Five Surprising Addictions

I’m pleased to host author and counselor Betsy Duffey who guest blogs today about some surprising addictions you your character may have.

I had the honor of reviewing The Shepherd’s Song which is a set of intertwined storied surrounding Psalm 23. It has the feel of a Dan Walsh or Mitch Albom story so definitely pick it up if you like that genre or just need a sweet, inspiring pick me up.

I’m giving away one hard cover copy of this novel! Leave a comment on this post to be eligible. Winner drawn on Sunday, May 3rd. 

Welcome Betsy!
When we think of addictions, alcoholism or drug use come to mind first. As the understanding of addiction increases we see that behaviors can be addictive. A good simple definition of addiction is compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, despite adverse consequences. Addiction to a certain behavior interferes with our work, relationships or health. The following behaviors are common behavioral addictions presented with some signs that your character would exhibit.
The Internet  
Not everyone who uses the internet will become addicted even when they use it excessively. Use of the internet can be unhealthy if it replaces real life interaction and causes dysfunction in relationships, health or work. Your character might be addicted to the internet if:

They are on line more than 30 hours a week.
They are irritable and anxious if they lose access to the internet.
They feel more normal online than in real life.
They try to control their time online but can’t.
Video Games
If playing video games becomes more important than family, friends, work, or school it might be an addiction. Your character might be addicted to gaming if:

They play for increasing amounts of time.
They use gaming to escape from real-life problems.
They lie to friends and family to conceal gaming.
They give up other pleasurable activities to play games.       
Love addiction can seem to be about loving but is more about the need for the person to be in a relationship. Your character might be addicted to love if:

They constantly seek out new love relationships.
They won’t let go, obsessing or stalking.
They will change who they are to be in a relationship.
They will tolerate abuse to stay in a relationship.
Brains react more strongly to negative thoughts than positive ones. Some people become addicted to the stimulation of negative thoughts. Your character might be addicted to negativity if:
They see the glass half empty.
They are never satisfied.
They dwell on negative past experiences.
They like to complain but don’t like to take action to fix problems.
It’s hard to see addiction when we look at a behavior that is usually positive, like exercising. But even a positive thing taken to extremes can become an addiction. Your character might be addicted to exercise if:
They exercise beyond their physical needs.
They become anxious or guilty when they can’t exercise.
They put their bodies at risk exercising when injured.
They never feel satisfied with the amount of exercise.
If your character is exhibiting symptoms of behavioral addiction there is hope. Recognizing the problem is the first step. Finding help through counseling or a support group is the second.


Betsy Duffey is a licensed counselor and also a writer. She grew up in a writing family and with her sister, Laurie Myers, began critiquing manuscripts at an early age for their mother, Newbery winner Betsy Byars.  Betsy and Laurie went on to become authors of more than thirty-five children’s novels. Their first book for adults, The Shepherd’s Song, is being released in paperback  April 2015. You can connect with Laurie and Betsy on their monthly newsletter where they send out updates and their popular free devotional books. Contact them at  and find them on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

A Gentlewoman’s Guide to Opium Addiction

I’m pleased to host author and friend, Michelle Griep, this week as she blogs about historical medicine.

Welcome back, Michelle!

What comes to mind when I say Jane Austen? Hold on. Let me guess…

         –Swirling ballroom scenes

         –Dinner parties galore

         –The dashing Mr. Darcy

Any of these answers would be right, of course, but you’d also be correct if you’d shouted out opium usage. Austen’s mother used opium to help her sleep, and her father was an agent in the trade. Elizabeth Barrett Browning took opiates every day from the age of fourteen, Sir Walter Scott consumed 6 grams a day, and Samuel Coleridge was a regular user.

Yes, indeed. I hate to burst your bubble of the romantic days of yore, but opium addiction was an issue to be reckoned with.

The first written account of the non-medicinal virtues of this drug is in De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater, published in 1821. He advocates opium usage not as a pharmaceutical pain reliever but as a trip into “an inner world of secret self-consciousness.” Sounds positively hippyish, eh?

