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Endorphin Deficiency Syndrome and Buprenorphine

Posted Jan 18 2011 12:53am

Every now and then I receive an e-mail  or comment that is sufficiently long to warrant a post of it’s own.  Below is the comment without interruption;  a bit lower I repeat parts of the comment, interspersed with my own responses.  I hope you find it interesting.

The comment:

I am a strange case: vegetarian, healthy, Pilates instructor, good-looking– NEVER A DRUG ADDICT — but i had a secret-  I was badly depressed for years- treatment resistant to over 30 meds, only some helped to a point… I did extensive research into the brain and opiate systems and i wondered if it was possible my endorphin system may be the culprit ( check this primer: http://www.prohibitionkills.blogspot.com/)

 I was desperate enough to try out opiates as a final solution ( and I monitored myself- I have brakes yet I was always scared of tolerance– and forever afraid to keep on that track) then i found my holy grail… i learned about Suboxone’s other use-  ( and it is now being studied for depression)

I was forced to lie to get on Suboxone, i pretended i was an Oxycontin addict etc.. i know that is wrong, but i was trying to save my life ( i was already at the point of suicide attempts)…not only did i get better, i brought my  mother in who was also treatment resistant and she was made better also within a week when even ECT failed her and messed up her brain for a good year…..she still takes what i took- 1mg in morning, 1mg in afternoon ( we both sensed that was when we needed a second dose not uncommon believe it or not for other depression sufferers that noticed a drop in the afternoon that Suboxone was again needed)

Anyway she is doing great on it to this day…saved her.

Me after intense meditation for one month- seriously no joke – i sensed i was ready to go off it.

 i do everything the hard way- so i went cold turkey off my 2mg a day after being on it for 5 years.

lucky for me- no depression- although the withdrawal did a real number on me– i was so sick from flu and withdrawal , horrible coughing, sore throat, dizzy and weak i wound up at the ER – thought i had H1N1. lol !  I was bed-ridden for almost 2 weeks; i ate nothing for a whole week but soups.

it was NO walk in the park, i was so weak i could not brush the tangles from my hair, even talk much to anyone. and the sweats were out of this world.

i am now at one month and 2 weeks.  i still feel  kind of weak and sickly, swollen glands, and sometimes a sore throat a little, my face is pale and i have huge dark circles under my eyes… the sweats have almost stopped….but my pupils still dilate… when i exercise i tend to feel worse not better — why is that?  

but my real question is this:  why does it make me look so pale and dark circles- ?? is it the interrupted sleep? or low blood pressure or vitamin deficiencies? Anemia – i take lots of vitamins and 3 iron pills a night (always did as a vegetarian).   i only wake up once or twice a night and i take a quarter of sleeping pill – unfortunately- every night still- otherwise i will be up forever..

And is there any nutritional things i can do to make me look less ghastly?  i look like a heroin addict and feel like people will see me that way as i can’t keep saying i have a flu forever !! ! What puts color back in the face ?

* before u lecture me about my terrible lie to the Suboxone doctor ( i think he knows anyway as he had to fudge my notes to make me a worse addict than  i claimed)  but u know what? When i was in ER , and could hardly walk straight from my flu + withdrawal–i told the doctor while i felt like i was dying – that even then…  i was so happy i took Suboxone – it cured me and my mom FROM A LIFETIME of DEPRESSION. 

there IS NO withdrawal that is worth depression, let alone years of it, so please don’t lecture me on what i did, i saved 2 peoples’ lives by lying and i would do it again in a heartbeat…( in fact i was so angry when i found they have a cure for treatment resistant depression i tried in vain to contact media sources to publish a story on it- but who would touch that?)

edie

Wow.  I am exhausted.  I’m not sure why- but some comments take so much energy to get through—and this was one of those comments.  Is it just me? 

Some of my answers will likely come across as harsh, and for that I apologize in advance.  I don’t wish Edie any bad will, but my comments will probably show that I think she has gotten a bit carried away with some of her ideas.  Besides, some of the readers LIKE it when I get obnoxious.  Admit it!

My responses—for those of you who still have some energy left:

I am a strange case: vegetarian, healthy, Pilates instructor, good-looking– NEVER A DRUG ADDICT — but i had a secret-  I was badly depressed for years- treatment resistant to over 30 meds, only some helped to a point… I did extensive research into the brain and opiate systems and i wondered if it was possible my endorphin system may be the culprit (check this primer: http://www.prohibitionkills.blogspot.com/)

Most of my friends are drug addicts.  Most are not good-looking.  They all eat meat—lots of it—and laugh at people in Pilates classes.  And they AREN’T depressed.  I’m not drawing any conclusions—just pointing out an inverse correlation with an ‘n’ of about 6.  I’m also suspicious of the ’30 meds’ comment;  it would take a lifetime to give 30 meds adequate trials, even if there were 30 different meds for depression.  But I exaggerate too, so no big deal.

The primer is interesting, mainly for the collection of links to articles about the effects of opioids on mood and depression.  Edie describes doing ‘extensive research into the brain and opiate systems.’  I don’t know exactly what she did, but the long treatise at the url above is in no way scholarly, but rather is a collection of scattered, mostly-minor studies and comments with many, many incorrect statements, all intended to make the reader believe that there is a unique type of depression caused by deficiencies in the body’s endorphins.  I hardly know where to start—but the article, for example, claims that Effexor (venlafaxine) is a good antidepressant in part because of its similarity to the actions of tramadol— and that implies that venlafaxine effects the endogenous opioid system.  This is all nonsense.  Venlafaxine is an SNRI.  Tramadol has effects on norepinephrine reuptake as well.  But tramadol has entirely SEPARATE effects on the mu receptor that are NOT shared by venlafaxine.

