As all smokers know, quitting is challenging and terrifying. It took 25 years of my doctor insisting I quit, before I was able to successfully stop smoking. I tried everything, including cold turkey and prescription medication; nothing worked. I knew I wanted to change my life around for the better.
Like many people around the world, I too, felt the shock waves of the election and Donald Trump being elected as the 45th President of the United States. Many of us are in disbelief that someone so brash and caustic is set to become the leader of the most powerful country on the planet. Yet, here I sit at my computer feeling grateful... Grateful that I'm an addict in recovery.
That men have higher rates of addiction than women do is not surprising, as men's social and emotional experience is rooted in what could be regarded as an abusive system which gives men only one emotional outlet (anger) and social expectations to uphold a masculine tradition that serves only the antiquated system that created it.
Hundreds of codeine tablets stolen from the medicine cabinet of an elderly person living alone in a rural community. Hydromorphone tablets being distributed at weddings and high school parties. Fentanyl patches being cut up and sold for a profit on the street. This is the reality of the opioid crisis in Canada today.
When I reached the bottom with my own addiction to pot and prescription drugs almost 30 years ago, I too realized that I had to change my life or I would die. I knew that I didn't really want to die, but that I couldn't go on living the way I was at that point. I had grown quite tired of being a caterpillar, though I had no idea how to become a butterfly.
The War on Drugs has been a failure, and soon enough using drugs will shift from a criminal to a public health issue. But what if we paid people not to engage in harmful consumption? If we rewarded them for stopping damaging use? Couldn't the savings in all manner of costs greatly outweigh the comparatively small expense of any incentive?
I had a good friend of mine become a drug addict. Crack specifically. I never imagined he'd be using it in a million years, but life has a funny way of showing you that anything is possible. He was a natural born hustler. He sold dope at school, at parties and pretty much wherever he could make a buck.
As a pain psychologist, I share patients' concerns about limiting opioids without providing access to alternatives. Ethical pain care should emphasize first the programs and initiatives that empower individuals to best control their own pain. When people are equipped to help themselves feel better, they need fewer doctors and treatments.
Think of pain as being your "harm alarm," a signal that is designed to get your attention, to motivate you to escape whatever is causing it. After all, pain -- potential harm -- could mean injury or even death. In this way, pain serves a useful purpose because it is functions to keep you safe and alive. But what about chronic pain?
Epidemics of obesity, diabetes, infectious diseases and suicide that plague First Nation children across Canada are complex and multi-faceted. Yet government solutions often focus on simplistic bio-medical approaches -- when they address the crises at all -- and too often ignore the cultural strategies proposed by indigenous leaders.
When we give so much to those around us without first giving to ourselves, we run the risk of hurting them more than we're helping. All of us need to feel our own resilience -- it's an important human need. When we decide to give more than is healthy, we often take those feelings of resiliency away from others.
If you experience withdrawal symptoms, this does not meant that you cannot get off opioids. Withdrawal symptoms mean that your opioid level was dropped too quickly and your body was surprised by the lack of medication. The key is to work with your body to successfully taper your opioids -- by making small changes slowly over time.
In my practice, I have seen the terrible impact addiction can have on people of all backgrounds. It destroys jobs, families and personal health, often in the span of just a few months. This level of complexity and quick-moving consequence is something you don't often see in many other conditions, which makes finding solutions that much harder. Addressing addiction requires approaching treatment in a much more integrated fashion across different parts of the health care system and groups of providers.