Social Question

Jude's avatar

What goes on in the brain of a drug addict?

Asked by Jude (32167points) May 2nd, 2010

I have a family member who is in a lot of trouble. My family member is abusing Opioids (was/is taking it for severe, chronic pain, but, now they’re abusing it).

I want to try to understand what goes on in an addicts mind? What do they tell themselves? Do they lie to themselves?

Feel free to PM me, if you don’t feel like discussing it here.


Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

28 Answers

lillycoyote's avatar

It may be more about what is going on in the brain of an addict than about what is going on in the mind of an addict.

LuckyGuy's avatar

They haave the ability to rationalize anything.
Don’t give him money, your car keys or leave him alone in your house. Ever!

Seaofclouds's avatar

It’s about the chemicals in the drugs and how the affect the brain. The feelings people get when taking them usually makes them feel better overall and they want to continue having that feeling. When they don’t have the medication in their system, they feel bad and they feel like they need the medication to feel better. Over time, they develop a tolerance to the medication and require a higher amount of it to achieve the same feelings as before. They often don’t realize they have a problem until it’s too late.

BhacSsylan's avatar

Many drugs, especially Opioids, have a huge physical addiction component (which is why they’re rarely used, though they’re powerful). Your body ends up almost requiring them, or at least believing it does. This results in an immense drive to acquire and use them. Many addicts hate themselves for it, but aren’t capable of overcoming the drive, especially an advanced one. Coping with it takes many forms, it depends. Lying to themselves, sure, attempting to rationalize it, or just straight up hating it but continuing because they’re not sure how to stop it. It just depends on the person.

Many addictions are mental, but opioids are definitely not, and tend to require lots of extra help to overcome an advanced addiction. I suggest you try as hard as possible to get this person help. They may very well not be able to do anything on their own.

@worriedguy while true, this isn’t all that helpful. Demonizing the person will only drive them harder into addiction, usually.

@seaofclouds that only describes a mental addiction. Physical addictions are much nastier.

lillycoyote's avatar

@worriedguy and @BhacSsylan both of you are right, I think. @worriedguy may not be expressing an abundance of compassion here, but he’s right. Addicts are not known for their good judgement or for putting others above themselves. People, family members have a right to protect themselves from the bad choices and bad judgements made by addicts. And it is naive to think that addicts won’t take advantage of anyone. But demonizing, he is not. I don’t think setting limits for addicted relatives forces them deeper into addiction, it only forces them to do it somewhere else.

Response moderated
Anon_Jihad's avatar

Remember their viewpoints differ from yours. Just because you live the clean and narrow, doesn’t make you right or them wrong. They’re enjoying their life, or they’d not be doing it. And while you may think drug abuse is morally wrong, that’s entirely a matter of opinion.

Jude's avatar

@Anon_Jihad Did you read the question? All of it? They’re not enjoying their life. They’re in chronic, debilitating pain and they’re depressed, plus they’re addicted and their marriage is falling apart.

I’m not fucking judging. It’s not whether or not I think that drug use is wrong. They’re sick and need to get better, going through money like crazy and have thought about “packing it all in”.

Next time, read the question all the way through. Thanks.

bob_'s avatar

@jjmah Well, if you don’t like metaphores, here’s a list. The commercial is no joke.

Jude's avatar

@bob Thanks for the link.

loser's avatar

Primary thought: Get me away from my own thoughts and feelings. No matter what.
It’s the “no matter what” part you need to worry about.

Jeruba's avatar

I found this book very helpful, recommended here by Darwin:

Why Don’t They Just Quit? by Joe Herzanek

It’s a little simplistic, and there’s a lot more that could be said on such matters as the physiology of addiction, the family system of addicts, etc., but it is honest and genuine. This might be a good place to start learning what you want to know.

If you can get your family member into a recovery program, there will probably be a family-group component to that, and you can hear first hand what addicts are thinking about.

trailsillustrated's avatar

I had an opiod addiction and the thing is, when you are addicted, you get really, really, sick if you don’t have it. Like vomiting non stop until you get so dehydrated you have to go to the hospital. Plus its very very uncomfortable, very hard on the body. So a person that was taking it for pain ( it gives a very pleasant buzz), woud become physically addicted, not as heavily as some heroin addict but would still need more and more and would still get sick without it. So it’s in your mind at first, you like the buzz, but then its a really physical thing. Sounds to me like your relative needs to be titrated down and maybe you need to talk about your concerns to your relative and maybe his/her pain management doctor. Pain management is a controviersial, subjective thing. They might seem high to you, but they’re out of pain.

lillycoyote's avatar

@bob_ I second @jjmah Great link. You might not see me for a few days because of it.

buster's avatar


Dr_Lawrence's avatar

As someone who uses opioids to help control my chronic pain, I understand how a person’s body become physically habituated to even carefully controlled clinical doses. The insidious thing is that the absence of the drug alone induces extreme pain which compounds the suffering when the source of the pain is still present.

