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Hey, this is matt and welcome to this video on how to understand and help a loved one with opioid addiction. This video is for anybody that has an opioid-addicted loved one, whether it’s their mother, their father, their son, their daughter, husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, or just a close friend…this his video is for you.
It’s really going to teach you a lot about addiction and that way, once you understand them fully, I’m also going to give you tips on how to help them, how to love them despite some bad behaviors and everything.
So I can’t wait to get into this.
I’ve been wanting to make this video for a while now.
So first let’s talk about, well, why can’t they just stop?
Why Can’t Addicts Just Stop?
The loved ones of opioid addicts often ask, “Why can’t they just stop using it?” From their perspective, they see them, you know, ruining their life, or at least having issues in their life because of the addiction and they just can’t understand.
They just think, well, if it’s causing all these problems and why can’t you just stop?
They see the addiction ruining their lives and they just don’t understand why anybody would do that.
But opioid addicts are usually not bad people.
Yeah… there may be some people that are real dirtbags, but for the most part, opioid addicts almost all the time are not bad people.
They just have some serious brain things going on, which I’m going to get into.
Once I get into those, you’ll be able to better understand them and kind of get into their shoes.
So their behaviors are often selfish and lead to negative consequences.
There’s a powerful reason for it.
And once I show you how their brains have literally become hijacked, it’s going to help you see them with so much more clarity than you’ve ever had before.
The Olds Experiments
So there are some several serious brain malfunctions going on with an opioid addict or another drug addict. So in the 1960s, there was these things called the “Old Experiments” and they believed, these researchers believed that addiction happens in the prefrontal cortex.
So that’s the decision-making, logical, executive function part of the brain.
They thought for sure that that’s in the area of the brain where it, where addiction resided.
But what they found was interesting.
So how they did this was they injected cocaine into the brains of rats.
First, they did it in the prefrontal cortex, and they did it a bunch of times but no matter what, they couldn’t get these rats addicted to cocaine.
So all of a sudden they realized, “Wow, addiction does not reside right here. So, but where does it reside?”
So a long story short, they kept poking all over the brains of the rats.
And it wasn’t until they poked in these two locations in the midbrain where the rats became so addicted that they would starve to death, die of thirst because they kept lever-pressing to get more cocaine.
The Addicted Brain
So the midbrain is the survival part of our brain. It’s what kept us alive as a species long enough to even develop a prefrontal cortex.
So the midbrain has to do with our survival Hierarchy of Needs. It goes, you know, water, food, shelter, sex, defending from predators.
That’s the Hierarchy Survival of Needs. But something crazy happens with addiction and I’m going to talk about that in a minute.
And then, also, brain scans have proven that addiction also erodes the function of the prefrontal cortex.
So it makes it much more difficult to make good decisions, to know the difference between right and wrong, to see the consequences of your actions.
And so a hijacked midbrain, which is where the drugs really affect, leads to drugs being at the top of the survival Hierarchy of Needs.
So now if you visualize, you know, water, food, shelter, sex, defending from predators, if you put DRUGS in all capital letters above that, at the very top of the survival Hierarchy of Needs, that is a really hard new brain-wiring to be.
And then you’ve got the eroded prefrontal cortex combined with that hijacked midbrain. Well, it’s really like driving a car without brakes. You may very well want to stop, but without breaks, you can’t.
Broken Dopamine-Pleasure System
Additionally, if those are the only two brain issues, it’d be one thing, right? But then there’s this other gigantic factor leading to why it’s so hard for opioid addicts and other drug addicts to quit.
So opioids spike dopamine to all-time high levels, you know. They also spike endorphins, our natural painkillers.
But additionally, this dopamine-connection is seriously important.
So the repeated use makes it impossible to feel any sort of pleasure without continuing to use the drug.
And humans are wired, we are hardwired to seek pleasure and avoid pain.
That’s why we get a dopamine release any time we’re doing something pleasurable or any time we’re doing something that leads to our survival, such as having sex, you know, we get big dopamine surges.
So we’re wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain. And so let us talk about those a little more.
There’s different senses, right?
So we’ve got hearing as a sense and deaf people have lost that sense. They cannot hear.
We’ve also got the feeling of touch of physical sensation.
