The other day, the Coleman Network received a call from Noah, who had completed his Accelerated Opioid Detox roughly 1 week ago. He has a very physical job and is the father of a 4-month-old baby, Noah. In fact, Noah is the reason he finally decided to stop his drug use once and for all. Noah had been using high dose opiates for over 20 years, with a few small blocks of abstinence thrown in.
He did well through his detox; he was able to stay comfortable getting off the equivalent of somewhere between 300-450 mg of mixed opiates. He was also using heroin but didn’t want his grandmother—who was his support person-to know about that. We never mentioned it to her.
His call came because he is so very frustrated with his lack of energy. With a highly physical job and an infant, not to mention the mother of this infant who is desperate for his help, Noah was tired of being tired. He wanted a magic pill to boost his energy. He was so certain this pill existed and that I could prescribe it for him.
It doesn’t exist.
Natural Dopamine to Fight Low Energy
Dopamine, the neurotransmitter that allows us to feel pleasure, is made in our brains so we can enjoy food, sex, laughing, a beautiful sunset, fishing, hunting…whatever it is that personally brings us pleasure. But when an external source (like opioids) constantly overload the brain with exceedingly high levels of dopamine, the brain eventually stops making its own. It just can’t compete.
Research shows that if external sources of dopamine are not introduced into the brain for about 4 months, the brain will begin to make it again. And that’s what we tell our patients.
When patients come in for their Naltrexone implants and follow up appointments, we always ask, “What is your energy level on a 0-100% scale?” This is something we track and analyze throughout a patients’ experience with us.
Most people are feeling better in 2 to 4 weeks depending on the specific opioid they used. It is closer to 2 weeks for patients getting off short-acting opiates such as most painkillers and heroin; closer to 4 weeks for patients detoxing off methadone and Suboxone. Most patients 4 months out from their detox are not reporting 100% regarding their energy level.
Healing Low Energy the Right Way
Part of my job at the Coleman Network is to help people manage their expectations around this reality. Some patients say they have used various amino acid supplements that seem to help with a quicker recovery. Others say exercising, working hard, and avoiding naps during the day help. I think it’s important to put the best ‘fuel’ into our bodies we can, but I haven’t met a patient yet who doesn’t eventually feel and look better within a few months, even if the only change they make is stopping opiates.
So I have great faith that Noah’s dad will regain his energy, hopefully, sooner than later. And when that baby looks up into his dad’s face and smiles and laughs, or when he takes his first few steps, I think some genuine dopamine will be coursing through this proud daddy’s brain.
Joan Shepherd, FNP