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THIQ - Important info about the DISEASE of addiction
THIQ - Important info about the DISEASE of addiction
As I began to respond to a post earlier this morning from a heartbroken, distraught wife of an active addict, I thought maybe it's best I just begin a new thread on this. It's information that I often refer to when talking to addicts and their families, so rather than typing and retyping when I see the need, I figured I'd just post it in one place for anyone who is interested. For some, it's a bit of an explanation of the insanity of this disease, and for others, it's a bit of a comfort.
I'm a drug addict - thankfully, in recovery for many years now. I've continued on with my education to work in the field, so I'm painfully familiar with this disease - personally and professionally. I work with addicts, as well as their families. I recall when I first learned this information, I cried - I was so profoundly relieved to learn that there was something legitimately 'different' about me, that had led me into the nightmare of addiction. Until then, I'd only blamed myself - and was finding little forgiveness, until I understood the facts. This helped me, as I was getting clean, to forgive myself and move forward.
Drug addicts have a DISEASE - just as real and legitimate as diabetes or cancer. It's all too easy for those folks who only see it from the outside to consider it a sign of weakness or lack of willpower - but that really is inaccurate. No one would judge a diabetic for creating their own disease, yet drug addicts are instantly labelled as narcissistic or weak. There is an undeniable genetic component to this disease; we are born with an inate predisposition to become addicted. What comes together is a "perfect storm" - of genetic markers, likely a disfunctional early family (also genetically predisposed toward addiction), as well as opportunity for substances (drugs or alcohol) at a vulnerable point in our lives. It may come at a time of physical pain - or a time of emotional instability (like the teen years) - but once that substance enters our bodies, something changes within us and we're on that track, never suspecting a thing. It often starts out completely innocuous.
So - given our vulnerabilities - we take that pill or drink, and we find instant relief - from physical and emotional pain.
Then, given our genetic predisposition, our bodies do NOT process drugs and alcohol the same way as non-addicts. Honestly. For non-addicts, the entire drug is eliminated from the system completely within a matter of days. For addicts, research has shown us, a small part of that bodily detoxification process builds up a chemical in the brain called "THIQ" (short for tetrahydroisoquinolone). This THIQ has only been found in the brains of drug addicts and alcoholics at autopsy. Researchers believe that the genetic marker for this disease directs the body's production of THIQ.
THIQ is a highly, highly addictive substance that stays in the brain of the addict; it never goes away. It is considered much more powerful than heroin or morphine. It feeds on itself. This is the basis behind the unimaginable cravings. It is not simply a matter of being "weak" or "lacking good moral fiber" - THIQ is a powerful chemical that is fueling our veracious need for more of itself.
In time, as the THIQ accumulates, our disease of addiction progresses. The more we use drugs, the more THIQ we develop - and the more we need. This is behind the progression of this disease. Early on, we may be able to stop after a pill or two - or at least control our use. Later, we can control if we start using - but can't control how much we use once we get started. Then, in time, control is gone - lost to us forever. THIQ will be triggered and completely take charge of us any time we ingest a pill or a drink.
Thus is the very real - tangible - basis of our insanity. Why do people keep using drugs, even when they have destroyed every aspect of their lives by their drug use? Why do they put drugs ahead of their loved ones? Why do they lie and cheat and steal to have more drugs? Why aren't the threats of more harm enough to make them stop? THIQ. Once it takes control, we aren't in control.
THIQ can not be removed. It will not go away. BUT - it can be made dormant. And the only way to make it dormant is to completely stop fueling it. Total abstinance from any and all addictive, mood-altering substances. As soon as we injest a pill or a drink, THIQ is again triggered, even if it's decades down the road from our days of addiction. We may struggle to control it for a short while, but it can't last. The THIQ is far more powerful than we, alone, are.
That's the scientific explanation for one big piece of this puzzle called addiction. There's ongoing research on addiction that explains it even further. I share this information NOT to give anyone an excuse to use drugs - hardly! I also don't share this information to try to get the loved ones around the addict to be more compassionate or forgiving. No. I simply share it so others can see the true essence of this DISEASE, and not keep looking at addiction as some kind of character flaw or personality disorder. It's much more than narcissism or immaturity. The AMA (American Medical Association) has labelled it a disease for decades. "Disease" is not just a word the AMA banters about to justify bad behavior. It meets their criteria for classification as a disease.
