Beating heroin, crack cocaine and other addictions
by Tony Isaacs
Recently, I fielded two questions from members of my Yahoo group about helping with drug addiction. The first was about heroin addicition and the second was about crack cocaine addiction, both of which are two of the more difficult addictions to overcome, though I know from my two years as a volunteer at a drug and alcohol recovery program for young men and my own research that both can definitely be overcome.
Based on what I have learned and experienced, I gave the following two answers, and I am sharing them here in the hopes that they may prove to be of value to others who are struggling with those or similar addictions.
First of all, I agree wholeheartedly with the young man's plan to avoid the standard drugs used for addiction. It is my belief and experience that often you are merely trading your drug dealer from a street vendor to mainstream pharmaceuticals - and ultimately those pharmceuticals will not provide what you need to help your mind and body recover properly.
It may be that some kind of prescription drugs are needed for a very short term to prevent what is often an agonizing and sometimes precarious withdrawal process when one attempts to go "cold turkey", but the emphasis here should be on "short term" instead of prolonged prescription drug use. Even then, withdrawal will not be pleasant but it IS absolutely achieveable and the rewards of having one's life, family and cash back in order are beyond measure.
Besides a good support group, desire, and the tried and tested axiom of avoiding old friends, places and things that are, or were, connected to drugs, and learning how to enjoy life without drugs, a proper detox, diet and supplementation program is essential I believe.
Cleanses and detoxes on a regular basis, as well as periodic fasting, are important to get not only the heroin, but ultimately the prescription drugs too, out of the system. Otherwise, minute amounts may remain and trigger continued cravings for quite some time. A weekly fasting day where nothing but one of the following items is consumed (as much as you want, but nothing else) will help: watermelon, dark grapes (seeds and all), juiced vegetables, water. That is also a good idea for people looking to reach and maintain their optimum weight.
Frequent baths will help wash off the night sweats one may experience and give a better sense of cleanliness and well being.
Sugar must absolutely be avoided to the greatest degree possible, as should bleached white flour, processed foods and junk foods - all of which feed addiction and retard recovery.
A high protein, nutrient rich diet that emphasizes raw foods is best. Make sure there are plenty of omega 3's and essential fatty acids. Dark green leafy vegetables, such as baby spinach, are great. I would also add some good supergreen food protein drinks containing such items as spirulina, chlorella, wheatgrass, barley grass and more.
Most people are aware that drug overdoses can kill you, but many are not aware of the other ways those poisons can kill or damage your body. All drugs weaken the immune system. Heroin, like cocaine, can also cause life threatening damage to the heart muscle. For that reason, CoQ10 and Magnesium are both good supplements and I would say some Dr, Christopher's Hawthorne Berry Syrup would be a good idea too.
Some other essential nutrients to consider are:
Vitamin B complex (100 mg of each major B vitamin) plus extra pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5 500 mg three times daily) and Vitamin B3 in the form of Niacinamide (500 mg 3 times daily and do not subsitute niacin for the niacinamide). Those will help reduce stress and help with proper brain function (and the way drugs work is primarily through tricking the brain and neurotransmitter interference).
Essential fatty acids, as directed on the label, are good for reversing the effects of malnourishment, which is common in heroin addiction as well as other substance abuse victims.
Calcium and magnsesium (use 15oo mg along with 1000 mg of magnesium at bedtime). Thes two essentials nourish the central nervous system and help calm the body to control tremors that often accompany heroin addiction.
L-glutamine (500 mg 3 times daily) passes the blood-brain barrier to promote healthy mental function and increases the level of gamma-aminobutryic acid (GABA), which has a calming effect.
GABA, as directed on label.
Glutathione, as directed on label. Aids in detoxing and reduces cravings for drugs and alcohol.
L-phenylalanine (1500 mg daily upon awakening). Necessary as a brain food and helps with withdrawal symptoms. Caution: Not to be taken when someone is pregnant (unlikely in his case - lol), nursing (ditto), or suffer from panic attack, diabetes or high blood pressure.
S-Adenosylmethionine (SAMe), as directed on label. Aids in stress relief and depression, eases pain, and has an antioxidant effect that can improve liver health. Caution: Do not use if there is a mani-depressive disorder OR if taking prescription antidepressants.
Vitamin C with bioflavanoids (up to 2000 mg every 3 hours). Detoxes the system and lesses drug cravings. Use a buffered form such as sodium ascorbate and cut back on the dosage if diarrhea occurs.
Zinc, as directed on label but not to exceed 100 mg daily from all supplement sources. Promotes a healthy immune system and protects the liver.
