I have read that the thomas cocktail does about the same as clonidine.Is this true.I have many clonidine tabs that I used the first 8 days of withdrawing.Can they help me now that I am not w'/ding?I still haven't found the recipe on the net but if clonidine does the same I have a ton.
Your'e right it did lower my b/p.I felt real dizzy about day 10 and went to the fire station and an emt guy took my pressure and it was low,very low.also my blood sugar level was low because of not eating.I have lost 18 pounds in 19 days.I went back yesterday and both levels where up to normal.I will go to the vitamin store at noon and get these things.Something has to help
with the chemicals depleted from my brain.I am taking wellbutrin and it has helped the depression plus it has given me a lot more energy.But to me the most important thing is I am opiate free.Man,I can't say that enough,it feels wonderfulllllllllllll
Clonidine is a high blood pressure med and I do not think it is addictive at all. Klonopin is a benzo and is. Clonodine is given to aid acute withdrawal, as it lowers blood pressure and in this was relieves anxiety. The abuse potential for clonodine is nil or very low: It makes you feel faint, dizzy, and that's about it. As far as a herbal remedy equivalent, I don't think so, unless you are a placebo kind of person.
I wouldn't listen to any medical advice here (including mine), without double checking it yourself against some online white papers...
I don't think mrmike is going to answer any of my questions.
He read one of my posts earlier and took it personally.
I called my PCP and he just returned my call.This is his reply.He said there is no reason to think that herbs will
control the after effects of drug addiction.He said herbs will
help if I continue them for a long period of time.As for the clonidine,he said he prescribed it to me for narcotic w'd's.
After the physical withdrawals stopped to stop the clonidine.
In his opinion going to a shrink is the best after care for
addiction,I did that last week.He put me on wellbutrin.
He told me that yes the placebo effect can be just as effective
as drugs to some people.Clonidine is blood pressure meds.
His basic comment to me was exercise,get out of the house
and to get a life!!!Strong words but I have been telling myself this for a year.So I will exercise,get out more and I will get a life.If that doesn't work atleast I will be opiate free.
I have worried over this for the last month and I can't sit
here and dwell on my past any longer.Either I will get better
or I won't but at least now I am ready to give it a shot.
Thanks guys you where here when I needed someone.
Thought this would help you all. Hope everyone had a great weekend. Keep praying!!
INFORMATION ON CLONIDINE:
In patients who have developed localized contact sensitization to clonidine film, substitution of oral clonidine hydrochloride therapy may be associated with the development of a generalized skin rash.
In patients who develop an allergic reaction from clonidine film that extends beyond the local patch site (such as generalized skin rash, urticaria, or angioedema), oral clonidine hydrochloride substitution may elicit a similar reaction.
As with all antihypertensive therapy, clonidine hydrochloride should be used with caution in patients with severe coronary insufficiency, recent myocardial infarction, cerebrovascular disease or chronic renal failure.
Withdrawal: Patients should be instructed not to discontinue therapy without consulting their physician!
Sudden cessation of clonidine treatment has resulted in subjective symptoms such as nervousness, agitation and headache, accompanied or followed by a rapid rise in blood pressure and elevated catecholamine concentrations in the plasma, but such occurrences have usually been associated with previous administration of high oral doses (exceeding 1.2 mg/day) and/or with continuation of concomitant beta-blocker therapy. Rare instances of hypertensive encephalopathy and death have been reported. When discontinuing therapy with clonidine hydrochloride, the physician should reduce the dose gradually over 2 to 4 days withdrawal symptomatology.
An excessive rise in blood pressure following clonidine hydrochloride discontinuance can be reversed by administration of oral clonidine or by intravenous phentolamine. If therapy is to be discontinued in patients receiving beta-blockers and clonidine concurrently, beta-blockers should be discontinued several days before the gradual withdrawal of clonidine hydrochloride.
Perioperative Use: Administration of clonidine hydrochloride should be continued to within four hours of surgery and resumed as soon as possible thereafter. The blood pressure should be carefully monitored and appropriate measures instituted to control it as necessary.
CAUTION: May be habit forming, DO NOT stop this medication without consulting your doctor.
I didn't take your post personally. I see too many people scared away from methadone when it could be their ticket to sobriety. A lot of people have bad experiences with it because the doctor who prescribed it doesn't know his ass from his elbow. I just think people should remember that everyone reacts differently to different meds and not everyone has the same experience associated with them. As far as me not answering questions, I am not here all of the time. Do I know you? No, I don't. But I did read your post and that is all I needed to know. And, you admitted that I hit the nail right on the head. So, what does that question mean? You said you take your anger out on this board....you shouldn't.
A lot of people stress there opinions in here whether there, sad, ANGRY or just lonely. There's nothing wrong with that. It helps a lot of people to come here and vent there angry when sometimes there only angry with themselfs. When bmac said he didn't think you were going to respond I don't think he meant it in a harsh way. This forum has helped me tremendously through my detox and even when I was expressing my anger, people still didn't turn me away in here.
As you know, detoxing is hard! We shouldn't be arguing with one another or whatever you would call it if it's NOT arguing. Hope your weekend was good.
I meant that I say things to other addicts that I haven't admitted to others before.That's what I meant about the anger.
I guess what I am saying is that I am angry at my self and I came here to tell myself just how angry I am at my self for the last 10 years.About the methadone issue,I have no idea about detoxing the right way,I never have.My pain clinic doc,I believe
has far too many other patience to see that he can't be here
for all of them.I did tell him I was stopping the methadone.
