Lessons from Laura

Lessons from Laura

A Disease of the Mind

Lesson from Laura by Carolyn Bradfield

In January 2018, I wrote an article each day that focuses on the lessons I've learned from my daughter Laura who died from a drug overdose at age 29. She struggled with addiction for 15 years, an uphill fight for her and millions of others that often ends as hers did in a hospital room, connected to tubes, and slipping away from this world to the next.

Over the last 2 days, I have revealed that my daugh- ter Laura struggled for 15 years with addiction and finally lost her battle on December 21st when she overdosed. For the month of January, I'm delivering a different article each day to raise awareness, start the conversation and finally create some calls to action for all of us.

Addiction is a disease of the mind

I've had a number of conversations over the years and several in the last 10 days about "addiction". It's amazing to me that we feel so conflicted about what we think it is and how to explain it to others. Here is my way of looking at it:

Addiction is a disease of the mind that creates powerful urges to pursue the "substance" in the face of increasingly negative consequences.

So, what is going on in the brain?

According to Harvard Health, "Today we recognize addiction as a chronic disease that changes both brain structure and function. Just as cardiovascular disease damages the heart and diabetes impairs the pancreas, addiction hijacks the brain. This happens as the brain goes through a series of changes, beginning with recognition of pleasure and ending with a drive toward compulsive behavior."

The brain responds to a pleasure stimulus by producing dopamine. In an addict's brain, the pleasure center speeds up, has a more intense release of dopamine, and then lays down the memory so that the brain creates a powerful urge to repeat that process. Drugs, in particular, provide a shortcut to flood the brain with dopamine. Over time, the brain develops a higher tolerance for the substance requiring the individual to use more and more of the substance, creating intense cravings and compulsive behavior.

But isn't addiction really just a series of poor choices?

To respond to the brain's desire for more and more pleasure stimulation, an addicted person will indeed begin to make poorer and poorer choices. However, the brain and its biology are powerful and extremely difficult to resist. Addicts will move heaven & earth and lie to those they love, disrupt their lives, lose their jobs and risk jail and even death to satisfy the signals the brain is sending to them.

Can an addict recover?

Absolutely! It's not enough to "just say no" to the substance. You have to give the brain something else that satisfies that pleasure center. Other interests, passion-ate causes, reaching out to others......and the list goes on and on. The next time you think about addiction and are tempted to view the person as weak, corrupt and damaged, consider the fact that this is a disease of the mind, not just a personal failing.

InterAct LifeLine

InterAct provides technology for Virtual Care and Opioid Education Programs for use by treatment programs, state and local governments and non-profits.  Carolyn Bradfield founded InterAct LifeLine in 2018, shortly after her daughter overdosed and died.

Visit InterAct