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Ask James Taylor About Rehab for Heroin

In a recent interview celebrating the release of his first album in 13 years, James Taylor briefly mentioned that he beat a methadone addiction through vigorous exercise. It took many fans and other interested parties by surprise to hear Taylor make this reference to his long-ago rehab for heroin. But it’s no revelation that people often begin rehab for heroin without having a good idea of when they’ll stop their methadone treatment. In Taylor’s case, he began abusing the very medication—the methadone—that was used for his heroin rehab in the first place.

Before his career took off, his family knew all too well about his struggle with both depression and heroin, and it kept him out of the Army when he was drafted to go to Vietnam back in the late Sixties. Taylor was admitted for psychiatric inpatient treatment on multiple occasions. “It’s so unlikely that I should be considered a pillar of society,” he admitted, in his Billboard interview with Rob Tannenbaum.

Taylor is one among the many celebrities whose foray into fame takes them down a darker road, a road that leads into the nightmarish landscape of addiction. For some, it’s alcohol; for others, it can be cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, or just about any drug. For James Taylor, let’s give him a hand for pointing a spotlight at our national opiate epidemic by talking about his rehab for heroin using methadone. His first experience with opiates involved codeine, and that led him to junk, as he calls it—heroin, the biggest junk of all.

Not Actually a Methadone Addiction

Five-time Grammy winner Taylor is 67 now, on top of a career that took him to the top of the charts in 1970 with his ballad Fire and Rain. That song lamented the suicide of a childhood friend, and it also pointed to his experiences hospitalized for depression. By then he had already experimented with heroin.

In fact, if you go back in time to Taylor’s 1973 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, he talked about a doctor friend in Chicago who got him off heroin in 1971 by using methadone. Presumably, this doctor did not follow the proper protocols and require Taylor to participate in formal rehab for heroin—after all, who says no to a celebrity? A year and a half later, Taylor was once again on junk and was jonesing just before he was due to sing onstage with Carol King. Again, a doctor friend in Chicago—hmmm, wonder if it was the same one?—got him some methadone that he stayed on for a month.

Over the next eight years, he maintained his recovery in a good methadone program. He enjoyed a magic life, with career success as well as an idyllic marriage to Carly Simon, and fans loved it that they loved these two musicians who also loved one another. When Simon and Taylor called it quits, the fans joined them in their mourning of dreams gone wrong. Around the same time, Taylor heard that two close friends, John Belushi and singer Dennis Wilson, had overdosed, and he decided that he no longer wanted any part of methadone or any other drug. He decided that his rehab for heroin would be lots of exercise and plenty of it.

Depression and Addiction

If you’re looking for rehab for heroin, answer this question, and be honest: Have you experienced depression that could be related to your addiction? Taylor talks freely about the childhood depression he experienced trying to make his mother and father happy by performing. He says when he went on to college he felt out of place and incompetent, again disappointing his parents.

Doing heroin, he said in the Rolling Stone interview, was a symptom of his “unexpressed and inexpressible anger…a way of retreating from the world.” At one point the interviewer noted that during many of the successful times in his life, he would turn to heroin, with the implication that maybe he was sabotaging himself. Taylor responded, “Maybe that’s true….success carries with it almost a sense of…impending retribution.”

If you’re going into rehab for heroin, you already know what he was talking about. The tricky thing about escaping into heroin or pain pills when you’re depressed is that opiates themselves are depressants, and they won’t make you feel better. Not only that, but through their interference with your body’s ability to produce mood-boosting biochemicals, they can turn your depression into something much, much worse.

And, as Taylor noted in the Rolling Stone interview, many doctors who are confronted with a patient who is depressed and on drugs have no idea how to go about the rehab for heroin. They don’t make any successful attempt to treat the whole person. At a licensed, certified methadone treatment program, your doctor and counselor understand that addiction and depression can go hand in hand. Through one-on-one counseling and by recommending your participation in group therapy or 12-step meetings, your counselor will make every effort to help you change the landscape of the world around you.

Rehab for Heroin and Exercise

So what brilliant substance abuse treatment professional took Taylor off methadone and got him involved in “strenuous physical exercise”? It was nobody but himself. When his marriage to Simon ended, and Belushi and Wilson had died, he decided he was done with drugs once and for all. He dropped out of the methadone program and began taking aerobic classes. Fortunately for him, he succeeded at sobriety.

In 2009, the National Institute for Drug Abuse began researching whether exercise could help a person beat addiction. In 2011, Dr. Nora Volkow wrote about the topic. Everybody knew that exercise strengthened the body, she wrote, but just what could it do for the brain?

Scientists discovered that aerobic exercise not only improved the heart and lungs; it also stimulated the formation of blood vessels in the brain. Connections between cells were strengthened. Neural tissue repaired itself more rapidly. Regeneration of neurons occurred in areas of the brain involving memory.

They also realized that the animals used in this research became better equipped to handle stress when they exercised regularly. A study of teens revealed that exercise increased a person’s resistance against relapse.

Some substance abuse treatment programs encourage exercise or movement classes as part of the therapy. Unfortunately, with insurance companies reluctant to pay for methadone as rehab for heroin, most methadone treatment or medication assisted treatment programs simply don’t have the funds or the staff to run those programs.

That’s why it’s a good idea for you to look at new ways to improve your life as you begin rehab for heroin. The doctor at your local methadone treatment program has already told you to get more sleep and drink plenty of fluids. You need to eat fruits and vegetables to combat constipation, a common side effect of methadone. But did you realize that taking the time to go for a run several times a week can do much to enhance your recovery? If you don’t like to run, consider joining your local gym and doing the circuit—many of them charge only ten bucks a month—or ask your counselor if they know of any low-cost Zumba or cardio programs in the area.

In the meantime, you may be wondering about how and when you’re going to be finished with methadone rehab for heroin. The answer may not yet be clear. Many people continue treatment with their methadone doctor and remain on their medication for years others are able to end their program earlier with the right supports; it really as individual process. They create healthy lifestyles, have families, earn high school or college diplomas, and get promotions at their jobs. At some point, you may decide you want to switch to Suboxone, or you may opt to wean off the medication altogether. If that’s the case, you and your doctor and your counselor will all sit down together and create a plan. You’ll know when the time is right.

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