What would you say if I told you that I had Cancer, and was treating it solely with prayer? It would be an interesting choice, for sure, right?
Visualize for a moment that a dear friend or family member comes to you concerning a drug addiction. They want help and need some advice. What is the first program that pops into your mind? I bet you thought of NA or AA. 12 step programs have dominated the addiction treatment world for many years. It would be difficult to find an inpatient treatment facility or outpatient program that doesn’t follow those wildly popular 12 steps.
Many people believe in the power of prayer but most people don’t solely rely on it without some kind of action that follows. Very few people pray and then sit around waiting for a miracle if they have any kind of power or authority to make the changes they’ve just prayed about. So what does this have to do with addiction and treating it? What does prayer have to do with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and the 12 step program? Read on.
Do you know what approach AA/NA has to treat addiction?
FAITH – that is the main component of AA and NA. If you read the steps, you can see that if we take the “higher power” out of the equation, what is left? Several times I have asked around at meetings, what if someone doesn’t believe in God or hasn’t found him? How do they let go and let God? Use a doorknob if you have to, fake it till you make it is a favorite of mine.
40 million Americans ages 12 and older—or more than 1 in 7 people—abuse or are addicted to nicotine, alcohol or other drugs. These numbers mean more people are suffering from addiction then the number of Americans with heart conditions (27 million), diabetes (26 million) or cancer (19 million). With the number of people addicted to substances so high, shouldn’t we be using some scientific means to fight this disease?
Addiction is a Brain Disease. The patient with this brain disorder no longer produces natural endorphins which are the chemicals our brain releases that give us a sense of well-being and joy. The average person walks around with a range of endorphins measuring 100. If you have sex, your endorphins jump up to say 175, 200 if it was great sex.
Eating something like Chocolate could bring your level to 225 with great sex, but that is it. If you have the disease of addiction you may walk around with a level of 70 or who knows maybe 60 all the time. That means that you just don’t feel joy and happiness the same way others do. That is before you begin to introduce substances. Throw substances into the mix; Opiates can raise your endorphins to the 700 range. Now that is feeling good right. If you use crystal meth, they say the levels jump up to 1200’s. When the human brain begins to reach these high levels of endorphins running through our brain, the mind says STOP our brain is the control center for our bodies.
Think of it as your thermostat in your house. Your thermostat knows what temp you want it at and it regulates that in your home. The brain does the same thing. The brain will begin to turn off receptors that produce endorphins because they are making too many. It will also start to recycle the endorphins out quicker than it normally would. So after using substances for any amount of time the brain has retrained itself to produce fewer endorphins and that means the patient without the substances could be walking around daily with an endorphin level of 30 or 40. Believe me, at 30 or 40 you feel like crap. Even after the withdraw is over you just don’t feel right.
If you began introducing these substances into your brain at a relatively young age and only for a few years, your brain could heal. Eventually, you could start to exhibit a healthy range of natural endorphin release. However, if you didn’t start using until your mid to late twenties and used for twenty or thirty years, there is a good chance that your brain will not heal. That mean you’re going to need some professional help to deal with this medical condition and here is what you can do.
Three Medical Ways to Treat Opiate and Heroin Addiction
So far I have found three medical ways to treat opiate and heroin addiction. For those that may not know, opiates are anything from heroin to prescription pain meds. Methadone, Suboxone, and Naltrexone (Vivitrol and ReVia) are the three medical solutions that can help treat the disease. Methadone and Suboxone both fill the opiate receptors in our brains so the patient doesn’t experience opiate or heroin withdrawal symptoms. These medications not only keep the patient from withdrawal, which you’ve just learned is a chemical imbalance in the brain. These drugs also make it useless to use opiates because the receptors in the brain are blocked, so there is no reason to use opiates while on these medications.