That's the last time I have spoken to him.I came here because I was looking for others to find if they knew what to do after the
withdrawals stopped.I have been given a lot of ideas but to me My
getting better is not to use and let time go by.If I in anyway
offended you or your profession I am sorry.I am a drug addict and I act like one often.I am truly sorry if any posts I my have
made during my w/d's have cause anyone a problem.BUT methadone
really screwed with me.I will never take it again.Sorry once
again for any problems,I am an addict!!!!
Yes I am very angry! I mean that I am angry with myself and I am angry that the doc that allowed me to get on methadone hasn't
returned my call since Aug 18th.I know him on a personal level
and I thought he could help me.When he didn't return my calls
I found these boards and yes I vented my anger thru it.I had
no other choice.I know mrmichael didn't take my comments personal,it was just my way to find out if it was the doc
I spoke of earlier.One of the comments he made to me in that first post to me made me think it was him.My friend is a good
doc and I think he really thinks he is helping people.I just
was very very angry and left it here.I received a lot of replys from you all and I just kept on posting.I thought that these
boards were for that reason.I know now they are just that,
for us to vent whatever we need to.After the detox I went thru I am very angry at myself for what it has done to my life and marriage.I think no I know you all have been there and done that.
Thanks for all your support and thank you mrmichael for answering my post.
methadone pretty much saved my life, it was the only thing that helped me to stop shooting up dope. It helped me alot but it seemed like I just traded 1 addiction for another, no matter what I had to go to the clinic everyday and get my dose, and if I didn't I was in for hell. some people at that clinic have been there for 15 or more years and I just couldn't let myself be one of those people. I never thought I'd ever stop craving dope and for some reason I have, you just have to get over it and get on with a better life. I'm glad your w/d's are going away, just stay strong cause the mental ones are the ones that really get me. I wish you well
Thanks! You are right about the mental ones.That's what I am
experiencing now.I don't crave,I am just angry and feel like
"this is what straight is like".I know from other recovering
addicts that the mental part will get better.I just hoped it would be a little easier.The only thing bad I can say about methadone is it turned me into a zombie.Nothing else I have ever been addicted to did that.I always was an up person,ready to go.I was high and the world was great.After about a month
of just taking 40 to 60 mgs a day I started getting very depressed and for the rest of the year I laid on the couch,period.I blame the methadone for that even though I am sure it was me not the drug.I have ben told by some others
that have just used hydro or oxy that it effected them the same.
I also have talked to many heroin users that swear that methadone was their answer.I guess it's a matter of each
individual.I say it made me tired and cranky but maybe that was just the depression.I don't know,all I do know is I am opiate free and will stay that way.I have been using some substance
since I was 16.I am now 44.My PCP told me that I have damaged my body with such long abuse.I had a complete check up and I am ok.
I think I am just having those mental withdrawals and aren't
handling them well.I pray each day it will get better but so far each day has been harder,mentally.I will keep on keeping on though because I have to get better,no choice this time,
thanks for the post and thanks everyone for listening.
First of all, you are exactly right! This forum is here for the reason of getting help and venting stressful times (amoung other things). I think you are doing great! I have followed your posts throughout all of this and I'm very intrigued and impressed with your attitude.
Yes, we have all been in somewhat of a position like yours. It's hard and I'll be the first to tell you, there's times you feel your going to give up! Thats the Devil talking to you sweetie. DON'T DO IT! Your really doing great and I wish you all the luck in the world. You have been in my prayers and you will stay there.
People should vent, just not AT other people. My problem was with the "Do you know me" question. Whatever, it wasn't that big of a deal. I just wish people would be careful with what they say about certain meds. Someone could be scared away from methadone and end up dead with a needle sticking out of their arm.....needlessly ending up another statistic.
Are you taking an AD? Please tell me you aren't on naltrexone because that won't help things. It is a shame that you weren't brought down from the methadone properly. You might have had an easier time at it. It still would have been a pain in the ass, but the faster you go, the harder it is....mentally as well. You should go to an addiction doctor and see what he or she can do for you.
I'm detoxing off darvocets (3rd day). It's pretty standard protocol to give someone the clonidine patch for narcotic withdrawal to reduce the anxiety. At first, I had 2 patches .. however, my blood pressure dropped too much; I couldn't even get up..do anything but sleep; they then took off one of the patches. I'm still feeling a bit like a zombie - but I'd rather feel that than the intense anxiety that comes with withdrawal.
As someone mentioned, it's usually used during the acute stages of withdrawal - this will stay on for a week; and that's it....it's a big help.
First off thanks mrmichael for being the only professional
to talk to me in the past 19 days except for my PCP.5 days after I took the last 10 mg tablet I took myself to a hospital ER.
They are quite prepared here in Bham for this.I was put on phenobarb and clonidine.Stayed there 2 days and never say a doctor.I asked if this was detoxing being on barbs and BP/ meds.
they said yes.I checked myself out and called my PCP.That's
when I found this board.Was taking barbs and clonidine and
withdrawing from years of abuse.It just happened to be methadone
I was on.My problem,I have found out in the past two days isn't
using,Its been a way of life since I was 16.I'm 44 now.My
body and mind need a life.I am very sorry for any of my ramblings here in the past week but it's been my only crutch.
I have learned alot here from you and the other medical people
and have been in company of friends because everyone was
doing this with me.I will be opiate free,period.That hasn't
been an issue since I stopped taken the barbs and clonidine.
I would like to know what an addiction doctor is,I asked and
the nurse let me talk to a shrink and he put me on wellbutrin.
That's all I am taking except for alot of advil,I do have alot
of pain from many surgeries.They all everyone ended up in addiction.starting 1989.No wonder I feel like ****,excuse me but the true is the true.I am a survivor and a recovering drug addict.Thanks for listening!You know I'll be back,peace.