Had Mr. Darcy been hanging out in a nearby opium den, these are the symptoms Elizabeth Bennett should’ve looked for:

·         Red or glazed eyes

·         Confusion

·         Slurred or rapid speech

·         Loss of appetite

·         Apathy or depression

·         Frequent headaches

·         Insomnia

While Jane Austen preferred to write of dances and dinners, I dove into the seamier side of things and made the hero in A Heart Deceived a recovering opium addict. Why?

Because addiction is a contemporary problem with historical roots.

It’s just as hard for my fictional character Ethan to turn down a bottle of laudanum as it is for a real person today to pass on a hit of meth. With God’s help, it can be done—which is exactly what Ethan discovers.

So take care, gentlewomen, when searching out your Mr. Right. Opiates have been around since the days of Pharaoh, and are likely here to stay.

Interested in Ethan’s story? Check out A Heart Deceived.


A Heart Deceived is available by David C. Cook and at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and ChristianBook. Keep up with the exploits of Michelle Griep at Writer Off the Leash, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Thin Wire: Heroin Addiction

I’m pleased to host author Christine Lewry as she shares from her book that deals with her daughter’s struggle with heroin.
Abridged extract from Thin Wire: A mother’s journey through her daughter’s heroin addiction.

Amber’s story: Heroin Withdrawal

Living with Dave, I’ve always had an easy supply of heroin. The thought of what a long, enforced withdrawal might be like flits across my mind. I dismiss it – I’ll be okay and we’ll soon be home. ‘Sleep as much as you can, it’ll help slow the cluck. The more you move around, the more it’ll hurt,’ he says.
The journey to the station doesn’t take long. The police van pulls up into an under-cover, concrete courtyard. A policewoman unlocks the barred door of the van and swings it open. We step down, straight into a frigid, stark cage.
‘Out you come,’ the custody sergeant says as he opens the door from inside the station. He points at me. ‘You first.’ I follow him to his desk. He has a two-page questionnaire to fill in about me. When he reaches the end he says, ‘Do you need to see the doctor?’
I lift my chin. My eyes settle on his face. ‘No. I’m not a drug addict.’
‘Okay,’ he marks it on the paperwork. ‘If you say so.’
In my cell there is no mattress or pillow, only a scratchy old blanket. I pick it up and shake out the dust. It smells of old men and greasy hair, like it’s never been washed. I lay the blanket on the wooden bench and use my coat to cover me.
The mental itch for heroin creeps over me. I close my eyes and try to sleep, turning on my left side and then my right. The fake-fur collar of my coat makes my nose itch so I push it away. I take off my shoes then decide my feet are cold, so I put them back on.
It’s been ages. I ring the bell on the wall of my cell. The empty echo of the policeman walking down the corridor gets closer. He pulls back the slat in the door.
‘What is it?’
‘Can I have a cup of tea?’
‘Only after you’ve been here an hour. I’ve got too much to do.’
‘Well, I’ve been here an hour.’
‘Fifteen minutes actually.’ The slat slams shut.
Fifteen minutes! He’s having a laugh! Panic rises up inside me. I must get a grip of myself, stop the uncontrollable shaking. The itch is getting stronger and I have no idea how long the police can keep me here.
Pacing up and down the small room, I notice the heavy door is scuffed excessively on the inside, as though most of the previous inmates have leant their weight against it and kicked it continuously. One of the walls is painted yellow, the colour of sick, and the other three are brick. The floor is cold concrete and there’s a stainless steel toilet in the corner that smells of bleach. I lie down, telling myself to relax and stay still.
A heavy key turns in the door and someone opens it. A cup of tea is placed inside. My hand shakes as I take a small sip from the white plastic cup. It squashes in and I think it’ll spill over the top. The tea is tepid, not hot, and tastes of metal like it’s come out of a machine, weak with no sugar.
I’ve been walking up and down the limited space in my cell for most of the day. The windowsill has hundreds of messages, names and poems scored into the wood. I read them all, running my fingers over the surface as if it’s Braille. Do I know any of the people who have been here before me? Are they addicts? Dave’s punters?
The pain in my arms and legs is excruciating; I can’t stand it any longer. I’m starving hungry yet sick to my stomach. Freezing cold and shivering, but when I touch my skin it’s burning and wet with sweat. I’d do anything now, anything to stop the unscratchable itch for heroin.
I ring the bell again. ‘I’d like to see the doctor.’
The policeman looks at his watch. ‘Sorry love, too late for the doctor to come out tonight. You’ll have to wait until the morning.’
‘But I can’t wait till then. Please.’ My mind is frantic, searching for some reason I could give him to make the doctor come out.
‘Did the custody sergeant offer you the doctor when he signed you in?’
‘Yes, but you don’t understand …’
‘Then you should have said “yes” when he asked you.’ He shut the slat.
I sit on the cold floor and rest my head between my knees, waiting to see whether I’ll puke. The blood in my ears is roaring. The ache of withdrawal has taken over. I’m exhausted, but my speeding brain prevents me from sleeping. The pain comes like a hard punch, as if I’m a boxer in the ring being beaten, but even a boxer gets a thirty-second break between rounds. I clench my fists and knead them hard into my guts as a wave of agony flows over me. The worst part is knowing that if I just had a little heroin all this pain would go away.

