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The Drug Addicted Brain

Geralt; Pixabay

For people like me, whether we are in active addiction, or living a life of sobriety now, like me, we live each day of our lives with different ways of thinking. Many say that no matter how long we stay sober, we will always have different mindsets in our brain. They have become to be known as the sober brain, and the addicted brain. Another word used for sober will sometimes be the healthy brain. Whatever the titles used may be, they represent two very different mindsets that an addict has to deal with. This is always true, whether it’s during an active addiction, a detox, a time period of sobriety, a relapsing experience, and every struggle, and success before, after and between.

When I think about this topic, I wonder again and again, how do I start this discussion? Because this subject is one that can have the potential to be about changes that are back and forth, left and right, over, under, etc etc.

rebcenter-moscow; Pixabay

In this first of two parts article, I wanted to introduce everyone to the addicted brain. I want to really tell you what it’s all about. You will see that the addicted brain, is much more than just the mindset that gets us using the actual drug. Let’s learn about the entire frightening process.

Obviously, when we are in active addiction, we are almost exclusively working with that addicted brain. To describe it, is to lay the groundwork for something very sad. A mindset that’s entire goal is surrounded around how to get a drug, the mission to actually go and get that drug, is the drug good quality or not, and how are we going to establish a way to immediately get more money, to be able to go buy more drugs later in the day.

Because one score, rarely lasts a day. It’s sad but true.

Geralt; Pixabay

Every thought is surrounded by these type of moments. We may spend all day using drugs, and trying to figure out how to get drugs for the nighttime. That way, we can save those late night drugs for the morning for when we wake up sick, in absolute withdrawal hell. Because every morning comes with sickness. There are just no ways around it. But guess what; those drugs from the night before, are already long gone by wake up. Because at midnight, or 1 am, we just use, and use and use.

It’s a true example of insanity, when we have to accept the fact that illness, every single morning, is the new norm, in which our life has become. Being terribly sick becomes the life we have chosen. When I say sick, I mean muscle aches, chills, hot sweats, cold sweats, cramps, severe anxiety, depression, upset stomach, inability to eat, nausea, major diarrhea, restless legs, uncontrollable goosebumps, and other random issues. Now imagine every one of those symptoms in severe mode, at the same time.

For the most part, relief couldn’t really be found, except from a drug like heroin (or other opiate or opioid). What has made it amazing, and frightening at the same time, is that heroin would cure these major symptoms very quickly. Within a few minutes if inhaled, but only a couple seconds, when injected. Something that powerful comes with horrific consequences. It’s a life, lead by the devil.

harutmovsisyan; Pixabay

I give those details, not as bragging or glorifying war stories. I do it to present the foundation for just how much, the addicted brain controls and consumes everything. It controls our every move, our relationships, our jobs, our appetite, sleep, mental health, physical health, hobbies, and the worst thing addiction can steal from us is freedom. Because it’s usually quite likely, that addiction to heroin can lead to crime. Especially when you need hundreds of dollars of the drug each day just to get normal. This is while not having a job, because the drug use got you fired long ago. So how do we come up with the money?

It’s a destructive life. One where we quickly begin to truly hate ourselves. We enter a realm, where we do many things, that we could have never, ever imagined we’d be doing. Until we find ourselves doing it all.

This is a life on invisible handcuffs. We lose everything, and everybody, and even worse we lose ourselves. We live in a world flooded by our own dishonesty. So much so, that we soon forget what the truth really us.

This is one side of a complex story. Again, there are no motives for bragging or glorifying here. The intention is to reach someone out there who may be suffering.

Tama 66; Pixabay

I want you to know, that this doesn’t have to be a dead-end. You can start a new life today. Phone a trusted friend, phone a rehab, or walk into an emergency room. For those who have never tried to experiment with this lifestyle, I hope reading this helps assure you that you want to keep it that way.

Next week, we look at the sober brain. We look at the reality that shows us that a tragic life, can have a happy ending. A new world is possible.

Stay Tuned

Michael Patanella

is a Trenton, New Jersey Author, Publisher, Columnist, Editor, Advocate, and recovering addict, covering topics of mental health, addiction, sobriety, mindfulness, self-help, faith, spirituality, Smart Recovery, social advocacy, and countless other nonfiction topics. His articles, publications, memoirs, and stories are geared towards being a voice for the voiceless. Hoping to reach others out there still struggling.


The Drug Addicted Brain was originally published in ILLUMINATION on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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The doctor gave me the wrong drugs to treat my OCD and this is what happened….

Do we really need medicine to treat mental illness?

Unsplash _ Anthony Tran

“I think he talks to someone in his head, who asks him to hurt himself”

“Hasn’t he visited a psychiatrist?”, I ask

“He has but they aren’t helping…..I think he’s on the wrong medication”

The first time I came across a mental health issue was in college. Sadly it was quite extreme. And worse, it was my friend who needed urgent help.

Through a common friend, I had found out that Rohit, let’s call him Rohit was suffering from chronic anxiety attacks, insomnia and worst of all hallucinations. In the past 6 months, he had cut himself, stopped studying, become a recluse, had random fits of anger, tried to strangle himself the list went on.