I am fortunate that there is no “buzz” associated with the drug I use and thus there is nothing psychological to draw me into overusing (abusing) the medication. The affect I could expect if I attempted to take too much would be death from respiratory suppression.
Some foolish people try to convert this medication into something they can take orally or by inhalation. Typically they die in their sleep within a few minutes.

I wish I had pain that would go away. I would love to titrate down my dosage to nothing over a period of time. Unfortunately, the underlying cause does not ever go away.

Withdrawal symptoms are horrible and someone who can and should get off opiodes needs medical support to wean themselves off such drugs.

I hope you are able to get help from someone who can work with the addict and all the people close to him/her to help them save their own life.

zophu's avatar

Addiction is a perversion of intuition. It is a perversion of a person’s very desire. It corrupts vital portions of their being. Of their soul. It trespasses upon things that are naturally sacred for any thinking creature, let alone a human. An addict feels this even if they do not understand it, and it breaks them in ways that may never be mended.

Convenient trait of an addict, though: they’ll never challenge a controlling power. Just in case you come to the conclusion that these behaviors are encouraged more than deterred by society. “If you don’t grow up in the way we want you to, you’ll go under stress and eventually be introduced to drugs that make that stress go away. Any way, we own you.”

But that doesn’t matter for your family friend, does it? Well, as an alcoholic, (who is drunk right now,) I can say the best thing to do is give them a new life. Give them new everything. Long enough to detox their body, long enough to detox their brain, long enough to detox their personality. Anything short of that, strict medical help may succeed, but there is no purely medical cure to severe addiction. Addiction is life, perhaps your family member is lost. What can you really do to help? (emotional drunk, disregard negativity)

loser's avatar

@stardust Thank you. And not what zophu said.

buster's avatar

Just one more time. Try again tomorrow. I’m gonna kick tomorrow. Gonna kick tomorrow. Gee Im broke and payday is far off. How am I going to get this money? I can afford my addiction and my bills so somehow im better and my problem is much smaller than a common crack whores. I want to kill myself. I need to get some up so I can speed through this hangover at work. Im so wired still I will never sleep without some pills. I hate myself. Im nauseous. Damn whats taking dude so long? My chest hurts. Oh shit I think I might have overdosed. I think I might be having a heart attack. What day does she get her prescriptions filled? Who in my family has been to the dentist, shrink, surgeries, broke bones ?. I need a reason to visit them and raid the medicine cabinet. Put some goddamn toilet paper in the peephole. They are out there waiting. and watching. I hope I can piss this piss test at probation. Damn I wish 7 a.m. would come on its 5:30 a.m. and I am out of beer. Where can I hide this? Is this motherfucker wearing a wire? Im over it. Damn jail sucks. Damn rehab sucks. Damn these other patients in the psych ward i am in scare the fuck out of me.

All of these things I have thought at some point in life because of a drug addiction that has almost killed me before. I haven’t done cocaine in three years. I still regularly dream of cocaine and using it. I wake up and realize i don’t have kilos on the table and I am disappointed for a moment my dream isn’t real. Im a work in progress. At the height of my drug addiction I hated myself and what I had become so bad. i was so ashamed. so lonely because i alienated everyone who cared about me. One night Im crying and smoking crack all at the same time by myself. I just want it to end. I lost my job, car, girl, and I was being evicted. I had boosted a bottle of phenobarbital from a medicine cabinet that was prescribed to a pitbull for separation anxiety. I remember crying and finally deciding I was going to go to sleep with the help of a shitload of phenobarbital. I swallowed all the pills and curled up in my bed in a blanket and cried myself to sleep. A concerned friend finds me the next day moaning in the bed. An ambulance comes and takes me to the hospital. I wake up 4 days later in the intensive care unit. Im still really fucked up but when my thoughts clear enough to realize im in the I.C.U. and not dead I am devastated. I failed at life and I failed at suicide. My parents are there. Im ashamed. My soul is crushed. I wish I hadn’t sold my pistol. After a long time in the I.C.U. I was moved to a psychiatric unit which was all new to me. After I was in a few days I started to come out of my shell and go to group therapy and make friends and just observe what happens in the looney bin. Eventually i am released am have been trying to better myself since then. I had to make a stop at rehab and go back to the hospital a couple times the first six months after my failed death to get my head straight. I still struggle but things are brighter for me now than I ever remember. Little things make me happy again. Man I wasted a lot of my life chasing after bullshit.