Good news is Christine’s daughter beat her heroin addiction and has been clean for almost a decade.

Christine Lewry lives in Hampshire, UK with her husband and two youngest children. She worked in the defence industry as a finance director for twenty years before leaving to write full-time. Thin Wire is her first book. For more info:

Ten Myths of Drug Addiction 2/2

Today, we’re concluding Dr. Rita Hancock’s guest post on the ten myths of drug addiction. Today, we’re finishing the last five. These posts have been a wealth of information. Thanks, Rita.

Myth #6:
Most addicts have a “favorite” class of drugs to abuse. Crank addicts don’t necessarily like barbiturates b/c crank addicts like uppers. They might like cocaine, though, b/c that’s also an upper.

Myth #7:

If you’re going to use the term “narcotics,” make sure you know what the term means. Not all habit-forming drugs are “narcotics.” Narcotics are only one specific type of drugs, even though the term “narcotics” is mistakenly used to describe all varieties of illicit drugs. E.g. a “narcotics” police officer actually investigates abuse of non-narcotic drugs, as well. Drugs that are potentially addictive but are non-narcotic include, amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, hallucinogens, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, etc.

Myth #8:

Naloxone is a medicine used as a antidote for narcotic overdoses. But it does NOT treat overdoses of ALL (e.g. NON-narcotic) controlled substances. On TV shows, I’ve seen it given for barbiturate overdoses, and that’s utterly wrong. It’s used ONLY to reverse narcotic overdoses (with examples of narcotics being morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone, etc.). Moreover, the effects of naloxone don’t last very long. If the overdose is on a long-acting narcotic like methadone, you’re going to have to repeat the naloxone dose after only a short time (like minutes). You might have to give the patient many doses of the naloxone before they’re “safe.”

Myth #9:

Flumazenil is a medicine used as an antidote for benzodiazepine withdrawals (e.g. Valium, Librium, Xanax, etc). In the same way that naloxone is specific for narcotic OD’s, flumazenil is specific for benzodiazepine withdrawals. Again, some benzo’s are longer-acting than others. If your character overdoses on a long-acting benzo, like Librium, he or she may need several doses of Flumazenil in the E.R. 

Myth #10:

There’s a drug called buprenorphine (an orally absorbable narcotic) that’s mixed with naloxone (a narcotic antidote) to form a new type of drug called Subutex (aka Suboxone). It’s novel and interesting b/c it can’t be abused easily and it’s often used to help addicts come off the drugs more safely. It gives the desired therapeutic effect only when you let it dissolve on the tongue. In contrast, if you try to abuse it by swallowing it or by altering it (by crushing, dissolving, etc.), the naloxone takes effect, overriding the narcotic portion, and causes you to go into withdrawals. Doctors have to apply for special licenses to administer Subutex, and they’re limited to having only a small number of patients on it at any given time for the purposes of detox.
Dr. Rita Hancock, a full-time physician and author of Christian health books, writes about how emotional and spiritual factors contribute to physical disease through the mind-body-Spirit connection. According to Dr. Rita, “Once these underlying barriers fall away in the healing light of God’s truth, patients automatically feel less physical pain, experience fewer stress-induced symptoms, lose weight, and shed addictive behaviors more easily.” Dr. Rita is the author of The Eden Diet (Zondervan, 2008) and an as-yet untitled release with Charisma House, pending January 2013. She resides in Oklahoma City with husband Ed, and two wonderful children, Lindsey and Cory.

