Grief and the Genetic Component of Addiction

Grief and the Genetic Component of Addiction

Our team has had the privilege of working with Allyson who came to us for a dual detox off opiates and alcohol.  She was accompanied by a phenomenal support person, her Aunt Kimberly, who is strong and practical, and who truly loves Ally.

When I entered the room to begin the final day of her 8-day accelerated opioid detox coming off of buprenorphine, Allyson and her aunt were listening intently to a song; their eyes were misty. After I sat down, Allyson filled me in.

She is in her early 30s and, just like her brother, started experimenting with drugs as a teenager. Her family has had an unfortunate history of addiction. Her dad drank heavily and was also addicted to pain medicine. Even though he finally beat back these addictions, he struggled to build bridges back with his family.

Is Addiction a Genetic Disease?

All the family tumult made the siblings extremely close.  Brent was the person who first exposed her to marijuana, and he always looked out for her when they were around his friends.  Brent started to distance himself from Ally as he progressed to more serious drugs.  He didn’t want her to follow him on this particular journey.  His continued drug use eventually led to an incident that landed him in prison.

Meanwhile Allyson—ambitious and hard-working, completed training to become a head chef at a restaurant. At this point, she had a young son, Liam, and a troubled relationship with his dad. She visited Brent as often as she was able to, and told him in detail about the great meals she would fix for him after he was released.

During this period, except for when she was pregnant, Allyson was drinking regularly. Her coworkers in the hospitality industry loved to unwind after a long shift with a mixed drink, and she enjoyed hanging out with them. Since she lived with her mom at the time, she knew that little Liam was safe. She took an occasional pill when one of drug-using teammates offered it to her. She enjoyed the effects of the pills but, after seeing what had happened to Brent, made sure not to let the pill usage become a habit.

From Recovery to Relapse to Overdose

When Brent got out of jail, life improved sharply. Uncle Brent really bonded with Liam and could make him giggle like no one else.  Brent’s energy was infectious and—as a bonus—he had come out of jail ‘clean’—and didn’t intend to start using again.  He found a job at a construction site pretty soon and became a foreman before long.

At this point, Allyson’s story took a darker turn. “I’m not totally sure what happened…Brent had been on the outside for 2 years and stayed off drugs, but at some point he started shooting heroin again.” Although he tried to keep it a secret from Allyson, she eventually figured it out. Something changed. He stopped visiting as much and, when he did, his mind was elsewhere.  Allyson and their mom tried convincing Brent to get into treatment.

The last time Allyson saw Brent alive, he was acting like he did in happier times. He was excited to share with them his ‘favorite new song’, Where Rainbows Never Die, by The Steeldrivers.

Only a few days later, it was played at his funeral.

From Downward Spiral to Detox

Brent’s overdose sent Allyson into a bit of a tailspin. The loss of her brother was devastating.  As she grappled with the responsibilities of her job and with parenting, she started to turn to pills and heroin to numb the pain.  Inevitably, these were cut with fentanyl.  For almost 2 years, Allyson used these drugs to help manage her grief.

Eventually, her boss at the restaurant offered to help her.  Allyson started seeing a doctor who prescribed buprenorphine.  The buprenorphine helped her stop using street drugs, but she continued to indulge in alcohol.  When she came to the Coleman Network a few weeks ago, she was ready to end both the drinking and the Suboxone.

The physicians in the Coleman Network for Addiction Medicine assist patients in stopping street drugs like heroin, pressed pills, or kratom. We also help people stop using prescribed pain medicines like oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, and Ultram®.  Other people are ready to stop taking Suboxone (and other buprenorphine products) or Methadone, and to transition over to Medication Assisted Treatment using the non-addictive opiate blocker Naltrexone.  We also offer Alcohol and Benzodiazepine Detoxes.

How Our Accelerated Opioid Detox Works

Our outpatient Accelerated Opioid Detox treatment knocks the opioids off the brain’s receptors in a safe and efficient timeframe. Because of this, our patients are able to stay with their own support person inside their own home, or if they’ve traveled from elsewhere, in a local AirBnB or hotel. They come to the doctor’s office for daily microdoses of naltrexone and upon completion of the detox, we insert a long-acting naltrexone implant. The naltrexone occupies the receptors where the opioids used to be.

A naltrexone implant dissolves over approximately a 2 month period and blocks the highs from using opiates. We encourage our patients to stay on naltrexone therapy for at least 12 months.

A Safe and Comfortable Detox

Since Allyson had a dual Substance Use Disorder that included both opiates and alcohol, we extended her detox by a day so we could safely address her stopping the alcohol without dangerous side effects

She graduated smoothly from both detoxes and is psyched to have returned to her job as head chef. As part of her treatment program, she started meeting with a grief counselor.

As we were talking, I jotted the name of the song on my hand, and have listened to it several times this morning. The phrase that is resonating in my heart right now is this one:


I will make my way across the fields of cotton

And wade through muddy waters one last time

And in my dreams I come out clean

When I reach the other side.


Please call our office if we can help you or a loved one safely detox off an addictive substance that has taken over your life.

Joan R. Shepherd, FNP

Recovery Starts With Finding The Right Detox Option For You.

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