exploding all over America. It's the worst kind of war in all kinds of ways: Mostly unheralded and unnoted, it's also getting unbelievably deadly.

Even worse, it's the kind of war where people volunteer to die -- often alone and in the dark, like modern-day kamikazes.

But they don't scream "Banzai" to dull their fright. As often as not, they don't make a sound when they go.

Let's consider the casualties for a moment.

In figures released in 2002 for the year ending December 31, 2000, emergency-room (ER) admissions for crystal meth and other forms of amphetamine were up 51 percent in Los Angeles, 53 percent in Seattle, 76 percent in Phoenix.

It's the same virtually across the board and across the country.

Heroin mentions were up 31 percent in Buffalo, 35 percent in Boston, 50 percent in New Orleans, 58 percent in Miami.

Even prescription drugs are getting into the act: Vicodin, for example.

Due to the pull of pop-culture (Eminem has rapped about it, pictured it on CD covers, and even has a Vicodin pill tattooed on his shoulder; Courtney Love and Matthew Perry only beat their addictions through stints in rehab), this previously little-known prescription painkiller is going through the roof of the drug-crisis emergency-room admission list charts, jumping 108 percent nationally from 1998 to 2000.

There are bright spots amid the gloom, too, but on balance, the numbers reveal the most deadly-serious growth area in the entire American drug culture.

That's why we've developed this booklet: Because a simple familiarity with crisis assessment and intervention techniques can mean the difference between life and death for untold numbers of people each year. For others, it can be the difference between overcoming a moment of panic and coming apart at the seams. For still others, it can be the first step in a process that extends beyond an immediate crisis to real recovery.

It isn't glamorous and it often isn't easy. But in the lives of the people it touches, it's as important as the other, headline-grabbing, "official" war on drugs, the endless struggle to stop the flow of drugs at the border and on the street.

In the chapters that follow, we'll do our best to make your introduction to drug crisis management manageable. We'll provide a general orientation to crisis-intervention strategies and an overview of specific techniques for helping people in emergencies. We'll discuss how to assess a crisis and how to perform basic life-support techniques.

We'll also review drugs that figure into today's drug scene and consider, in as neat and orderly and logical a fashion as possible, approaches to resolving problems that are usually anything but neat and orderly and logical.

Still, we want to emphasize that this information is intended to supplement, rather than to substitute for, actual hands-on training. Classroom training is indispensable for the necessary skill-building (particularly CPR and other life-support techniques), which should form the core of any true introduction to drug crisis Management:

Building those skills and cultivating the sensitivity necessary to real effectiveness in a crisis -- takes more time than the time it takes to read a booklet.

But it's time well spent. Because even though we regard substance abuse as a social ill, the people who suffer because of abuse aren't evil.

They're our brothers and sisters -- and they deserve the best, most careful care we can give them.

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This is one in a series of publications on drugs, behavior, and health published by Do It Now Foundation.
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