FLASH SALE!! 10% off, Promo Code “LOVESICK” (This weekend ONLY)
Body For Awareness Project: Your clothes. Your body. Your truth. Support alt-media and help raise awareness. On Sale Now.
(Stillness in the Storm Editor) Addictions, of all sorts, are ways of managing negative emotions or accessing positive emotional states. In particular, opiate addicts tend to have some measure of undesired anxiety, which is felt as a pain that needs to be alleviated through the numbing effects of the opiate. The problem is that the lasting solution to the emotional problem is to grapple with the conflicts that create anxiety, forming conceptual solutions that make you feel better about your life. But the numbness prevents you from going through that mental healing process. What’s more, the anxiety causes desensitization, meaning that you’re less responsive to life, and as such, feel less pleasure, leading to disillusionment. Given these factors, learning how to resensitize yourself so you can degrade your anxiety and feel pleasure again is the key to lasting recovery from opiate addiction.
As a former opiate addict myself, I know first hand how easy it is to get lost in the drug.
For me, about 20 years ago, the crippling anxiety I felt in social situations made me miserable. I wanted to connect with others, I knew that this was rewarding, but doing so was really difficult. One day, during my drug exploration years as a late teenager, I tried oxycontin and felt relief from my anxiety for the first time in my life. And with that relief, I felt comfortable socially again. At the time, it was a revelation. I honestly didn’t know how I was going to carry on with the anxiety I was dealing with.
But of course, the addiction to opioids created a whole new problem.
Part of the problem with anxiety is that it changes the way our brain works.
Think of destructive anxiety as one end of a pole, with play and joy on the other.
There are different types of anxiety. In the main, anxiety, neurologically, is the state of arousal you feel when your about to do something or when you’re exploring something new. It’s also this same feeling that pulls us out of a calm state when we’re startled, like hearing a loud noise. The anxiety is designed to redirect our attention and focus, which is then accepted by our free will, thereby directing the energy of anxiety into some productive behavior. It’s when we don’t act or refuse to deal with the thing our body is trying to get us to focus on that anxiety goes from adventurous excitement to cripplingly toxic.
For many of us who suffer from anxiety issues, the problem is the latter.
We feel anxiety but don’t know what to do with it. This triggers the freeze response in the brain, causing disassociation. The longer we stay in this anxious yet inactive state, the more withdrawn we become. If the anxiety persists for long enough, series mental problems like psychosis and schizophrenia can develop.
The reason why is that the anxiety systems in the brain are, again, designed to force you to focus on something. This causes changes in perception that make you see the world differently, specifically by numbing you to everything else. This is why, when, for example, you discover your lover was cheating on you, or your house was burned to the ground, it’s like you can’t get your mind off it. Your brain is trying to get you to deal with the changes in the nature of the conceptual objects you’re using to manage your reality. In other words, the moment you discover your partner cheated on you, your brain registers this as “I don’t understand the world, and therefore, the things I need and value are at risk.” Not unlike grabbing a hot handle on a stove, your brain is trying to force you to gain new knowledge and form new behaviors to deal with a reality you don’t know how to navigate.
But when we don’t know how to deal with the problem, our brain can get stuck in this limited focus and awareness mode. This loss of awareness means a loss of sensitivity. And pleasure, as we know it, is the act of being stimulated by something we value.
One of the greatest discoveries of modern psychology is that we’re so hardwired for stimulation, we’d rather die than have none of it.
What does this mean in relation to opiate addiction?
Putting all the pieces together, it means that unchecked anxiety leads to a loss of sensitivity, specifically to things we value in life. This is why, when you’re triggered about work, let’s say, it’s hard for you to listen to your wife or husband, even if you want to.
The anxiety needs to be dealt with. Opiates, and other numbing drugs, like marijuana, alcohol, and so on, reduce anxiety, making you feel as though you are free to play and access pleasure again. And you are but in a reduced capacity. You’re numb now, which means you won’t feel as stimulated as you normally would, which means you need more stimulation to feel the same amount of pleasure.
The solution is to, of course, get off the drugs. But the drugs were addressing the symptoms of a greater problem.
