Helping addicts involves three separate battles as well as dealing with addict’s behavior. These three extra battles take most of the time: (1) the stigma that the addict is causing the disease, (2) the intervention of how an addict finds help, and (3) the cruelty that requiring total abstinence from all chemical help is killing people.
Having had to find all my own answers about dual diagnoses, my heart goes out to the families living and loving and losing their addicted loved ones. The main place they turn to is Google where all the information is for profit only.
“Do you need help–call.” Few places with good information and no ads or gimmicks exist. So I am creating a weekly newsletter helping people to help others. The best solution for grief is to help others. The two big things that have sustained my 42+ year recovery are (1) learning to listen to my thoughts instead of being my thoughts, and (2) helping others everyday whether I felt like it or not. Especially on the not days.
Today’s post is why do addicts continue this self-destructive behavior.
1. Is it because our society lives with more pain? NO
From the Washington Post “Americans take more pain pills–but not because they’re in more pain”:
“In 2008, an international team of researchers assessed population pain using the same methods in 18 countries. The age standardized prevalence of experiencing chronic pain in the United States was 43 percent. The two countries most similar to the United States in their prevalence of chronic pain were Italy (42.8 percent) and France (47.8 percent). But that is where the parallels among the three nations ends.
United Nations data for 2012-2014 show that standard daily doses of opioids consumed per capita are roughly comparable in Italy (6,246) and France (8,706) but reach a staggering 50,142 in the United States. In other words, despite suffering chronic pain at a similar rate as Italians and the French, Americans consume six to eight times as many opioid painkillers.”
“America is an unusually friendly environment for manufacturers to market opioids aggressively and to donate generously to political causes and regulatory bodies. It is those features of American exceptionalism, and not exceptional physical pain, that sparked the worst prescription opioid epidemic in history.”
2. The stigma of being an addict is compounded by a lack of understanding of what drugs do to our brain.
From the Tempest: “This is how drug addictions actually hijack our brains”:
“The choice to ingest drugs or alcohol for the first time is usually a voluntary choice, but after that the choice to do drugs or consume alcohol again becomes complicated by changes in the brain. When a drug is consumed in the right quantities, the brain gets flooded with dopamine, a feel-good chemical. Dopamine is produced when we do anything pleasurable: eat good food, have sex, listen to a song we love, watch a show we like, etc. These activities produce a normal amount of dopamine. The brain then records that these activities felt good and we remember that they gave us pleasure.
But when a drug is taken, the brain gets completely overloaded with dopamine. The chemical is produced in much larger quantities than when we engage in normal activities. The brain doesn’t know how to handle the overload, so it ends up turning off some of the dopamine receptors in the brain. The problem is that these receptors don’t always gets turned back on. So, the brain thinks that there is a deficiency of dopamine, which makes the person feel flat or sad or depressed.
The pleasurable experience created by using drugs also creates a pleasurable memory in the brain, so when the person doesn’t feel good anymore, they immediately think about how good they felt when they were under the influence of drugs. Many addicts and alcoholics can remember exactly how they felt the first time they used the drug and often describe chasing that feeling for their entire addiction.
When the person uses drugs again, the brain gets flooded with dopamine all over again and has the same reaction: to turn off dopamine receptors. In effect, the use of the drugs makes the brain believe that there is a constant dopamine deficiency. The brain also believes that the solution to this dopamine deficiency is to use drugs because of the memory that drugs provide so much pleasure.”
3. The continued use of any substance having negative effects on a life is generally an effort to avoid the complete physical collapse that happens from withdrawal. The user is using to avoid being deathly ill instead of a desire to get high.
From the Opiate Reports: (The online diary of a recovering addict): “How We Become Addicted”:
“When you first start using, the opiates go right to the brain. More importantly the central nervous system. As far as i know that is pretty much everything and it starts to control all aspects of your body. Since opiates occur naturally in our body, its easy for it to move throughout the body, attaching to nerve endings, even getting into the major organs. When this happens the body and the brain become opiated, when that happens the brain does an immediate about face. Within 24 hrs, its a hairpin turn. The addict goes from I want to get high…. I want to get high…. I can’t be sick….I can’t be sick…., just that fast, At this point the addicted brain becomes Temporarily Chemically Incompetent. The addict is now using anywhere from 15-30 bags of heroin a day just to be normal. There’s no more getting high, there’s only not being sick. Everything else in their life becomes secondary. The brains sole purpose is to keep enough in the bloodstream everyday to maintain this incompetence. In order to get clean and clear of opiate addiction, you have to reverse this process. Starting with the bloodstream, then the body, then the brain. In order to pull it out of the brain, you have to get the brain to a natural chemical base line. The current treatment plan prevents that from happening, and the biggest psychological hook of equating a pill to some kind of altered chemical reaction in the brain is not even being addressed. As a matter of fact it’s being exploited by the current treatment. I’m going to take through the treatment process currently being used in just about every rehab in the United States.”