So - we aren't at fault for having the gene - we were born that way. Our responsibility comes into it when we recognize that we have this disease, and are offered the tools we need to overcome it. In other words, I may not be responsible for having my disease, but I am responsible for my recovery from it.
Recovery takes WORK. It is far more complex than just stopping the drugs. After we've been abusing drugs for any length of time, we have basically hijacked any coping tools we ever had. We have also hijacked our natural ability for personal motivation or emotional growth. If we are to stay away from the drugs, we need to relearn the skills we lost - or learn them for the first time, if we never had the chance before. In essence, we have to become MORE stable emotionally than the average person, if we're going to learn to manage life without turning to the crutch of a drink or a drug. Fortunately, we can learn those skills - and the best source for that help has proven to me to be AA or NA. It's far beyond mere meetings of a support group. It's a 12-step program of reassessment and recovery. It gives us the 'recipe' for relearning how to deal with life, without a drug. That's where we learn how to cope. That's where we learn how to accept and forgive ourselves, despite the insanity of what we've done when we were active users. That's where we develop self-esteem and self-respect.
The disease is with us for life - but, given daily effort, it need not control us ever again. Fortunately, just as addiction is progressive - recovery is also progressive. Our skills improve, our circumstances improve, and we are able to find joy and peace that eluded us while we were active.
That is an extraordinarily erudite piece you've written, Ruth.
That was fascinating, Ruth. It explains so much. Thank you for posting.
Very well said!
I am going to have to direct folks to this thread.
WOW. I'm speechless.
Thanks Ruth! Helps put things into perspective.
Wow, never heard the THIQ thing before, thats some strong stuff! If that won't help ya get to a meeting I don't know what will. Good stuff...thank you!
Make that 2 votes for sticky.
Originally Posted by yezdegerd
Do I hear 3?
Very informative, thank you.
3 votes for sticky...do we have 4?
Thank you so much for posting that...i have been searching for something that explains long term effects on the brain...now i have a word to direct my search to....
Sticky sticky sticky this explains so much. I truly believe this to be true.
I vote for sticky as well. Now I dont feel like a total failure. I actually gives me some hope! Thanks for taking the time to explain some of this..
Its just me..
Thanks so much, Ruth, for this information. I always valued your comments, suggestions and wise counsel.
Ruth, I disagree. People do not CHOOSE get cancer, diabetes, other forms of disease. Addicts CHOOSE to do drugs. They CHOOSE to lie, cheat, steal, etc. That is a HUGE difference. It's all about choices. Do you choose to be an addict and drain the people that love you, destroy lives, cost the country billions or do you choose to be a functioning member of society? The basic question is WHY do you choose to be an addict?
I don't usually get involved with the "disease or not a disease discussion" because it is usually a dead end discussion that ends in stalemate. However, I will present the facts in this case. It doesn't matter if people agree or disagree with the fact that addiction is a disease - it is a medically recognized fact. It is a neuological disease because the drug use causes physical changes in the body making the body feel that it needs the drug. By the way, nobody chooses to be an addict. By definition an addict is someone who has lost all control over their using.
If you are still confused, I recommend doing some more research on the subject - there is plenty of information online. Making assuptions thinking that addicts should act like normal people in regards to "choosing" drugs is an outdated and ignorant viewpoint that should stay in the 1950's.
Originally Posted by kathleen5hockey
Last edited by AmIanAddict; 08-03-2011 at 12:39 PM.
I will just add to that and say that some cancers are a direct result of lifestyle. Diabetes is as well. Life' choice can potentiate these illnesses.
Originally Posted by kathleen5hockey
Whether or not you disagree, Kathleen - this was the decision of the American Medical Association: “The AMA endorses the proposition that drug dependencies, including alcoholism, is a disease and that their treatment is a legitimate part of medical practice." Addiction/alcoholism were first classified as a "disease" by the American Medical Association in 1956. Current research has determined that 50-60% of this disease is genetically determined. The remaining 40-50% are considered environmental influences, which may include poor coping skills and underlying mental illness or depression.