Thank you for posting what you did today.I have to admit I wished me and mrmichael would have gotten into an argument.
Today of all days I needed to vent on someone.I think he understood my post and I was the one trying to get him to come at me.He knows this I wrote him a post also.But anyway it
was good today after I left to go see a friend of mine.I got to
talk and interact with a nother person.Just kidding.But I am
better.I feel like a hundred bucks now.Wow.
Thanks anyway!Hey almost 20 days free of opiates!!!
I used to feel the same way I thought I'd never be free of wanting to be high. But if you really want it too it will. I started serious drugs when I was 13, pot was even eariler, and I haven't been clean since, I am almost 29 now, so I've been on something for more than 1/2 my life. I am down to 10mgs from 120mgs and I have no cravings what so ever, which blows me away, cause I never thought it would happen. I don't know what finally clicked in my brain but it did and I am so thankful for that. You should start feeling better soon. The wellbutron takes a while to kick it, but it will fill in those receptors in your brain that are causeing you to crave, my dr told me that anti-deps are good for that. Somedays I act like a complete manaic for no reason, I've even felt severe rage and that freaks me out cause I'm a mild natured person. I've tryed to start exercising to release some tension so I don't go off on other people. Exercise helps it also is the one thing that will help your body produce more endorphines which will help with the w/d's. you sound like a very strong person and I'm sure you'll get through this
I AM a waitress on an oil rig. How did you know? The guys are pretty aggressive. They keep on pinching my ass. That's why I take a half gram of morphine a day; my ass is sore.
BMAC, an addiction doctor is a doctor that deals with addiction issues. He or she can prescribe medications that can help with the symptoms of physical and mental withdrawal. Some addiction doctors use buprenorphine. Do you have any pain issues? I know that you are opiate free, but I am sure you are feeling the way you are because you came down much too quickly. If you were brought down nice and slow, your brain chemicals would have had a chance to adjust to each decrease in medication. I do know that any detox would not be a walk in the park. An addiction doctor, in my opinion, would be able to give you your best options.
Hi all. I read this article, an interview with an addiction doc, that talks about clonidine and has some very other interesting facts. It's long but really helps shed light on what's going on in our heads - something that helped me a lot when I first detoxed. It's from a PBS series about drug abuse. Again, it's long so I apologize for that and will split it into two msgs, but think you'll find it interesting:
An Interview with Steven Hyman, M.D.
The following is the edited transcript of an interview by Bill Moyers with Steven Hyman, M.D., on the brain and its role in addiction. Hyman directs the National Institute of Mental Health. Portions of this interview appear in the CLOSE TO HOME series.
Moyers: You've said in the past that we have to stop thinking about the brain as an impenetrable black box, a bag of chemicals that we can never comprehend. How should we consider it?
Hyman: We now have the tools to begin to understand how the brain works. There's a great deal we still don't know, but what we're finding is really remarkable. As we learn to understand the brain, we're going to increasingly understand how we as human beings work. How we learn and also how we get sick. How we get mental illnesses, including addictions. Looking at the brain as a black box separates us from our brains, in essence. It leads to this kind of thinking which separates body and mind. And we have to understand how things go wrong in the brain, if we're going to understand how things go wrong in our mental life and our behavior.
Moyers: You've also referred to the brain as a universe. What do you mean by that?
Hyman: The brain is the most complex structure we've discovered. It has a hundred billion cells, but by itself that fact isn't particularly remarkable. Unlike other organs in the body, however, those hundred billion cells are made up of thousands of distinct cell types. Different kinds of cells with different shapes and different chemical natures. And those cells communicate with each other in a marvelously precise, but marvelously complex, network of intercommunication. And they communicate using more than a hundred different chemicals. Moyers: Chemicals which in a way are the equivalent of our words, our language?
Hyman: Yes, that's a good way of putting it. The only thing is that the brain has different ways of decoding each word or each chemical. And the decoders are called receptors. So for a chemical that people have probably heard about like serotonin -- which has been in the news because many modern anti-depressants work on it -- there are at least fifteen different kinds of receptors or decoders. Obviously that's a very rich and complex signal. But besides the fact that the brain is so complex in its wiring and in its chemistry, in many ways the crowning complexity of the brain is that it changes. It changes with experience. Every time you learn something your brain is physically changed. There's this old idea that the brain is some kind of hardware and thoughts, for example, might be considered software running on it. But that's not quite right.Because literally the physical nature of the brain itself is changed by experience. By drugs, by chemicals, by all kinds of things.
Moyers: On the plane earlier, I saw an ad for a long distance phone call company. And I make a lot of long distance calls from the road. Over time I've come to punch in their number automatically, without thinking. My brain changed to learn that?
Hyman: Absolutely. How else could it be? How is that you could take a random fact that you've come across somewhere in your world and carry it with you for days or weeks or years, maybe for a lifetime? Memory is not written in the clouds or on some ghostly material. It literally is recorded by changes in the brain. What's happened is that some of the specialized connections between nerve cells, called synapses, have been altered. To store a memory, some synapses have a stronger connection. Maybe more chemical signal is being transmitted across that synapse. Others perhaps have a weaker connection. But there is a literal, physical change in your brain for every memory.
Moyers: What are things like the PET scan and other brain imaging techniques doing for your research?
Hyman: Modern noninvasive neuro-imaging, PET scans, MRIs are very important. They're allowing us to see the living, thinking, feeling, human brain at work. In the past, there were certain experiments that could only be done on animals. But there are lots of things we can't ask a rodent or a monkey because they can't describe their subjective experiences. These techniques allow us to take what we've learned from animal models and look at what happens in the human brain. What happens when we experience fear? What happens when we formulate a sentence or remember something? And I have to tell you it is really with a certain amount of awe that I experience some of the results that we're getting.
