This blog will explore the psychology of addictive disorders, with an emphasis on addiction to opioids. Addiction to heroin and to pain pills has become a significant problem, fueled by a confluence of factors including a sluggish economy, over-prescribing and inadequate control of high-potency pain medications, and an abundance of cheap heroin. As a psychiatrist personally recovering from opioid dependence, I have come to see opioid dependence not only as one of the most significant public health epidemics of our time, but also as a prototype for understanding addiction to other substances or behaviors.
People with addictions usually believe that their situations are unique, and that nobody can understand what they are going through. Ironically, this belief and other beliefs held by addicts are as universal as any cluster of symptoms across the entire landscape of medical illnesses. And the progression of the disease of addiction is remarkably consistent from one addict to another, even across a spectrum of substance and behavioral addictions.
I will examine some of these commonalities, with the goal of understanding, predicting, preventing, and treating addictions in ourselves and our loved ones. Because of the rising death toll from opioid dependence and my own experiences with that class of substances I will lean toward topics related to opioids. But the reader will come to realize that whether pain pills, stimulants, gambling, or pornography, there are more similarities in the progression of addiction than there are differences.
About Dr. Junig:
Jeffrey received his PhD in Neuroscience and his medical degree from the University of Rochester. He completed a residency in anesthesiology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and worked for ten years in operating rooms and pain clinics before leaving the field to return to the study of the mind and brain. He completed a residency in psychiatry at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and is now a Board Certified Psychiatrist in solo practice. His interests include insight-oriented psychotherapy and the healing power of the doctor/patient relationship. His practice has found a niche in providing more time for patient appointments, seeing at most two patients per hour even for medication management; something that patients–not-surprisingly–prefer.
Dr. Junig has a weekly radio show about psychiatry and addiction, and is Asst. Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Medical College of Wisconsin. He produces a forum, www.SuboxForum.com, that provides education and fellowhsip for opioid addicts treated or considering treatment with buprenorphine. He provides other addiction resources through a portal at AddictionRemission.com. Information about his ‘live’ and telepsychiatry practices can be found at www.fdlpsychiatry.com.