No one knows if they have the genetic predisposition toward addiction until they have already begun to lose control over the drug or alcohol use. When a person begins having a social drink - or taking a legitimate painkiller prescribed for pain - there is no way of knowing where it will lead.
And, given your argument, no one chooses to have heart disease - but it exists because of a mix of "nature" and "nurture," as well. To have heart disease, one has the genetic predisposition PLUS poor lifestyle choices of diet or exercise or smoking that greatly exacerbate the problem. Addiction operates much the same way.
The basic, intrinsic nature of narcotics (and alcohol) lend themselves to tolerance; in other words, over time, in order to gain the same effect from the drug, more is needed. At the same time, while tolerance is building, the person's chemistry is actually altering itself to accommodate the drug. Every aspect of the major brain chemistry is affected, altering such vital neurotransmitters as dopamine and seratonin. In fact, it has been found that these drugs can stimulate the dopamine levels as much as 100 - 1000% over "normal" levels. Seratonin and Dopamine work on the pleasure and reward centers of the brain; with the drugs, it is basically "drowning" in dopamine. It isn't long before the brain accommodates the drugs - alters its ways of action - and the brain chemistry will no longer function properly without the drugs.
Add to that equation - of increasing tolerance and the altering of the normal brain chemistry - the presence of increasing THIQ levels (which is far more addictive than any man-made drug!) and how much "choice" remains?
So now, IF this drug addict is able to see they have a problem (which denial stands in their way; that is basic to addiction, as well) - they stop the drugs - and then they feel days or weeks (or months!) of agonizing physiological, psychological and emotional pain - PLUS the guilt, remorse and shame from what they did while using the drugs, from what they feel about themself as a weak person and all the nightmares that drug addiction entails - PLUS - listen to the rage and resentment of those they love who are fed up with them and blame their drug use for every problem that anyone in the family has - how hard would it be - to stop and stay stopped? While in that spot, they know - whether they want to think of it or not - that ONE pill will relieve some of that emotional and physical agony. One pill will stir up that flood of dopamine and fuel that THIQ. One pill can give that relief, like nothing else can at that moment. If that were you, would you be strong enough to NOT take that pill - and just endure the brutal aftermath? If you haven't done it yourself - don't assume that you could do it. You've never gone through it.
And you ask me "WHY do you choose to be an addict?" I never made that choice, Kathleen. I don't know of anyone who makes that choice! This disease is insidious, it sneaks up on us without our knowledge or permission, and blocks out our ability to see what it is doing, through the process of denial. For the longest time, we are able to rationalize and justify that we are still in control. The drugs alter our thought process. The addiction inherently includes this denial. By the time it's apparent to us that it's a serious addiction, we're pretty deep into it.
I can only speak for me, Kathleen. I started developing daily, chronic migraine headaches at age 12 - and they continued into my 40s. The pain was absolutely debilitating and was with me every single day, to some degree. At that same time, I was diagnosed with dysthemia - chronic, low-grade depression. This was from1970 to 1990, when there were few answers for migraines, aside from narcotic painkillers. Many times, I sincerely wanted to die - I literally could not bear the pain. I did attempt suicide, but, mercifully, lived through it. For decades, even with the pain - even with using the pain meds, I remained a fully functioning member of society, Kathleen; I was college-educated, working in business management and earning a very healthy salary. But, my headaches eventually took ahold of my ability to get to work each day; I could not work with that kind of pain level, and absences piles up. Eventually, I had to surrender my ability to work, and go on a disability. I missed out on a tremendous amount of life in general, but especially the lives and activities of my children, while bedridden in severe, agonizing pain. That was devastating to me. My husband's father was a doctor, and he was incredibly sympathetic to my pain - and he prescribed rather liberally, feeling it was the right, compassionate thing to do. He didn't know what would happen, nor did I. But it did catch up with me, and then I had to deal with not only 24/7 of headache pain, but had to address a serious drug addiction, as well. No one could do it for me, and I couldn't do it until I was completely ready.
