You are fighting against the grip of drug addiction, and what your loved ones don’t understand is that it really does feel like a fight. Take some time to watch the 60 Minutes segment from 2012 focusing on opiate rehab when you finish with this website. It features Dr. Nora Volkow, the head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA.gov). She provides strong leadership in the fight against opiate addiction, and she explains why it creates such conflict in the mind of the addict.
Addictions Come in All Types
The first point that Dr. Volkow makes is that addictions come in all types. Most often when we hear the word addict we think of the heroin junkie who needs opiate rehab, lurking in a dark alley with a needle in his arm. The term encompasses much more than that. It includes people across all economic levels in our society, the rich and the poor, the old and the young. It includes people who are accidental addicts—they initially needed opiate pain pills simply to help them get over a serious injury or illness, and due to a medical intervention that went awry, now they need opiate rehab.
It includes people who are addicted to food, to gambling, and to sex. “People who have one addiction are prone to others,” according to Dr. Gregory Collins of the Cleveland Clinic, as reported on Cleveland.com. Addiction springs from an impulsive, subconscious motivation to medicate oneself to overcome some level of emotional discomfort.
The substances or habits that get us addicted stimulate the brain to produce a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which releases a feeling of well-being and satisfaction. That pleasure or reward response, as Morley Safer tells us in the 60 Minutes interview with Dr. Volkow, was always present even in early humans. The satisfaction of survival against all odds is what kept the human race going.
Addiction is Dangerous
But now we face an epidemic of dangerous opiate addiction that exploits those same areas of the brain. Dr. Volkow has headed up extensive research projects to demonstrate many aspects of drug addiction, not just for people who need opiate rehab but in all types of addiction. For example, her research proved that people who use cocaine can suffer from small mini-strokes that change the brain permanently. She also demonstrated, through brain imaging, that the brain has many molecule receptors that are eager to receive molecules of drugs that fit right into them. However, as a person continues his addiction, the number of molecule receptors decrease, and so the person needs to take more drugs more often in order to feel the same effects. When you’re using heroin or pain pills, you end up with no way out except opiate rehab.
When You’re in Opiate Rehab, You Learn to Fight
How often have you listened to loved ones tell you, “Why don’t you just stop? All you need to do is just say no. You don’t have to keep using these drugs.” What they don’t understand is the knowledge that Dr. Volkow has taught us: The drugs damage the brain’s frontal cortex, which involves our capability to control what we do of our free will. The ability to resist drugs becomes a real fight for the opiate addict.
In opiate rehab centers that offer medication-assisted treatment such as methadone or Suboxone, the person with an addiction receives a medication that satisfies the molecule receptors and yet allows him to live a healthy and productive lifestyle. Without that medication and the one-on-one therapy that comes along with opiate rehab, the person will never learn how to question his own motivations and fight for what’s important to them.
Dr. Volkow has spent countless hours presenting information to high school students in an attempt to reach them before they damage their brains with drugs. However, although alcohol use among young adults has declined in recent years, one-third of all high school students still try marijuana. And weed truly is a gateway drug, because it starts the brain along its long, damaging journey.
But opiates are the drugs that really scare her. She tells us that in 2011, over 210,000,000 opiate pain prescriptions were filled. Every American adult could stay medicated around the clock for a month on that number of prescriptions. And you can be certain that those prescriptions put a lot of hapless victims into opiate rehab.
Of course, maybe the people in opiate rehab are the lucky ones. There are about 15,000 people who die from opiate overdoses in a year’s time. That does not include the ones who are taken to emergency rooms and survive, or the people who get lucky in their own homes and manage to wake up…perhaps to die another day.
Don’t Be Afraid
When you are in opiate rehab, even when you are benefiting from effective treatment with methadone or Suboxone, it’s natural to feel fearful. Without taking your regular drug of choice, your brain is telling you that something is not right. It’s urging you to find the drug that will put things on an even keel and maintain the status quo.
That’s why the 12-step groups and therapy are so important. You will learn that you are not alone and that other people are fighting the same fight. If they’ve stopped using opiates, they have to struggle not to fall into another addiction—sex or gambling for example, alcohol, or perhaps just another drug. They are fearful because the world seems just slightly off. Being among other people in opiate rehab will help you re-adjust to the world around you.
You also need to listen when your doctor tells you to stop using all drugs. You’ve heard that benzos or alcohol make a poor mix with opiates, and so you understand why the doctor nags you about them. But why do they nag you to stop smoking weed? Why do you have to give up everything? The answer is this: If you don’t stop using all substances, your brain will never have any chance to recover from the damage it has sustained.
Get to Know Yourself
One of the great things about opiate rehab is the chance to rediscover yourself. Instead of trading opiate addiction for just another bad habit—another addiction—why not look for a good habit? Those things in life called hobbies. People who work in substance abuse recovery will tell you that it’s a great thing to watch their clients rediscover themselves once they get the drug lifestyle out of their systems. Did you once write poetry, long ago in your youth? Were you a would-be painter or a musician? As you become drug-free and rekindle your relationships with your loved ones, take some time to go on a journey to rediscover yourself. Uncover the person you used to be. The journey starts now.