Moyers: Can you look at these PET scans, these images, and see this communication taking place?
Hyman: Yes. We can image desire in the brain.
Moyers: And see the receptors all engaged in this lively conversation?
Hyman: Well, I'm afraid we can't quite do that yet. Because things in the brain are so small. Inside our heads we have maybe a quadrillion synapses. A number that is hard to even imagine. And looking from the outside even with these wonderful tools we can't literally see individual synapses or even small assemblies of cells. What we see are many cells working together. And that's why we have to go back and forth between human research and animal models where we can use much finer methods, to see what's happening at the synaptic level.
Moyers: What's the most important thing we're learning about addiction from brain research?
Hyman: Well, one very important insight is the recognition that in vulnerable individuals, the disease of addiction is produced by chronic administration of the drugs themselves. Drugs of abuse appear to commandeer circuits in the brain that are involved in the control of motivation, which means the addicted person's will can be impaired.
Moyers: OK, now we're back to addiction and the brain. So there's solid evidence that alcohol, tobacco, cocaine, and heroin physically change the brain?
Hyman: There is incontrovertible evidence that these drugs physically change the brain. At all levels, beginning with molecular and chemical changes. In many cases we can actually see changes in the structure of synapses and in the shape of cells. Above all, what we're seeing are the kinds of changes in the way nerve cells communicate with each other that would impact our subjective life and our behavior.
Moyers: You mean drugs change not only the physical size and shape of the cell but the psychological operation of the brain as well?
Hyman: Yes. The psychological operation of the brain -- how we feel about ourselves, what we do -- reflects the workings of networks of nerve cells. And these drugs change the way that these networks function. And therefore, they can change our behavior.
Moyers: Do these four main drugs all change the brain in the same way?
Hyman: There are some shared properties and some differences. The shared properties have to do with a particular brain pathway -- sometimes called the reward circuitry -- which is where all drugs of abuse, directly or indirectly, have their effect. This pathway is rather deep in the brain. It extends from a structure called the midbrain and sends projections of nerve cells (they are called axons) to a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens. In Latin, that means "leaning nucleus," and it's named because of its shape. The nucleus accumbens is in an area involved in the processing of emotions. This circuit has to do with, among other things, learning what's good for us. You see, learning that occurs in the presence of strong emotion is very different from trying to remember something that seems dry as dust. Let's say a child touches a hot stove. Well, that child certainly doesn't have to study or practice the idea that you don't touch a hot stove twice. The child will learn in a profound way and carry that for the rest of his or her life.
Moyers: Mark Twain said that when a cat sits on a hot stove it won't sit on that stove again.
Hyman: [CHUCKLES] That's right.
Moyers: But neither will it sit on a cold stove.
Hyman: And the difference between the human and the cat is that we can learn about different contexts.
Moyers: So what happens when a child touches the hot stove?Hyman: Well, part of the brain which is involved in emotion, in this case something called the amygdala, basically says, "Ouch. This is bad, we're not going to do this again." And the child has a subjective response to the hot stove, which is very negative: aversive, we call it. And all kinds of things are happening in the brain. Among them is something called emotional memory. The child is going to associate anything now that looks like a stove with a negative consequence. And the next time the child encounters a hot stove, the child is not going to have to say, "Hmm, now let me recall . . . did I do my homework? Do I or don't I touch this?" Quite the contrary. The child may actually recoil. And anyone who's suffered a terrible accident -- we see this in post-traumatic stress disorder -- can be reminded in a full-blooded way of the entire scene by just one cue. The entire emotional panoply, including changes in heart rate and all kinds of negative feelings, can be evoked. That's on the negative side. We also have circuits, not quite as well understood, on the positive side. And these are the circuits that are used by drugs of abuse. In the 1950s in Canada, two scientists named James Olds and Peter Milner did a very crucial and famous experiment. They wanted to know whether there were areas of the brain which would respond positively to electrical stimulation, which would feel good when stimulated. So they put electrodes in the brains of rats. And there were levers for the rats to press which would let them stimulate themselves.Not surprisingly, there were some locations where the rat treated the lever with a great deal of respect, as if perhaps it had caused something very painful. Most locations of the electrode were really quite neutral. The rodent would treat the lever as just another piece of furniture in its cage. But there were a small number where the rodent would literally push the lever tens of thousands of times in succession until exhaustion supervened and the rat fell asleep. That electrical stimulation was apparently very pleasing, very exciting to the rat. Now, in the pop-psych literature, this area got called the pleasure center. It is the same evolutionarily very old meso-accumbens projection that I've been discussing. And the nucleus accumbens seems to have a particular role in telling us what might be pleasing, what might be good for us. What we want. What we desire.
Moyers: So the rat pushed the lever over and over because the stimulation was giving something of a "high?"
Hyman: Yes, it hit that spot which said, "That feels good, do it again and remember how to do it." And we as humans have a spot like that as well.
Moyers: Drugs, alcohol, tobacco, all converge on that same brain region?
Hyman: Yes, they do. The brain communicates with chemicals, it uses chemicals as its "words" and those chemicals control the brain's electrical activity. And what all the addictive drugs have in common is that they are mimics. They masquerade as natural chemicals in these reward circuits. Drugs like cocaine, for example, are like Trojan horses. In essence, what coke does is it gets into the apparatus that usually turns off the dopamine signal. And this apparatus recognizes that "Hey, this thing isn't dopamine at all," but it's already blocked. So it can't send the signal "no more dopamine" -- it's quite literally a Trojan horse.
Moyers: The cocaine tricks the brain into making dopamine more active?
