According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control, the rate of heroin-related deaths has quadrupled in the past 10 years. Of people surveyed between 2011 and 2013, nearly 663,000 said they had used heroin in the past year; 379,000 said they had between 2002 and 2004.
Scott Davis, Clinical Director at The Meadows, says that the path that leads to heroin addiction is often different than that of other drug addictions. In many cases, it begins with a prescription for an opioid painkiller, such as hydrocodone or oxycodone. (In others, it begins with prescriptions for Benzodiazepines, such as Xanax or Ativan.)
“A lot of the people who are coming to us with opiate addictions don’t necessarily fit the mold for most addiction. They don’t typically have the family history of addiction or the long-term dependence on the drug that you see with many other addicts.” “That doesn’t mean that they don’t have trauma, or that their family doesn’t have issues—in fact, they may have issues which exacerbated their dependence on the drug and made the addiction more likely—but, they might not have otherwise found themselves addicted had they not been prescribed an opiate as a pain killer.”
Once the pills become difficult to obtain, it can be easy for a person to slip into heroin abuse. Heroin’s chemical structure is very similar to that of prescription pain medications and works in the same group of receptors in the brain. It’s also cheaper.
For heroin and opiate addicts, there are typically three levels of pain that they must overcome in order to reach sobriety: the physical pain that led them to drug, the pain of detoxing from the drug, and emotional pain that led to their addiction.
For many opioid addicts, their drug problems start with chronic physical pain. That pain is real and needs to be taken into account when developing a treatment program for the patients.
At The Meadows, we have a full-time medical doctor on our staff to help patients address the pain and the medical issues that are causing it. Patients cannot thoroughly address any underlying psychological aspects of their addiction if they are suffering too much from the physical pain that lead them to abuse drugs in the first place.
Heroin disrupts the brain’s natural opiate production process, which helps reduce pain and calm the nervous system. So, when a person stops taking the drug, he or she feels pain and anxiety more intensely than before. This makes detoxing from heroin especially painful. The Meadows highly-trained medical team, which includes a 24-hour nursing staff, can help patients safely and comfortably detox from heroin and opiates onsite. They develop a detox plan for each person that helps them to stabilize more quickly, experience less pain, and avoid some of the withdrawal symptoms they would have if they went off the drug cold turkey. Easing patients through detox makes it a whole lot easier for people to stay in treatment and stay off of the drug.
In many treatment systems, patients detox in a hospital or other setting and then go to the treatment program. Because we have the ability to help patients detox in-house at The Meadows, they don’t have to wait to begin treatment. As long as the patient is feeling well enough, they can begin attending classes and therapy sessions within the first two to three days after their arrival on campus. This makes the transition into treatment easier for them and allows them to start developing coping strategies for living without the drug right away.
While the path that led to heroin use may have begun with a need to address physical pain, the user probably soon found that it also minimized their emotional and psychological pain as well. Whatever coping mechanisms the addict had used before to manage their stress and anxiety may have fallen by the wayside, as the drug was able to do the trick much more quickly and effectively.
That’s why a key component of the treatment program at The Meadows focuses on addressing trauma, family issues, and emotion regulation. Our staff works with patients to help them identify and address any buried psychological pain and repressed feelings that may have played a role in triggering their addiction.
Many people who become addicted to heroin found their way to the drug unintentionally. Many of them may also be the only people in their families with an addiction problem, which can contribute to feelings of isolation and shame. Scott Davis says that one thing that makes The Meadows program especially well-suited for them is that there is no shame attached.
“We’re not going to tell them that they are bad people. We’re not going to tell them that it’s all their fault and that they should have known better. Because drug addiction is a disease. We’re going to look at the chemical addiction, and we’re also going to deal with the underlying issues that make this drug particularly potent for them in a non-judgmental way.”
If you think you or someone you love may have a problem with heroin or prescription medications, The Meadows can help. Give us a call at 800-244-4949 today or contact us online here.
By Dr. Shelley Uram
What is it? Where does it come from? Why don’t most of us know about it?
Most of us are well acquainted with aspects of our personality, like being a nice person, an addict, a good employee, the therapist, the hero, the traumatized person, etc. The Authentic Self, however, transcends our personality, thoughts, and emotions.
Polonius says to his son, Laertes, who is about to embark on a long journey: ”This above all: To thine own self be true. And it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”
I just love this quote! Shakespeare so wisely understood the importance of tuning in to, and following one’s own inner voice, or Authentic Self. Polonius instructed his son to prioritize this “above all” else.
I wholeheartedly agree!
