Updated: Nov 3, 2018
By Glyndora Condon MS MFT LPC
As I enter into jails or prisons to work with the inmates; most who are there are there due to substance abuse. Most are repeat offenders. Most have lost most everything of value. As I ask these questions then I follow up with a question; Why? As I scan the sea of faces in front of me; male and female-I find many who grin and throw up their hands as if to say, who knows? Some bow their heads while muttering that their stupid. Some claim that they had poor will power but this time they will do better. I listen while nodding in affirmation with their attempt to explain why they continue to use. I then advise that it is not will power, stupidity, or that they are unworthy. Heads rise and bodies lean forward to hear with faces that have questions. I explain that the first time or two they used-then this was their choice. They made poor choices to either fit in, to look big or older, to self medicate, to be popular, to belong, or to lower inhibitions. Those times are theirs to own. However, after multiple use for some-and only one for others-then changes to the brain occurred.
Artificially enhanced dopamine and serotonin rose to extreme levels which triggered the pleasure center to such a high that the brain then began lowering its natural manufacturing of those chemicals. Until the first use-then natural stimuli did register on the natural level of dopamine and serotonin which would include: sunrises and sunsets, praise, affection, family, promotions, nice things, good health, sports, and like. As substances (Alcohol and drugs) enter the brain and as the chemicals are increased above the normal levels-then that high is a pleasure that one wants to occur again and again yet is not able to reach that level again. As the substances wane then, the user's natural chemical level is way below the normal level which then leaves the user in misery so they seek to feel better again-thus using again. Tolerances build, blending of substances occur, and the user is then addicted as they use to just feel normal again while seeking that high.
How to heal from addiction
Black coffee, a week or two of abstinence, changing one drug for another, will power, and other like misnomers will not work. Only a long period of time (approximately 2 years) with total absence of the substance or any other substance; will be effective since this would then allow the brain to return to its normal state and therefore will allow its production of the natural levels of dopamine and serotonin again. As this is revealed then the inmates seem to have mixed reactions. Some seem hopeful as guilt has lowered. These have been thinking that they are weak and failures.
Others seem overwhelmed since they know that abstaining is a HUGE prescription for this condition. It not only means to abstain from the substance but also to abstain from the triggers. It is implementing positive activities and behaviors to take the place of the negative ones. It is changing many aspects of the addiction and the addictive behaviors which calls for complete accountability, support systems, and time. Due to the vast number of areas that are effected with addiction, the number of triggers, and the lack of support systems ( instead of the negative support systems that are enabling)-then counseling is often an absolutely needed entity to employ.
Research also shows a higher efficacy as one is in individual counseling, to also have the adjunct of group counseling. In fact, if the group is faith based; with a strong spiritual focus, then clients appear to be more able to meet addiction head on. Counseling provides the client with affirmation, accountability, resources, hope, and directives that aid the client to face each craving with a resolve to continue. Counseling works to help the family and friends who are also effected and who often enable the user/abuser. We offer such help to those grappling with substance abuse. Call us today! We will walk with you.