Lots of focus these past few years on the 'opiate epidemic'. People running around with their hair on fire, starting little community groups to figure out what to do and how to help. Yet our local county court still doesn't believe in treatment, or understand addiction. Neither does the DA, or many law enforcement agencies. They don't buy into the whole 'disease concept'. Lots of people still think the whole 'disease concept' is just an excuse for lazy immoral stupid people who want to be junkies, who make that choice.
The ironic part is that many addicts don't 'buy into' the disease concept either. They can quit anytime they want. They just need to be left alone and when they're ready they'll quit and like Bo Peeps sheep they'll come trotting home to live happily ever after. Fat chance.
But until we, those of us who are recovering addicts, start speaking out and telling people we're recovering addicts, that treatment does work, that there is hope and that addiction is a treatable brain disease, I'm afraid not much is going to change. My feeling is that too many people hide behind the principle of anonymity found in 12 step support groups. That whole "press, radio and film" part falls away and recovering folks say, "Well, it's an anonymous program."
Yeah, no. In my not so humble opinion there's still a great deal of shame surrounding addiction, and the folks hiding behind the principle of anonymity still feel it's bite.
I think the recovery community needs to take a good long look at the gay community. They didn't hide, they didn't use euphemisms to describe themselves. They owned it and put it in people faces. "We're here, we're queer, get used to it." They were proud of themselves, popular perceptions be damned. And things have changed.
By the way. This young ladies sentiments apply equally as well for the crackhead and lush and any other substance or activity you want to insert in there. Addiction is a beast, and it may take those of us who have and continue to tame the beast to step out into the light and say, "This is what an addict looks like." Everybody knows what they think an addict looks like.
More below the fold
"Funny, I don't remember no good dope days."
A family in Pennsylvania is sharing the story of their 23-year-old daughter’s death from a heroinoverdose as a chance to teach the world about the reality of heroin addiction. Delaney Farrell passed away on July 1, 2017 after a long battle with drug addiction, according to her obituary. Her parents, Brian and Bridget Farrell, released a Facebook video about her death that has since gone viral.
In the video, which has been viewed more than 135,000 times, Brian says that Delaney “knew what her monster was…she knew she was battling it.” He also showed the camera a poem his daughter wrote about her addiction, which was included in her obituary:
"Funny, I don't remember no good dope days. I remember walking for miles in a dope fiend haze. I remember sleeping in houses that had no electric. I remember being called a junkie, but I couldn't accept it. I remember hanging out in abandos that were empty and dark. I remember shooting up in the bathroom and falling out at the park. I remember nodding out in front of my sisters kid. I remember not remembering half of the things that I did. I remember the dope man's time frame, just ten more minutes. I remember those days being so sick that I just wanted to end it. I remember the birthdays and holiday celebrations. All the things I missed during my incarceration. I remember overdosing on my bedroom floor. I remember my sisters cry and my dad having to break down the door. I remember the look on his face when I opened my eyes, thinking today was the day that his baby had died. I remember blaming myself when my mom decided to leave. I remember the guilt I felt in my chest making it hard to breathe. I remember caring so much but not knowing how to show it. and I know to this day that she probably don't even know it. I remember feeling like I lost all hope. I remember giving up my body for the next bag of dope. I remember only causing pain, destruction and harm. I remember the track marks the needles left on my arm. I remember watching the slow break up of my home. I remember thinking my family would be better off if I just left them alone. I remember looking in the mirror at my sickly completion. I remember not recognizing myself in my own Damn reflection. I remember constantly obsessing over my next score but what I remember most is getting down on my knees and asking God to save me cuz I don't want to do this no more!!!"
Delaney’s obituary and her father’s Facebook video have been flooded with comments from people offering their condolences, as well as sharing their own stories of having family members who struggle with addiction.
Delaney's poem—while haunting—is an accurate portrayal of what it's like to live with addiction, according to substance abuse experts.
“The initial phase of using opiates is recreational, gratifying, and fun,” Indra Cidambi, M.D., an addiction expert and medical director at Center for Network Therapy, tells SELF. “However, it quickly turns into addiction and most users want to kick the habit but are truly unable to do so. That is why addiction is a disease and not a behavioral issue.”
Shawn A. Ryan, M.D., chief medical officer at Ohio-based addiction treatment center BrightView Health, agrees. “In the past five years, I’ve probably admitted at least 2,000 patients to addiction treatment and by and large [Delaney’s poem] is a very accurate representation,” he tells SELF.
Unfortunately, many people are facing a similar struggle to Delaney’s. Data released by the CDC in 2016 revealed that overdose-related deaths in the U.S. nearly tripled between 1999 and 2014, and opioids like heroin and prescription painkillers like OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin, were largely behind them. According to the data, there were 47,055 drug overdose deaths in 2014, and 28,647 of them were due to opioids.
Heroin is “incredibly addictive” and makes the user feel numb from physical and emotional pain, Dr. Cidambi says, adding that the ritual associated with getting high is also addictive. “The dependence is physical and psychological,” she says, making it an especially hard habit to kick. Even though a person who is addicted to heroin may feel guilty about their habit and want to stop, strong cravings for the drug coupled with a fear of severe withdrawal symptoms—which can include delirium, seizures, and vomiting—keep them hooked, she says.
It's important for both addicts and their loved ones to realize that addiction is an illness.
“We have empathy for every other disease,” Dr. Ryan points out. “This absolutely fits the definition of a disease."
Linda Richter, Ph.D., Director of Policy Research and Analysis at The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, tells SELF that addictive drugs like heroin actually change how the brain works. "The brain cells adapt to the onslaught of the drug by growing less responsive to them, making the individual feel the need to take increasing amounts of the drug to experience its positive effects," she explains. "But with time, the positive effects diminish and the negative effects grow stronger, as the experience of withdrawal sets in more strongly and the person ends up feeling the urge to take the drug to alleviate the negative (sometimes unbearable) symptoms of withdrawal."
Heroin can also impact the areas of the brain that control judgement, decision making, emotions, memory, and other critical functions that make it very difficult for an addict to think clearly about their behavior, evaluate the risks and benefits of using, and seek help, Dr. Richter explains.
It’s possible for someone to break an addiction to heroin, Dr. Ryan says, but it’s not easy. The first step in treatment is detoxification, where doctors can help lessen cravings and withdrawal with medication, Dr. Cidambi says. Once the patient is physically stable, they start therapy to help create lifestyle changes they need to maintain sobriety. “Individuals should be in supportive therapy as long as possible, and should continue medication-assisted treatment in order to address cravings they may experience from time to time,” Dr. Cidambi says.
“It is possible for a person to never use heroin again with the appropriate treatment, but it’s not a cure,” Dr. Ryan says. Meaning, once someone is an addict, they’ll be at risk of a relapse for the rest of their lives. But, with ongoing treatment and solid social support, it's possible for former addicts to stay clean.
See the family's Facebook video.