In 2016, more than 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses. Opioids are the leading cause of drug overdoses in the U.S., but it hasn’t always been this way. The nation is in the midst of an opioid abuse epidemic with the power to claim lives, destroy families, and decimate entire communities. This epidemic didn’t come out of nowhere. Myriad social, medical, and individual factors have conspired to make opioids America’s drug of choice.
The epidemic will only end when individual people are able to get the help they need. In that regard, the epidemic is fought person by person. Future Now Detox is committed to seeing a day where no one ever again dies of an opioid overdose, and in which no family ever suffers the agony of loving someone addicted to drugs.
Until that day happens, here’s what you need to know about our national opioid obsession.
Drug overdoses fell steadily during much of the 1990s, but now they’re reaching epidemic levels. Between 2000-2016, 600,000 people died of drug overdoses. Almost all of these overdoses are due to prescription opioids and illicit opioids such as heroin. The number of opioids sold to doctors and pharmacies in the same period quadrupled. Deaths due to opioids, including legal opioids such as methadone and fentanyl, quadrupled in the same time period.
Unlike previous drug death epidemics, the opioid death epidemic is being driven not by drug dealers on the corner, but by doctors and hospitals. Doctors now dole out enough opioids to keep every man, woman, and child in the entire United States medicated 24/7 on opioids for a full month. With so many opioids out there, it’s no wonder that so many people use these drugs.
In response to this epidemic, many public health agencies now recommend giving addicts even more opioids, ostensibly to wean them off of drugs. Future Now Detox believes this is a potentially lethal strategy. People can and do overdose on drugs such as methadone, which are every bit as addictive as heroin. Tragically, the very providers whom people turn to for help with a variety of maladies may be serving as gateways to addiction.
The CDC has repeatedly advised doctors to use opioids sparingly. The organization says doctors should only prescribe these drugs when other remedies fail, that they should start at the lowest possible dose, that they should continually monitor their patients for signs of opioid dependency, and that when they must increase the dosage, they should do so only gradually.
Research suggests that many doctors continue not to follow these guidelines. And the single biggest risk factor for opioid addiction is having an opioid prescription—particularly a long-term prescription. This battle begins with medical facilities, and that’s why Future Now Detox avoids using more drugs to treat a drug addiction. Medication can save lives, but the wrong medication can take lives.
Here’s what you need to know about how the wrong prescription drug strategy can cost people their lives.
One recent study found that some emergency room doctors are significantly more willing to prescribe opioids than others. The authors of that study suggest that doctors may be using arbitrary standards to prescribe opioids and that emergency room physicians should develop more rigid standards for the use of potentially addictive opioid drugs. Another study found that physicians look at subjective criteria, rather than objective measures, when deciding whether to prescribe opioids. Another study found that 9 in 10 opioid overdose survivors are prescribed more opioids—most frequently by the doctor who originally prescribed the opioids. This suggests that doctors may not be taking the opioid epidemic seriously, even among people who survive opioid overdoses.
As the primary opioid gatekeepers, doctors can do much more to stem the tide of opioid overdose deaths. But blame doesn’t rest squarely on the shoulders of doctors. Let’s delve deeper into the way addiction changes the brains of addicts—and how it can change an entire family’s life.
Ansognosia is the inability or refusal to detect that one has a clinically relevant medical condition. It is a hallmark of addiction. Most addicts do not believe they are addicts until they are well into their addiction.
The reason for this is complicated, but first an example from neurology: Anton-Babinski syndrome is a rare disorder known also as visual ansognosia. People who have this disorder have brain damage in their occipital lobe, which is key to vision. Although they cannot see, they adamantly insist—even in the face of clear evidence to the contrary—that they can see.
Addiction operates according to a similar principle. An addict who does not wish to see their addiction won’t, no matter how compelling the evidence is. Why is this?
Among opioid addicts, denial is even more common. This is because prescription opioids are the leading gateway to opioid abuse. People mistakenly believe that if a doctor prescribes a drug to them, they can’t be addicted—especially not if they use the drug as the doctor prescribes.
The tragic reality is that addiction does not discriminate. It is a brain disorder due to prolonged use of drugs. So people who use opioids on an ongoing basis are highly vulnerable. In fact, research shows that chronic pain—which often results in the prescription of opioids—is the single most significant risk factor for opioid addiction.
Over time, the damage opioids cause to the brain and limbic system can make it even more difficult for people to tell that they are addicts. This creates a paradox: people with the most severe addictions are actually less likely to correctly identify the problem.
Understanding the process of addiction can help you understand why this epidemic is so strong, and why it’s so hard to treat. Addiction begins as voluntary use, either of a prescription or illicit drug. Over time, the body becomes tolerant of the drug. This means that the drug doesn’t work as well. Many people respond by taking more of the drug. A doctor may even write a prescription for a larger dosage. This is where addiction often escalates out of control.
With prolonged use and tolerance, the body becomes progressively more dependent on the drug of choice. This changes the way the brain and body respond to the substance. Eventually, the body believes that the drug of choice is vital for existence, no different from food or whatever. So it creates a strong drive to keep using.
