‘Experiences of a Mother of Two Young Heroin Addicts’ by Mark

A very moving blog which first appeared on Wired In To Recovery (WITR) in May 2009. Mark blogged regularly on WITR until the community closed. I also published this on Recovery Stories in June 2013.

‘We found my 20 year old brother dead of an overdose. He had just kicked the habit so tolerance was low. He started a job and the first payday was his last. Mum wrote this after I got clean. Copy and use it anywhere it can be of use.’ Mark

‘What is it like being the mother of an addict? (Experiences of a Mother of Two Young Heroin Addicts)

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Factors Facilitating Recovery: Overcoming Withdrawal Symptoms

People who decide to stop taking drugs or drinking alcohol after using or drinking for long periods of time, need to be aware that they might experience withdrawal effects which can be irritating, debilitating and even life-threatening.

Many of these withdrawal signs, which can be psychological and physical in nature, are generally opposite to the effects the person experienced when the drug was being taken. For example, abrupt withdrawal from long-term use of Valium (diazepam) and other benzodiazepines, drugs which are prescribed to alleviate anxiety and insomnia, can lead to pronounced anxiety, insomnia, agitation, intrusive thoughts and panic attacks.

In addition, people withdrawing from benzodiazepines can experience physical withdrawal signs, such as burning sensations, feeling of electric shocks, and full-blown seizures. The duration and strength of these withdrawal signs is in part dependent on the amounts of drug having been used and the duration of time the person has been using the drug. 

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The Harms and Risks of Substance Use

Reflections on the harms and risk factors related to drugs, alcohol and solvents. (979 words)


There is much discussion about the harms and risks of drug use, particularly in the popular press. The relative harms of different drugs are compared, and the law tries to operate a control system with drugs purportedly graded by their dangers, albeit with alcohol and tobacco forgotten.

Heroin and cocaine are considered to be particularly dangerous. And yet, there are people that have taken cocaine or prescribed heroin for many years and have suffered no physical harm. There is no given in the world of drugs—except that all substances (even water) can kill if given in sufficient quantity.

In his excellent book Matters of Substance: is legalization the right answer – or the wrong question [1], the late Griffith Edwards points out:

‘With drugs nothing is always. Their use does not carry a guarantee of danger, but neither is their safety guaranteed. What one needs to ask about any substance is not whether in absolute terms it is safe, but rather the degree of risk which may attach to its use.’

The harm caused by substance use needs to be considered in a variety of ways. Use of drugs, alcohol and solvents can carry risk to different aspects of life. They may threaten physical or mental health, social circumstances, educational and employment status, and may put a person at risk with the criminal justice system.

Substance use may also affect the safety and welfare of others. Other people may be affected negatively by the transmission of blood borne viruses through sexual contact with an infected drug user, through violence committed by a person who is drunk, or by someone who is driving while under the influence of a sedative prescription drug. The harmony and happiness of families can be disrupted, and in the extreme whole communities can be affected.

Harm done by substance use can be major or minor. It can also be a one-off or chronic. Harm may be caused directly by the drug itself, and/or by the lifestyle associated with use of the drug, for example, with street heroin.

For some harm, an increasing risk is associated with longer-term and heavier substance use. However, for other types of problems, the risk can be much more random: the twentieth experience with ecstasy or a solvent may trigger some reaction leading to death; the first injection of heroin may lead to infection with hepatitis C which kills the person years later; the heavy drinking session may lead to the person tripping on the pavement into the path of an approaching vehicle.

With illicit drugs, there is the possibility of contaminants in the drug which can cause illness and even death. In one example, heroin users in California injected unknowingly a synthetic drug known as MPTP, which produced symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. This movement disorder, caused by a massive depletion of dopamine in the brain, mostly occurs in people over 60 years old. In this case, young heroin users developed the symptoms within 24 hours of taking the drug. The condition was irreversible and could only be alleviated by l-Dopa or neural grafts of foetal tissue [2,3].

The particular harm caused by substances is also dependent on the route by which they are administered. Injecting drugs can lead to the transmission of blood borne viruses, smoking can cause lung damage, and drinking of alcohol to cancer of the gullet. Accidental overdose is more likely to occur following injection than ingestion of tablets. Users of illicit heroin are also unaware of the purity of the substance they purchase—an unusually pure, or contaminated, batch of heroin can cause overdose.

