Community Foum: What is Addiction?
This week’s writer is Jessi de Boer, who wrote this in coordination with the Addison County Committee on Opiate Addiction. DeBoer, a licensed alcohol and drug counselor and a licensed clinical mental health counselor, is coordinator of Adult Recovery Services at Counseling Service of Addison County.
What Is Addiction?
Editor’s note: This is a first in a series of eight pieces on identifying, treating and dealing with opiate addiction. The series was produced by the Addison County Committee on Opiate Addiction, whose members include the Counseling Service of Addison County, Bristol Internal Medicine, Turning Point Center, Vermont Blueprint for Health, Vermont Health Department, a local acupuncturist, and others.
Counseling Service of Addison County and the Addison County Committee on Opiate Addiction have teamed to put together a series of articles for our community. Our hope is that this column offers information, support and hope for addiction recovery, specifically opiate addiction (heroin/painkillers).
Addiction is a disease. Once you have it you’re stuck with it. It is persistent and the symptoms really damage relationships. We struggle to treat this disease. Many people get better and then get worse again. We have seen it in this community: hurting friends, family and community. There is an idea that this disease is something that can be cured with will-power — that is simply not true. Addiction is disease and like many others it can be managed and treated.
It is a disease of the brain — much like Type 2 diabetes damages the pancreas or heart disease affects the heart. People ask me all the time, “Why can’t he just quit using (drugs), he is losing everything.” My answer is: Many people can’t just quit without support because the brain is damaged.
When our brain is exposed to substances or medication it can be very helpful. If I fall and break my ankle, pain medication, for example, can be a great help to hobble around, get to work and get to school. What happens with addiction is that when the brain is given too much medication it starts to change and find ways to accept more of the substance or medication. As more and more of the drug is added the brain changes more and more.
Think about this as it relates to your morning coffee. At first 8 ounces was enough to get to work, focus and feel good. Overtime, to continue to be so productive, you might have found yourself getting the 12-ounce instead or hitting up the coffee maker for another cup at 10 a.m. Before you know it you’re at the 20-ounce size. This is called tolerance; your body and your brain have changed to accept more and more caffeine to get the same desired effect.
Then you might say, “I am drinking way too much coffee, I’m going to quit.”
What happens next? Headaches, mood swings, stomachache, why? Withdrawal has set in! Your brain and your body are expecting that drug and when you do not supply it the body is in distress.
Now imagine this is not caffeine but a much stronger drug or medication with withdrawal symptoms like flu and food poisoning. Many of us, even healthy, happy people, would do almost anything to avoid feeling that sick. People who have opiate addiction do experience those symptoms. Opiates are used for pain medications such as oxycodone, and Percocet, but heroin too is an opiate.
Some people became addicted to a medication prescribed by a doctor and did not ever use street drugs. The brain does not know or care what the substance is. It just demands more and more of it to feel OK and avoid those horrible withdrawal symptoms. The disease takes over.
There is hope for this disease — there is no cure but it can be prevented and treated. Keep reading this column in the weeks to come to learn more about warning signs of addiction, how addiction can happen and how to protect yourself and your family from this horrible disease.
For help today go to www.addictionhelpvt.com. There is help right here in Addison County.
The Fresh Air Fund, initiated in 1877 to give kids from New York City the opportunity to e … (read more)
BRISTOL — A memorial service for Mark A. Nelson of Bristol will be held 1 p.m. on Saturday … (read more)
See when your favorite high school team is competing in the fall sports playoffs.