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Addiction recovery articles: What is the solution?

by Ned Wicker

Any problem has a solution. By
solution I mean a way to make the situation better, not necessarily
make it go away. Drug addiction is one of those problems. We can
make it better, but we can’t make it disappear. Why can’t we make
it disappear, because drug addiction is a chronic disease,
and as with all chronic diseases we can treat it but not cure it.
Interestingly, the solution may or may not be what somebody wants to
hear. If you are looking for another way of solving your problem,
this column might be helpful.

Here’s an important
premise—people are made up of body, mind, spirit. These are three
distinctly different elements of the human condition and set us apart
from any other living creatures. Because there are three areas of
our existence, it stands to reason that all three come into play when
approaching the problem of drug addiction. This web site covers a
lot of ground, as do many others, but I have to admit to you that it
isn’t enough to identify the medical issues concerning drug usage,
or talk about the mess it creates in our criminal justice system, or
even how addiction rips families apart.

Most every story or posting on the site
centers around information about a drug, or how a drug as destroyed
the health and happiness of the addict. I’d like to focus on the
impact of addiction on the spiritual well-being of our communities,
our country, our families and ourselves.

We will try to help you
understand what is going on around the country, and in doing so, give
you another viewpoint on the drug addiction epidemic. Information,
in and of itself, is neutral, and so you are free to accept or reject
any opinion that is expressed here. What meaning you get from the
words here is worthy of exploration. How do we formulate opinions,
and what emotions are attached to them? You see, the study of
addiction is also a study of human nature. And so it begins.

Addiction recovery articles: Minority Opinion

By Ned Wicker

People have
always looked for answers.  When there is a crisis, they look
for meaning.  When there is a disaster, they look for
solutions.  When the unthinkable happens, they want to know
why.  Humans are infinitely curious, always looking out there
somewhere for an explanation, but not necessarily the truth.  If
there is a disaster, somebody has to be blamed.  If the problems
of life are self-inflicted, there has to be a way to avoid
responsibility.  We want answers to our questions, as long as
they fit our own criteria.

Drug addiction
is a dreadful public health concern.  The rise in heroin
addiction and overdoses are staggering, but no amount of public
information, no educational program, and no system of advance warning
is going to change that.  People are going to do drugs no matter
who tells them otherwise, no matter how obvious the deadly
ramifications.  We live in our own world and we play by our own

We are autonomous, self-reliant and exceedingly arrogant. 
Where I differ from the vast majority of people is in the origin of
drug addiction.  Yes it is a disease.  Yes, it is a medical
issue.  But the root cause of drug addiction is not so much
medical in nature, or psychological.  It is spiritual.  The
idea of a spiritual problem is not widely accepted, because in the
scientific world, there has to be an answer for everything, and
everything that is must be observable.  We have to be able to
create and re-create situations in a lab in order to verify evidence.

I look at the
rise in addiction as a parallel to the rise in secularism. 
Throughout human history, as peoples separate themselves from God,
calamity is sure to happen.  I am not suggesting an apocalyptic
doom and gloom scenario, in which an angry god is hovering over
creation waiting to strike it down. Rather, I see a situation in
which people consistently refuse to act in their own best interest. 
It’s a human tragedy.  I believe the answer is God, our
creator, sustainer and redeemer.

Think of all the anti-drug addiction programs over the years. 
“Just Say No” or “D.A.R.E.” or any of the others.  Do
they work?  Have those programs halted the addiction crisis? 
No. But people scream bloody murder when a spiritual solution is
offered, mainly because of their misguided belief that any spiritual
intervention violates “separation of church and state.” 
With all due respect for Thomas Jefferson,  he did not intend
for God to be shut out of public opinion.  He also did not want
people to hide behind their own misunderstanding in order to blame
someone else.

Personal responsibility is the key element in fighting drug
addiction.  The most important step a person can take in getting
back on the pathway of sobriety is to come to grips with the fact
that he/she has a problem.   Alcoholics Anonymous had it
right in its very first step, which is an admission of  a
problem.  “We were powerless over _____, that our lives had
become unmanageable.”  

More often than not, people stumble, because they sincerely
believe they can manage their problem, without help or outside
interference.   They hear or read information about drug
addiction and recovery, they nod their heads in agreement, and then
forget that they have to take the next step.  The talented jazz
singer Amy Winehouse said “No, no, no” to rehab and paid a dear
price for her refusal to get help.   She had her own
answers.  But the wisdom of AA is that we don’t have all the
answers, that we do need other people in our lives to help us and
hold us up when the going gets tough. 

The operative question is “What hurts?”  Aside from
recreation, why do people immerse themselves in a lifestyle that can
only lead, left unchecked, to their death?  Why do they fight
against treatment with all of their strength and resolve?  Even
after detoxification and periods of sobriety, they still go back. 
I submit that a spiritual issue is driving that action.  It goes
beyond medical and psychological.  It is the complexity of the
human existence that makes drug addiction such a difficult enemy to

As we look at
the ever-growing problem of addiction in our country, if we look at
the spiritual component, we will get a much clearer picture of what
is happening to our families, our communities and our society. 
Medical interventions, law enforcement and the like will continue to
play a role in this fight, and are not to be discounted, but the
spiritual element must be included in order to make sense of the
entire situation.   That is the underlying focal point of
this unfolding story.

