-Sagebrush Addiction Treatment Center, VA: Director of Admissions
-City of Alexandria, VA Detox Facility: Therapist
-United States Air Force, Military Psychologist, Chief of Behavioral Health
and the Alcohol and Drug Program
-Cape Fear Regional Hospital, NC: Intern, Chronic Pain Day Treatment
Program, Cardiac & Pulmonary Rehabilitation
I am a REVIVE! (Opioid Overdose Reversal for Virginia) volunteer first responder in the community.
Nationally, we are in the midst of the worst drug epidemic ever. Currently, more people die from drug overdoses than car accidents or gun homicides. This epidemic has been fueled by an aggressive 1990's marked campaign by a leading opioid pharma that promoted the wide spread use of opioids to treat pain, professing the minimization of addiction. As a result of these campaigns, Today, approximately 80% of heroin users started with legitimate prescriptions for opioids.
I work with individuals in recovery seeking to develop positive coping and life skills to remain drug-free. I also work with individuals to rebuild relationships severed by substance misuse and addiction. In the coaching model, I am available outside of scheduled appointments via phone and email to support wellness progress and manage challenges as they arise.
I do not believe individuals "surrender" to their addiction. I believe individuals in recovery should strive and be proactive in seeking a healthy way to live. I encourage my clients to exercise and eat healthy to engage their brain's natural dopamine and endorphins in mood improvement. I work with and collaborate with other medical providers in coordinating care and wellness in a proactive manner.
The Brain in Recovery
Linda Cherry PsyD
Neuroscientists are beginning to have a better understanding
of the adaptation the brain likely goes through after continuous heavy use of
addictive substances that leaves the brain damaged—even after years of abstinence. One irreversible change that can manifest and
leave the brain primed to relapse even after a mere single exposure to an
addictive substance is referred to as “reinstatement” by neurobiologists and
“relapse” by counselors and individuals who are addicted.
More important to be aware of is the fact that reinstatement
is not triggered solely by the substance “of choice” the individual may have
used primarily before. Reinstatement can
occur after using any addictive substance as all of these substances utilize
the same brain reward pathway.
Prevalence of Addiction· Nearly 23 million Americans—almost 1 in
10—are addicted to alcohol or other drugs· More than two-thirds of people with
addiction abuse alcohol· The top 3 drugs causing addiction: Marijuana, opioid (narcotic) pain
relievers, & cocaine.
Clearly demonstrated in research: animals repeatedly exposed to the addictive
component in of marijuana (tetrahydrocannabinol, or “THC”) and then not given
THC for a period of time are statistically more vulnerable to become addicted
to morphine more quickly than animals not previously exposed to THC. This phenomenon is called
“cross-sensitization” or “cross addiction.”
For example, if a teen who previously used THC on a regular basis through
college and then obtained a professional job and stopped using it
recreationally went to have surgery---in post op, they were given morphine both
in the hospital and then for a couple of weeks at home—is at significantly
greater risk for addiction due to alterations in the brain.
In fact, it is estimated as many as 56% of patients who
receive long-term prescription opioid pain medication for ailments such as low
back pain, progress to addictive opioid use.
Note: this statistic actually
reflects those with no prior history of addiction. So, it may be projected the addictive
potential of those with a prior history of addiction would be significantly
higher based on the principle of reinstatement as discussed above.
How Drugs High-Jack the Brain
Our brain registers pleasure, whether it is a psychoactive
drug, sex, monetary reward or merely a satisfying meal. In pleasure, the brain releases the
neurotransmitter dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. All psychoactive drugs, from nicotine to
heroin, cause a powerful surge of dopamine in this area of the brain.
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