Addiction: Relapse and recovery -


Addiction: Relapse and recovery

Celebrity overdoses are headline news but the struggle to stay sober usually take a back seat.

Heroin is a powerful addiction. Dr. Stafford says once those "baby birds" are fed with the drug, the chemical dopamine takes over the brain. He described the physiological process.

"Their body and brain is just flooded with this massive amount of dopamine," Dr. Stafford explained. "And when the brain is flooded with that much dopamine, the receptors are overwhelmed. And so the receptors then regress and get smaller because they don't want to be overwhelmed. And then when the heroin is gone you have diminished dopamine receptors, so then you have a person who can't even enjoy a sunset."

Many addicts make multiple attempts to get clean before they are successful. Dr. Stafford says patients can learn from each relapse and shouldn't be ashamed when they slip.

"Patients, when they have relapse, they go out and don't really have time for those hungry birds to calm down and so they're still gnawing at them," Dr. Stafford explained.

With time, he says, brain receptors are reset and addicts can get better. It is a difficult journey through withdrawal, followed by intense emotional and spiritual healing. Dr. Stafford says it's important for families of addicts to be forgiving and supportive.

So what does he tell loved ones?

"You haven't made a mistake. Your loved one has a disease and they can't help it any more than you can help it," he said.

Copyright 2013 WBRC. All rights reserved.

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