Stemming the Tide in the Upsurge of Addiction
If ever the famous quote:- “No Man is an Island” (1) were to be valid, it has shown itself to be more appropriate at this time than ever before. As the results of lockdown start to emerge, addiction is becoming increasingly commonplace (2) and often goes unregistered by the sufferer. It is almost as if it has become normalised in the new paradigm that Covid-19 has thrust upon the population of enforced isolation and physical distancing. What better time to tackle this before it becomes a regular default mechanism as the constraints persist?
As Nora D. Volkow states:- “Persons who are isolated and stressed - as much of the population is during a pandemic - frequently turn to substances to alleviate their negative feelings. Those in recovery will face stresses and heightened urges to use substances and will be at greatly increased risk for relapse. Peers, family members and addiction treatment providers should be alert to this possibility. Clinicians should monitor for signs of substance misuse or use disorders in their patients, given the unprecedented stresses, fears, or even grief they are facing”. (3)
This is important for the homeopath to realise: patients may easily gloss over this when giving their case and this aspect can be hidden, not only to them, but also any professional they may consult. It is almost as if the habit or substance which has been adopted (or re-adopted when having been dealt with in the past) goes ‘under the radar’ to give structure to an otherwise formless schedule. Jobs may have been lost or the future on that front seems increasingly insecure to the sufferer, thus all incentive may have been lost, not overlooking the triggers mentioned in the paragraph above.
The addiction, whether it be an alcohol / drug issue or perhaps an eating, gambling or shopping one, becomes the one thing the individual can freely pursue when restrictions are increasingly being placed on their lives. They may feel they have increasingly fewer choices of self-determination which drives them to escape in this way. Combining rubrics from the repertory covering a) fear/fright, b) loss of control, c) domination d) helplessness, e) escape, f) ritualistic behaviour, one sees remedies coming up from all the major miasms, reflecting the simillimum in each case, e.g. Anacardium Orientalis, Androdoctonus Amurreuxi, Helleborus Niger, Iodum Purpurum, Lyssinum (Hydrophobinum), and Stramonium.
Addiction is usually rooted in some childhood trauma which has remained perhaps unrecognised or unresolved and culminates in this particular state. However, if the original hurt was so great that the memory has been wiped by the brain from the conscious level, a resonant reminder can occur much later down the line - this taps into ‘post-traumatic stress disorder’ (PTSD) and is when addiction can raise its ugly head as a way of blotting out the pain.
Reflecting on the Opium dens which were once so common in China in times of pestilence and serfdom, the idea of domination can be seen to be applicable to the addictive state generally. This ties in with the whole idea of the ‘Doctrine of Signatures’. It is no coincidence that Opium grows near battlefields, as in Afghanistan and in Belgium. Opioids act in different parts of the brain and nervous system, including the spinal cord to decrease feelings of pain, even after injury. Pain may not be felt in Opium on a physical level, such is the level of numbing, but markedly on a mental/emotional one. (4)
In May 2017, reporting on figures released by NHS Digital, a leading article in the Guardian highlighted the rise in cases of addiction due to over prescription of painkillers by doctors. (5) With the implications of the lockdown starting to be experienced, an increase in prescriptions for painkillers could be heading for a public health disaster, along with the other addictions which have accrued in this time of turmoil.
While disassociation can so easily be re-evoked by resonant triggers - especially when they tap into the original primal trauma if not resolved in the meantime, it should, at the same time, be pointed out that Opium or a remedy derived from a similarly mind-altering substance such as Ayahuasca, Anhalonium Lewinii, or Morphinum, may have to be given to open the case in order for full resolution to take place. After all, the longer-term implications of lockdown are likely to remain in place for some time to come as a very strong ‘maintaining cause’. The tendency to disassociate becomes compounded as the adjustment to the new paradigm created by anti-Covid measures becomes increasingly prevalent.
The remedy - Morphinum - apart from being derived from Morphine, a member of the opioid family of remedies, is the most sensitive to pain of all the remedies in the materia medica compared to Opium’s painlessness and, like the latter remedy, has a marked propensity towards addiction in its picture. The pain threshold could therefore be the key symptom to differentiate between the two remedies to open up the case. Not only can these factors
be addressed in this way, but also the patient can be supported concurrently in their actual craving. This can later be explored by the homeopath in the case-taking once the dependence on the drug has been addressed by the patient, for it is often the drug which underpins the case in the first instance.
Saccharum Album - the remedy derived from sugar - shares with Opium (along with Stramonium) the symptom of painlessness. This remedy is indicated not only for an addiction to sugar, but, if the case is allowed to progress, to heroin if the lure to hard drugs becomes hard to resist and increased pressure is placed on the patient. The background in the case is one of deprivation to the point of neglect which drives the patient into the scenario of a bottomless pit of neediness. Lockdown can be seen to have compounded the need for self-reward with sweetness in the form of sugar or, given the continued experience of duress, related substances, as mentioned above, if the lack of nurturing becomes even more intense.
According to Marc Wittmann, the psychologist and chronobiologist, “people suffering from depression are temporarily desynchronized” (6) : time does really pass more slowly when in a depressed state. This confirms why patients needing remedies derived from pleasure drugs such as Anhalonium Lewinii, Morphinum, and Opium have all been ‘arrested’ in their development after the point of impact of their early suffering. As a result, it can transpire they need a corresponding remedy to follow on after that first prescription to address that ‘stuckness’ and regression.
To summarise, as everyone attempts to adjust to the increasing uncertainty generated by Covid-19, addiction has, as a result, become more regularised in the population. As a result, the Meditations of John Donne written so long ago could not be more applicable. After all, “no man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…… Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee”. This powerfully prophetic elegy must touch the heart of every reader. This is no more so applicable than in today’s new paradigm of uncertainty and fear created by the responses to Covid-19, followed by climate change impacts and ultimately, potential mass extinction. (7) We are witnessing triggers, not only for the survival of the individual and those close to them, but also for the future of humanity as a whole.
Donne, John, 1624, ‘No Man is an Island’, Meditations XVII, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions.
Dubey, Mahua Jana, et al, June 9th, 2020, ‘Covid-19 and Addiction’, Elsevier Public Health emergency Collection,
Volkow Nora D., 2020, April 2nd, ‘Collision of the Covid-19 and Addiction Epidemics’, Annual of Internal Medicine (M20-1212).
Adalian, Elizabeth, 2017, ‘Touching Base with Trauma: Reaching Across the Generations - a Three-Dimensional Homeopathic Perspective’, Writersworld.
Guardian Newspaper, 2017, 'Unnecessary painkillers could leave thousands addicted, doctors warn’. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/may/05/unnecessary-opioid-painkiller-prescriptions-thousands-addicted-nhs-doctors-war
Wittman, Marc, 2018, ‘Altered States of Consciousness: Experiences out of Time and Self', MIT Press.
Ceballos, Paul R. Ehrlich, and Rodolfo Dirzo, ‘Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population losses and declines’, PNAS July 25, 2017 114 (30) E6089-E6096; first published July 10 https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1704949114. Contributed by Paul R. Ehrlich, May 23, 2017.