Drugs make me think of death. This is my uncle stacy. He was 6 years older than me at 33 when he died. I idolized him. He was a big brother to me. I started skateboarding as a kid because he skated. He was always in rock bands, working at his record label. I would run away to Nashville and stay with him as a teenager. He got me into shows I wasn’t old enough to get in. All the promotional crap bands and record labels sent his record label and store often found its way to me. Stacy loved to party using lots of different drugs an he was my connection in the big city to get things done. Last August Stacy was chilling at his house on a Sunday afternoon. He had been taking xanax, drinking beer, and smoking weed that afternoon. He did that combination regularly for years without fatal consequence. He was sitting on his couch talking one minute then slumped over suddenly and quit breathing. By the time he was rushed to Vanderbilt and they got him breathing on life support but he was brain dead. He was left on life support for over a week. Waiting for someone to die is so much harder than if they just die quick. I miss him so fucking much. My dad’s other brother Alan who was 45 died in February of this year of an accidental overdose of valium and alcohol. His wife had took the kids and left him not long before he died. He didn’t call grandma on her birthday and she knew something was wrong. They broke into his house and found him in bed dead. Three years ago in June of 05 my younger cousin Wes who always lived next to me and skated and partied with me died. He was shooting oxycontin passed out vomited and choked out on it. I got several more tragic stories of close friends who died way too young from drugs. I just hope I never put my family through that.

mattbrowne's avatar

Depends on the drug, but most of the time the reward center of the brain is involved. Very often it’s about dopamine surges that need to be maintained because of desentization.

LuckyGuy's avatar

My reply was simply an answer to the question. It was not meant to either show compassion or lack thereof.
The addict can rationalize anything:
I have enough money for crack but not for my utilities. Screw the gas company. They have too much already. My brother has cash, he’ll never miss this. Those people are insured – the company wil pay. They have two cars – they should have hidden the key better.
My final sentence was just some helpful advice from experience. “Don’t give him money, your car keys or leave him alone in your house. Ever!”
Usually you try to help in the beginning thinking it was simply a bad investment, or his girlfriend robbed him, or he was fired or or bad luck. Eventually you realize he is just a bottomless pit that will suck you dry if you let him.
Draw the line, and never cross it. Have 911 on speed dial. He can even rationalize violence.
@buster You got it. I wish I could give you more GA!

Silhouette's avatar

In your particular case I’d say they are seeking freedom from the pain. You build a tolerance for Opioids. 1 tablet every twelve hours stops working like it once did so you up your dosage 1 tablet every 8 hours again it stops working 1½ tablets every 6 hours. Opioids stimulate the release of euphoric chemicals in the brain. Over time, more of the drug is required to produce the same release, leading to abuse. When they try to cut back the withdrawal causes more pain adding to the pain they were already in.

ValerieTeacup's avatar

@bob: I like your answer. (8

trailsillustrated's avatar

I really like @buster ‘s answer. million ga’s. I have had friends die too. and come close to it myself. Someone did give me a new life. a new everything. worked out just like @zophu said.

Jude's avatar

So, so hard.

Hi Jenny,
Again, thanks for taking the time out of your day to come down. I hope I didn’t seem ungrateful, but when you hurt it is difficult to socialize and interact. I heard everything you said to me, but honestly the person who knows all what you were talking about is me. I live with it every day and night. Never take your health or anything for granted.
I’m going to lay low for awhile. It’s not that I don’t want to talk to you or Steve, but I’ve got some things I’ve got to sort out. I“m not sure where I’m going to turn, but I’ll find someone or something.
Again, I appreciate your efforts today…take care of yourself, and try and go forward with your plans. I’ll be O.K
Love me

Answer this question




to answer.
Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther