Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Liquid Courage

Imagine a bottle filled with an elixir of courage that could be taken whenever needed with no ill effects to your mind and body.  Certainly sounds like a gift from God! I wish it was true but as we all know too well, nothing in life that is valuable or desirable comes free and easy. While I was writing a blog on this topic, an article titled “Liquid Courage” written by Randall W. Forsyth in Barron’s Weekly (February 18, 2013) captured my attention. He cited a study in the journal Science about fish swimming in a river in Sweden contaminated with benzodiazepine (Xanax) that made them bolder, greedier and more efficient feeders compared to a similar type of fish that lived in clean water. The author stated that the chemically contaminated water was tantamount to “liquid courage” for those fish. However, losing their inhibitions made these fish dangerous by feeding on other beneficial species as well as more susceptible to attack by predators.

Two years ago, a patient came to my office who had struggled with his alcohol addiction. He was a sensitive, timid, socially shy individual with low self-esteem. He recognized that alcohol lowered his inhibitions and transformed him into a talkative, confident and socially assertive individual. He said alcohol was his liquid courage.

However, the alcohol-induced appealing transformation came with a hefty price tag which was a loss of clarity and clouded judgment. In actuality, alcohol turned him into a bold but reckless individual. He liked being cool, but hated to lose control. His Alcohol Addiction cost him his job, marriage, credibility and driver’s license. He was stuck between a rock and a hard place.

I told him that if he wants to conquer his alcohol addiction, he must first stop looking for an easy way to foster his courage. Of course, this is easier said than done. The right way to boost his courage and self-esteem is to be the best he can be and make the most out of the talents, tools and opportunities bestowed upon him by Our Maker (Nature). Once he accepted this fact, he reached his turning point and was able to perform to his satisfaction. Alcohol no longer served as a crutch.

Honest, honorable and hardworking individuals will never resort to artificial means to boost their self-esteem, courage and confidence.

By Balasa Prasad M.D.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Detox your mind - not your brain. How to take charge of your Oxycontin Addiction.


> Twelve million Americans are addicted to prescription drugs.
>Every day, 40 Americans die from prescription painkillers.
>Overdoses of opioid prescription drugs now kill more people in the U.S. than do overdoses from heroin and cocaine combined.
>Over 750,000 people are treated for pain reliever abuse.

 A 43 year old male sought my help in terminating his Oxycontin Addiction. He was taking 6-8 tablets, illicitly purchased, a day for 2 years and lost his grip on life.  Before his Oxycontin Addiction, he was a successful self-employed businessman and family man who never engaged in unhealthy habits or addictive behaviors. A couple of years ago he had an ankle fracture and his doctor prescribed Oxycontin for the pain. He took it for months and was hooked. He was never weaned off the medication nor could he discontinue himself.  
Unfortunately, many prescribing doctors either neglect or disregard the potent addictive nature of Oxycontin and other opioid narcotic analgesics and their long-term effects. As an anesthesiologist and pain specialist, I believe opioids should be prescribed for about one to two weeks, and if necessary followed by less potent non-addictive analgesics or NSAID’s such as ibuprofen. I flat out tell my patients that if they take opioids for more than two weeks - be prepared to be addicted.    
Oxycontin Addiction is an opioid addiction. And like all addictions it is a problem of the mind not the brain. Thus, the mind not the body is locked into the addiction.
Detoxing the brain with chemical agents such as methadone only solves the physical withdrawals which are short-lived. However, these chemical agents do not erase the euphoric effects of Oxycontin Addiction which is registered in the mind and that leads to cravings and urges. These cravings and urges keep the Oxycontin addict hooked. Detoxing the mind from this memory is crucial to break the relationship between Oxycontin and the addict.
I told my patient that to detox his mind he will have to accept the responsibility of his addiction and the willingness to sacrifice the pleasure or the thrill to secure a bright future and good health. Only this step can neutralize his cravings. Detoxing the mind is the turning point in his struggle to clean up his act and to permanently disengage from the addiction. Based on this philosophy, I gave him two turning point treatments to overcome his cravings for the drug which helped set him free from his addiction.
Balasa Prasad M.D.