Hyman: That's exactly right. Now, let's think about this brain reward circuit and what it might be doing. Say that you have discovered a delicious and wonderful new food. You don't have to study this, you remember it right away and you remember it with pleasure and with indeed a certain amount of desire. When this memory is laid down, a certain amount of dopamine is probably released in this brain reward circuit, in this meso-accumbens circuit.
Moyers: So why doesn't the brain get addicted to broccoli?
Hyman: The simple answer is that broccoli doesn't have chemicals in it which short-circuit the system and provide abnormally elevated rewards. Because what people who use cocaine or amphetamine discover is that they can circumvent all of the work it normally takes to get some natural reward. I've talked about discovering the good taste of a new food. But imagine that you've just finished a marvelous documentary. And you feel a certain amount of pride and reward and you get a certain amount of dopamine for that.
Moyers: Till I read the review.
Hyman: Till you read the review, exactly. Then your amygdala (which codes fear and anger, amongst other things) starts firing.
Hyman: Basically the drug abuser finds that these drugs, at least initially, give them a kind of euphoria. A kind of self confidence. A feeling that they can achieve only with extreme difficulty using natural stimuli.
Moyers: There's no natural high quite as high as a drug high?Hyman: No, because the drugs really do trick the brain. Cocaine and amphetamine put more dopamine in key synapses over a longer period of time in this brain reward pathway than normal. And because they are so rewarding, because they tap right into a circuit that we have in our brains, whose job it is to say something like, "Yes, that was good. Let's do it again and let's remember exactly how we did it," people will take these drugs again and again and again.
Moyers: What about tobacco? I mean, a lot of times when children smoke that first cigarette they will cough and choke because they don't like it. But they'll have another cigarette and another. What's going on there? Hyman: With drugs that are harder to like at first, like tobacco, people teach each other to enjoy them. The peers of a child trying his first cigarette create an atmosphere where that act receives approbation, where toughing it out is respected and cool. And pretty soon they get over the initial irritation and cough. And soon after that, they find out they're hooked.
Moyers: And are they hooked because nicotine has done for this pleasure pathway what the cocaine has done for the user?Hyman: Yes, though maybe not as profoundly. All of the most addictive drugs, either directly like cocaine and amphetamine or indirectly, like nicotine, alcohol, opiates, cause release of dopamine in this brain reward pathway.
Moyers: And because the dopamine is released I have the impression that something really good is happening to me?
Hyman: Yes, and here's the important thing. You have a subjective feeling of euphoria. You feel when you take these drugs that something really good is happening to you. You feel, as I've said, either high or in the case of cocaine and amphetamines, that you have great confidence. The world is bright. The problem is that these drugs are like a sledgehammer in the brain. While the person is feeling this euphoria, other things are happening. You see, our cells have all kinds of mechanisms to adapt to powerful environmental stimuli that they see as a stress. It's called homeostasis, trying to keep functioning well under constantly changing environmental conditions. Perhaps the best example I can give you is going to the gym and lifting weights. The first time you go, you strain your muscles, right? You have sore arms after you lift weights. But if you go back to the gym and lift very heavy weights, (think drug dose), you do it enough times a week (think frequency of drug administration), and you do it for long enough (think chronicity), what happens? A signal goes from these poor strained muscle membranes to the very nucleus of the cell, which contains the genetic material. And it says basically, "We've got to adapt, we're under a lot of stress here." And the muscle cell turns on the genes that make structural proteins and over time we get what a body builder considers a very positive adaptation -- big muscles.
Moyers: The gene is saying, "Hey, guys, I need more protein."
Hyman: Exactly, "Give me more protein." Now let's go to the drug addict's brain. Here's this poor synapse which has never seen so much dopamine for so long in its life, what is it going to do? The dopamine on the one hand may be helping the drug user feel euphoria, but at the same time, the receptor cell isn't very happy. It's stressed. What happens? First, it's trying to decrease the efficacy of this dopamine signal so it won't hit it so hard, and it's saying "Enough, too much." It sends signals to other cells to say, "Turn this off." So adaptation occurs, and we see the clinical realities of this when somebody ends a cocaine binge. At that point, there might be less dopamine in the brain or the dopamine that's there might be less effective than prior to drug use. So after a cocaine binge, the brain is physically changed -- it's adapted. But that adaptation, less dopamine now, means that the drug user feels bad. The drug user can't feel pleasure. The drug user might feel depressed and is craving more drug.
Moyers: His body is saying it wants more dopamine, he can't get it, so he physically gets depressed.
Hyman: In effect, yes. But the addict doesn't know that that's what's happening. What the addict knows, or thinks is correct, is, "I will feel better if I put myself back in this precise context where I felt good and use my drug." This is the learning side of it, the emotional memory. It may not be true that taking the drug will make him feel better, but that's what using the drug teaches him. And part of that memory is not only the emotion, but the whole context. The friends that they see when they are using drugs, the paraphernalia, the kind of room they are in or the kind of alley, all become attached to the ritual and the feelings of getting high. They become part of the brain's "emotional memory."
Moyers: That's why AA talks about "people, places, and things." Avoid the people you used with, avoid the places you used, and avoid the things associated with use like the pipe.
Hyman: That's absolutely right. Remember, the dopamine in this brain reward circuit is still saying, "That was good, let's do it again, and let's remember exactly how we did it." So there's this emotional learning that goes on which is in many ways the longest lived change in the brain.
Moyers: Perhaps this is what we mean when we talk about indelible memories.