Did Shakespeare mean we should be selfish? No; I think he meant we should be Selfish. What’s the difference? The meaning I am giving to the word, with a capital “S”, signifies the Self that is the Authentic Self, or the Essence, or Soul, Spirit, etc. It is the underlying core of each of us. It is to this unseen essence, or Self to which we should be “true.”
The Authentic Self, or Self for short, has the qualities of infinite wisdom, kindness, love, oneness, timelessness, “is-ness”, and acceptance. It is the UNSEEN Self we are born with and will ultimately die with; unchanged through our life’s journey.
Our ability to be attuned and aligned with our Self is of paramount importance! In my opinion, this is probably the most important task of our lives. It is the Self that can lead us to the best paths and choices we can make during our lifetime. When our personality is aligned with the wisdom and knowingness of the Self, it becomes a most valuable compass.
Unfortunately, we humans have brains that have many “survival” remnants left over from millions of years. These remnants “grab” our attention far more loudly and with much greater intensity than the ever soft, gentle whisper of Self. The manifestation of our Self typically becomes forgotten and turned away from at a very young age.
Those of you who have been active in 12-Steps may already be familiar with how dedicated we must be before our connection with Higher Power can be dusted off and revitalized. The “Self” in “To Thine Own Self Be True” is the same; the Self is the portal for Higher Power connection.
It is our Authentic Self that should be the compass from which our lives are guided; not just in the big picture, but also in the moment to moment experiences and choices that ultimately become the big picture.
What happened with these Authentic Self qualities that we were born with? I know few adults who consistently manifest these qualities. Yet, we all did as babies and young children! We couldn’t help but BE those qualities; that was who and what we were!
Here’s what happened…
When each of us was born, some parts of our brain began developing and maturing right away, while other parts came “online” more slowly.
One of those brain areas that began growing early is the part that enables us to have a sense of ourselves. At about 3 months of age, most humans experience their fi rst dawning awareness that there is a “me”. Before that, we were very well aware of others, aware of interacting with them, etc., but had no real knowing that a “me” existed.
Even though this ”me sense” is still quite rudimentary at the tender age of three months, it is nonetheless a huge alarm clock for the ancient survival brain areas. Now that our survival brain recognizes that there is a “me” who is wholly independent of anyone else, this part of our brain has a heyday as it recognizes that it must protect this newly identified person from any harm.
These survival brain areas become much more active; now that there is a “me” to protect. These brain areas interpret many more experiences as potentially dangerous. An analogy would be a dog whose family is away, versus that same dog whose family is present. The dog will be far more protective when the family members are present.
Our thinking brain continues to grow and mature throughout our early childhood years, leaving us with a more and more complex and sophisticated sense of “me”. Therefore, the survival response becomes intertwined and more often triggered as the defi nition of “me” grows in complexity and sophistication; there is more of a “me” to protect.
What does this “Survival Response” look like? It is usually packaged as a Fight, Flight, or Freeze response. Simply put, some areas of our very ancient brain signal other brain areas to release adrenaline and other chemicals to mobilize our body into quick and intense behaviors, like fleeing, fighting, etc. At the same time, there are electrical signals supporting these fight, flight and freeze responses, as well as hormonal responses that try to sustain the these survival responses, like cortisol.
All said, with the electrical, neuro-chemical, and hormonal activity, a person quickly becomes overrun with the physical and emotional responses to the Fight, Flight, Freeze activity. This activity feels quite uncomfortable to us. Just think of the last time you had a “close call” with something, like a near-miss car accident, and your heart was racing, and you had rapid breathing, shaking, emotionally feeling fear, etc. If these kinds of physiologic responses occur often, they can be very uncomfortable for us. When we are very young, our minds try their best to decrease these Fight, Flight, Freeze responses.
When we are little children, our thinking brain is one of those brain areas that take much longer to develop when compared to the survival brain areas. Therefore, we simply don’t understand much of what is going on around us, or why our caregivers are responding to us the way they do. This “not knowing” is a perfect setup for us to misinterpret the meaning of their behaviors and interactions with us. Our little imaginations can run wild and come to very erroneous conclusions. Many, therefore, of our misunderstandings of our caregivers actions can lead to these Fight, Flight, Freeze responses.
Aristotle and Sigmund Freud had described the pain-pleasure principle. Basically, this explains that human beings are “wired” to both move away from pain, and go towards pleasure.
When we were young children and our survival brains were triggering the Fight, Flight, Freeze responses, we would be left feeling quite uncomfortable. The Fight, Flight, Freeze responses are VERY stressful on the body and our emotional state.
