I was chatting to a guest at a function recently and she mentioned to me about her cousin’s battle with heroin addiction. He is, apparently, an extremely intelligent man in his mid-forties, a qualified chartered accountant and is extremely adept at cracking computer codes.
He has been to three of the most expensive rehabs in Cape Town but to no avail.
He left South Africa with the hope of kicking his addiction by living in another country but that didn’t help at all. He met a lady in the foreign country and they had a child together. His family hoped that the new arrival would be a life changing experience because he was told by his doctors that he might not be able to have children due to a viral infection in his teens.
Unfortunately, the birth of his child made no difference to his addiction. He went deeper into his addiction.
For people, who are not acquainted with the power of addiction to control an individual’s mind, they would it find it quite bizarre as to why a man of his intelligence is unable to give up his addiction. In my many years of treating individuals on heroin, less than one percent managed to remain on maintenance therapy. I have treated over 300 patients, with a drug called methadone but only about three people remained on treatment. The rest of the clients returned to their heroin addiction. Heroin is one of the most addicting substances and the only plausible explanation is that the withdrawal effects of heroin are extremely difficult for a user to cope with.
The symptoms are: feeling extremely cold (cold turkey ) because the skin looks like the skin of a plucked turkey; runny nose and the worst symptom of them all is excruciating severe muscle spasms, causing unbearable pain.
The pain is so severe that addicts will do anything just to relieve them of their symptoms. Two drugs, methadone, syrup, and suboxone, a tablet, are used as replacement for heroin to control the withdrawal symptoms. These two medications do not give addicts the same feeling of numbing calmness as heroin does even though they combat the withdrawal effects of heroin.
These two drugs are classed as opioids because they occupy the same mu receptors in the brain as heroin does. Addicts want the relaxed, numbing feel good effect of heroin, so it doesn’t take long for addicts to stop using their methadone and go back to heroin for its feel-good effect.
The majority of heroin addicts just cannot give up their addiction. In some countries, heroin addicts are offered clean needles and syringes at centres where they can take their fix to prevent costly complications from using the drug intravenously with infected or dirty needles. Some of the complications are sepsis, hepatitis-b and HIV. The only safe places for many heroin addicts, who just cannot recover, is to place them in a home to be monitored closely as they face imminent death if left on their own through an overdose, severe illness, starvation or through homicide.
Many of them need to remain in rehabs for long periods. They go to work but live in the rehab, just to keep them away from relapsing. This doesn’t always work.
A few heroin addicts make a valiant attempt to overcome their addiction on their own and succeed but the majority end up dying with or through their addiction. Short three-month stints in the most expensive rehabs, seldom help heroin addicts to recover if they lack the will power or determination to give up their addiction, regardless of their social status or level of education. Addiction is such a powerful disorder that it will bring down the most powerful or most intelligent person to his or her knees and even lead them to their death, like helpless slaves.