I have used both of these methods and I must say that they work. I mean think about it, as an addict the one thing I was always chasing was a substance that would keep me well. If I could get high in the process it was a great day. The main goal is to stay one step ahead of the horrible flu-like symptoms of withdrawal from the opiates. The best thing about these two options is the safety net that it casts. It is invaluable to many. People just don’t want to believe it, but like I said before, you can’t get high off of heroin if you use these. You would have to plan carefully to face the monster of withdrawal first. (Plan three days of sickness and after that you might be able to feel the heroin.) Drug addicts typically wouldn’t do that. We don’t want to get sick that is the reason we take Suboxone or methadone in the first place.
Problems with Suboxone and Methadone
Here are a few problems with these two methods.
You can become dependent on them. It is expensive. Do you use them forever?
However, they are legal; so we aren’t breaking the law anymore. That’s a plus. Yes, they are expensive, but not as expensive as a heroin habit.
Here is the deal, if you relapse chronically, you should think about Suboxone or Methadone for long term use. The withdrawal can be worse than the drug you are using.
Is that acceptable? I mean, diabetics use insulin forever in many cases. Diabetes is a disease that many times is brought on because of eating habits and/ or not getting enough exercise. That makes this disease the closest relative to drug or alcohol addiction. It starts with a choice and turns into a disease.
What About Vivitrol (Naltrexone)?
Vivitrol is relatively new, at least when compared to the other two and who knows what little secrets it hides. It’s very expensive (up to $1500 if you’re forced to pay cash) and personally, I know no one that has used it. From what I hear it works wonders and there’s no dependence. That is also what they told us about Suboxone. The Suboxone clinic actually conned me out of an extra seventy dollars a week with this little lie for over a year. Only to find out the very harsh reality that after all of this “treatment” I was just as dependent or more than before I walked through their doors.
Is there a Right or Wrong Way to Treat Heroin and Opiate Addiction?
In the end, what is the right answer? I have tried and tried to put it down and leave it alone. More years have passed where I was fighting to get clean than trying to get high and here I am. So do I give it to God, even if he is a door knob? What if I can’t fake it until I make it?
In my opinion, which means all of nothing, 12 Step programs are little more than a religious support group that is only as good as the person who happens to be running the meeting you walk into. 12 Step programs need to grow with the times, their intolerance for any substance, including antidepressants, is just ridiculous. As far as they are concerned if your taking medications for being bipolar you are not “clean.” So before you put all of yours or your loved one’s eggs in the AA/NA world ask yourself these questions. Would I treat any other disease with faith? What about the proven facts that the brain isn’t producing the endorphins needed to have an enjoyable life?
These are just my thoughts and questions as I examine the choices I have as a person who suffers from a brain disorder. How do you think this condition should be treated?
Publisher Note: William Provides His Thoughts
While the above article may appear anti-AA and anti-God, understand that this is one person’s opinion. As the publisher of this community, our organization supports every and any treatment method that works. Personally, I am an advocate of AA and NA to the extent that it is working for you. I am also a Christian who believes in the power of prayer however, I personally think it’s foolish for people of today to rely solely on prayer and not also take advantage of the many treatment options and medications of today. I believe that God provided us with a mind, science and medicine. Thus, in His likeness, I believe we should use all available tools and methods to fight against addiction and/or whatever ailment you have. And if these methods work, as a Christian, I always still give God the glory because through medication and through hard work that came from desire, He saved me from my addiction.
Now personally, the whole concept of a higher power being a “doorknob” is just plain silly. If you don’t believe in God, the faith based 12 step program may not be ideal for you. However, the alternative 12 steps (non-religious) may be good principle to consider. All in all, we advocate whatever treatment option works for each person. The 12 step program has been a huge blessing and Godsend to many and not so much for others. The same goes for MAT (medicine assisted treatment). What works for some, may not work for others.
Written by, Joann Miller – Managing Publisher and Director of Marketing for Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™
Edited and Published by William – Publisher and Founder
We are a community for recovering heroin addicts providing support and recommending the best treatments and clinics to people interested in conquering their addiction.