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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Now he looks for another kind of high: Crystal meth recovery

Joe Duavit says he turned to crystal meth, or speed, in college to help study for exams. But the powerful upper also gave him a high, and an addiction that consumed him. He began to steal from his family to support his habit, going on binges that would last for days. "I ended up in a straitjacket in a psychiatric ward," says Joe, who in 1992 finally conquered his addiction. He then went to work for Habilitat, a drug treatment center in Kaneoho, Hawaii. The urge to take the drug again was the most difficult part of the recovery process, Joe says.

New research may help explain why drug abusers struggle so much with the compulsion to take such a risky drug again and again. A scientific study now suggests that compulsion can be traced back to damage to a part of the brain involved in making good decisions. Yet people such as Joe do recover -- often with the help of therapy. Studies also now suggest that the brain may heal itself after a person stops abusing a drug, a finding that indicates that recovery may get easier as time goes on.

Joe didn't notice any memory problems after he quit meth. But he did have to learn how to take pleasure in things that many people take for granted. He says he had to learn how to get satisfaction from working hard toward a goal, such as getting a college degree. And, over time, Joe did experience a healing, in his case one that freed him from a seven-year addiction to meth. Now as a drug treatment counselor, he looks for another kind of high, one that he gets from helping others break free of drug addiction.

Advice to people struggling with addiction: Look for a better high in helping people, like Joe did.

Read another of our addiction recovery stories, or read Dr. Don Miller’s source story, from the USA Today of April 18, 2002.

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