Paralyzed people can’t feel. They’ve lost that sensation.
Here’s what happens with opioid and other drug addiction.
The addicts cannot feel pleasure without the drug.
Now, of course, they could before they started using drugs, but with repeated daily use over the passage of time, they really come to a point where they can no longer feel any pleasure without the drug.
So, but it’s interesting because since pleasure is looked upon differently than the other senses, we’ve got the sense of hearing, the sense of smell, the sense of touch and all these different senses.
Pleasure is also a sense, but addicts, after they become addicted and their brain Dopamine Pleasure System has been hijacked as well, even though they can no longer feel pleasure, they use the drug to feel this essential feeling.
Well then since it’s pleasure, you know, not looked at as like a sense that you actually need, people look down on them and they say it’s a moral failing.
But it’s, you know, it’s really a lot more complicated than that because we are wired to seek pleasure.
We’ve got a Dopamine Pleasure System in there in place.
And if you can’t feel pleasure in life, you know, it’s better off to just be dead.
It doesn’t sound rational, but that is how our brain links to dopamine.
And then there’s some other factors too. So let’s talk about some stress responses.
Stress and Addiction
So all humans experience stress and there are many adaptive and healthy stress coping tools. But most people also have unhealthy coping tools.
For instance, things like eating, shopping, watching TV, promiscuity, and the list goes on and on. And one of them is drug use and repeated drug use to reduce stress.
And addiction is a maladaptive habit and it leads the brain becoming totally rewired in those ways I’ve just been teaching you about.
And also, some people have endured more suffering in their lives and some people also genetically have less resilience.
So yes, we all experience stress and you know, some people were raised with parents that taught them stress coping tools and some were raised without those.
Some people have very strong genetics as far as being resilient.
Some people have neurotransmitter deficiencies and other deficiencies that just make them more sensitive to life.
So I’m not giving them, I’m not giving opioid or other drug addicts an excuse, I’m just saying that this is such a complex phenomenon.
Addiction is so complex.
You really can’t just bring it, boil it down to one thing.
Addiction is a Complex Phenomenon
So a lot of people will think, well addiction is a disease or addiction is a bad choice. Or addiction is a biochemical deficiency in the brain or addiction is a response to human suffering.
These are all theories of addiction, but I don’t think you can boil addiction down to just one thing.
I think it’s a very complex biopsychosocial phenomenon that can’t just be boiled down to one thing, but suffering from the past and or present can lead to daily drug use if they choose that as a stress coping tool.
And then repeated use can lead to addiction.
So I’m going to try and talk about just a few of, some of the main concepts here because again, you can’t boil addiction down to “it’s a disease,” “it’s a biochemical deficiency,” “it’s a choice,” “it’s a response to human suffering.”
It’s very complex.
I mean, it can be all those things.
It can be some of those things for some people, but it really comes down to the individual.
But it’s a very complicated phenomenon.
So here’s kinda how it goes.
A person starts using opioids maybe for pain prescribed by their doctor, maybe they use it recreationally and then they find that it’s starting to give them benefits.
So maybe if they’re getting pain relief from it or they’re getting stress relief or a relief from emotional pain, maybe they’re getting energy from it.
Maybe it’s making them feel like a better human, they’re feeling how they’ve always wanted to feel.
So once they get those benefits, typically people will prolong the use of opioids.
And that will lead to serious changes in the brain.
Like we just talked about, the Hijacked Midbrain linking drugs itself to survival, the eroded prefrontal Cortex, making it very, very hard to stop using and to see the negative consequences and to decide what’s right and wrong and to be able to make good decisions.
And then the dysregulation of the dopamine pleasure system.
That might even be the strongest one right there, I’m not sure.
And then there’s also the basal ganglia hardwired habit loop.
So research on brains has shown that there is something called a habit loop and habits are created and wired in our basal ganglia, so it happens essentially there is a queue and then there’s a craving and then there’s a reward.
So many researchers are now saying that addiction is simply a really, really ingrained habit in the brain that just has really bad negative consequences.
Then there’s also neurotransmitter deficiencies.
There’s even a lot more than this.
So once you start to understand all these things that are happening in the opioid or other drug addict’s brain starts to make sense why they can’t stop or they have a really difficult time stopping.