Ten Myths About Drug Addiction 1/2

Dr. Rita Hancock, a specialist in pain management, is stopping by Redwood’s Medical Edge to discuss the Top Ten Myths about drug addiction. Today, we’re covering the first five. On Friday, we’ll finish off with the last five.

Welcome, Rita!

Myth #1:

If you claim a character in your story is “addicted,” make sure you know the accurate definition of the word. People confuse the terms “physiological tolerance” (meaning your body gets used to the medicine and, over time, you can need more and more medicine to get the same amount of pain relief), “physiological dependence” (meaning if you don’t take the medicine you go through physical withdrawals), and “psychological dependence” (THIS means “addicted,” i.e. you’re dependent on the medicine to cope with stress, anxiety, etc).

The first two are normal physical phenomena that happen in ALL patients who take heavy doses of narcotics, but only the last one is abnormal/pathological. Thus, if you claim your character is addicted, his or her behavior should show at least a few pathological psychological features (bad relationships, inability to hold a job, stealing to pay for fixes, lying to doctors for drugs, etc.).

Myth #2:

You don’t become physiologically tolerant and/or physically dependent on ALL drugs. Thus, you don’t necessarily go through withdrawals when you come off certain controlled substances (e.g. hallucinogens like marijuana and PCP don’t cause withdrawals). And not all withdrawal symptoms are the same. They depend on the drug in question. E.g. withdrawals symptoms and overdose treatment for alcohol/benzodiazepines/ barbiturates are similar. However, the symptoms of stimulant withdrawal and overdose will be totally different. The point is the writer needs to research the specific overdose and/or withdrawal symptoms for the individual drug his or her character is hooked on.

Myth #3:

Only SOME people are susceptible to addiction to controlled substances (don’t make the mistake of thinking that ALL people who take controlled substances eventually become addicted). People susceptible to addiction tend to exhibit addictive tendencies early on (teenage or young adult addictions to smoking, alcohol, etc). In general, young people are more susceptible to developing addiction because their coping skills aren’t yet developed and they can learn to rely on drugs for dealing with the underlying anxiety that leads them into addiction.

Myth #4:

I see many elderly people with severe, painful joint pathology who don’t want to take narcotics b/c they’re afraid of getting addicted. But if they’ve taken narcotics periodically during their lives for e.g. root canals, fractures, etc, and have never had a problem getting off the drugs, they’re at lower risk for addiction. As noted above, though, they will (especially if they’re on large doses) eventually become physically dependent).

Myth #5:

There’s a difference between pain and suffering. Pain happens when an inciting event causes pain receptors to fire (e.g. a burn, a sprain, a pulled muscle, etc.). However, that physical pain is interpreted by the brain in the context of the person’s emotional state. A highly anxious patient or one with a volatile psych history (history of abuse, etc.) is more likely to experience psychological “suffering” with a low level of pain.
Thus, if the person tries to medicate his or her subjective experience with pain using pain pills, he or she is likely to over-medicate to quell the anxiety. You’re not supposed to treat your anxiety with pain pills. That’s how you become addicted. Many, many chronic pain patients suffer with psych issues, and often those psych issues long pre-dated their chronic pain. Psych issues are a definite risk factor for chronic pain and addiction.


Dr. Rita Hancock, a full-time physician and author of Christian health books, writes about how emotional and spiritual factors contribute to physical disease through the mind-body-Spirit connection. According to Dr. Rita, “Once these underlying barriers fall away in the healing light of God’s truth, patients automatically feel less physical pain, experience fewer stress-induced symptoms, lose weight, and shed addictive behaviors more easily.” Dr. Rita is the author of The Eden Diet (Zondervan, 2008) and an as-yet untitled release with Charisma House, pending January 2013. She resides in Oklahoma City with husband Ed, and two wonderful children, Lindsey and Cory.