Iodine (up to 100 mg daily). Helps restore thyroid function, which is often affected by heroin users. Take with selenium (as directed on label) for maximum effectiveness.
I would also personally recommend an all around natural food derived nutritional supplement such as the outstanding IntraMAX product, which contains 415 essential nutrients (and adjust the other supplements accordingly). This will insure that no vital vitamin, mineral, trace mineral of other nutrient is missing and help speed recovery.
I hope this information proves helpful to your family member and he has my heartfelt best wishes and sympathy. Believe me, I KNOW how painful drug addiction can be for young men and their families.
Most of the above information about heroin addiction is applicable to cocaine as well. One of the things cocaine does is fry the body's dopamine receptors, which are the "feel good" receptors that utilize natural dopamine. As time goes by, it takes more and more cocaine to just get back close to a normal level of feeling good, and crack cocaine is even faster active and much more addictive than regular cocaine.
A good diet and lifestyle that gets rid of junk food, processed food, sugar and caffeine to the greatest extent possible will help the body heal faster and help reduce cravings, as will the other suggestions in my post to the group. In particular, exercise can be extremely helpful. Exercise not only helps eliminate drugs from your system and increases your energy and overall health, it also releases endorphins - which are feel good chemicals that will decrease stress and give one a higher sense of being happy and satisfied.
Now, here is an absolute must: he must take every step he can to avoid all of the people, places and things that have been associated with his past crack cocaine use, because any one of them can and will trigger cravings that often lead to relapses. If you go around people who use, you will end up using. If you go to places where people use, or where you used to go when you used, you will end up using again. If you listen to the same kind of music you listened to when you used (more often than not, that kind of music is Rap and/or Hip Hop for crack cocaine users), you will use again. The old saying is oh so true: If a person hangs around a barber shop long enough, one of these days they are going to get another hair cut.
Here is another absolute must: Your son must avoid all alcohol, marijuana or any other substance that gets you high and/or alters your mood. Most addicts make the mistake of thinking that they can have just one or two drinks, or perhaps smoke a little pot, without going back to their drug of choice. It doesn't work that way. Not ever. All it does is lower inhibitions and lead ultimately back to the drug of choice again and again and again. The user always thinks that they are the exception, but they are always wrong. There is no exception! You have a drink or two or smoke a little pot, pop a Xanax, or whatever and you think "Hey, that feels pretty good . . . but I know what REALLY makes me feel good" and back they run to the drug of choice. Now, maybe after a full year or more of sobriety and recovered health, perhaps a person can once again enjoy a drink or two without it leading to a drink or ten and a relapse back to the drug of choice. Until then, don't even think about it.
He and his family are going to have to realize a few important things about crack cocaine addiction: there is no magic supplement or formula that will take it away and restore normal health and sanity overnight. It can be done, but it will take time as it will also take patience, support and understanding on the part of his family and loved ones. As Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson of years-ago Dallas Cowboy fame said, "The first time a person uses, shame on them - but from then on, pity on them" because of the way that drugs can take over your willpower and self control.
Most medications and the more potent herbs I know about often lead to either dependence on those substances or else to impaired congnitive thinking and physical well being. I am of the very strong opinion that mainstream medicine usually just trades a dependency on the illegal drug for a dependency on prescribed drugs, replacing the street vendor with the pharmaceutical companies - and I think that in great part that is by design. My advice is to stay away from mainstream drugs and also avoid the more powerful herbs. One example is the herb Kratom. It has been used by many to overcome addiction to some drugs, but it also often becomes addictive itself.
To give you an idea of what lies ahead: it takes a complete year for dopamine receptors which have been damaged by prolonged cocaine abuse to fully recover. Now, as daunting as that may sound, also realize that the receptors can recover significantly in as little as two months and they continue to recover, and the road becomes easier, with each added month. Take it one day at a time and realize that the road may be rocky at times, with some pitfalls along the way.
Never excuse a slip, but also do not condemn it because they are the rule and not the exception - which is not in any way giving an excuse to your son to have a slip. And believe me, addicts are looking for excuses to use again. In most instances, they have even mentally planned out and justified what is going to cause a relapse in advance. That thinking must be eliminated and he must be determined not to use again, period! BUT, if he does slip after weeks or more of avoiding crack cocaine, that does not mean that all of his hard work and recovery time has gone down the tubes IF he immediately realizes his error and gets back on track. It's kind of like riding a bicycle - if you ride for miles and take a spill, it does not take away the miles you have traveled if you get back on that bike and keep riding.
