By: Admin_Mike1 Mar 2011
As the proverb says, it’s an ill wind that doesn’t blow somebody some good. The Charlie Sheen debacle has been a media bonanza of headline-grabbing among every imaginable form of video, on-line, and print sources – each trying to outdo the other in sensationalism.
Tongues are wagging about porn stars, drugs, and hardcore partying, sometimes at the expense of Sheen’s privacy.
Weeding through the Hollywood hype, at least we find that many issues about addiction and recovery are sharing the spotlight along with Sheen’s wild behavior.
For example, CNN.com reported on 3 February 2011 that addiction is a disease characterized by a strong relapse potential. That noise you hear in the background is thousands of recovering addicts screaming, “Ya THINK? Tell us something we don’t know!”
Okay, you may not know that addiction medicine experts believe it takes your body a year or more to fully recover from the effects of cocaine and alcohol dependence; this accounts for many addicts’ (famous or otherwise) multiple trips to rehab centers. You also may not know that this has nothing to do with will power or personal character, but is all about brain chemistry that’s short-circuited by these drugs. Odd, since alcohol is a depressant drug while cocaine is a stimulant. Still, they do enough damage – especially when combined – to make relapse a constant recovery challenge.
The CNN.com story cited a number of experts from the Hazelden Foundation, the Galveston branch of the University of Texas Medical Research Center, and the Crossroads Centre in Antigua founded by musical superstar Eric Clapton; all concur that although inpatient rehab programs usually last for a few months, brain imaging studies indicate that the neurons and chemistry of alcohol and cocaine addicts don’t recover for much longer. This leads to the well-known relapse potential because of depression and intense drug cravings. Both these drugs deplete the chemical neurotransmitter dopamine; this is one of the substances that regulates your mood. By abusing booze and coke, your dopamine stores drop to zero and it takes a long time to build your levels back up.
When you feel awful, you’re going to crave the substances that will (temporarily) restore your good mood. If, like Sheen and Clapton, you’ve struggled with multiple relapses, now you know why.
Addiction expert Kathryn Cunningham told CNN.com that, “It’s really difficult to be a family member or loved one and have to deal with someone that seems like they’re never going to get better. But they can, and it does.” This is the good news that you may not know! If you’ve relapsed more than once, the best answer for you lies in a longer stay in rehab that’s centered around a group therapy environment, plus a more intense aftercare program with a focus on relapse prevention.
One-on-one counseling and treatment for co-existing mental health conditions are also strongly recommended. Crossroads Centre’s Lynn McKnight says, “Research shows that ongoing recovery is most successful with long-term connections to a community, self-help groups, and appropriate medical management.”
There’s another proverb about time healing all things; this seems to be true for the brain chemistry of alcohol and cocaine addicts. Combined with patience and knowledge about what’s happening with your body, time will restore your brain functioning to the maximum degree possible if you stop using completely. It’s unfortunate that when someone relapses, it’s often mistakenly assumed that they’ve “failed” in recovery. Now you know the truth: Healing your mind, body and spirit takes time, and you never have to do it alone.