For me, the answer came by going in-patient for 6 months of treatment - to relearn the basics of coping with life with pain - and without pain meds. (The only way I became ready to take such a step was because my life had been so utterly destroyed by my ever-growing addiction. I could not undertake this kind of complete life change until I felt there is no other choice that I had; when living itself has become unbearable.) I stayed clean and sober for the next 11 years; eventually, one severe migraine outbreak, I caved in to taking a narcotic - and was back into that addiction almost immediately. My control was lost with that first pill. It took me another 2 years of constant struggling to stop the pills and regain my footing as a clean and sober, responsible adult - all while in pain. Since then, I've now been clean and sober for 8 years. It's taken 1000s of meetings of AA and NA; it's taken 100s of counseling appointments and 100s of group therapy sessions. I didn't put half this much work into my college education or anything else I've undertaken!
To be perfectly blunt, what I've gone through with decades of debilitating physical pain - as well as decades of depression - and then fighting passionately to overcome this nightmare DISEASE of addiction - has taken nothing short of heroic efforts, Kathleen. I have had to truly devote myself to recovery - my recovery from migraines, from depression and from drug addiction - in order to keep all of these areas in balance. If one area starts to slip, then the whole mess crumbles. It's a daily effort; I can't just slack off and take a break from it. My recovery has to come first, above my children, my husband, my work or anything else. To that end, that's why I also decided to go back to school and create a new career in this field. If I was going to devote myself to the field of substance abuse, I may as well be of help to others while doing it. But I'll be damned if I'm going to sit idly by while someone scoffs at facts that have research backing them up.
So - when someone (who has not had the benefit of the education and life-experience in this disease that I've had) - attempts to tell me how "selfish" I was for becoming an addict, for having this disease - or how I had a "choice" in this matter all along - or how I chose NOT to be a responsible, functioning member of society - I get more than a wee bit pissed off. Walk in my shoes - tell me how much of a "choice" I had.
Despite your opinion, Kathleen - there is an endless supply of research available that validates the decision of the A.M.A. to classify addiction as a "disease." It would mean taking the time to do the research - and keeping an open mind to what you read. I realize you've been tremendously impacted by your daughter's addiction, and I understand your anger and resentment. But - just because it seems, from your perspective, that she was purely selfish - there's far more to the research that brought about labelling addiction as a DISEASE, and not a choice.
You will know the truth - and only the truth can set you free.
Bump and a sticky vote. thank you sooo much Ruth.
Kathleen, you must not be an addict. Otherwise you would know. This is why the best facilities in the country only hire x-addicts. It is so hard to describe.
Originally Posted by kathleen5hockey
I am an addict...didn't really steal, I did lie and manipulate. But this is so against my nature. I am an educated man, 47, never been in any trouble. Raised in church with a high set of morals and a very high tolerance and love for people. Why would I ever stoop and buy illegally...its a felony!!! I haven't had a traffic ticket in 20 years and now I am a felon in the parking lot of Wendy's?!?!? I do not have a weak will, I am a self-made businessman with alot of money. I am also sick, and wish more people understood and didn't judge.
Last edited by pongo64; 08-03-2011 at 03:47 PM.
I loved this so much, I reblogged it to my Facebook. I sat there for ten minutes with my cursor over the "Publish" button... unsure if I was ready to post something like this for all my family and friends to see, but I did it anyway. I think this is crucial information that everyone needs to know.
I disagree with you. People who might get type 2 diabetes often have a choice. They can exercise and eat healthy to avoid getting the disease, but all too often they decide to disregard the consequences and get it anyway. It's proven that tanning beds lead to skin cancer. These people who tan too much and get skin cancer from it had a choice. They didn't have to do it. I do understand that we don't ALWAYS have a choice in these matters, but addiction should not be treated any differently than an honest-to-goodness disease.