The next step is to deal with the anxiety, which is the harder part, but essential. This will require self-work, self-discovery, time, and patience.
One thing we know for sure about the brain is that a great deal of anxiety comes from social aspects of life, namely, how healthy our sense of social attachment is. If we have good relationships with people around us, we tend to feel less anxious. If all your personal relationships are fraught with tension, frustration, and unresolved conflict and resentment, you’ll have a lot of anxiety to contend with. This way, as a piece of general advice, finding a way to at least be amicable with everyone in your life is a good idea.
The following article explores anxiety and addiction’s association with social attachment.
Alongside resolving specific issues with your unchecked anxiety, you need to resensitize the brain.
If you’ve been dealing with chronic anxiety, as most of us have, you have habits that you’ve formed to avoid reality. They were needed to protect you but now they are obstacles to your fulfillment. For example, one of the things someone with chronic social anxiety, agoraphobia, has to learn how to do after they manage the anxiety is forming social connections again, as they tend to create all sorts of justifications as to why not talking to people is a good thing.
As part of this healing process, mindfulness is very helpful.
Mindfulness is a meditation technique that is founded on the principle of fractionation. In simple terms, the longer you focus on something the more normalized you become to it, meaning you become less sensitive.
For instance, if I played you a new piece of music, something you really loved, the first time you heard it you’d experience the most pleasure. If I play you the song 10 more times, you’ll still enjoy it, but with less potency. By the 100th time in a row, you might be contemplating smashing the speakers with a hammer. This is called normalization, or the slow and inexorable desensitization we experience when exposed to a regular set of stimuli.
Mindfulness allows you to focus on something else, something new, which causes the brain to become more sensitive once again. The term fractionation refers to the idea of “breaking up” your exposure to something over several sessions, with a different focus during the breaks. Psychologists have measured how this changes the brain, causing us to learn better and feel more joy in the process.
Additionally, mindfulness combined with affirmations can retrain the metacognitive definition we assign to something, which means we can change how we feel about something using this technique. When someone wants to stop having a fear of heights, they expose themselves to a height, and then, through focused training exercises, invoke a sense of calm, peace, and relaxation in the face of the height, which rewires the brain to interpret the situation differently.
Opiate addicts and those who suffer from anxiety tend to have a fear center that is overly triggerable. They tend to feel more fear and anxiety, in life in general, than other people. This can lead to general anxiety disorders, like ones that prevent people from leaving the house. By using mindfulness, the fear centers that have gone astray can be adjusted back to normal. All of this reduces anxiety, and therefore, reduces the need for opiates.
Lastly, the other cost of opiate addiction is a false sense of equanimity.
Our brain is constantly assessing if we can achieve our goals, based on how we feel at the moment or about a proposed goal. For instance, you might want to go dancing tonight night, but if you feel nauseous, your brain won’t produce the same level of excitement neurotransmitters, knowing that you don’t feel well enough to go. Anxiety disorders seem to work on this same system, except life itself takes on the quality of feeling insurmountable—making us feel like we aren’t “ready” enough. Thus, if you’ve been on opiates for a long time, even just a few days, your brain starts to associate that numb feeling with normalcy, which will make normal life after seem overly uneasy. Hence, part of the challenge of lasting opiate addiction recovery is learning how to love the feeling of normal life once again. Here, mindfulness is helpful because you can invoke a playful mindset when in meditation, which will naturally activate the exploratory centers of your brain that reward us for experiencing new, stimulating, things.
With the power of self-knowledge in hand, one can deal with the challenges of addiction with much greater ease.
In the mainstream, recovery from addiction often means denying yourself relief from deeper issues, like the anxiety disorders we mentioned. But with the ability to heal wounds of the soul, which I would argue are the true causes of mental illness, one can truly be cured of addiction in all its forms.
