2018 Heroin Addiction Pathology Report



 Treating the Person Addicted to Heroin with Respect and Compassion



Harm Reduction, Community Support, and the Plants and Flower Essences that Support the Addicted Person and the People who Love Them



  Prepared with Deep Curiosity and Compassion



 Nora Toomey




No society can understand itself, without looking at its shadow side


                                                -Gabor Maté, MD



            As of March 2018, more than 115 people in the United States die every day after overdosing on opioids. This number, already staggering—is rising (National Institute on Drug Abuse). Due to archaic and corrupt drug policies, Big Pharma influence, and misinformed systems of addiction education and treatment, it is hard to imagine a future where this is not our grim reality. The addicted person is seen as a criminal, as a ghost, as someone who cannot be trusted, who must be loathed, feared, and given "tough" love, if any love at all. This of course leads to the alienation, isolation, and medical and emotional neglect of the addicted person, creating a vicious, often fatal, negative feedback loop that traps them in repetitive cycles of self-harm. It is my intention to look at the roots of heroin addiction specifically. By tracing some of the social and economic triggers, as well as outlining the many spiritual, psychological, and developmental traits of an addicted person, I hope to cast some warm light and compassionate understanding onto the reasons why the addicted brain develops.  Furthermore, by emphasizing models of Harm Reduction, community support, and herbal treatment, I hope to offer remedies that physically and emotionally support the addicted person, while at the same time enabling a gentle curiosity that helps them engage in their own lives and communities with greater excitement and meaning. Since addiction is often thought of as a "Family Disease" (Szalavitz, 204), it feels important to offer herbal support to the families and friends of addicted persons as well. There are many herbs and flower essences that can help unravel some of the guilt, grief, shame, and trauma that often burden these relationships.


The Many Layers of Heroin Addiction


Let's look at the complex and varied reasons why heroin addiction develops, consider the precursors and symptoms of addiction, and outline some of the diseases that often accompany heroin use. In 2016, nearly 948,000 people in the United States (12-years old or older) reported using heroin in the past year (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). This number has been rising steadily since 2007, and is especially driven by young adults between the ages of 18-25. It is worth noting, however, that current trends include an increase in all class, race, age, and gender divides. Groups that have been traditionally unaffected by heroin use, white middle class women for instance, are also seeing an increase in use, and geographically heroin is not just an urban condition. In 2016, the average overdose death count in counties with less than 10,000 people was 412 people per year (major cities averaged 5,507 deaths per year) (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). It is impossible to ignore the scope and devastating trends of heroin use. Heroin is cheap, it's abundant, and it's what many Americans are reaching for to manage physical and emotional pain.

            Here is where some re-wiring has to happen as far as our collective understanding of who becomes a heroin addict. We are a nation that was built on binaries. Good, Bad; Mother, Whore; Black, White; Rich or Poor. As creatures who excel in recognizing patterns, our brains are eager to organize people and disease into specific categories. This makes us feel powerful, and it makes us feel safe. The trouble with organizing heroin addiction, is that our categories of "addicted person deserving compassion" and "addicted person deserving jail," are so devastatingly influenced by generations of racist, classist drug policy and propaganda, that we have lost the ability to trace the true threads of trauma, learned coping mechanisms, and pain that sprinkle the life of every addicted person. This feels like an essential component to understanding addiction.  Whether you are a middle class, post surgery mom who turned to heroin after your pain meds ran out, or if you are a 35 year old man in and out of rehab and prison, using heroin to cope with early childhood trauma, and undiagnosed ADHD and depression, you deserve the same amount of love and compassion from your community.

            Gabor Maté, author of the seminal book on addiction, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, writes that, "addictions always originate in pain, whether felt openly or hidden in the subconscious" (Maté, 36). It feels important to consider this when thinking about the inner workings of the addicted person and how to create signposts for early education and prevention.

            Maté defines addiction "as any repeated behavior, substance related or not, in which a person feels compelled to persist, regardless of its negative impact on their life and the lives of others" (Maté, 137). He notes further that compulsion, impaired control, irritability, relapse, and craving are the basic trademarks of addiction, and that the purpose of all addiction is to create an altered biochemical state in the brain (Maté, 137). It's very important to note, however, that addiction cannot be labeled as just a physiologically motivated condition. Although the addicted person is ritualistically altering their brain with chemicals, it is their infant and adolescent imprints, and their unique social, cultural and spiritual development that has landed them in this position in the first place.

            Maia Szalavitz, a recovered heroin addict and award-winning journalist covering addiction and drugs, hits the nail on the head in her revolutionary book, Unbroken Brain. She believes that addiction should be thought of as a learning disease, and that all addiction originates "in the way we learned to frame ourselves and the world and the way we learned that drugs could alleviate resulting distress" (Szalavitz, 80). She believes that addiction is born out of the unique trinity of childhood temperament, childhood experience, and the way each child interprets their experience (Szalavitz, 79). In other words, it's not specifically about what has happened to us in the past, but how we use the past to define and experience ourselves in the present.