Originally Posted by kathleen5hockey
As a footnote...Kathleen, why are you here? Obvoiusly there is alot of recovery talk going on. Not to be mean, and not trying to be a sphincter, but are you here to make it more difficult for us to recover? Your judgemental attitude is historically the reason addicts, especially alcoholics, stay hidden in a closet. The first step to recovery is admission and who would ever admit to someone who would just say "you chose this now choose not to". I tried that many times. My self-esteem was not to be found, I thought I was the worst person on the planet....until I found someone like me, and until I understood I was sick I could NOT recover. I mean if you don't know you are sick how do you treat it? Oh wait...we just stop right? Sry for the sarcasm.
I am sure you don't want to make it more difficult for addicts to recover, it is hard enough.
One of the main reasons I broke up with my ex is because he had the same attitude as Kathleen. He was always so angry at me for being on Sub (I still don't know why it upset him as much as it did... it's not sober, but it sure as hell beats being on Oxy). He would always tell me "just stop taking it! People do it all the time!" I have never been so angry and disappointed at someone in my entire life, and this was coming from the person who was supposed to love me and not judge me. People just DON'T UNDERSTAND until it's happened to them.
Originally Posted by pongo64
Turbo-- Kathleen is the mom of an addict as am I. She, as does many of the others who are not addicts but the family members of addicts, have a different perspective and levels of emotions than the person who is trying to recover, rebuild or just perhaps understand what this thing called addiction is all about. She's has been on this road for a long time. Just understand, as you post here, that everyone has an opinion and if you try to respect and understand them, you'll grow and probably learn something from them. We want to encourage everyone, but yes, there's a level of frustration and anger that can seep through because of our own pain.
I thank you for your posts and encourage you to post often as you work your way through. I also hope that you'll take the time to read the threads of others who may be on the other side of the coin from you.
Blessings to you turbo. I applaud your efforts and courage to repost this information. It very well may save someone's life or give a family member the information they need to move forward one more day with someone who is struggling.
I have been following this and contemplating a reply most of the day. I have so many points to make, I will probably miss a few. I am the spouse of an addict for those that don't know. This sight has been both a Saving Grace and a Thorn in my side at times. It has educated me and helped understand addiction as best I can, but has also freaked me out at times with the additional knowledge I have acquired. I have read most of the posts from the people that have commented here even if I did not reply.
First, I would like to address the comments directed to Kathleen. I do not think she was attacking anyone, just stating her opinion. And I have to admit, I too, felt similar when I first learned of my spouse's addiction. Selfish, selfish, selfish.....that is all I could think of. And honestly, it is hard for a non-addict to think otherwise. I spent countless hours trying to understand it all and just when I thought I knew it all (or close to it), Ruth opened my eyes with one of her "harsh" (and well respected) comments to me. She helped me put ME in check with myself! AmIanAddict has also given advice that I have respected. Although I completely understand the anger, resentment, and betrayal that loved ones feel, it has been the addicts and recovering addict's voices that have helped me along the way more than anything.
My spouse's addition has created problems, but they are minor compared to what I have read.....not saying it is right, but I am not willing to give up just yet either. I never tell anyone it is time to throw in the towel or to stay because that is a personal decision.
Now, I will offer what I THINK is the misconception of addiction and selfishness...and this is my opinion only. I think addiction IS a disease (3 years ago I would have told you it was selfishness). I think it is "selfish" for someone to take a drug that they know they do NOT need without an Rx just to get high (first time, recreational use). I do think that once used enough (either legally or not) addiction sets in and is then a "disease". I could be wrong, and maybe I will change my opinion one day on this since I am constantly researching the topic. I am just throwing in my two cents, not trying to stir up a controversy. I wish everyone the best and thank you all for your thoughts, opinions, experiences, etc......it helps ME grow!
It is only my opinion expressed above. I have been living the addiction he!! with my daughter for 5 yrs. After so many years of pain it's what I feel. It's not always about the addict although they are usually very selfish. It's about the whole family. Personally tired of "understanding the disease". I say, grow up!
Kathleen....so sorry to hear about your kid, it really sucks. Big hug for you. Hang in and don't give up on her. Just love her but don't facilitate the disease. She needs to want to stop.