Another thing a drug addict must do is learn how to have fun and enjoy life without using drugs. To do this, one must remember the things they enjoyed before they began using. Maybe it was fishing, hiking or camping. Maybe biking, working out, practicing martial arts. Or perhaps reading, writing, coin or stamp collecting or some other hobby. Or playing with your dog. And then there is a whole world of new things to try that might be enjoyable besides the things that were once enjoyable. I dare say that every addict out there once had things they enjoyed doing before they began using, and no telling how many things they never tried that they might have enjoyed. The more you use, the more the things you used to do are discarded and the more things you do that are associated with drug use - just like the more you use, the more you discard the people who once were close to you who do not use - or else get discarded by them due to your drug use.
Now, this may come as a surprise to many people: but I am not very favorable towards recovery groups, rehab centers or halfway houses. As someone who has worked as a volunteer in an alcohol and drug rehab program for young men, I know that the greatest downfall of those groups is that they inevitably bring you into contact with people who use drugs and often still want to use drugs. There is an old joke that is really not a joke about it being easier to find and score drugs at NA meetings than practically anywhere.
Instead of being in regular contact with present and past users who will tell war stories that actually trigger you to use again or else will talk you into another episode of using, find people and groups that are not about drug use.
I have also researched the history of the AA, NA and other 12-step programs and found out that the true success rate is only about 5%. That is as bad, if not worse, than chemotherapy for cancer! Of course, half the people who attend one of those meetings drop out immediately. That still leaves a huge majority who attend the groups and fail to recover. Fact: more people successfully recover by far who never attend those groups than do the ones who attend them. Of course, what the groups say is that those who work the program like they are supposed to are usually successful. Keep working the program, they say, because it works if you do. But most do not keep working the program and most do not recover due to the program. So why are the 12-step programs so widely excepted? Because, just like mainstream cancer treatments, those who formed those programs have lobbied long and hard to become the dominant form of accepted treatment, including convincing judges, probation officers and various other agencies and programs that their way is the only way.
Another reason I am not in favor of such groups is their philosophy that once a person has been an addict they will always be an addict for the rest of their life. It is a form of brainwashing that says only by continuing their program and regularly getting up and prefacing every statement you make by "My name is Joe and I am an addict" will you be able to cope for the rest of your life. I say bullcrap! While it may be true that many alcoholics can never drink again without losing control and the same can be true of drug addicts, especially crack cocaine addicts, if you stop using and do not use again you are no longer an addict. You are an ex-addict, a person who once had a problem with substance abuse and has put that problem behind you - and you should not label yourself as some kind of inferior person, but instead hold your head high and look the world squarely in the eyes and be proud of who you are and what you have accomplished!
Instead of the traditional 12-step programs, I favor the approach of the Jude Thaddeus recovery program - and there is an excellent book that can be used for a home recovery program by both the addict and his family that I highly recommend: The Jude Thaddeus Home Recovery Program, which is widely available at bookstores such as Barnes and Noble and online at Amazon.
The road to recovery is not easy, and the first few days and weeks may be difficult ones - but it can be done and millions of people have done it. Consider that you were not placed on this earth to live a miserable and likely short life of drugs and misery. Life is meant to be enjoyed. But you must choose life and reject misery. It should be an easy choice, no matter how hard it may be in the beginning to achieve it. And it gets easier and more enjoyable as time goes by.
Finally, here is a tool that I developed to make sure successful recovery is "in the cards" for those who have a substance abuse problem:
Get a notepad and pen. On one page, write down all of the positive things you can think of about being drug free -- such as getting and holding a job, better self image, keeping the love and respect of family members and friends, being healthier, longer life, more active lifestyle, etc. Try to come up with the top ten reasons. On another page, write down all of the negative things you can think of about using drugs, including your own worst experiences: Losing friends and families, losing jobs, losing your home, auto and other possessions, having no money, feeling miserable, low self esteem, poor health, association with criminals and prostitutes, run-ins with the law, stealing to support your habit, etc.
Next, get yourself a few wallet sized index cards, or even make some up on your computer. On the front of each card write the negative things about using drugs and on the back write the positive things. Put one in your wallet and one wherever else you may keep money and perhaps also tape one to the back of items like TVs, computers and stereos that you may have hocked, sold or traded to get drugs in the past. And PROMISE yourself that anytime you are thinking about using drugs again, you first pull out that card and read it carefully and completely. It may just be the "hole card" you need to win your game!
All the best, and I sincerely hope that I have been able to help.
Sources included personal experience, research and "Prescription for Nutritonal Healing" by Phyllis A. Balch