The comments about acupuncture… there are a host of studies that show a failure of opioid antagonists to block the analgesia produce by acupuncture—evidence for an effect that does NOT involve endogenous opioids (which are blocked by naltrexone).

I honestly could go on and on and on… we know the mechanism of capsaicin on the release of substance P;  the effects are a very long shot from thinking that using (or eating!) capsaicin will somehow increase a person’s endorphins.  The writer describes a type of patient—a combination of cluster B traits from the DSM, along with assorted personality traits like ‘crying easily.’  Evidently somebody wrote a book.  Understand that the current distinctions between mood disorders, while not perfect, are based on hundreds of studies and years of input from psychiatry thought leaders—who then have their opinions examined and tossed around by more thought leaders.  Comparing the list of symptoms for ‘endorphin deficiency syndrome’ in the article with the longstanding and scientifically-validated diagnoses from the DSM is like someone writing a poem off the top of his head and saying it belongs in the Bible.

The problem is that there is such a thing as REAL science.  I actually DID study neurochemistry and neuroscience during my work for my PhD, and despite that four years of intensive labwork, lectures with distinguished scientists, searching through literature to write and defend my 150-page thesis—despite ALL of that and then my medical school training—I learned about a tiny, tiny bit of how the brain works.  The actions of receptors, neurotransmitters, and their relationships to mood and other subjective states encompasses a vast amount of knowledge, much of which contradicts itself from one study to the next.  One cannot extract a few studies out of ten thousand and use them to draw conclusions.  I’m searching for an analogy… it is like measuring the temperature during one minute from one hour of one day, in a town in Southern Wisconsin, and saying that you therefore understand the climate of the US—and that the US is a rainy and cold place.  You would be ignoring all of the other towns, times, and temperatures—and thinking that your point about the US was still valid.

I’m never going to finish this…

I learned about Suboxone’s other use-  ( and it is now being studied for depression)

I do recommend that people periodically check www.clinicaltrials.gov to see the interesting studies involving buprenorphine.  I would expect other partial agonists to appear on the scene in due course.

I was forced to lie to get on Suboxone, i pretended i was an Oxycontin addict etc.. i know that is wrong, but i was trying to save my life

I’m sorry to interrupt, but this sure sounds like something an addict would say, doesn’t it?  Nobody can be ‘forced to lie;’  we CHOOSE to lie because we like what the lie does for us.  Maybe it was justified… but ‘forced’?  C’mon.

i am now at one month and 2 weeks.  i still feel  kind of weak and sickly, swollen glands, and sometimes a sore throat a little, my face is pale and i have huge dark circles under my eyes… the sweats have almost stopped….but my pupils still dilate

So much for being good looking!  Sorry—just another bitter, bad-looking bald guy…

why does it make me look so pale and dark circles- ?? is it the interrupted sleep? or low blood pressure or vitamin deficiencies? Anemia – i take lots of vitamins and 3 iron pills a night (always did as a vegetarian).  

Shoot—I was just going to suggest a good T-Bone, medium rare.  But seriously, the dark circles can be caused by tiny hemorrhages around capillaries, which tend to be very fragile under the eyes… and the pallor of the skin from vasoconstriction in that part of the body—which is part of opioid withdrawal, along with the ‘goose flesh’ that is so common. 

And is there any nutritional things i can do to make me look less ghastly?  i look like a heroin addict and feel like people will see me that way

There you go again, dissing addicts!  I’m sorry, but heroin addict don’t all look the same, and they don’t  all look ‘ghastly.’  I have patients in my practice who were opioid addicts—some oxycodone, some heroin, most whichever was around— who look like the other people they work with on the job as teachers, carpenters, attorneys, nurses, and CEOs.   And no—the thing that will make you look and feel better is TIME.

* before u lecture me about my terrible lie to the Suboxone doctor

Oops—did that already!

please don’t lecture me on what i did, i saved 2 peoples’ lives by lying and i would do it again in a heartbeat…( in fact i was so angry when i found they have a cure for treatment resistant depression….

I NEVER lecture people, but I don’t know if you would get the Nobel prize in Medicine for what you did—although didn’t Al Gore get it for something already anyway?

I’ll stop here.   There is no conspiracy, and buprenorphine is not a ‘cure’ for treatment resistant depression.  Yes, it does seem to improve mood for SOME people.  But there are big downsides—for example the state that you currently are in.  You may be positive that you are not an addict, but I’m not;  your lie to get yourself on buprenorphine for a while MAY have placed something in you that you cannot yet see, that you will regret some day.  If, in five years, you are free of depression and also free of opioids, then it appears that at least in YOUR case, the experiment worked.  But frankly, the odds are against you.  You will tell me all of the reasons why you are different, and special, and why you will never use again…. But I suspect that if the depression returns, you will have a hard time avoiding another lie for another trial of opioids.  If you can’t get buprenorphine but instead buy opioids on the street, you are looking pretty similar to every other opioid addict—ghastly or not.

I have written about this topic before, and included links to some of the things linked on the url that Edie provided.  My bottom line?  If a person has a history of depression and is an opioid addict, there is one more reason to stay on buprenorphine long-term.  But I would have to think very long before conditioning a person to crave opioids—which is essentially what Edie has done.  As my treatment-roommate said (about regretting making porno movies with his wife while using), ‘there are some things that we learn, that we cannot unlearn.’    The warm, fuzzy feeling provided by opioids is one of those unlearnable things, and the lesson comes at a steep price—especially in a person who is prone to episodes of depression that only respond to opioids!

I hope I wasn’t too rough, Edie—I do wish you the best.

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