The barriers to successful recovery

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 13, 2002

This is the tenth story in a 13-week series that focuses on drug addiction in Butler County. This is also the third of three stories that will focus on substance abuse treatment.

Once an addict has been through treatment there are three

main reasons for

Email newsletter signup


1) mental and physical cravings;

2) depression;

and 3) guilt associated

with the moral degradation and dishonesty that becomes part of an addict's life style.

These manifestations can haunt someone for years after they have sobered up and more times than not, if left untreated, will trigger a relapse. These unresolved symptoms,

whether physical or mental in origin, create an underlying, low-level type of stress which cannot be completely ignored by the addict. The addict can &uot;just say no&uot; a thousand times, but it only takes him saying &uot;yes&uot; one time to start the cycle of addiction again.

The first barrier to successful recovery from substance abuse is overcoming the mental and physical cravings for the drug of choice.

Drugs and alcohol are broken down and filtered in the liver. There is a byproduct from this detoxification process called a metabolite.

These protein-based metabolites can and do find their way into the person's body fat.

Keep in mind that each time anyone has ever used a drug or alcohol, they have a complete recorded memory of that life experience.

Whether good times or bad, happy or sad, all emotions, feelings and sensations that were present at the time the drug or

alcohol was ingested is filed away in the person's memory.

Even if a person is in a

blackout, the experience is still recorded in the mind.

So each metabolite is connected to a memory of the life experience related in some way to the drugs or alcohol at the time they were consumed.

The body will metabolize and burn fat any time a person undergoes a life experience that causes the heart rate to speed up.

Stress can do this, as can strenuous exercise or intense emotion.

We all experience these things on a fairly regular basis.

When an addict experiences these life situations and their heart rate speeds up the body begins to mobilize and burn fat.

The fat contains toxins or metabolites from past alcohol and drug use. As the fat cell burns, it releases the metabolite back into the person's blood stream.

The metabolite is a byproduct of the drug.

That metabolite is connected to the memory of the life experience in which the drug or alcohol was taken.

The toxin finds its way back into the blood stream and acts as both a physical and mental reminder of the drug or alcohol consumption.

It also acts as a reminder of the emotional effect the person experienced after consumption.

In short, the toxin re-enters the blood and triggers or stimulates a physical reminder of the drug or alcohol and the memory of feelings, thoughts, sensations and emotions connected to that experience.

The person remembers feeling and thinking like they did in the past when they were under the influence and so are prone to relapse at these times.

The reactive compulsion to continue to use drugs or alcohol is, in part, caused by the drug's interaction with the body's natural chemistry.

Some of the body's

natural chemicals act as a built-in reward system that encourages us to eat exercise and procreate.

Other of the body's natural chemicals act as natural pain killers that activate when we physically injure ourselves.

In short the natural chemicals are directly related to our physical survival and or well being.

As a person's

addiction develops the brain and body identify the drug as an aid that either enhance the release of or replace these natural chemicals.

As the person starts to use chemicals on a regular basis, the body becomes depleted of

key nutrients and amino acids.

Amino acids are the building blocks for natural chemicals called neurotransmitters.

These nutritional deficiencies prevent the body from receiving the nutritional energy necessary to

produce the natural chemicals. The brain gets fooled as it has identified the drug or drink as an aid to releasing or replacing the natural chemicals.

This is what causes the uncontrolled compulsion an addict feels to continue to use.

This compulsion is so strong within the individual that the desire to use more drugs or drink overrides

the negative and often times life threatening consequences an addict is faced with on a day to day basis.

The drug or alcohol gets misidentified as an aide to the production and release of the natural chemicals when in fact it is suppressing the body's ability to manufacture neurotransmitters.

Gary W. Smith is Executive Director of Narconon,

a non-profit organization established in 1966 to help people get off drugs. He has been active in the field of drug prevention for over 30 years.