The hallmark of addiction is that an addict is no longer in control. They cannot stop using of their own free will. They become progressively more agitated without the substance. Consider how you feel when you’re tired, thirsty, or hungry. It’s the same for an addict who can’t use. And just as prolonged hunger can make you sick, addicts who suddenly stop using go through intense withdrawal. This withdrawal keeps addicts abusing opioids.
Addicts face an ongoing fight between two parts of their brain. The logical prefrontal cortex knows that drug abuse is damaging and dangerous. The limbic system—the involuntary emotional part of the body that connects thoughts to physical sensations—craves the shot of dopamine that comes with fulfilling a craving. Ultimately, without help, the limbic system always wins. This is why addicts may repeatedly resolve to never use again, only to use again a few hours or a few days later.
Many addicts deal with this disconnect by constructing logical justifications for their drug use:
These justifications are a very good sign that a person has an addiction.
Are You an Addict?
Denial and logical justifications are very powerful. They can keep addicts using for years, in spite of clear and compelling evidence that the addiction is destroying their life. To get the help they need, people who abuse opioids must break through the lies of denial and the conflict between their “reptile brain” and their human brain.
Addiction is inherently dark and depressing. Many people with addictions do not want to face the reality of their situation. But doing so offers the only path from darkness to light. The sooner you acknowledge the problem, the sooner you can treat it. Some signs that you might be an addict include:
You don’t have to have all of these symptoms, or even most of them, to be an addict. If one or two of these sounds like your life, you have a problem. It’s not your fault. You need help. We can help.
Signs Someone You Love Might be an Addict
What if you think someone you love might be an addict? It’s important to understand that the upsetting, scary behavior you see is part of the disease. For an addict, it feels normal. Addicts will do anything to keep using. They believe their own lies. Those lies become truth, and an important part of their story. These delusional thoughts can keep them using for decades.
Addicts can be highly manipulative. It’s not that they’re bad people. It’s that their brain has been taken over by a powerful substance over which they have no control. They are victims of a powerful substance that warps the brain. The longer they use, the worse it gets.
Some signs that someone you love might be an addict include:
It’s important to note that an addict cannot be forced into sobriety. People with opioid addictions can only get clean when they are ready to do so. Some have to hit rock bottom to recognize the reality of their addiction. This can be a deeply painful and terrifying process to watch. But you must understand that, while you can urge treatment and offer love, you cannot save an addict. It is no more your fault than it is their fault. You may need to let them go to save yourself. That doesn’t mean giving up. It just means finding your own higher power, and trusting that the person you love will find their path when they are ready.
Why Addiction is So Hard to Treat
Addiction is a chronic lifelong disease. The problem is that many addiction treatment programs treat it as a short-term problem. Some even treat addiction by getting an addict addicted to another drug. You can’t treat addiction with more addiction, and you can’t treat it as a short-term affliction.
It’s not enough to help an addict get clean, or to offer them brief therapy. Healing requires a fundamental shift in the way the person with addiction thinks, views the world, and handles stress. This challenging disorder requires lasting psychic change, as well as help to manage the physiological and brain effects of addiction. Addicts must find a path out of their painful thinking. They need a continuum of care that shifts with their needs.
People addicted to opioids need comprehensive treatment that begins with detox care and that extends to including all areas of their life. Future Now Detox tailors our treatment offerings to the needs of each soul who walks through our doors. We see each addict as the unique, valuable human being they are. They’re not broken. They just need help.
Addiction treatment always begins with detox. A person must get off of drugs and alcohol before they can think clearly and make wise decisions. Detox care should include a comprehensive evaluation of any and all drugs a person takes, as well as assistance with the physiological and psychological effects of detox.
Thereafter, treatment begins in earnest. Addicts need support to understand their addiction, and may need help with mental health and lifestyle issues. Therapy can prove invaluable—both in an individual setting, and family therapy to address issues arising from the addiction. Many addicts also greatly benefit from group therapy, and from support groups that reassure them they are not alone.
At Future Now Detox, we also offer Brain Restoration/NAD+ therapy. This intravenous treatment is a revolutionary approach to the treatment of addiction. NAD is a coenzyme found naturally in every cell. In addicts, it is often depleted. By restoring NAD levels, we can naturally restore the body to health, reducing or even eliminate the urge to use.
Ultimately, addiction treatment is about healing the addict from the inside out. We continue trying strategies, offering people with addiction new coping skills and better ways to handle the many difficulties of this human life. At Future Now Detox, we offer a range of complementary modalities, including:
Most importantly of all, we offer a safe space to explore your difficulties and heal. You can get better.
Hope and Help for People Addicted to Opioids
Addiction is a disease built upon hopelessness. It thrive in secrecy, and capitalizes on the fundamental pain most addicts feel. Don’t believe the hopeless lies of addiction. Recovery is possible, no matter how unmanageable your life has become or painful things feel right now.
Addiction is a liar. We speak truth to its lies every day. We can help you chart a course out of the pain of addiction. Call us today. Let’s build your new life.
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