Anatomy Of Addiction

While I am out of the woods on the pain front at the minute, the drugs I took to cope with my last episode has left me thinking about addiction. You see I am currently going through withdrawal from high doses of Codeine, which is a medical grade drug and similar to Morphine. As we all know Morphine is what the medical profession call Heroin, so this type of pain killer is highly addictive. So I hope you can imagine what fun I am having right now. If not, let me explain.

We currently live in a society where the word addiction is used a bit too freely. People claim to be hooked on shopping, sex and even chocolate. Now I don’t want to be too insulting about these claims (actually I do but I won’t) but at the most these people are addicted to the rush gained by indulging in their “habit”. It is the same as people who claim to be gambling addicts. The endorphine rush gained by risky behaviours like gambling is greater than that of shopping, but it is still only enjoying the chemical high that endorphins release. These types of addiction are really just a case of not being able to resist something that is enjoyable. Even the crushing tragedy of gambling and the damage it does to families is only fed by the need for the rush and misguided belief that “this time I’ll win”. Whatever people in the field of trouble gamblers say, it is not the same as needing a substance that alters the way your body functions physically.

Using substances such as drugs and alcohol over a long period lead to a change in the way the body works, and mean that any user reaches a point where they need that substance to function normally. While recreational drugs and alcohol are things you normally start taking for fun and then fall into addiction, pain killing drugs are something that you have to take. Annoyingly they are also very addictive. Really really annoyingly the way they manifest this addiction is to lessen your ability to cope with pain and when you want to come off them they make your brain create false pain. So I end up with bad headaches and aching wrists. Mostly. Of course many other “phantom” pains can manifest themselves. Today I have stomach cramps. But that could be part of another fun side effect of coming off Codeine, tummy upsets. Opiates bung you up big time, but as your body gets used to them your body returns to normal. When you come off them you can get all manner of stomach hassles. Sometimes they can be as violent as the poo the bed scene in the film Trainspotting. Nice.

Now every character in Trainspotting took drugs for fun, well at first. Whatever your feelings around recreational drug use, withdrawal is pretty much the same. The body needs the drugs to maintain a normal function, and so you have through the discomfort of the resetting of you body’s systems, as well as whatever your body throws at you to get you to take the drugs again. That is what addition is. I think that society needs to focus on this part of the drugs debate when discussing how to make drugs less appealing. The best argument a drugs is that everything has a balance effect. The highs that drugs bring means that the lows will be equally dramatic. When I take my pain killers I know that the effect of lowering the amount of pain, which is nice, will have an equal effect when I stop taking them, which is not nice. But you won’t get one effect without the other. It’s the same for all physically addictive substances. Luckily I have been taking various types of pain killers since I was 15, and now know what to expect and how to best fight those effects. Not saying it’s easy but knowing what is coming does make the process of withdrawal less scary.

Anyway, I have a around a month to go and should be back to being clean. Then all I have to do is hope that my next bought of pain won’t happen too quickly. Fingers crossed eh?

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