Grief and the Genetic Component of Addiction

Grief and the Genetic Component of Addiction

Our team has been blessed recently to work with Haylee, who came to us for a dual detox off of opioids and alcohol.  She was brought with her an outstanding support person, her Aunt Joyce, who is level-headed and patient, and who loves Haylee unconditionally.

When I came into her room to start the last day of her 8-day accelerated opioid detox off of buprenorphine, Haylee and Aunt Joyce were listening closely to a song; their eyes were cloudy. Once I sat down, Haylee filled me in.

She is in her thirties and, like her brother, began partying with drugs in her teens. Her family has a history of addiction. Her father drank a lot and was hooked on pain medications.  Although he eventually beat these addictions, he was unable to reconnect meaningfully with his family.

Is Addiction a Genetic Disease?

All the family stress made Haylee and brother very close. Brian was the person who first introduced her to weed, and he always looked out for her when they hung out with his friends. Brian started to pull away from Haylee as he started using more serious drugs, since he didn’t want to lead her down that same path.  His path ultimately took him through the front door of a prison.

During this time, Haylee remained focused on her goals, and ultimately made her way through internships and hours of hard work to become the head chef of a restaurant. By this point, she had a young son, Aiden, and a difficult relationship with his father. She visited Brian as much as she could, and teased him about the fantastic meals she would fix for him after he got out.

Except for when she was pregnant, Haylee drank regularly. Her fellow workers at the restaurant liked to wind down after a long night by mixing some drinks and hanging.  Since she lived with her mother during this period, she knew little Aiden was in good hands. She took an occasional pill when one of coworkers offered it to her. She liked how the pills made her feel, but after seeing Brian’s downfall, she was careful to limit her pill taking.

From Recovery to Relapse to Overdose

After Brian was released, life got much better.  Nobody could make little Aiden laugh as often or as hard as Uncle Brian.   Brian’s energy was also contagious.  He had gotten out of jail free from his drug addiction and was committed to keeping it that way.  He started working in construction and quickly rose to supervisory role.

Unfortunately, Haylee’s story turned darker in its next chapter. “I’m not exactly sure what changed…Brian had been on free for 2 years and stayed away from drugs, but then something prompted him to start using opiates again.”  He tried to keep it hidden, but Haylee eventually found out.  His visits became less frequent and he stopped seeming like his old self.  Haylee and their mom tried to get Brian to get into a treatment program.

The last time Haylee saw Brian alive, he seemed to be doing better. He was thrilled to share with them his ‘favorite new song’, Where Rainbows Never Die, by The SteelDrivers.

Within a week, they played it at his funeral.

From Downward Spiral to Detox

Haylee went into a spiral after Brian overdosed and died.  She had always been able to turn to her brother in tough times.  Now, as she wrestled with motherhood and a demanding job on her own, she began to use some pills and more alcohol to tamp down her grief.  For about two years, this was her primary coping strategy.

One day, the restaurant owner offered to help Haylee get into treatment.  She found a physician who began prescribing Suboxone®.  The buprenorphine helped her get off street drugs, but she continued drinking.  When she came to Coleman Addiction Medicine, she had decided to stop both the drinking and the buprenorphine.

Our team at Coleman Addiction Medicine helps patients get off street drugs like heroin, pressed pills, or kratom. We also help people stop using prescribed pain medications like hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, or Ultram®.  Other patients are ready to stop taking buprenorphine or methadone, and to swap over to Medication Assisted Treatment using the non-addictive opiate blocker Naltrexone.  We also offer outpatient alcohol detoxes in our Fair Lawn office, which is located less than 30 minutes from New York City.

How Our Accelerated Opioid Detox Works

Our outpatient Accelerated Opioid Detox treatment displaces the opioids from the brain’s receptors in a safe and efficient timeframe. Because of this, our patients can stay with their own support person at their own home, or if they’re from farther away, in a local AirBnB or hotel. They come to the doctor’s office each day for microdoses of naltrexone and, after finishing their detox, we insert a long-lasting naltrexone implant. The naltrexone occupies the brain’s receptors where the opioids used to sot.

A naltrexone implant dissolves over approximately a 2 month period and blocks the highs from using opiates. We encourage our patients to stay on naltrexone therapy for at least 12 months.

Since Haylee had a dual Substance Use Disorder that included both alcohol and opioids, we stretched her detox out by one day so we could safely address her stopping alcohol without triggering dangerous side effects

A Safe and Comfortable Detox

She completed both detoxes without a hitch and is thrilled to have gotten back into the swing of her job as head chef. As part of the aftercare arranged by our Case Manager, Haylee started meeting with a grief counselor.

When we were talking, I scribbled the name of the song on my hand, and listened to it over and over this morning. The lines that are echoing in my heart right now are these:

I will make my way across the fields of cotton

And wade through muddy waters one last time

And in my dreams I come out clean

When I reach the other side.

Please call us if we can help you or a loved one safely detox off an addictive substance that has taken over your life.

Joan R. Shepherd, FNP

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