Oihan Iturbide Born 45 years ago in Pamplona, he embarked on a vital path from an early age that led him to become addicted to drugs. After rehab – daring not call himself an ex-addict – he trained as a clinical biologist and understood the roots of addiction. Now he heads the editorial board publisher next doorof popular science, from where he launches a postage stamp called Yonki books, which publishes all kinds of books that help tell the truth about addiction and its circumstances under this name, which “reflects the stigma”. “To reach different socio-cultural strata without dropping our rings by adapting the language to reach everyone,” he explains.
Questions. In addition to the label, he has already conducted many interviews on this problem on the video channel and podcast, what impact are you looking for?
Answer. I want the family and the media to know that there are other realities. I want to make sure that public policy adapts to the reality that we are not treating the problem with pseudo-therapies, which is what we are doing now. It happens all the time in mental health: Addiction problems are approached by models that don’t make sense.
P Different approaches are needed, not just science and data.
R We rehab addicts feel the need to create a single story, we cling to it, and we survive thanks to it. The recovered addict is terrified to question that, to face stories other than their own, such as that it is not a brain disease but a behavioral or learning disorder. Because they taught him what it is, he’s based his recovery on it, and if he challenges the model, he runs the risk of using again. I realized that if we didn’t give space to all the stories that are out there, we wouldn’t be able to improve a public health problem like today’s addiction. And that’s why I build in Yonki voices that even contradict each other.
I want public policies to adapt to reality, we treat them with pseudo-therapies
P There is no universal pattern that describes the addict.
R Today there is no pattern. In the early stages of their treatment, the addict doesn’t care because all they have to do is stop using. But in the community it provokes certain debates that are harmful in the long run. Addiction runs a spectrum: it seems like you use first, then you overuse a little, and boom! You are already addicted. No, there are many people in the middle, many, many, many people who do not even question that they are addicted and that it is normal that they do not do it if consumption does not interfere with their everyday life.
P On your YouTube channel you interview junkies and neuroscientists: Is there a speech that doesn’t fit?
R I know many addicts who have been rehabilitated and who haven’t because junkies are everywhere. There are very different voices and I am very tired of everything being reduced to the image of the Yoncarra. But most of all, I’m very tired of the speech of the famous person who is being rehabilitated and is an example of improvement. It is not representative, people who stop using pretend to be and sorry, you are not. Because you have a salary that does not reach a thousand euros, you will have to work like a donkey while you stop consuming and you will not be able to do it like me, for having done nothing for two years, devoted solely to rehab. humans can’t do that. When you get a celebrity to share their experience of everything they got into, you can’t relate to it. In addition, it generates quite a lot of frustration. We need to create a space where there are real voices. There are interviews with people who have been really bad and haven’t even managed to get off drugs; that a mother, a father or the junkie himself sees this and says: Yes, that’s how I feel. City junkies texted me on their phones via the podcast: “I’m here, I’m getting a flat tire. I listen to your interview, I can finally hear my story.” This goal was pursued.
P He shows his own case as an example so that we can all understand it.
R I had to learn not to take my experience as representative or exemplary of an addiction problem because of my economic ability. But for me it works because when you show up, you can respectfully access the vulnerability of one and the other.
P Junkies wonder if they are bad people.
R All addicts and our families have at some point wondered if we are bad people. I asked myself a lot. I think the Judeo-Christian tradition didn’t help much either. [ríe]. That feeling of “I’m a villain, how could I do that?” It is very difficult for us to accept that there is someone around us whom we love who is a bad person. It’s easier for the family to assume that your son is a pathetic addict and not a son of a bitch. And it seems important to me that families, especially those who are deeply affected by the lying addict’s impotence, know that there is something going on in that person’s brain that partially explains this. Those of us who have run processes like me that deprogram your brain seem pious or faint-hearted. You’re trying to do everything right. And that transition is sometimes difficult, we avoid getting angry because when you get angry your cortisol goes up and it’s very easy later on you want to drink a joint or smoke to bring it down. You need to control your behavior that is related to being a good or bad person.
All addicts and our families have wondered if we are bad people
P Does it work better to call yourself sick?
R Sick etiquette helps you a lot to keep some distance. You no longer define yourself as a bad or good person, but as a patient and can take a step back and concentrate on the illness. I don’t identify with the brain disease model because I’ve studied more, read more, and I find it doesn’t quite fit. But this label helps you present yourself to the world, even when you’ve recovered and need to explain your story if you want to explain it. Although it can harm you in the long run, because even a chronically mentally ill person does not have it easy.
P Do you consider yourself an ex-addict?
R No, we never get exes. There are some people who do, who are in denial about their past. I don’t wear an ex for protection, it creates a certain internal conflict for me to say that I am an ex addict. I always say I’m a recovered addict. I think I have another drink around the corner because I processed that myself.
P For example, there is a music group that you cannot hear yet. That’s how strong the mental association is between his songs and drugs.
R Yes I can’t hear it, pure conditioning, I can’t, my body is getting sick. As soon as I have a two-minute conversation about something related to consumption, I get nightmares: my brain is still there. The smells but especially the music, it hits me some cakes …
I studied biology because I wanted to show myself that addiction is a disease and that nothing is our fault
P He studied biology post-rehab and was trying to understand, is it a subject that rehabilitated people throw themselves into, what helps them understand everything?
R The addict has tremendous difficulty feeling whole, a dissatisfaction that is masked with substances or behaviors. I think we’re in a society with this problem anyway and need to get that instant gratification with cell phones or porn or chocolate. In my case, I had to justify my life, which had been a disaster. So I tried really hard to build this single story without realizing I was doing it. I studied with a monstrous confirmation bias that took me years to recognize. I signed up for biology because I wanted to prove to myself that addiction is a brain disease and that we are not to blame for anything, that we were born predisposed, period. The rest had gone by itself. It helped me to somehow replace what consumption didn’t give me. But it wasn’t enough. The tremendous work came when I had to question this story by realizing that addiction is much more complex, that it’s probably a trait that manifests itself in different ways, and that absolutely nothing happens.
P Now we say we’re addicted to everything, even Instagram.
R I find that very dubious because the label shouldn’t be used like that. When the real excitement comes, we’ve taken all the depth, all the complexity out of it. As with depression: “I’m depressed”. No you are not.
P Don’t we see the problem well?
R I think you have to know him to recognize him. If we don’t know how addiction works and what processes can lead to it, we can’t recognize who we have next to us or ourselves when we work like this and get into a complicated situation. We talk a lot about addiction, the media talks a lot about drugs, but they talk about it very badly, the communication is extremely bad. Then we can’t see the problem with a friend of ours.
P Are we all a bit junkies or potential?
R Yes, we are very hedonistic and this pleasure seeking makes us a little junkie. Before you’re a junkie, you have a great time doing the things that bring you joy. And humans have shaped their neurobiology to be able to experience that pleasure and repeat those behaviors.
P The brain makes it easy for this cycle of pleasure to become a vicious cycle.
R Malicious, never better said, damn malicious [ríe]. I’ve heard it so many times in family therapy: My son is a bad guy [ríe]. And it’s true that we are evil, but we all are, not just junkies. You are much better off in this comfortable state than in your normal state, but this present state cannot be prolonged.
P We’re good on third beers, but you never stick to thirds.
R Exactly [ríe]. When I was in rehab we always said no, no, I didn’t come here to quit using, I came here to learn how to use, not to lose control. What the hell, there was no turning back.