My addiction testimony.
My name is Pascal Gramme and I live in Belgium.
I was addicted to opiates, benzodiazepines, and antidepressants.
It all started one day in March 1993, a day I will never forget.
This particular morning, I was at work and suffering from a severe toothache. The day seemed very inauspicious, as it had started so badly. On top of the recurring toothache, I was also in a state of high anxiety and angst, a state I was in every single day, not only on difficult ones.
I asked a work colleague if he had a painkiller on him, and he handed me four pills. I only took one, but it was a revelation. My angst and anxiety vanished. I checked what these “happy pills” contained, and read the word “codeine”, so, naturally, I thought this was what I needed.
Finally, I had an answer to all the years I had spent suffering from a crippling anxiety, all these days when I felt on edge, without ever understanding why.
So I took codeine to calm this anxiety and anguish that were destroying my life bit by bit.
From 1993 to 1997, I would take it very sporadically, in fact, almost in a recreational manner. I would still, however, question whether it was a good thing or not, but would conclude that since codeine was available over the counter, it can’t be that dangerous.
If only I’d known, because in 1997, on the 16th Nov exactly, I had a very bad driving accident, whilst on 2.8gr of alcohol in my blood.
This accident was extremely violent. I crashed into the wall of the bakery in my parent’s village at 160km/h, and woke up (yes indeed) in the refrigerated display units after going through my car windscreen and the shop windows. Result: broken ribs on the left side and completely smashed shoulder.
At the time, I had a restaurant in Brussels, and as such couldn’t take any time off.
Since I had to work with terribly painful broken bones, I upped my use of codeine, which wasn’t all that unpleasant since it also dealt with my anxiety issues. Imagine that, I could mix usefulness with pleasure.
From 1997 to 2001 my intake of opiates of all kinds exploded: I was taking codeine tablets, tramadol, dextrometorphan, and laudanum in cough syrup form amongst others.
In 2001, the nightmare started, because one day, I thought I had to stop, but then I encountered a big problem, that, until now, I was unaware of.
This hurdle was called addiction, but I only understood this much later.
I thought I was being weak and lacked determination. With hindsight, I see that I was determined, but the opiates were stronger than me, and the doses kept on rising.
In July 2000 I bought a hotel-restaurant in France with my wife. What a surprise it was to discover that codeine was freely available over the counter there, because since 2000 it was no longer the case in Belgium, and one needed a prescription to obtain it, which made things very difficult, except if bought in very expensive cough syrup form.
This is when my intake went up two or threefold.
I would swallow codeine without counting, as the price was so affordable, and I was still unaware of the danger posed by the use of paracetamol, which made up a good percentage of these tablets.
Everyday, I would take 64 pills, each containing 400mg of paracetamol and 20mg of codeine, which, I now know, is well above the lethal paracetamol dose. I insist on the fact that I was totally unaware of that fact.
My usage had peeks and troughs, because in 2003 I returned to Belgium, where I had to resume my purchase of codeine-based cough syrups, which of course are far less potent than a box of codoliprane (paracetamol + codeine pills), so much so that in 2005, I managed to stop taking codeine for three months, by this time, replacing it with alcohol, which isn’t much better.
Because I live 20km away from the French border, I once again soon went back on codolipranes.
My doctor once prescribed me some syrup to cure a tracheitis, a syrup, I found out, which was available over the counter too, and in which there was both laudanum and codeine. I fell down a terrifying spiral, because I would swallow my codoliprane pills with this syrup, and by then, I was on more than 75 tablets a day, plus 2g/d of laudanum.
After dozens of detox attempts, which would last two days on average, and seeing that I wouldn’t manage it alone, I went to see my GP.
He put me on both benzodiazepines and antidepressants. I played along, and followed his protocol and prescribed dosage.
This treatment not only didn’t help me at all, but I also became addicted to it. I simply couldn’t do with in the same way that had happened with codeine.
I then went to see a charity that offered subventioned consultations with doctors who prescribed opiates substitutes.
This time, I was offered some tercian, which didn’t help either, but to which I also became addicted.
My experience of this place is unbelievable, as I saw some very troubled and disorientated people using this service as a scoring place to put it bluntly. They wouldn’t even attempt to hide the fact that they were using other stuff beside their treatment. I was in a vicious circle.
I could see my marriage breaking down, and my health deteriorating, so I started to do some internet research and stumbled upon baclofen.
I decided to find out more about it, as I had noticed that the benzos I was taking had a note on the box saying “treatment for alcohol dependency”.
Reading that baclofen worked very well for alcoholism, I typed “baclofen for codeine” in a search engine, and found a forum where I met someone who lived in Brussels, and was currently treated with baclofen.
This person told me about a doctor who prescribes baclofen in Brussels, and this is when I started my treatment.
It was the 8th of March 2010. I went up to 200mg/d in less than 15 days. My side effects were limited to gastric reflux, water retention and tiredness.
Since the 15th March 2010, I no longer take any opiate, and this without any craving, psychological nor physical.
With baclofen, I managed to rid myself of my addiction, with no effort whatsoever.
Not only with regard to the opiates, but also the benzodiazepines, the psychotropic drugs, and the antidepressants, which in my case, were useless, since I don’t suffer from depression, but had a polytoxicomania caused by drugs prescribed by doctors.
I suffered from a neurobiological imbalance, that baclofen managed to perfectly rectify.
It is now six months that I haven’t touched any opiate or other. I live a normal life, without any craving at all. I no longer think about codeine, nor waste so much time going from chemist to chemist in order to stock up… and cherry on top, I save over 600 euros per month.
This is what baclofen has done for me.
Baclofen inhibits heroin self-administration
behavior and mesolimbic dopamine release
Xi ZX, Stein EA
Department of Cellular Biology,
Neurobiology, and Anatomy,
Medical College of Wisconsin,
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.
J Pharmacol Exp Ther 1999 Sep; 290(3):1369-74
An emerging hypothesis to explain the mechanism of heroin-induced positive reinforcement states that opiates inhibit gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-ergic interneurons within the mesocorticolimbic dopamine (DA) system to disinhibit DA neurons. In support of this hypothesis, we report that the development of heroin self-administration (SA) behavior in drug-naive rats and the maintenance of SA behavior in heroin-trained rats were both suppressed when the GABA(B) receptor agonist baclofen was coadministered with heroin. Microinjections of baclofen into the ventral tegmental area (VTA), but not the nucleus accumbens, decreased heroin reinforcement as indicated by a compensatory increase in SA behavior. Additionally, baclofen administered alone or along with heroin dose-dependently reduced heroin-induced DA release. This effect was blocked partially by intra-VTA infusion of the GABA(B) antagonist 2-hydroxysaclofen, suggesting an additional, perhaps GABA(A) receptor-mediated, disinhibitory effect. Taken together, these experiments, for the first time, demonstrate that heroin-reinforced SA behavior and nucleus accumbens DA release are mediated predominantly by GABA(B) receptors in the VTA and suggest that baclofen may be an effective agent in the treatment of opiate abuse.