Who is at Risk


            The National Institute on Drug Abuse, or NIDA, lists early childhood aggressive behavior, lack of parental supervision, substance use in the home, drug availability, and poverty as potential risk factors for developing addiction. One missing piece to this list is the devastating relationship that Purdue Pharma has had with the rise and risk of heroin addiction. In 1996, Purdue Pharma introduced a wonder drug to the market. It was a time-released formulation of oxycodone, an opioid painkiller called OxyContin. With an aggressive advertisement campaign, Purdue pushed OxyContin to physicians, nurses, and pharmacists as a powerful pain management drug with a low risk of addiction. The trouble is, they were lying--OxyContin is incredibly addicting, and they knew it. Eventually the rise in opioid addiction, overdose and death rates could not be ignored, and the Department of Justice charged Purdue with misbranding OxyContin's potential for misuse and addiction. In 2007, three Purdue executives pleaded guilty to misbranding the drug, and paid over $600 million in fines (Gunderman). Since four out of five new heroin users start out by misusing prescription painkillers, and 94 percent of opioid addicted patients said they switched to heroin because prescription painkillers were more expensive and harder to obtain (American Society of Addiction Medicine), it's important to realize that being prescribed and using prescription painkillers puts you at a very high risk for developing an addiction to heroin.

            In addition to early childhood aggressive behavior, lack of parental supervision, substance use in the home, drug availability, and the use of painkillers, Dr. Maté adds emotional isolation, feelings of powerlessness, and stress as major risk factors for addiction. He notes that there are essentially three conditions that are needed in order for addiction to occur; a susceptible organism, a drug with addictive potential, and stress (Maté 145, 147). We know that heroin has extreme potential for addiction, and we have outlined risk factors that make a person a "susceptible organism," so let's unpack the concept of stress. The National Institute of Mental Health defines stress as how the brain and body respond to any demand, and notes that all stress carries physical and mental health risks (National Institute on Mental Health). In this way, we can think of stress as a threat, real or imagined, that tends to disrupt homeostasis. Stress is also an emotion that can be felt in utero, and the stress that a mother feels during pregnancy affects the infant brain well into adulthood. (Maté, 216). This is a crucial piece when we are thinking about the addicted brain, and how it develops. Brain development in the uterus and during childhood turns out to be the single most important biological factor in determining whether or not a person will be pre-disposed to addiction (Maté, 188).

            There are many chemical and biological explanations of the neural pathways and circuitry that are firing or not firing when the infant and young child perceives stress. To simplify one aspect, when stress is perceived in the womb, and especially as the brain is rapidly developing in early childhood, the child is unable to develop healthy systems of attachment relationships, which is vital for healthy brain development and emotional stability. An attachment relationship is essentially the drive to pursue and maintain intimate, close contact with others. We develop these relationships as infants as a way to ensure survival, and are rewarded with floods of dopamine in our brains that make us feel safe and loved. When a child is not in an attachment relationship with at least one consistent, protective, psychologically present, and generally non-stressed adult, things begin to go haywire.  Perceived stress, trauma, and neglect initiate the repeated firing of non-attachment nerve patterns that our brains memorize and replicate throughout our lives. This lays the groundwork for an easily triggered stress response that is likely to assign a high value to substances and activities that provide short-term stress relief (Maté, 193-207). This is good moment to loop back to Maia Szalavitz's theory about heroin addiction being a learning disease. The stressed infant or young child learns from a very vulnerable age that the world is not safe or stable, and that if they want to fulfill these very basic emotional and social needs, they need to find ways to generate feelings of love, safety, and stability on their own. We see this manifest with traumatized people who subconsciously chose excessive food, or excessive sex to help trick their bodies into the parasympathetic state. When all they know is the fight or flight state, it makes sense they would try to heal themselves with what they know feels good, even if just for a fleeting moment of security.

            A final piece to infant and childhood stress that needs emphasizing is trauma and abuse that go beyond Mom being stressed while you were in the womb. This is not to downplay the significance of basic stress and depression in a family home, rather, it feels important to acknowledge the startling numbers that link abuse and severe trauma in order to emphasize the compassion piece we need to cultivate surrounding why a person reaches for heroin in the first place.

            One study, called the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, looked at ten categories of painful childhood experiences-including family violence, parental divorce, drug or alcohol use in the family, death of a parent, and physical and sexual abuse. They found that two thirds of injection drug use is attributed to abusive and traumatic childhood events. These people were self-medicating to ease emotional pain, and their trauma induced brain development set them up for addiction in the first place (Maté, 202). It's a heartbreaking cycle.

            A psychologist at Kings College and the University of Montreal, Patricia Conrod, has a few more ideas about who is at risk for heroin addiction. She has developed a fantastic mental health approach to drug prevention by labeling high-risk children then intervening between the ages of 13-16. Trained classroom teachers teach missing skills that might help these children cope with their vulnerabilities in healthy, sustainable ways. The "high risk" traits she has identified are impulsiveness and sensation seeking, which are often attributed to ADHD, and caution and compulsiveness, which are often attributed to anxiety and depression (Szalavitz, 269).

