To the opioid addict, their craving is not one to get high. It’s a craving to escape the deep lows they experience without the opioid. Viewpoints that the addict wants to get high often prevents their getting the treatment they need, and can be said to be responsible for protocol that favors punishing them with imprisonment or time in a rehab facility without the aid of medication. This is the antithesis of being helpful; it’s cruel. A negative attitude toward providing medication along with behavioral therapy or imprisonment in the treatment of opioid addicts may be contributing to the heroin epidemic and the rapid growth in deaths by opioid overdose.
Although it is extremely difficult to get rid of an opioid craving—including that of Suboxone, which is partly an opioid—there are steps that can bring the addict to living a productive life. However, the non-addict often has a hard time understanding why it is so hard for the addict to maintain without the help of another opioid product. That’s because the moral quandaries in life for the non-addict are easily overcome with reminders of their values such as love, peace, truth, kindness, fairness, honor, loyalty, caring, work ethic, gentleness, forgiveness, etc. A non-addict easily stays within these safe moral boundaries. The difference for the opioid addict is that, as the Surgeon General points out, thinking about values so they can make a different choice does nothing to override their craving. It’s not that they have no values, or are sociopathic and don’t cherish these values; they are simply overwhelmed by a pull that non-addicts cannot understand from an objective viewpoint.
Addicts need the help of non-addicts, through their understanding and help in getting them the tools that will work long term. Long-term weaning along with emotional and mental therapies can help them regain the power of their moral values, where the craving is low or absent, and they once again feel positive about life. Recovered addicts recognize how much better they feel than when they were using, and they don’t ever want to go back. Once they are free of the habit, they still need the support of preventive measures such as positive thinking habits and the pursuit of valuable work they enjoy to maintain successful life outcomes. Positive thinking habits and satisfying work happen to be the same tools any non-addict also needs to live successfully!
Addiction Recovery Therapy
To be sure, there are problems with taking Suboxone. However, the risks of using it are far less than not using it, and success rates are far better with it. It can be the back door to getting out where there is relief and a chance of staying clean, just as opioid prescriptions are often the front door, the gateway to addiction. Using Suboxone, Jennifer Matesa writes in the informative website, The Fix: Addiction and Recovery Straight Up, the patient does move from one addiction to another, and “…it’s hell to scrape off without professional management and a social support system.” Suboxone is essentially a replacement opioid and must be managed. That management must logically involve the addict’s mindset and behaviors. Behavioral therapies that include social support cannot be ignored if one is to get off of Suboxone.
Behavioral therapies would include 12-step programs, spiritual discovery programs, self-discovery programs, religions for some, psycho-based therapies and anything that the addict can rely on as they are weaned off their continual opioid craving via opioid reduction. Such programs typically include helping the addict learn to rely on a higher power or their higher self.
What I’d like for the addict to understand about relying on a higher power, or latching on to life itself, is that they aren’t the only ones who have to do this to enjoy life. Mental power is required by all of us, addict and non-addict alike. It is part of the human condition to have to purposely latch on to life. That is why the hero’s journey always includes enlightenment that eventually gives the hero freedom; however, that freedom is often misunderstood.
Freedom by Interpretation
Freedom doesn’t lie in being freed of problems. Freedom lies in knowing that the journey isn’t always easy, let alone perfect, because the journey is never done—for anyone. Our freedom lies in how we interpret events. Struggle in life is ongoing for the addict and non-addict alike. It’s up to each of us to make the conditions of our life as good as we can and love it as it is, unconditionally. Loving life regardless of conditions is true freedom, for the addict and non-addict alike. Loving our life unconditionally is “living happily ever-after.”
For the addict who wants to recover, loving life has become conditional; they can’t even get a whiff of happiness. As far as they are concerned, continuing their life is conditional on using a drug. The addict doesn’t have the wherewithal to make their life better. Their brain has been hijacked!
The freedom of an unconditional love of life is rooted in happiness, and happiness has to be cultivated. It doesn’t come without pursuit of and focus on it. That is part and parcel of the human condition. Happiness is gained through awareness of our thoughts–a.k.a. mindfulness. You can learn about happiness and its achievement all over this website and in my upcoming book and upcoming online course. Happiness is the key to good brain function that results in making good choices. A happy brain is a smart brain. As the General Surgeon pointed out, the addict’s brain function is being overruled, and telling them to make a moral choice is useless. Additionally, addicts are not known to be happy, which diminishes their brain function even further.
With opioid addiction affecting so many young people around the globe, the future of mankind is in peril. We—addicts and non-addicts alike—have to get together in our intention to assure a promising future for mankind. Addicts need non-addicts to teach them how happiness is achieved and maintained; but they can’t learn it while they are under the influence of an overwhelming craving. It takes a combination of a weaning process and the re-integration of a love for life itself. It also requires us as their teachers to understand how happiness is achieved and maintained. This is what I share with my audiences and readers.
