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Addiction 101

Dependency

Opioids have been used for thousands of years, and it has long been known that many people who have become dependent on opioids have extreme difficulty permanently ending their use of them. Suffering through the withdrawal sickness is only part of the problem.  The real difficulty has always been staying off the drugs once the period of withdrawal is over.

Just as in the case of those who are unable to stop smoking, it is difficult to explain why it is so hard not to return to the use of opioids.  Reasons include long-term depression, lack of energy, drug cravings, and sudden attacks of physical withdrawal sickness.  Some people find that these problems diminish over time and eventually disappear altogether-but others continue to suffer these symptoms indefinitely, and many of them eventually relapse to their regular use of opioids.

Relapse often has nothing to do with lack of will power or other personality problems.  Instead, it appears that people with a long history of opioid problems have experienced changes to the part of their brains that allows a person to feel and function normally.  This part of the brain makes and uses it’s own natural opioids.

The best know of these natural opioids are the chemicals known as endorphins.  The word endorphin litterally means “the morphine within”.  Indeed, these chemicals are functionally identical  to morphine or heroin. We don’t yet understand everything that these natural opioids do in the body, but evidence suggests that they are involved with pain control, learning, regulating body temperature and many other functions.

It is possible that people who develop a dependency on opioids were born with an endorphin system that makes them particularly vulnerable.  For example, we know that addiction appears to run in some families.

Addiction may also be related to changes in the brain caused by the overuse of heroin or other opioids. Or it may be the result of a complex relationship between genetics and the environment.  We do not yet know exactly how this malfunctioning occurs, or even whether all people who feel unable to stop using opioids have this damage.  There is however, an increasing amount of evidence that many people who find it difficult to to end their use of opioids have experienced these physical changes-which are likely to be permanent.

There is not yet any test that can determine how much damage a person may have to his or her natural opioid system, or how hard it may be for that person to stay away from opioids.  All that we know for sure right now is that relapse is a major feature of opioid dependency.

Here are some types of opioids.

  • Heroin
  • Oxycodone
  • Oxymophone
  • Opium
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone
  • Hydromophone
  • Methadone
  • Morphine
  • Sufentanil
  • Tramadol

What do they do?

Opioids are a type of painkiller that interfere with normal brain activity causing a reduction in pain.

The medication binds to specific receptors in the brain called opioid receptors.  They act like naturally occurring opioids in the brain, such as endorphins.  As a result the medications cause a reduction in pain, as well as a euphoric feeling.

Initial Emotional Stages of Addiction

Addiction to alcohol, sex, food, or an illegal substance doesn’t happen overnight. Little by little, a person may get involved with the bad habit until one realizes that he or she is mentally obsessed or emotionally compelled. But as addiction develops through time with frequent use or mismanaged behavior, lifetime recovery from addiction proves to be an emotional roller coaster ride. Even after detoxification or therapy, there’s a good chance that the patient will suffer from a relapse without continued support from family and friends, strong will, and determination. The patient goes through confusing emotional states as he or she progresses with full-term recovery. Here are some of the emotional stages one has to go through:

Denial

At first, one would deny the fact that he or she might be suffering from addiction and would make excuses to cover for his or her acts. One would hide it from his or her family and make it seem like everything’s perfectly normal.

Anger

When confronted or asked about the symptoms of his or her addiction, one tends to be defensive and would argue to justify his or her actions. An addict may even block out some family and friends and try to resolve the problem on his or her own. Often, an addict would blame others for his or her wrongdoings, turn away, and leave, instead of addressing the problem at hand. There’s a feeling of resentment, which can be followed shortly by depression.

Bargaining

Seeing how his or her condition is affecting one’s career, relationships, and personal life, an addict may promise not to do it again, but falls to the bad habit anyway. It is not easy to abstain from addiction all at once. This will take great will and determination, and without support from family and friends, recovery will be nearly impossible.

Depression

Unable to finally put a stop to the bad habit that’s been causing a strain on one’s family and personal life, an addict may feel that he or she has no choice or control over things. He or she then falls into depression. Any depressed individual would have trouble making the best decisions and would often isolate him or herself. But with the help of concerned family or friends, he or she may eventually be pulled out of anxiety, fear, and guilt.

Acceptance

Acceptance is often the first step to recovery. By admitting that one has a problem, he or she will be able to seek professional help and commit to the addiction program. Relapse often tests the recovery stage, but by believing in one’s self, knowing the risks, and addressing the root of the problem, this can be overcome so full-term recovery can take its place in the person’s life. An effective recovery program seeks to reinforce abstinence, personal growth, and necessary lifestyle changes.

 

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