Limbaugh Has Been Taking 30 Days Off For Treatment to Kick His Pain Killer Addiction Once and For All: What Is He Going Through? Is 30 Days Enough?
Part One of Two
By Perry Hicks
Back on October 10th, Rush Limbaugh announced to his stunned radio audience that immediately following the show he was going to check himself into a treatment program to kick his addiction to painkillers “once and for all”. He left the golden EIB microphone to a string of able and loyal guest hosts. Since then, “Ditto heads” have been wondering, what has Limbaugh been going through and what is the prognosis for a complete recovery? On both counts, the answer may not be all that good.
Efficacy of Detox & Rehab
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA, “treating addictions is as successful as treating other chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and asthma”. Unfortunately, this statement does not give me heart. There is a big difference between a “treatment” and a “cure”.
Think of an automobile engine oil leak. The cure is to go in, remove the offending seal or gasket and replace it with a new one. Treatment, on the other hand, is to pour something into the crankcase and hope the gasket or seal will swell up enough to stem the loss of oil. If it doesn’t, you try it again…. and again.
NIDA claims that drug abuse treatment reduces drug abuse by 40 to 60 percent. This is far from a cure. NIDA goes on to claim that such treatment substantially reduces criminal activity, and this is assuming a 12 month standard for treatment: Periods of treatment less than 90 days is deemed to have “limited or no effectiveness.”
Then there is the question of just what treatment, for even extended periods, is truly effective? Unfortunately, no one truly knows.
12 Step programs, developed in part and popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous, are recognized as one of the most successful programs at a recovery rate of somewhere between 1 and 20 percent. Severe cases require the 12 Step Program to follow a 28 day detoxification and rehabilitation program to help the sufferer prepare for life outside of the hospital or treatment center.
Both family of alcoholics and the sufferers themselves often refer to the “baffling” nature of the “disease”. Indeed, the phenomena of craving and subsequent overindulgence of various substances, to include food, computers, and even sex, have been given a label: Addiction.
Broadly speaking, an addiction is the compulsive indulgence in a substance or activity that is known by the participant to be harmful to him or her self. Overweight people will eat foods they know are fat producing. Smokers will continue to smoke knowing that it is harmful to their health. Drug addicts will use knowing that they risk, not just severe legal penalties, but the high probability of their own death.
I once worked for a man that had a string of just incredibly beautiful women visit his office all through the business day, day in and day out. They were all cocaine users and would do anything to keep supplied. Watching this phenomenon, it was evident that to explore the world of the drug abuser is truly to plumb the depths of depravity. The man, quite young by the way, died in an accident a few months later.
So, just what causes an addiction?
Apparently, in each case, addiction starts with some pleasurable activity. The addict, seeking to re-experience the rush of enjoyment, and perhaps the intense sense of what we will call a “high” in this pursuit, repeats it again and again.
With normal activities, this sense of pleasure can be experienced again and again because, what I will call our brain’s pleasure center, is able to recover from each episode of stimulation. However, with the powerful drugs such as the opiodes that Limbaugh had abusing, both the pleasure center and its associated processes are over stimulated to the point of being harmed. Consequently, higher and higher dosages (along with their associated toxic side-effects) are required to reach the same “high”. Over time, this pleasure center can be permanently damaged.
The pleasure center and its associated process do more than just make us feel good. It also staves off pain. The first time I heard morning radio talk show host Don Imus bickering on with his cast, I suspected that he was a recovering substance abuser. Occurrences that, in my view, would have been inconsequential, Imus reacted to with an abnormally heightened level of irritability! His on-air confessions to both alcohol and drug abuse confirmed my suspicions.
Thus, a true addiction can have either one or two components: physical addiction due to the harm done to our body’s normal processes and psychological addiction due to the damage done to our pain coping and pleasure rending processes.
Therapists, at least smart ones, will not attempt to counsel an active user. They must first get the offending substance out of their system. Thus, the first component of any resident treatment program is to detox the patient. Since long term abuse usually results in considerable physical damage, this detoxification process mandates medical monitoring and even care.
With opiodes, the withdrawal symptoms are not unlike those of heroin: drug craving, nervousness, muscle cramps and even bone pain, sleeplessness, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps (cold turkey), and muscle spasms in the legs causing kicking motions (kicking the habit).
Withdrawal symptoms can ensue as early as a few hours after the last use and peak somewhere between 48 and 72 hours later. The full detox can take over a week.
Once the patient has faced the rigors of detoxification, the real healing process can begin. This is also where medical opinion varies widely.
Some resident rehab treatment centers are more like health spas featuring a variety of amenities including exotic location, massage, special food, and even more special treatment plans that are claimed to have over 80 percent success rates. Others are more pragmatic and get down to the hard work of bolstering the patients character so that they may endure the relentless craving to get high again.
If the above scenario seems bleak, it is also realistic. One does not have to have much imagination to see a Rush Limbaugh waking in physical agony to stare at the ceiling and wonder just how in the hell he had gotten himself into this position.
Next, with the assistance of a therapist, he is going to have to face the realities of his now drug damaged personality. Those wearing lab coats in white are not going to accept a victim defense that he became addicted by chance of a medical treatment. While OxyContin and like opiodes have been reported to cause addiction with only one prescription, therapists will not allow the patient to use this to escape personal responsibility. Indeed, a good program will spend considerable time getting inside the patient’s head exploring their insecurities, fears, and the head waters of their mental pain. Often, it is this pain that brought the abuser to self-medicate themselves in the first place.
Rested, properly nourished, and isolated from the normal every day pressures of life; work, family, and even friends; the patient begins to feel better in about three weeks. Toward end of the traditional 28 day resident period, the patient may even be eager to return to everyday life, tackle their problems head-on, and assume control of their destiny. Often, they can be described as even euphoric.
The real danger is in returning, unsupervised, to their old environment, their old pressures, the sights and sounds and even the smells that can trigger the baffling craving for their intoxicating substance of choice. Many in the field of drug treatment peg a full ten years as the point when a recovering addict is relatively safe from relapse.
Rush has announced he will be returning to the airwaves Nov 17th. In Part Two we will look at the battlefield Rush will face when he returns home to both his family and the air waves.
Perry Hicks is a former Mississippi Coast resident and was a correspondent for the old Gulfport Star Journal. He has appeared on Fox News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor.” Perry has also hosted his own radio talk show on the auto industry with a mix of politics, and is a former Ford Motor Company technical trainer. He currently works as an Associate Professor of Automotive Technology at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond, VA.
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