One of the dangers of drugs and alcohol is their propensity to cause addiction or dependence. In simple terms, addiction can be seen as an impairment in a person’s ability or power to choose. The drug becomes more important to the person than other aspects of their life, which the majority of people would consider as essential. Addiction drives forward heavy and persistent drug use, ultimately increasing the likelihood of self-harm.

The particular effects of a drug, and the development of addiction, are influenced not only by the intrinsic properties of the drug and its route of administration, but also by the previous drug experience of the user, their physical and psychological characteristics, and the setting in which the drug is taken. Therefore, these factors can influence the harm caused by drugs.

Overdoses are more likely when a heroin user leaves prison, since he is likely to forget or not understand that his body has lost its tolerance to the drug. Amphetamine psychosis will be more likely to occur in an individual with a propensity to schizophrenic symptoms. Alcohol-induced violence is more likely to occur in certain environments than in others. Life-threatening seizures can occur when a person withdraws from long-term use of the prescription drugs Valium and Librium.

Finally, and not least, is that the dangers of many substances can be exacerbated by taking another at the same time. For example, the likelihood of overdose after heroin is increased if the person is also drinking alcohol.

Psychoactive substances have been used in society for thousands of years. They will remain with us for as long as mankind wishes to change his state of consciousness, for whatever reason. These substances—be they legal or illegal—will always have harm and risks associated with them.

What is important in today’s society is to keep people well-informed about the potential harms of drugs, alcohol and solvents and the circumstances in which they can be dangerous. We do not need media hype or campaigns that over-exaggerate the risks. We need to be objective and realistic.

Endnotes:

[1] Matters of Substance: is legalization the right answer – or the wrong question, Griffith Edwards, Penguin, 2005.

[2] MPTP, Wikipedia.

[3] The MPTP Story, J. William Langston, Journal of Parkinson’s Disease, 7, S11-S22, 2017.

> pdf document

 

 

I Am Not Anonymous: Adam’s Story, ‘An Open Book’

Adam-Text-1024x681(pp_w1000_h665)‘For the entirety of my addiction – many sad, painful years of car accidents, overdoses, barroom brawls and street fights, failed relationships, small-time legal skirmishes and stints at rehabs – everyone wanted me to admit I had a problem, to talk about it.

Then, after I got clean and sober and became a husband, father, hockey dad and a union president that negotiated my co-workers salaries and medical benefits, many people wanted me to put it behind me, to shut up about it.

The planet witnessed the train wreck, yet I was supposed to cover it up after I got that bad boy back on the rails, which was no small feat.

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I Am Not Anonymous: Hugh’s Story

Hugh2Text(pp_w1000_h666)A blog from a great new website.

‘When I first heard about IAmNotAnonymous.org, I thought it was one of the coolest things to hit the recovery world. I subscribe to the idea that there is nothing shameful about being in recovery. It is my life. It has made me the man I am today. A man worthy of love and respect.

Some people believe that they need to keep their recovery a secret, I am not one of those people. Partly because the depths of my addiction was thrown into the spotlight with some unsolicited press in the form of newspaper articles in 2013. It’s quite possible that I was the last person to know that I had a problem with drugs and alcohol.

My whole life I have felt like there was a void in my soul. A missing piece of me. A void that I have constantly tried to fill with different vices.

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‘Philip Seymour Hoffman, Drugs and the Therapeutic State’ by Jack Carney

Brilliant article from Mad in America. Nails on the head.jcarney

‘Greetings. It seems that somebody’s passing is the only thing that will stir me sufficiently to write about what’s going on in this benighted country.

I had anticipated writing this a week or two ago but I got sidetracked. It’s certainly not too late, since Hoffman’s death by heroin overdose is still being discussed in the media and by folks I run into. Yes, I know, he only died 5 weeks ago – February 2, to be precise – but our attention spans tend to be not too long.

Hoffman’s death was dramatic – found dead with a needle stuck in his arm with bags of heroin strewn nearby, a famous actor at the top of his craft with artistic heights still to climb. His death has been portrayed as a benchmark event and has drawn attention to the opioid abuse and addiction that has seemed to sweep the country.

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‘Dying of a Heroin Overdose Does Not Make You a Scumbag’ by A. Thomas McLellan, Ph.D.

Unknown-6Great article in the Huffington Post by one of the leading addiction treatment researchers involving the loss of one of my favourite actors.