Originally Posted by kathleen5hockey
On the other hand, you attitude and lack of knowledge on the problem is not helping. Dig in, learn, but stop judging her. I am grown up, but still have an addiction. I didn't stop by growing up more, I stopped when I gave up. So that's not it, and it is not gonna work. If you ever feel like you are beating your head against the wall, well you are...by sticking to your grow up plan you are frustrating yourself. I am not an expert, but I can promise you...that will not work.
She needs to want to stop, she needs your love and understanding...and she needs help. Not pity...not help feeding her disease, but help getting clean. Your tough love, good, but misdirected. Again, big hugs for you, this forum can help. Open up hun.
Last edited by pongo64; 08-04-2011 at 10:23 AM.
I must add, Turbo, it has helped me to hear from both sides of the fence. My experience is that loving an addict can be self destructive. We loose who "we" are because of trying to help the addict. That is what happened to my family, my marriage and myself. It's NOT just about the addict. You have to look around, see the people who love you and are trying to help and accept it. I have been 5 yrs in therapy for something I didn't do. You know, sometimes while driving there I think, why do I have to spend so much time on an addiction that I don't have? Just as drugs effect all aspects of your life, it does ours too. Loving an addict is one of the hardest thing to do. I cannot just abandon my daughter although sometimes I wish it would just disappear and my family could be whole again.
I agree that drugs kill brain cells. My daughter has brain damage. It's all about choices.
Regardless of whether a person is an addict or not addiction affects everyone negatively. There are real reasons as to why, how, and when but no realistic or easy cure (yet anyway - hope, hope, hope). Being an addict myself, clean now, I can relate to both sides of the debate. We all have seen ourselves going downhill through our own addictions and know all too well the intense cravings and the sad part is for many addicts we know it is wrong and many of us even want off the DOC but it is no easy task to just quit. Much as a person that loves to watch sports on TV to the point it destroys a relationship that activity is their drug. Ask this person to just stop and it may seem easy to the non addicted person but even the non addicted person has something in their lives that they may find obsessed with. Kathleen I never argued with you and never wish to. Drugs and addiction to us is the same as your intense love and caring for your daughter. Although love for your daughter is a positive thing when taken to the extreme it can be damaging for you can not let go. Even though you realize that she is beyond your reach you still try and if I ever had a Mother that cared that much for me I would want her to be just like you. You will never stop trying no matter what as she is your flesh and blood. To simply call drug addiction a matter of choice would be akin to saying loving your daughter is a matter of choice. I know this is a very extreme example but being hooked on a substance creates an envelope that we find ourselves trapped in.
See what addiction does to people? Look at us here bickering and both sides providing evidence of being correct. Neither side is wrong as we hold onto our beliefs facts or not addiction is destructive. Instead of focusing on who is right or wrong the problem is addiction bottom line and that is where the focus needs to remain. Take both sides and brainstorm together instead of putting forth facts from either side and we may have something. We can present facts to you just as you can present your facts to us. We are not in your shoes and go with what is researched, documented, and brought forth as evidence. On the flip side your beliefs also are document and researched by others so this debate can go on till the end of time but unless the focus of destroying addiction comes from both ends with the key element being the intent to destroy addiction the addiction wins.
Look at all the wars that go on around the world. I have been in more than my share. All too easy for me to sit back and criticize some other country with their peoples beliefs but once there and experiencing it first hand and partaking in their daily activities who am I of all people to say they are wrong? We addicts and those involved with addicts are far better educated through studies and actual experience. Lets combine that and make it an asset to combat addiction.
I hope your pain eases for you. It will never go away. You hurt and rightfully so and if I could take your suffering away I would. What has happened has happened. We need to move forward so your daughters tragic circumstance and your suffering will not be in vane.
Just my opinion for what it is worth.
I wish you the best!
Henry, I agree with you. I write my feelings as do others. I have learned sooooo much on this forum. I also have become hard, my compassion has been diminished. It is coming back, slowly. I only want the best for all. Really.
There was a wonderful article in the paper yesterday regarding locking the medicine cabinets to save children. Knowledge is the key.
Henry, I do make a choice to still love and care about my daughter. Thank you for the kind words regarding my parenting skills. Yes, as I have always said, we are all addicted to something.
Last edited by kathleen5hockey; 08-04-2011 at 12:17 PM.