Hyman: I think that's right. And one of the things that Alcoholics Anonymous says is that alcoholics are not recovered, they are recovering. I think they're right because there are many things in the brain that make it likely that once addicted you're at high risk of relapse and one of the most important is this indelible memory. We know that when people are detoxified and then they're back in a situation where they used to use drugs, they may experience certain feelings. In the case of the cocaine user, they might feel a little bit high. Which makes them want more. In the case of the heroin addict, some of them actually feel a little bit of withdrawal, and that makes them want the drug. A common experience for ex-smokers is that they'll have a festive meal and be reminded that they used to enjoy a cigarette at such times and they will feel waves of craving. These are cues which are awakening these powerful memories. When something is highly rewarding, we are likely to remember it vividly and also to remember the circumstances under which we encountered it. Even after years of abstinence, people may experience profound cravings and risk relapse if placed in the surroundings of their former drug use.Moyers: You've referred to the reward circuit as part of the "old brain." What do you mean, the "old brain," and why might we have a reward region in the first place?
Hyman: Well, the idea of an older part of the brain really comes from study of comparative neuroanatomy that looks at lizards and evolutionary older mammals and compares them to primates and humans. And what we see is a very developed neocortex in humans, which is the outer layer of our brain and has been linked with reasoning. Our cerebral cortex appeared relatively recently in evolution. But some of the emotional circuits in the brain have been around for a much longer time. That's why they have gotten the moniker "the lizard brain," because of their evolutionary history. But it's unfair to equate all of our emotions with lizards because after all, they do a lot of good things for us as well. What makes us fundamentally human is not thinking alone or emotion alone but a combination of the two. In fact, what makes us different from computers is certainly emotion. And some of the highest human feelings like love or altruism are human, as well as fear or anger or pain which we share with lizards. It's the interweaving of emotion and cognition that allows us to make any decision that we make in life. The important thing is that we have dedicated circuits in the brain which are involved in emotion. I mean, imagine the world without emotion. All meaning would drain out of it -- it would just be a world of cold facts. The world comes to us instead, full of rich meaning. Things have a valence. They make us happy or sad. Some things are fearsome, some things are enjoyable, some make us curious. Some are edible. And the emotional part of our brain is making appraisals. It's saying this can hurt us, this is good for us. And in making those appraisals, the emotional parts of our brain start all kinds of downstream reactions. The emotion of fear, for example, starts our hearts racing.
Moyers: But what does this have to do with that old lizard brain? Why would the lizard have eveloped a brain that would assign priorities of value?Hyman: Well, probably not so that it could write philosophical texts about value. The circuit most likely developed to control behavior quickly. At the simplest level, any animal needs to be able to judge what to avoid and what to approach. It needs to evaluate situations and react to them immediately. It can't be sitting there thinking, "Hmmm. Is this food or is this something that will eat me?" It has to react as soon as a threat is spotted, otherwise it won't live very long.Emotions really are circuits in our brain that allow us to survive. Now this is speculation, but just imagine some of the roles for this reward circuit in evolution. Without something to make sex appealing, nature's experiment with sexual reproduction would have been a great failure. We would have been perhaps budding like yeast or something, with no need for a sexual partner or the sex act. And while that sounds kind of silly, the fact is there has to be something extremely compelling about reproduction in order to get the job done because, as any parent knows, the process of having a child is not always easy. If sex gave no pleasure, or you didn't remember or desire that pleasure, you wouldn't reproduce yourself. But also, evolution couldn't hardwire every possible response into our brains. We're going to encounter all kinds of new and unexpected situations in our world. And so this reward circuit has to be able to learn. And when it's something like a new food that's good for us, or something that is healing or useful, then we've learned about something that's going to be adaptive. Moyers: Let me make sure I understand this. In terms of survival, the more relevant something is to survival, the more likely we are to remember it?
Hyman: That's very well put. The more relevant something is to our survival, the more likely we are to remember it. Again, let's contrast having to study some dry as dust material in the classroom, where you have to rehearse and rehearse to remember it, and compare that with something that's really emotionally charged. You just don't forget your first love, but most of us forget the Pythagorean theorem. The other thing which is very important is that key parts of memory are not necessarily conscious. They are memories that get us to control behavior -- that motivate us, if you will. So, for example, if you encounter something that has hurt you badly in the past -- let's imagine you have been bitten by a snake once, and you're now hiking along and you find yourself in just the kind of country where you were bitten before -- before you even realize it, you might find that your heart is racing, that your palms are sweaty, and that you're vigilant and ready to escape. I think the important point here is that emotion paints the world with meaning. Emotion says this is important, that is dangerous, this is good. And it paints the experience in such a way that our conscious minds may be involved but all kinds of unconscious processes are also involved.I think some of the stigma of addiction results from a misunderstanding of these unconscious processes. Because the illness is largely invisible, but also because when people look inside themselves, they don't realize they can't see everything that motivates their own behavior. We don't recognize, for example, that when I reach over to point my finger at you, all kinds of things have happened in the background of my brain. It calculated a trajectory, it stabilized my shoulder girdle, it told certain muscles to fire up so many hundred milliseconds and opposing muscles to fire up so many hundred milliseconds. If I had to calculate the trajectory and do the fine tuning as I approach my target, I don't think I would be very successful in pointing at you; in fact, I might well hit you instead. And it's the same thing with emotional processing. Lots of things which we aren't wholly aware of are going on in the background, telling us about the emotional valence of the world. For the addicted person, it's saying, "You know, you better get another drink now because we're running out here and the world's getting pretty bleak." Addicts aren't willfully choosing those background thoughts and feelings and drives, and non-addicted people don't have to contend with them.
Moyers: Are those background thoughts predetermined?
Hyman: Well, with reproduction, for example, the desire is very much hardwired. Witness all of the hard work that people have to do in order to avoid sexual desire when in certain religions they decide they're going to be celibate. It takes a great act of will to overcome, in this case, these very hardwired desires that evolution, interested as it was in reproductive success, put into us.