(Nikki Harper) Here at WuW, we’ve reported on the opioid addiction crisis several times. The statistics make for grim reading indeed, with more than 130 people in the US dying every day as a result of opioid addiction, including the misuse of prescription painkillers . However, with over 20% of the US population experiencing chronic pain  and with opioid painkillers frequently being prescribed to this demographic, the crisis shows little sign of abating.
by Nikki Harper, December 16th, 2019
One of the root causes of the problem is the way in which long term opioid use blunts the senses. Despite a short term improvement in mood when opioids are first taken, over time they alter the brain chemistry of the body’s reward recognition system, dulling the patient’s ability to feel pleasure in life’s ordinary joys – time with family, or beautiful scenery for example . This means that patients have to take more opioids just to feel ‘normal’ again, and thus the cycle of addiction begins.
However, hope could be on the horizon, in the form of mindfulness training. Two new studies have independently shown that patients trained to use mindfulness techniques show an increased appreciation of day to day joys and fewer opioid cravings, as well as less chronic pain overall.
The first study, from the University of Utah, worked with 135 adults who take opioids daily for chronic pain. Half of the patients were randomized to an 8-week mindfulness training course, with half randomized to a therapist-led support group. EEG readings were taken at the beginning and end of the 8-week period, and the results, published in the journal Science Advances, were clear: those who took part in the mindfulness training were significantly less reactive to cues around their opioid medication and significantly more reactive to ordinary pleasures, when compared to the support group only patients .
This study used a specially designed mindfulness training program, called MORE – mindfulness-oriented recovery enhancement, which was designed by Eric Garland, associate dean for research at the University of Utah College of Social Work and lead author of the study. The program teaches techniques to help patients notice and appreciate the good things in their lives, as well as techniques to find meaning in life’s problems. It is thought therefore that these patients are at lower risk of becoming addicted to opioids.
“Our nation’s opioid crisis kills more than 100 people a day,” said Garland. “So it is critical that we help develop new and effective ways to prevent opioid misuse. The data shows that MORE can play that key role.” 
The second study, at Rutgers University, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, examined the use of mindfulness training alongside medications for opioid addiction. The subjects of the study were 30 patients with chronic pain and opioid addiction. Some of the patients received mindfulness training, while others received normal counseling; both groups continued to have methadone maintenance therapy to treat their addiction. The results showed that those who received mindfulness training were 1.3 times better able to handle their cravings and also showed significant reductions in pain and stress and improvement in positive emotions, compared to those who received standard counseling .
Although methadone maintenance therapy has been shown to be effective in treating opioid addiction, nearly half of treated patients continue to take opioids during treatment or relapse within six months  so the addition of mindfulness training to this treatment program could be a major boost to success rates, the results suggest.
For those in the US who are prescribed opioid painkillers, between 21 and 29% will go on to misuse the drugs, with 8-12% developing full addiction . We already know that mindfulness has a host of other physical and psychological benefits, from impulse control and depression management to weight loss and lower blood pressure . If mindfulness can play a role in reducing or managing the current opioid addiction crisis, that will be one more benefit to this incredible technique.
-  https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis
-  https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6736a2.htm
-  https://bjanaesthesia.org/article/S0007-0912(19)30236-3/fulltext
-  http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aax1569
-  https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/10/191017111703.htm
-  https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0376871619303059
-  https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/10/191015103358.htm
-  https://nickwignall.com/mindfulness-benefits/
About the author:
Nikki Harper is a spiritualist writer, astrologer, and editor for Wake Up World.
Stillness in the Storm Editor: Why did we post this?
Health is an important human value. Almost everyone, regardless of political affiliation, national origin, or religious association, values being healthy, free of disease and able to pursue their dreams and values. The preceding information discuses health in some capacity, either by alerting the public to poor health choices or suggesting better ways of living for optimum health. With health freedom in hand, which is a primary survival need of all living creatures, the individual can be liberated from fear of personal suffering. This leads to the capacity for holistic thinking, playfulness, and inspired living—activating our capacity to thrive.
Not sure how to make sense of this? Want to learn how to discern like a pro? Read this essential guide to discernment, analysis of claims, and understanding the truth in a world of deception: 4 Key Steps of Discernment – Advanced Truth-Seeking Tools.
Stillness in the Storm Editor’s note: Did you find a spelling error or grammatical mistake? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, with the error and suggested correction, along with the headline and url. Do you think this article needs an update? Or do you just have some feedback? Send us an email at email@example.com. Thank you for reading.