‘In the wake of the tragic death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, I am shocked by the vast range of opinions and emotions that have been voiced in the public discourse. Media outlets of all shapes and forms are weighing in on his death – and specifically, the foolish, self-destructive choices he made associated with his addiction.

The explosion of speculation and moralizing surrounding this death brings to light how conflicted our feelings, as a society, are about this disease. And the science is clear on this point.

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Father and son on how addiction affects a family

UnknownDavid and Nic Sheff talk about addiction on US TV. ‘David Sheff, author of “Clean” and “Beautiful Boy,” and his son, Nic Sheff, who was the subject of “Beautiful Boy” and has written books as well, talked to WGN Morning News about how addiction affects a family.’

Here are two important quotes from Nic Sheff:

On addiction: “I know that growing up I was really in a lot of pain and I felt uncomfortable in my own skin. So when I first started just smoking pot… instantly I had this sense of relief, this was something I had been missing…”

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Bunny and Wolf fight overdose

Mike Scott found this great animation. Here is what the makers have to say:

Bunny and Wolf: An Animated Guide to Prevent Overdose Deaths
Opioid overdose continues to be a top killer of young people all over the world. In some countries, drug overdose deaths now outnumber those attributable to firearms, homicides or HIV/AIDS.

Few people realise that most of these deaths are easily preventable with the right information, and an inexpensive antidote, Naloxone, which can reverse overdoses.

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My Favourite Blogs: ‘Experiences of a mother of two young heroin addicts’ by Mark’

IMG_4069A very moving blog which first appeared on Wired In To Recovery (WITR) in May 2009 and on Recovery Stories in June 2013. Mark blogged regularly on WITR until the community closed.

“We found my 20 year old brother dead of an overdose. He had just kicked the habit so tolerance was low. He started a job and the first payday was his last.

Mum wrote this after I got clean. Copy and use it anywhere it can be of use.”

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Theresa’s Story: Through her Wired In To Recovery Blogs, Part 1

The Right reefTheresa started blogging about her recovery on Wired In To Recovery in May, 2010. Here are her first two blogs:

Me (6th May, 2010)
I am 17 weeks, today, into Recovery from alcohol addiction. I have found that getting into Recovery is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. It is also the thing I am most proud of because of the unbelievable physical and mental effort it has taken to get this far.

The fear of withdrawal and the absolute belief that I would be unable to cope without drink made me believe for a very long time, that a drunken haze would be my life until I became so distraught and heartbroken that I ended it (which I almost did) or my body just gave up the fight.

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‘Heroin Addiction, a Mother’s Story’ by Kim

301116_1829390393379_1798948842_1202263_68985599_n-225x300It’s time I put up another blog from Veronica Valli and the following from Kim is special… and very moving.

‘Addiction doesn’t just affect the person using drugs it affects the whole family. I know because I lived through my daughter Kayela’s addiction to heroin.

We raise our children and its hard work, changing diapers and heating formula and lining up daycare, the first day of school and homework we don’t understand.

We care for them until they are ready to go off in the world and we can only hope that we did the right thing, made all the right choices.

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‘Experiences of a mother of two young heroin addicts’ by Mark

IMG_4069A very moving blog which first appeared on Wired In To Recovery (WITR) in May 2009. Mark blogged regularly on WITR until the community closed.

“We found my 20 year old brother dead of an overdose. He had just kicked the habit so tolerance was low. He started a job and the first payday was his last.

Mum wrote this after I got clean. Copy and use it anywhere it can be of use.”

‘What is it like being the mother of an addict? (Experiences of a mother of two young heroin addicts)

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Ian and Irene’s Story, ‘Living Through Our Son’s Addiction and Death: Our Journey to Recovery’

After losing their son Robin to a heroin overdose, Ian and Irene set up a support group to help family members avoid some of the problems they experienced. (4,453 words)

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‘Detoxification: The nuts and bolts’ by Peapod

P1011113_2Why not check out the second of Peapod’s articles in his Recovery Guide, an article which focuses on detox and beyond?

‘Okay, youʼve got to the point where you are looking to detox but youʼre not sure what the nuts and bolts of it are. How do you go about it and how do you know you are ready? What can you do to boost success?

Here are my suggestions, which are based on guidance and my own experience of working with hundreds of people going through detox.’