Moyers: What do you mean, "hardwired"?
Hyman: Certain responses in our brain, like sexual desire, develop through pre-existing genetic programs which we are born with. We may experience aspects of sex and find them good or rewarding or disappointing or what have you, but we are born to find sex pleasurable. If people were designed to avoid sex, there wouldn't be too many of us around, would there? But because the world is complicated and unpredictable, nature could not have built in a list of everything that was going to be good, of everything that could hurt us, of everything we ought to be afraid of. And so these emotional circuits have some built in functions, but perhaps the most important thing they do for us in our lives is, they learn. But there can be a danger here because in many ways emotional circuits take our higher processing out of the loop. They literally cut it out, by bypassing those pathways and -- crucially for our understanding of addiction -- push our behavior before we've really had time to look rationally at all its implications. And so when you've learned to like a drug, you find you're already going after it before you've thought about it. If you talk to an alcoholic or a drug addict, they will tell you they often wake up in the morning and they say "I'm not going to use today. Right. In fact, I'm never going to use again." And then they go out in the world and they see their drinking buddies and the sight of them taps into these emotional memories. The voice of reason, of conscious control, becomes a rather small voice in competition with this intense emotional sense of craving and need.
Moyers: So while the rational brain has said "never again," the emotional brain circumvents it?
Hyman: That's right.Moyers: So which part of the brain ultimately determines our behavior?
Hyman: Well, it's both really, but this emotional brain has an awful lot to say about our behavioral priorities. As I said, emotional circuits are survival circuits. And when they get literally perverted by drugs, they still have an awful lot to say about what we should do first and what we should think about. Just consider the behavior of an alcoholic or a drug addict. First of all, many long term alcoholics stop enjoying alcohol, either because of tolerance or physical illness, so they're not even getting pleasure from it anymore. And they may recognize that they have wrecked their family life. Their job is in question, or it's gone. They've lost their social status, and yet they keep drinking. How is it possible for people to do that? What I would say is that the critical circuit in the brain, which is involved in setting our behavioral priorities, has been usurped by the drug. The long term interest of the person -- rationality -- is barely audible in the calculations of a drug-impaired brain.
Moyers: It's no longer driving the assigning of value, the creation of motivation?
Hyman: Right. And we can sit here and talk about it, but it's actually people's stories that really take your breath away. I mean, when you hear the story of a woman ignoring or even selling her children to get more crack cocaine, it's easy to say this must be a bad person, but that's not necessarily the case. This is someone whose behavior has been totally usurped by drugs, whose ability to set priorities has been totally deranged by drugs.
Moyers: Is this why you call addiction a disease of the brain?Hyman: This is exactly why I call addiction a disease of the brain. What happens is, in the vulnerable brain -- not everyone who experiments with drugs is going to get addicted -- in the vulnerable brain, if you use drugs at a high enough dose, frequently enough, and for long enough, you literally change the way the brain works, you change the way nerve cells communicate in such a way that you develop this compulsive, out-of-control use despite knowing that all kinds of terrible things can happen to you, and despite even experiencing many of those things.
Moyers: Do you have any hope that we might be able to identify the vulnerable person early enough to intervene?
Hyman: I think that we're going to be able to identify vulnerability, and then it's a different question as to how we intervene. For alcohol, I think it's pretty clear that those people who have the early-onset, severest forms of alcoholism are genetically predisposed.
Moyers: But even when we say it's genetic, there's still more to say, isn't there? My brother became addicted to cigarettes. He died very early because of his addiction. But I never felt addicted to tobacco.
Hyman: Well, you might not have shared all of the same genes, but what you're saying is actually quite important. Which is that for things as complicated as behavior we don't have any situation that I know of where genes have all of the say. Where we have total genetic determinism. Rather, for behavior what we have is a complex dance of genes and environment building a brain as we develop, creating us as we experience the world, and as we behave. It's a very complicated dance that we're only just starting to unravel. But I don't think that we are ever going to find a piece of DNA that will make someone an alcoholic 100% of the time. Rather, what we're going to find are pieces of DNA that are part of the instructions for building a brain. These instructions are read out in the context of our environment. Starting before we're born, in utero, and continuing well after we're born. And in combination with many other genes, we emerge as people with certain traits that the genes give us a bias toward. For reasons that we don't yet understand, some genes create a risk of alcoholism -- in some young men a risk that may be as much as tenfold greater than in people who don't have those genes.Moyers: What's your response to someone who says to you, "Sure, Doc, I'd like to quit, but my DNA won't let me?"Hyman: That question gets to the heart of the controversy over the disease model. We know that addiction looks every bit like a disease. But the problem is that the disease model can be misinterpreted. An addict could retort, as you suggest, "Gee, I'd like to say no, Doc, but I'm just a helpless tool of my DNA." But the disease model doesn't mean that we can't ask people to be responsible for themselves. Because the brain doesn't have only one pathway. It has this remarkable complexity of myriad circuits and trillions and maybe quadrillions of synapses.
Moyers: It's a universe.
Hyman: Yes, and it divides up tasks -- it's redundant, if you will. So while part of the brain may be perverted by the drug, and one set of circuits may be really out of whack, there are other circuits at work. People who are addicted still remain engageable. Other parts of their brain are still working. Now, it's not easy to engage them. And it's not easy because in addiction, literally, the organ of compliance, the part of the brain that's involved in setting behavioral priorities, is affected.
Moyers: Well, if the brain has been compromised by the drugs, and if the desire to use has become a commanding motivation, is that person capable of responsible choices? Is the addict still a moral agent, capable of free choice?
