Sunday, 15 February 2009

Diary: Happiness is ...

DIARY: One of the worst effects of drug addiction for me is the loss of interest in normal activities and interests. This has plagued me since my spiral into heroin addiction many years ago. Nick Miller from The Age has reported on some interesting new findings from Melbourne University which sheds more light how drug use causes this loss of interest.


THE sight of happy children or delicious food will usually trigger an instinctive flash of happiness. But illicit drug users are dulled to these "natural" pleasures, possibly because the drug has warped the brain's reward system, according to world-first Melbourne University research.
For myself, this lost of interest is one of the main reasons for relapsing and I imagine this is also the case for many others. So when I read the article below, my mind was filled with a mixture of thoughts. Although I had learnt a while back that my heroin addiction was just as much a physical problem as it was psychological, I still couldn’t help feeling relief. The common perception that all drug addicts are selfish and weak is hard to shake off especially with so many strong opinions around. Luckily, loss of interest due to drug abuse was now official.

I was once a music buff, collecting CDs by the dozens. My love of various modern music styles had me listening to everything from west coast session like Steely Dan to British Punk like the Sex Pistols, from oz pub rock like Cold Chisel to The Beastie Boys, from System of the Down to cult country like Johnny Cash. I even played bass, keyboards, guitar and some drums. If someone had a music question, they came to me. I was a walking encyclopedia of music trivia and facts. But that all changed with heroin and now I never listen to music except for an occasional short burst of enthusiasm.

To loose interest in something that I have loved since I was 5 years old is disheartening but it also raises all sorts of questions about the chemical imbalance in my brain. I obviously could find normal activities fulfilling for most my life but why am I compelled to take opiates now? Wasn’t I fulfilled enough or did something change? My guess (and it is a guess) is that because I have always been a big drinker or a recreational drug user, I was looking for something more than my brain was giving me. I have always been a happy sort of guy but much of my life involved drinking and often drugs. For example, my favourite past time was going to dinner/lunch; good food, great conversation, lots of laughs and plenty of booze (especially red wine). Other favourite events were seeing pub bands(drinking and sometimes drugs), going to the football (sometimes drinking), parties (always drinking and drugs) and at times, all of the above in one weekend binge (lots of drinking and drugs). You probably see the pattern here.


Drug use had probably dulled the brain's ability to find other pleasures. But some people may be predisposed to not enjoy natural pleasures so they sought artificial highs.

The loss of interest doesn’t just affect your recreational time but runs much deeper. For example, I can’t work a full time job anymore. It takes me a few hours each morning to feel semi-normal after I have taken my meds, I need to sleep at least once during the day and my focus is too short for a regular employee. It also affects my social life by being absent from too many family functions. This has caused massive problems with my wife and in-laws who are used to a typical European culture of family events. I mostly don’t even like leaving the house and if I can avoid it, I do. It makes me respect heroin addicts like April Morrison and David who get up every day for work and function as valuable employees.

The High Of Happiness Eludes Drug Users
By Nick Miller
The Age
February 2009


THE sight of happy children or delicious food will usually trigger an instinctive flash of happiness.

But illicit drug users are dulled to these "natural" pleasures, possibly because the drug has warped the brain's reward system, according to world-first Melbourne University research.

The researchers say the study, published yesterday in the Archives of General Psychiatry, has important implications for drug treatment programs. It shows that drug users need help not only to stop but also to find other pastimes to replace the drug "high".

Heroin users were shown images that normally induce a pleasure response, such as pictures of children, sports events, food or peaceful scenery. Electrodes tracked movement of the face and excitement of the brain to measure their automatic response.

Compared to non-addicts, they derived far less pleasure from the images, but got a rush from images of the preparation of heroin and drug paraphernalia. The duller their response to natural pleasure, the more heroin they were likely to use in the next six months.

"This suggests that simply saying 'go to detox' is not useful," said lead researcher Associate Professor Dan Lubman, from the Orygen Research Centre at the University of Melbourne. "To succeed (in ending a drug addiction) we have to value other things, to experience other pleasures. We need to encourage (drug users) to work on making their lives more enriched, to get involved with other activities."

Drug use had probably dulled the brain's ability to find other pleasures. But some people may be predisposed to not enjoy natural pleasures so they sought artificial highs.

Former heroin user Tim said he had never found joy as a child in activities that others enjoyed.

"I found it difficult to join in," he said. "When I took up narcotics, at a very young age, that gave me a licence to participate. I had found something that did bring me pleasure."

After 20 years of addiction, Tim beat the habit. And recently he found a "simple" joy: "I took my son to Lorne and he joined the nippers (junior lifesavers) … It was one of the proudest moments of my life when he came second in the race for the baton."





6 comments:

Bill said...

Very interesting read Terry. I'm sad to say that I became largely focused on heroin whilst a lot of my prior interests slowly faded away.

Terry Wright said...

Thanks Bill.

I hope it gets better for you.

Terry.

l said...

It's been 5yrs now for me and while I'm happy that I'm clean, I'm bored as batshit. Sadly, I doubt that will ever change.

BTW, good work on the blog. "I stumbled on it today via Pure Poison"

Terry Wright said...

Thanks I

I don't think most people could understand either. I sure have a hard time explaining why I can't be bothered going out very much. Unfortunately it's even worse when it comes to doing the dishes.

Stuart G said...

Hi Terry!

Just wanted to point out to you that you have done more writing on a very, very important subject than 99.9% of the population.

I can understand your frustration at losing a passion for music, but what is this blog if not a passion? I am sure you must enjoy changing the world in just a small, but positive way?

Naysayers might say that your passion for this blog is fueled by the 'drugs, the evil drugs', and your dedication comes from that, but i feel differently.

I hope you take pride in your work and know that you are doing something good.

If nothing else you are making people think, and Socrates has been quoted as saying "I don't care if i am wrong in every argument if i can make the other person re-examine their own views and see if they still believe them completely" or something like that...

Kudos.
Stuart G. Hobart

Terry Wright said...

Thanks for your post Stuart.

I'm glad you feel this blog is making a difference by making people think about drug use and drug laws. I too feel it is such a big issue but overlooked as something that doesn't affect everybody. Every person on this planet is touched by the UN/US drug policies to some degree.

Thanks again for your kind words.

Keep up with the great comments!