We start making up “rules of life” of how to keep our parents and other important people happy with us. There are potentially thousands of these “rules”. The purpose of them is to navigate our lives more successfully with our caregivers, and to decrease the frequency of FFF response.
A few examples of these “rules”, or “Deep False Beliefs” are:
“Whatever I do, I better do well!”
“I shouldn’t get angry”
“I should be nice to other people.”
Now, these aren’t rules like we create when we are older and think and analyze things in our thinking brain; rather, these are safety strategies that our survival brain creates. These rules are the ones that are tightly bound with Fight, Flight , Freeze responses.
For example, the deep false belief “I shouldn’t get angry” often develops when a child is young and becomes very angry or rageful about someone or something. This is a totally normal reaction. When the child, however, sees the negative facial expression or reaction of their psychologically extremely important parents, the child may instantly go into a FFF reaction. After a few to several experiences like this, in order to avoid the powerful FFF bodily and emotional experience, the child’s relatively undeveloped thinking brain will fi gure out something like “Uh-oh, Mom looks like she doesn’t love me when I’m angry. I better stop it or I might lose her love.” Eventually, this belief may become something like: “I’m bad when I’m angry”.
Parallel to this ongoing process of our young brains making up these deep false beliefs, our personality is evolving and developing. Since survival responses “trump” all other brain wiring, including personality development, our personalities have to grow through and around these many deep false beliefs. Therefore, our personalities that we hold near and dear to us are actually products from having been heavily influenced by all of these “rules”. For example, our personality may be very “nice”. It’s important to ultimately understand what aspects of ourselves are authentic and genuine, versus a response to deep false beliefs.
By the time we are beginning school, most of us have layers of deep false beliefs that are meshed together with our personalities. We have lost touch with much of our Authentic Self. Is our Authentic Self gone or contaminated or pared down? No! It remains quietly present, usually without your awareness of it. In general, the “voice” of our conscious thinking brain and deep false beliefs are far louder than the “voice” (whisper) of the Authentic Self.
Now let’s move on to the next step of the flow chart in Figure 1:
What happens when a child has a deeply embedded deep false belief, like “Whatever I do, I better do well!”?
We form many, many expectations of others and ourselves from this one deep false belief. For example, the expectation of great school performance, or sports performance, etc., may become offshoots of the deep false belief of “Whatever I do, I better do well”. These expectations may become offshoots of the Deep False Belief “whatever I do, I better do well.” And remember that the Deep False Beliefs and expectations are bound together with the FFF responses. So that when we don’t perform well at school, that deep survival brain response will become triggered. Notice that this in different than our usual desire to do well at school; this FEELS within our body and emotion that we MUST perform well at school.
A personal example of this recently happened to me. I had been raised by parents who deeply valued academic performance. I would shudder when looking in their faces when I would bring home a “not so great” report card. At a young age, my brain created the Deep False Belief that went something like: “I better do well at school or Mom and Dad will be very unhappy with me.” My survival brain was clearly tied to this, as my body would go into terror (Flight mode), whenever I would bring home a poor report card. That was many years ago.
Cut ahead to several weeks ago: I took a quiz in Oprah Magazine that tested the reader’s clothing IQ. Even though I have little to no interest in this area, I found my heart racing, respirations increasing, and my hands trembling a bit when I tallied up my score and found I had badly failed the quiz!
This demonstrated that our Deep False Beliefs become deeply embedded in our psyche, and are tightly bound to our survival brain’s FFF response.
Other examples could be our performance in sports, a musical instrument, “looking right”, driving the right car, and so forth.
How many expectations could be spin offs of the one “Whatever I do, I better do well”? I would guesstimate thousands. I once tracked my thoughts for a whole day. Aside from being incredibly boring, I was amazed to find that I had expectations to do well with many, many things! For example how well I brushed my teeth, if I ate right for breakfast, if I drove too fast or slow.
We each have many thousands of these deep false beliefs… so how many expectations are most of us walking around with? Well, let’s do the math…
Most of us have thousands of deep false beliefs, and many of those have thousands of expectations that offshoot from the belief. I think we’re looking at a vast amount of expectations that are stored within each of us!
Again, what is happening with our Authentic Self as our mind/brain are inundated with expectations? We move farther and farther away.
By the time we reach the mid-adulthood years, many of us find we are not reaching an increasing number of our expectations that were put into place many years before. For example, we find that we simply cannot do many things well. Or we may find that we cannot perform so well in sports any more. Or that our marriages just didn’t work out as we had expected, etc. If we look at the flow chart in Figure 1, we see that negative feelings may follow when our expectations are not met.
Research has clearly shown that when a person harbors negative feelings for longer than a short period of time, i.e., anger, sadness, fear, our bodies “take a hit”; our immune function, heart function, resistance to cancer, heart disease, etc may become compromised.
Finally, we then fall to the very bottom of the flow chart, which is when we develop symptoms. This could be depression, anxiety, certain medical problems, etc. By the time we are adults, most of us have brains and nervous systems that are inundated with deep false beliefs, expectations, and Fight, Flight, Freeze responses. Our true Self is typically long forgotten about. It would be challenging to follow “To Thine Own Self Be True” simply because most of us are unaware of who the Self is.
If you want to increase the presence of your Authentic Self in your daily life, the two main strategies would be to:
1. decrease the frequency and length of time you fall down the “slippery slope” of the flow chart and you stay down there, and
2. work on the highest levels as possible on the flow chart.
If you’re stuck down in “symptoms” level of the flow chart, e.g., chronic depression, anxiety, etc., and your current sole strategy is to take your prescribed medication (which only addresses the bottom level of the Flow Chart), you may feel better for awhile, but you still have the same batch of Deep False Beliefs and expectations lodged in your psyche. It may just be a matter of time before more of our expectations from Deep False Beliefs are not met, and fall down the fl ow chart into having symptoms again.
In addition to taking your medication, you might also consider spiritual practice, like a 12-Step program, and/ or meditation or other mindfulness practice, and/or connecting with nature, or whatever brings you closer to your Authentic Self. These interventions would be working at the top level of the flow chart.
Additionally, anything that stabilizes the brainstem and limbic areas of our brain will generally lead to greater calm and relaxation. This will automatically make us more available to connection with our Authentic Self. Some examples: Mindfulness practices, slow paced yoga, Emotional Freedom Technique, acupuncture, neurofeedback, Heart Rate Variability training, Somatic Experiencing, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, and many more.
The next very potent level of intervening in order to re-acquaint you with your Authentic Self could be identifying and correcting Deep False Beliefs. There are many ways to do this. Having a therapist initially could really speed up the process until you can do it more on your own. Therapists or books with cognitive approaches can assist you identify your Deep False Beliefs, and techniques like EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization an Reprocessing), IFS (Internal Family systems (Richard Schwartz, founder), can help you clear them out.
Now, why do you think we would get a “bigger bang for the buck” with clearing deep false beliefs, over expectations?
Both approaches are actually fine, however, when you identify and pull up by the roots even one large Deep False Belief, many, many expectations are simultaneously uprooted. So one Deep False Belief, like “Whatever I do, I better do well!”, can have thousands of expectations that are offshoots. Many of them will disappear when the underlying belief is corrected. If you had approached the process by mainly identifying and clearing out your expectations, although this is very good, it is much more tedious work, and may not clear out the underlying Deep False Belief, that may continue to generate additional Expectations.
Some interventions work at all levels of the flow chart.
For example, the 5-day Survivors workshop at The Meadows addresses all levels of the flow chart.
Whatever approaches you choose to take in reclaiming your Authentic Self, just keep in mind WHERE on the chart you are working. This will help you over the long run to maximize your connection with Authentic Self.
Dr. Shelley Uram is a Harvard trained, triple board-certified psychiatrist and a Distinguished Fellow of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. She speaks around the world about psychological trauma, and how it often interferes with our ability to thrive in life. She is best known for communicating very complex information in an interesting and easy to understand manner.
Dr. Uram is a Senior Fellow at The Meadows, where she teaches patients and staff, and assists with program development. She is also a Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at The University of Arizona College of Medicine.
Wrirtten by: Andrea Fry
The Meadows, Primary Therapist
Valentine’s Day is a perfect opportunity for people with a tendency to define their self-worth through relationships to confront and to lean into their fears by practicing good self-care. Recognize: “Hey, I’m freaking out and this tells me I still have work to do around relationships.” Realize you might be placing too much value on finding happiness outside yourself.
If we need someone else to give our lives meaning, we run the risk of accepting some pretty bad behavior from others. We’re going to convince ourselves that being in a relationship is more important than having a healthy relationship with ourselves. As a result, our ability to set limits on unacceptable behavior may be compromised.
It’s important to recognize that fantasy is intentionally employed by retailers to market and promote Valentine’s Day. Advertisements and store windows are intended to fuel the fantasy frenzy. Even if we do have a loving partner, we may have unrealistic expectations. That’s why it’s so important to toss out the fantasy piece.