Hyman: I believe that the addict is still a moral agent, but his ability or her ability to exercise free choice is very much compromised. And I believe it is the job of the family, the employer, the doctor, the community, to serve almost as a prosthesis.
Moyers: Explain that.
Hyman: Everyone around the addict needs to work together to bolster what's good and capable in the patient. To prop up his motivation to change and help this addicted person to recover. People need help to counter the intense desire for another drink or "hit."
Moyers: I see so many mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and friends and employers get so angry and frustrated at somebody they love or care about who just won't stop. The addict seems to willfully disregard all of our efforts to help.
Hyman: Well, yes, in the beginning picking up a drink is a voluntary act, but we have to look past that and ask about the motivation. The addicted person is not able to select his or her motives. The part of the brain that is selecting behavioral priorities is compromised. So the motor behavior, picking up a drink, seeking drugs, smoking cocaine is really the downstream expression of something that's broken, which is this whole set of motivations. We can't see them -- from the outside, an alcoholic taking a drink looks like anyone else engaged in that behavior. But what's happening in his head is different. The important thing for us to remember is just how hard it is for the addicted person to stop. And how much support they need in order to be able to stop. Take heart patients. We don't blame them for having heart disease, but we ask them to follow a certain diet, to exercise, to comply with medication regimes. So it is with the addicted person -- we shouldn't blame them for the disease, but we should treat them as having responsibility for their recovery. One critical difference between addiction and heart disease is that the substance -- illicit drugs or alcohol or nicotine -- can markedly diminish the ability of the patient to follow through on medical advice. So the patient's family, friends, employers, etc., must shore up whatever strengths the patient has in order to help him stop. We have to help addicts get treatment, and support them in staying with it.
Moyers: So even though drugs have changed the brain, it can be changed back?
Hyman: I don't think that you can have your brain back just the way it was, but I certainly believe recovery is possible. There are some changes in your brain that may be irreversible, especially the kinds of emotional memories that we talked about, they may really be indelible. But people who have a stroke are able to recover by using other parts of their brain which weren't affected. It seems extreme, but you might think of someone who is addicted almost as if they've had a peculiar kind of stroke, which affects their motivation and self-will.
Moyers: What can we expect from the addict?
Hyman: Well, my experience as a clinician is that many addicts are just not ready to give it up. Drugs are too important. They still are experiencing mostly positive consequences from using. But eventually, people very often get into a position where the negative consequences of their addiction begin to outweigh the positive.
Moyers: They hit bottom, in the language of AA.
Hyman: Yes. Now, some of these people actually stop by themselves. It's really quite remarkable. But many people, perhaps most, need treatment. And when you address somebody like this, often you're met initially with anger or denial. After all, what you're saying is, "I'm going to ask you to give up the central thing in your life. That thing without which you think you can't go on." So it's not surprising that people don't say, "Sure, Doc, fine. Where's the nearest treatment program?" You have to be persistent. And non-judgmental. I think what you really have to do is sit with the addicted person and face the problem together and say, well, "How about the traffic accident you caused? How about this abnormal liver test? What are we going to do about it?" You start to engage the person, but recognize that it might well take time before he or she quits entirely.
Moyers: If I were your patient, and I relapsed once, you would not consider our relationship a failure?
Hyman: Absolutely not.
Moyers: If I relapsed a second time?
Hyman: I would not consider it a failure. But if you keep relapsing and we sit here and talk about your alcoholism at every session and you do nothing to get treatment, then we're not doing something right. It would be easy for me to say that you're so sick that I can't help you. It would be easy for me to say, "I've done my job because I've issued a stern warning." But what we really have to do when somebody either doesn't get treatment or keeps relapsing is to ask, "What am I not mobilizing to get this person into treatment?" Maybe I have to get the family and the employer involved. Maybe I need to approach you differently. This disease is a terrible enemy once it is dug in.
Moyers: Do you think we will ever eliminate the desire people have to try drugs?
Hyman: No, I don't think so. I think that part of our humanity is that many people are curious about transcending themselves. People are curious about new experiences. Some people are suffering and looking for ways of feeling better. And people will experiment with drugs. In a healthy society we can help people avoid the most dangerous drugs and we can help people get well if they become hooked.
Moyers: If addiction is about learning, why doesn't the addict learn that withdrawal in certain cases is so painful, so abominable, so awful that the brain says, "I don't want to go through that again, so I won't use."
Hyman: One of the really striking things about human beings is that we have a lot of trouble thinking about long-term risk. We are very short-term creatures indeed. Also, you see, withdrawal is very painful, but it's not actually associated with the drug. What's associated with the drug is pleasure and relief. The withdrawal syndrome is occurring in isolation and without the drug. Indeed, it is accompanied by intense craving for the drug. So the withdrawal does not in any way extinguish or do away with the impulse, the craving, the desire for drugs. Indeed, one of the important challenges to us as a species is how we can figure out ways of dealing with our inability to conform our behavior to our long-term best interest.
I think my husband is finally going to try to get help for his addiction. the problem is he can't do it himself. He doesn't want to go to his family doctor, and all of the treatment centers want him to do inpatient/outpatient treatment. Which he doesn't want to do. Does anyone have any suggestions?
If your husband has medical in-house treatment available to him, he is best off using it, especially if he's never gone through this before. In order to quit, he must learn to accept a number of things he won't like. Inpatient detox is usually the least of those things.
He's on hydro's. He wants to time his major w/d with his off days. He can't afford to lose his job.He wants the least painful option. But I don't want him to trade one addition for another. If you have any suggestions, anything would be helpful. Ps...he is taking up to 15 pills a day.
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