Not to mention, I didn’t even talk about this, the fear of opioid withdrawal.
Adding it all Together
Opioid withdrawal is the most horrific experience I’ve ever had by far. It is the physical and mental withdrawal symptoms are so terrifying and so bad that when you add all, when you add that into all these other brain things, the fear of the withdrawal and overcoming opioid addiction is going to be one of if not the biggest challenges in a person’s life.
So now we get into the “How-To” on how to understand them and how to help them.
So now we’ve talked about the education.
So I hope this helps you to understand them better, but I recommend learning even more and make this a really big area of your life.
The more you can understand your opioid addicted loved one, the more their behavior is going to make sense.
I’ve just scratched the surface with this.
I could spend hours talking about all these things.
There’s just so much to learn about addiction.
Step two is unconditional love with this caveat here with boundaries.
So there’s an art to learning this and now we’re going to discuss it.
Here’s the blueprint for helping them.
Helping an Addict
Step 1, learn about addiction and try to put yourself in their shoes and use empathy. You know, try to feel like what it would feel like to be them.
And then Step 2 is you love them with all of your heart and soul and it’s unconditional.
You don’t withdraw love if they continue to be addicted, um, you, you love them no matter what.
They’re going through a hard time and you know, you just need to love them through it.
We all go through hard times, but also remember Step 3, you have to have boundaries.
You know, there’s too many people out there, a codependent parent or a codependent boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife, codependency.
I’ve seen these codependents do everything for the addict, buy them the drugs, they’ll drive them to go get the drugs.
The list goes on and on of all the things that we’ll do that we’ll feed the addiction but don’t also be on the other side of the spectrum, which is tough love.
Tough love is probably responsible for so many people dying because of these tough love tricks to where they throw him out of the house or maybe the parents have a son that’s an opioid addict or another drug addict and they’ll say, “you can’t live here and we’re not even gonna talk to you until you get better.”
This tough love thing is just really gnarly.
I’m of the opinion of using unconditional love and acceptance, but you do have to have boundaries.
You can’t be paying for their drugs, going to buy them drugs or doing all these other manner of things, except continue to love them with those good boundaries, healthy boundaries.
Continue to educate yourself on addiction and let them know if they would like your help, you’ll always be there for them.
Tell them that you just love them so much.
You think they’re amazing.
And you really, really understand that it must be hard to be going through what they’re going through.
So please note too, if they feel like you understand them and love them no matter what, they will be more likely to get help.
But practice non-attachment and non-grasping.
Too many people, the loved ones of opioid or other drug addicts, they just want them to get better so much and they think that if they motivate them enough or if they learn enough that if they send them to treatment or something like that, they think they’re going to get better.
You really have to have this loving kindness, non-attachment to the outcome and you just have to know that it happens to some people, they really need to be self-motivatedd to get through this.
So by you continuing to be patient, loving, understanding but also with healthy boundaries that can help lead them to getting off opioids or other drugs.
So most opioid addicts want to quit.
But the thought of doing so really scares them really bad.
And their brains link survival itself to using the drugs and their prefrontal cortex function is not working properly at all.
So it’s making it very hard for them to make the right decision in the moment.
Opioid addicts get stress from loved ones.
You know, “you need to quit, you need to do this, you need to do that.”
The more it typically makes them want to keep using drugs because opioid addiction, one of the parts is that it’s a maladaptive response to stress.
So stress is one of the biggest triggers for people to keep using.
But the more they get love and understanding and acceptance and patience from their loved ones, the less stressed there’ll be under, the more connection they’ll feel, the more acceptance they’ll feel, and that’ll make it easier for them to actually quit.
So I would love it if you would Subscribe to this channel if you got any value from it, and please share this video with someone who needs it.
Maybe you’re the person who needs this video.
But maybe you are addicted to opioids and you feel like your family doesn’t understand you or your wife doesn’t understand you, uh, share this video with them.
I think it will help to give them a little bit of clarity and insight into this situation.
You know, it’s just so important for education, understanding, loving-kindness, and compassion and patience… really remember those things.
Those are all great resources for both the addicts and the loved ones of addicts. So again, this is Matt. See you on the next training video. Take care.
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