Loving the Heroin Addict
Now that you are armed with information from the experts who are most qualified to provide it, you can do your part in changing what is currently a terrifying legacy. Write your statesmen about what you’ve learned here–what is known to work best in helping addicts recover. Opioid addiction especially needs to be recognized as a medical issue as it relates to the chemical-induced malfunction in the brain requiring careful physical weaning and mental support.
You now are aware of the tragic revolving doors of the “drug-free” facilities, prisons, and the legal barriers to recovery. There is a pressing need for those of us who are aware of the tragic path of our legacy—whether from personal experience or by objective study—to unite and tip the scales. The solution is right in front of us to help our legislators become aware, as are we, that broadly accepted but incorrect ideas and laws are fueling the epidemic. Preventing the use of a synergistic treatment protocol that carries far less risk than the current standard one is, in the opinion of experts, negligent. We can help the powers that be choose instead for a payload of hope based on evidence.
The protocol I am suggesting is:
- Having naloxone nasal spray widely available and handy.
- Through awareness education, remove the notion that relying on Suboxone or other maintenance drugs is a mistake. Educate about its proper use, oversight and efficacy as determined by peer-reviewed data and evidence-based practices.
- Allow all medical doctors to prescribe such maintenance drugs with appropriate education and a required protocol for rehabilitation therapy to occur along with the prescription.
- Require maintenance drugs be used in combination with rehabilitation at all facilities. Let’s also require that facilities follow up to make sure continuing emotional and mental therapies are being effectively utilized. Follow up and support must continue long term, and the addict must have support systems available which they must very likely pursue for the rest of their life if they are to be successful in overcoming the vagaries of past heroin abuse.
- Stop the ignorant continuance of punishing opioid addicts by putting them in jail or prison! They are no longer getting high, they need monitored opioid delivery to simply get above their physical and mental misery. Punishment for something that is now uncontrollable by them is not treatment. The environment of prison or jail on top of their already-miserable state is inhumane.
We can not afford to continue hit-or miss practices that have proven dangerous. Armed with what you now know, I want to challenge you to take important action.
Call to Action
Together, we can flood every politician with letters. Start with your mayor then move on to state representatives, state senators, lieutenant governor, governor, US Representatives and US Senators, on up to the President. Tell them what you think needs to change to stop the ubiquitous deaths of our country’s (and the world’s) best asset, our young people.
Start by finding the addresses of all those politicians. Write a stock letter including protocol you agree with and suggest, and post to each of them. Next, give a copy of the addresses and stock letter to your neighbors and everyone you know. This is how we can influence the powers that be to improve public policy on this devastating issue. Newt Gingrich and Robert Kennedy talked about what they as lawmakers are planning to stop this epidemic. They agree with the protocol I suggest. However, they need our support to get their ideas through. Here is the url to the video and article, although you will have to subscribe to see it: http://video.foxnews.com/v/5249648041001/?#sp=show-clips
What do we have to lose by doing what has the best prospects of resolving a medical issue faced by 1-in-10 Americans? Under our watch we are responsible for the loss of a huge portion of the millennial generation and generations that follow. This is sad indeed for their loved ones and cronies who have to live on, knowing it could have and should have been different. It is wrong for us to watch as the powers that be don’t take action because it carries some risk. Allowing them to continue status quo presents a far greater risk. We cannot continue to allow our legacy to end up in zombie-hood with a premature death sentence.
At the beginning of this blog series, I promised to give you 4 Key Questions to ask any rehab program or facility you are considering. Until laws for the treatment of opioid addicts are improved, the 4 Key Questions are:
- Do you support your clients in using a prescribed and monitored medication such as buprenorphine-naloxone to stave off cravings and enhance good results?
- Do you follow up with your clients after their release from your program?
- Do you help facilitate your clients’ continuation of behavioral modification therapies post-rehab?
- What are your results?
End of this 4-Part Series!
I hope you found Part 4 of this article, as well as the entire article, beneficial. Your comments are valued and welcome; please scroll all the way down past the Footnotes to the highlighted word, “comments.” To get on my list to automatically receive my new blogs as they are posted, please email me at RoriOhara@SuccessSystemsInstitute.com. You can always unsubscribe at any time.
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Part 4 Footnotes
11. “U.S. Surgeon General Declares War on Addiction – Addictions.” Addictions. Accessed December 18, 2016. http://www.mhsso.org/poc/view_doc.php?type=news&id=185677&cn=1408.
17. Https://www.facebook.com/NIDANIH. “Rethinking How We Talk About Addiction.” Nora’s Blog, NIDA. October 27, 2016. Accessed December 17, 2016. https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/noras-blog/2016/10/rethinking-how-we-talk-about-addiction
18. “Trapped on Suboxone | The Fix.” The Fix. Accessed December 17, 2016. https://www.thefix.com/content/trapped-suboxone.
19. “New Data Show Millions of Americans with Alcohol and Drug Addiction Could Benefit from Health Care R – Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.” Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. September 28, 2010. Accessed December 18, 2016. http://www.drugfree.org/new-data-show-millions-of-americans-with-alcohol-and-drug-addiction-could-benefit-from-health-care-r/.