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By Andrew Finley, M.A., MFT

The official definition of an intervention is “an orchestrated attempt by a group of people to intercede on behalf of a person whose behaviors and habits are damaging their life, sanity and health as well as the lives and well-being of those around them.” This person, who shall hereafter be referred to as the Identified Patient (or, “I.P.”), has not normally solicited this assistance from others and usually is, in fact, taken at least nominally by surprise when faced with it. You’re fed up with all the bad behavior, lies and embarrassing moments, but you love and care for them. What do you do? What CAN you do?

Deciding to stop drinking or using drugs is the first step toward recovery, but the most feared and physically challenging step is detoxification, particular for those abusing opiates.  Detoxing from opiates is so challenging that it's often the reason a person relapses. However with supportive physical and emotional care and by understanding what to expect, detoxification can be successfully accomplished and recovery can begin.

1. Why are opiates so addictive?

Opiates and synthetic opiate-like drugs are substances that latch onto opioid receptors on the surface of certain nerve cells like keys fitting into locks. When drug and receptor connect, the reward circuitry in the midbrain turns on, and there's a flood of the feel-good brain chemical, dopamine.  The dopamine surge creates an intensely pleasurable sensation, a mix of relaxation and elation. In fact, researchers have found that the amount of dopamine resulting from opiate abuse is 2 to 10 times that of naturally rewarding experiences like sex or eating!