Wednesday, July 2, 2008

This is your Brain on Opiates

"This is your brain..... This is your brain on drugs.....Any Questions?"

In 1987, Partenership for a Drug-Free America (PDFA) launched this anti-narcotics campaign ad. I still remember, even years ago, frying your brain was making yourself slow and stupid, forgetful and dopey...... "Any Questions?"

I suddenly had a lot of questions. I discovered that unfortunately it is a little more complicated than a fried egg. The first time I heard what these opiates were doing to my son, I was sitting in a drug therapists office. The first 'regular' counselor had strongly suggested we seek a specialist in drug addiction. He had pissed me off knowing he was wrong about Robby.
But finally, feeling defeated and coming to the realization that maybe Robby did have a problem with drugs, I found one and made an appointment. (Was I still in denial up until that day?)
I sat there listening to the therapist explain to me what these "opiates" had been doing to Robby. It was so shocking, so sickening, and so hard to take in, the tears swelled in my eyes. I could not control them. Robby snickered at me.

He went on to tell me that all Robby's natural feelings, love happiness, pleasure, laughter, contentedness..... all these 'reward' receptors had been taken over by opiates and I had no other choice but to let it sink in. It really sank in as I looked over at my beautiful son through my tears....and he was rolling his eyeballs at me and smirking. This was not my son.

"He does not have the natural ability to feel these things on his own anymore" When he was not taking some form of opiate, for a day or maybe even a few hours, his brain was not able to produce these feelings without the aid of the drugs.

Not only did I learn that day that Robby's brain was not functioning properly, but I also had to understand that to come off them would most likely be a long and painful process. The withdrawal that I had seen that night was just a preview of what was ahead. And that was if he was willing to stop. He had to want to stop.

My heart was breaking like I never knew it could......But I was ready to do whatever it took to get him through this. I would now be going through my own necessary steps. It would be some time before I discovered this. The realization that I could not save Robby anymore was far from my thinking.

It was not a little boo boo,. It was not a lost football game.... and this was his life now. He was a young man and he was in charge. I would have no choice but to sit by and watch... and pray...and wait......


Anonymous said...

I am a mom too. And I am an opiate addict. I have often though what i would do if my daughter were to "come down with" opiate addiction. I know the agony of living without those happy chemicals I can't make on my own anymore...and honestly my life without the drugs was as bad as life on the drugs.

You learned what you needed to know in that session-about your sons addiction and what it meant for him and YOU--but did you really hear what your son NEEDED? You need to ask yourself what you want for your you want him to be happy--or do you want him to be free of all drugs? Do you want the son you know and love back, or do you want him to no longer be dependent on "outside" chemicals? It will be THIS OR THAT decision for a good long time to come....

If he can no longer make the chemicals that make him FEEL anymore-how do you think withdrawal will help him? Withdrawal just takes away the one thing that is giving him any relief from his addiction right now. Yes, you will have a long hard road but it doesn't have to be this hard. It seems insane to treat drug addiction with drugs....but your son's problem isn't drugs anymore-your son's problem is what he feels and who he IS when he doesn't have drugs. Your son's problem is a complex set of symptoms that occur when he doesn't have opiates.

Have you thought of Suboxone treatment? Its a way to give your son back the chemicals he no longer makes, without the bad side effects of the illicit drugs he's been using. No ups and downs, no IV use, no highs and lows. It will help him with this long hard battle he has ahead.

To not give him the opportunity to try this medication (or similar medications), is like telling him he doesn't deserve to be happy anymore....and even after withdrawal the son you love will not return to you because he can't be a good happy healthy person if he can't make his own brain chemicals to BE that person.

Just consider it. He doesn't have to be on it forever, but it could ease so much of his pain right now.....and right now he needs to put his energy in staying well, not just getting through each day without feeling depressed. So many addicts and so many family members focus so much on getting the person completely off ALL DRUGS...and then they are angry when the addict still doesn't do well. If the family members only knew the pain the addicts was in, they would never want them to feel that way again if there was a way to end it.

Thanks for listening

cari said...

Hi Kristen and thanks for leaving a comment.
There is so much to be 'learned' about opiate addiction. To be an addict because of "genetics" or to be "dependent" because of a medical need is a fine line. But not so fine as one might assume. Some addicts say it does not matter how you got there. I feel for you, and trust me when I say, I have a whole new respect for anyone who fights this battle. I wish and hope the best for you only. As far as your question about what I want for my son...I pray that he is happy. Unfortunetly I know that he will not be happy as long as he carries this active addiction around with him. So yes, I want him to be free of outside chemicals. I have been researching opiates for over a year now and have as much of an understanding as I could have as of this moment. But I will never stop learning.....never.
I am now focusing on my son in a different way. We have been through hell and back. These words are only the beginning. My goal is to educate the young now on the dangers of meddling with pain killers.
My best to you and your daughter.