Addiction recovery articles: Not Just Heroin

By Ned Wicker

Back in the mid-1800’s German
scientists came up with a great treatment for pain relief and they
were absolutely convinced that it would not be addictive. It was
heralded as a miracle drug and was widely used during our Civil War,
as battleground surgeons treated devastating injuries and marveled at
its effectiveness. The trouble was many soldiers, both North and
South, left the horrors of war and came face-to-face with the horrors
of addiction. It seems that miracle drug, morphine, was not the

A few years later they came back with
an improved drug, one that would do the same job, but was certainly
be safe to use and avoid the calamity of addiction. The world was
introduced to heroin. Fast forward to the 21st Century
and we are still dealing with the destructive side of heroin and it’s
predecessor morphine.

During a routine web surf for news, I
read an article by Ariel Zilber of and the Associated
Press and was saddened to learn that even heroin isn’t enough for
some people. Back in late August she wrote that there had been an
estimate 80 heroin overdoses—three fatal—over a two-day period
and that another 174 overdoses were suspected. While heroin
overdoses are not uncommon, why the spike? Zilber reported that they
were mixing the heroin with a “powerful sedative used on elephants,
which is 100,000 times more potent than morphine.” The sedative
is called carfentanil.

As a member of a healthcare team,
working in a hospital unit, I often talk to people about pain
management. I am not a doctor or a medical person of any kind, but I
try to ease their minds about the pain they are experiencing
following a surgical procedure. The pain should go away and the
patient should feel much better soon. I sometimes joke with them
about our ability to sedate an elephant, but that we want them to
experience some pain so we can track whether or not things are
progressing as they should. It would be easy just to medicate a
person after surgery and then bring them out in time to go home.
That, however, would be counter-productive and not good medical
practice. But then I read about carfentinil and quickly decided my
example was not funny.

The heroin problem is all over, not
just in Cincinnati, where the article originated. The article talked
of 26 overdoses in West Virginia. I live west of Milwaukee, WI, in
Waukesha County, where heroin overdoses are also rising in alarming
numbers. Reports coming out of Indianapolis talk of a heroin
mixture using fentanyl, which is a commonly used pain management tool
for post-surgical patients. Mixed with heroin, this makes for a
deadly cocktail. Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin,
according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. The street
fentanyl, however, is not the same as the fentanyl used in hospitals,
as it is a synthetic version, manufactured in China, then shipped to
Mexico for distribution in the U.S.

The fact of the dangers of this
substance are obvious, but do little in preventing people from giving
it a try. Those who do not overdose are likely to be “satisfied”
customers who will keep coming back for more of the intense high they
may achieve, or are trying to achieve. And, there is ample market
in this country for all the spiked heroin they can get, so the
motivation for not manufacturing and smuggling the drug into the
country is weak, if not at all. The risk is high, but the profits
are enormous.

Once hooked, customers demand more and
more drug. The irony is that the wonderful high they experienced at
the beginning has turned into an unyielding master, demanding to be
served. In chasing the high, people lose themselves, their hopes and
dreams, and are left with nothing but shallow, meaningless days,
living from fix-to-fix. The addiction may have begun with a
recreational use of the drug, like a trip to the medicine cabinet to
see if OxyContin was as good as people said it was. Perhaps it began
with a failed pain management intervention. The cycle begins in so
many ways.

The idea of an elephant sedation drug
should be scary enough, but for the addict, nothing is enough.
Emergency Departments across the country are dealing with the
epidemic. Heroin addiction has one end—death, unless treated.
Trying to achieve that ultimate high, or in some way make the “pain”
go away is a powerful force and people will not go quietly into
treatment, especially if the addiction is in complete control of
their lives. Perhaps this is a chicken and egg issue. If there were
no market for drugs, the cartels would go away and the Chinese
manufacturing of synthetic opioids for American addicts would cease.
Heroin manufacturing in Mexico and its neighbors in Central and South
America would also come to a halt.

Carfentinil winding up in street heroin
is just an example of market demand. If you pick up a snake by its
tail, it will coil back and bite you. If you get it by the head, you
can kill it, or render it helpless. Treatment for addicts should not
be approached lightly. The addict’s will is weak, their behavior
will demonstrate that over and over. I have always believed that an
“all hands on deck” approach to treatment is necessary.

It is not a surprise that those who
traffic heroin would look for ways to make the product more potent,
but at the same time keep the price down so profits can soar.
Carfentinil is convenient, especially if you can manufacture it at
low cost. The cost in lives is staggering. But for the addict, it’s
never enough.

and Finally Remember:

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”
– Matthew 7:7-8

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