Honestly, it was quite frightening to listen to these accounts.

But what was worse was to find out that he had been suffering like this for months despite medication and infrequent therapy.

I clicked pictures of the tablets and sent them to my mom who’s a doctor and as anticipated the drugs were too strong for him and not the right kind.

As if going through mental anxiety, hallucinations, the feelings of self-harm weren’t enough. My friend here was being prescribed the wrong doses of the wrong medicines to cure him.

We immediately took him to another doctor to get him new medication.

If this was happening to a brilliant 20-year-old, in a completely safe environment, I couldn’t fathom what these medicines were capable of.

What are your Drugs Doing To You?

We get a headache, we pop an aspirin, we get low blood pressure we eat chocolate. But when it comes to the brain, what do we do?

It made me seriously question the role of drugs in people’s mental health.

How do these drugs work? What do they do? Do we really need drugs?Are they replaceable? Whats the data Supporting drugs being successful to treat mentally unwell people?

As a biology major, we are often taught the different areas of the brain. While we love considering the brain an enigma. In an attempt to understand it, it is often likened to a machine.

A complex machine with different sections performing different functions. The neurons are like little gears that keep internal machinery moving, while the brain chemical or neurotransmitters are like fuel that the machine needs to keep it firing and useful.

So just like when a machine gets spoilt we try to change the gear that caused the problem, or maybe it needs more oiling to keep it running. That is exactly how doctors tend to approach the brain. If they see a problem they study it extensively figuring out what’s causing the problem and try to change that part. And when science discovered that depression was in some way correlated to lowered serotonin in the body. They did what any brain mechanic what do, they come up with a way to increase the serotonin levels in the nervous system.

This is what created an Antidepressant.

Now there are several kinds of antidepressants some of them increase the serotonin, dopamine, or norepinephrine in the central nervous system.

The truth is this technique works. The data from hundreds of peer-reviewed studies show that the drugs are helping people.

But there are a hundred more papers showing that they aren’t helping enough.

Volkan Olmez– Unsplash

The doctor we took my friend to diagnosed him with OCD — obsessive-compulsive disorder. He was given a paraphernalia of drugs to help him get through each day. Despite being on six different medications — ranging from antidepressants to antipsychotics, to sleep-inducing drugs. He was expected to be on these drugs for at least a few years. Yet within a fortnight, he had to be sent home for recovery. Instead of an academic semester, his timetable was spent between doctors visits, therapy and distraught parents.

This is a textbook case of a person who should have recovered from medication. Every data states — cases of mental health which cannot be treated with treatment and therapy, show effective recovery with these drugs over long periods of time. But even after 6 months of medication now he still gets panic attacks, is occasionally suicidal and extremely aggressive.

The Data I’m Trying to Believe

WHO states that currently 450 million people in the world are mentally unwell, and at one point every fourth person in the world will go through a period of mental illness. With such predictions, we should have been able to have a foolproof system of therapists, drugs, counsellors, social support systems in place to help people.

40 to 60 people are said to have recovered with antidepressants and antipsychotics, which may be better than the recovery of people given placebos. But there is no guarantee that these drugs will have any effect on you. Moreso the chances of relapse are high, so you’re probably going to be taking these drugs forever.

Its time we start looking at Mental Health as a lifestyle disorder rather than just trying to tweak some chemicals in the brain. Yes, we don’t know what the drugs we’re administering actually do. But we do know that there are more methods than medicine to treat mental illnesses.

Every mental health patient should go through therapy but instead of immediately resorting to medications which are clearly not impactful enough and are permanent. We must really look at alternate forms of treatment for Mental health patients.

Matt Flores- Unsplash

1. Nutrition and Diet based Therapies

Everybody has different nutritional requirements. Tweaking those can be quite effective. There’s an entire article explaining the science behind this.

Can the right Food cure Anxiety ?

2. Music, art, dance — Creatively relaxing Therapies

Getting an opportunity to release endorphins — hormones good for our body health by doing things we love and consider relaxing is an effective way to treat mental afflictions.

3. Flora and Fauna Therapies

Being a homo sapien automatically makes us an animal. yet we often forget to connect with our roots, maybe going back to the origin can make a significant difference to our well being.

4. Meditation, Yoga, Psychotherapy

These techniques are not only relaxing and calming but an age-old method to tap into the subconscious. If that and a little bit of faith works for you then there can nothing better than treating mental illness, with some good energy from the mind.

I am a biologist, I have a tendency to look for scientific proof for everything. Yet the truth is somethings work and have not yet been adequately researched by science to make a conclusion on. If they work for you try them. They might save you from another dose of drugs.

Today we’re going through a pandemic. Doctors are trying different medicines each day and lives are being lost while on the other hand, some people are recovering without medicines.

“Just because you don’t understand it doesn’t mean it isn’t so.” — Lemony Snicket, The Blank Book

Science does not have the answer to everything. It might have your answer in the future. But you will probably find your answer before science does. Please use it. It doesn’t have to be an antidepressant.


The doctor gave me the wrong drugs to treat my OCD and this is what happened…. was originally published in ILLUMINATION on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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