Are you expecting a diamond ring like the one in the Tiffany ad? Do you expect a major shift in your relationship because it’s February 14th? Are you set on your partner making reservations at the most expensive restaurant in town? Setting yourself up for disappointment can spoil an otherwise lovely evening whether or not you’re with a partner. Putting too much pressure on yourself and your partner can tarnish special moments any time of year.
If being without a partner this Valentine’s Day is getting you down, ask yourself what next steps you can take in the way of self-care. What does that wounded and abandoned part of you need to feel whole? What do you need from someone else? Consider filling that void yourself. Do you want to be nurtured? Treat yourself to a massage or buy yourself some pretty flowers. Are you craving attention? Become aware of your thoughts and pull out your affirmations. Say them aloud. Keep a journal or go to a sacred place to meditate. Connect with any aspect of Valentine’s Day that can help you move forward with your self-care. Think about the kind of relationship you want – and deserve!
We tend to attract people at similar levels to where we are at any given stage in our lives. If you’re in high-intensity, drama mode, you’re likely to attract the same. If you’re constantly jealous because your partner doesn’t give you round-the-clock attention, you’re probably going to be in fight mode more often than not. Partners who stay in volatile relationships obviously have their own issues because healthy people don’t tolerate constant bickering. When you’re healthy, you’re likely to attract the same.
Valentine’s Day can be about spending time with friends; engaging in creative endeavors; or it can be a time of introspection to figure out the kind of person you want as a partner. It can also be about paying tribute to the most important relationship you’ll ever have – the relationship with yourself!
The Meadows is an industry leader and the most trusted name in treating trauma and addiction through its inpatient and workshop programs. The Meadows helps change lives through the Meadows Model, 12-step practices, and the holistic healing of mind, body, and spirit.
To learn more about The Meadows, visit us here or call (800) 244-4949.
New Bill Aims to Secure Addiction Treatment and Recovery
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdoses now surpass automobile accidents as the leading cause of injury-related deaths for Americans between ages 25 and 64. Approximately 100 Americans die each day from opioid overdoses, and about 75 percent of opioid addiction disease patients switch to heroin as a cheaper opioid source, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s 2014 Facts and Figures.
Opioids and heroin use are fueling the addiction landscape, and the problem is accelerating at lightning speed. Although heroin users were once associated with young men from low-income neighborhoods, this is no longer the case. Such users now come in all shapes and sizes with far-reaching demographics.
The problem has reached such epidemic proportions that senators are introducing legislation to combat the problem. The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2014 is aimed to address this epidemic by helping to secure treatment for individuals – especially young adults – in the throes of addiction.
It has become clear that ignoring the problem or wishing it away isn’t the answer. Educating the medical community is another part of the solution. Many doctors just don’t have the necessary education when it comes to opioid addiction – or even addiction in general. The majority of doctors intend to be of service to their patients, but many of them don’t have sufficient knowledge about opioid addiction. Opioids should not be the first resort in dealing with pain management. This is especially important because people who become dependent on opioids often turn to heroin as a cheaper alternative.
Here at The Meadows we have physicians sit in on our lectures all the time and when we speak about opioid addiction, we’ll hear some of them say, “I do that all the time. I’ve been handing out prescriptions much too readily.”
Fortunately, addiction is a treatable disease, but studies reveal that only a small fraction of those who need treatment receive it. The most successful outcomes are realized through in-patient residential programs such as The Meadows who also offer patients solid after-care strategies.
The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2014 – introduced by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) and Senator Rob Portman (D-Ohio) – would make up to $80 million available to states and local governments to expand drug treatment, prevention, and recovery. More specifically, the Act would:
According to Patrick Kennedy, a former congressman from Rhode Island who himself suffered from drug and alcohol addiction. “The bill represents a significant step forward in how we understand and address addiction. The bottom line is that addiction and other mental illnesses are treatable, and recovery is real.”
If you or a loved one is addicted to opioids or heroin – or anything else – The Meadows is here to help. We’re the most trusted name in addiction and trauma treatment, so feel free to call The Meadows Intake Team at 800.244.4949 or visit us here.
By Amy Sohler, MPA, MA, LMHC, CDP, MHP
Current research in the field of sex addiction is revealing with utmost certainty that sexual addiction is just like any other addiction. It involves the dopamine response just like alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling, shopping addiction, and any other process addiction. Such addictions all reside in the same part of the brain, so should be treated as such. What’s difficult and most challenging about sex addiction is that many people don’t see it as a “legitimate” addiction. Therefore, it has a stigma attached to it when in reality it’s no different than more “publicized” addictions.