            I realize we have spent a lot of time tracing the roots of heroin addiction in children, but I passionately feel that the addicted person is not born overnight, rather a series of chemical, emotional, spiritual, and cultural conditions have been stockpiled from the moment they were conceived.

            I also feel like the very construct of Modern America makes us all at risk. We are stressed, we are hungry, we are trying to fill a void constantly. We have replaced human connection with Internet connection, and this can only amplify universal feelings of isolation and hopelessness that are the pillars of addiction. That coupled with the strangeness of the insular family construct, tiny families, in tiny houses, separated from the support of extended family, and somehow made even smaller by the lack of interaction and community between next-door neighbors. We grow up with phrases like "it's best not to air your dirty laundry," that teach us it's somehow shameful to reach out for community support. We have lost the support of the tribe, and the result is severe dislocation. No one knows where to turn, or how to ask for help.


Physical Effects of Heroin Use


According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, "Heroin enters the brain rapidly and binds to opioid receptors on cells located in many areas, especially those involved in feelings of pain and pleasure and in controlling heart rate, sleeping, and breathing." The short-term effects on the body include:

  • dry mouth

  • warm flushing of the skin

  • heavy feeling in the arms and legs

  • nausea and vomiting

  • severe itching

  • clouded mental functioning

  • going "on the nod," a back-and-forth state of being conscious and semiconscious

Long term effects that are typically more present in cases of addiction include:

  • ·      insomnia

  • ·      collapsed veins for people who inject the drug

  • ·      damaged tissue inside the nose for people who sniff or snort it

  • ·      infection of the heart lining and valves

  • ·      abscesses (swollen tissue filled with pus)

  • ·      constipation and stomach cramping

  • ·      liver and kidney disease

  • ·      lung complications, including pneumonia and tuberculosis

  • ·      mental disorders such as depression and antisocial personality disorder

  • ·      sexual dysfunction for men

  • ·      irregular menstrual cycles for women

    ·      arthritis or other rheumatologic problems


            In addition, when a person begins a long-term relationship with heroin, some of the white matter in their brain begins to deteriorate. This affects decision-making abilities, the ability to regulate behavior or impulse control, and the ability to respond to a stressful situation reasonably. Long-term use also produces degrees of tolerance and physical dependence, which are major contributors to addiction. Tolerance occurs when more and more heroin is required to achieve the same effects. This is what leads to overdosing. Physical dependence is what inspires withdrawal symptoms. Your body adapts to the presence of heroin, and tells you it is sick without it. Withdrawal symptoms include: 

  • restlessness

  • severe muscle and bone pain

  • sleep problems

  • diarrhea and vomiting

  • cold flashes with goose bumps ("cold turkey")

  • uncontrollable leg movements ("kicking the habit")

  • severe heroin cravings


* All information in this section taken from The National Institute Of Drug Abuse*

 Companion Diseases


            In addition to all of the physical and emotional side effects we have outlined, when a person is injecting heroin, they are at a much higher risk for developing Hepatitis B and C, HIV, AIDS, and a host of other blood-borne viruses, which can then be passed to sexual partners and children. The sharing of syringes and injection paraphernalia that have been used by infected individuals or unprotected sex with an infected person are what make these diseases so prevalent amongst users. Snorting or smoking heroin does not eliminate the risk of these diseases as people under the influence of heroin still engage in risky sexual and other behaviors that can expose them to the fluids of infected people.

            It is also important to remember the many chemical and emotional conditions that are hardwired into the addicted brain. Heroin users are often suffering from PTSD, Depression, Anxiety, undiagnosed ADHD, and various social and mental illness that require treatment plans for the addicted person to be compassionate, multifaceted, and unique in their design (National Institute on Drug Abuse).


Traditional Treatment vs. Harm Reduction


             Traditional treatment for addiction has focused on abstinence as the main goal, and has been informed and enforced by corrupt and archaic American Drug Policy and propaganda. The 90's catch phrase of "Just say No," is painfully tone deaf to the complicated developmental and emotional portrait of the addicted person, and "The War on Drugs" has roots and motivations steeping in racism, fear, greed, and corruption. For a thorough exploration of the damage, oppression, and dehumanization this has caused drug users, I encourage you to read Johann Hari's book, Chasing the Scream.

            In the meantime, it is not hard to use your imagination to consider the effects of prison, criminalization, and the social stigma that using heroin has on an individual who is already suffering from feelings of hopelessness, isolation, depression, and PTSD. Not to mention the economic hardships that ensnare victims of our criminal justice system.

            Up until very recently, the only treatments available for addiction were prison, which forced you to get clean, but did not give you the resources to learn alternative coping mechanisms for pain and trauma, or 12 step programs, some of which involved shaming therapy, used to "break down" the addicted person's ego, in order to force a "rock bottom." The therapeutic goal being, that if a person hit rock bottom, they would admit that they were powerless over their addiction and surrender to the 12 steps of recovery (Szalvatiz, 179-190).

            Currently, due in part to the work of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, which supports most of the world's research on drug use and addiction, western medical treatment of addiction has improved--but has a long way to go.

            For those able to pay, pharmacological treatment and behavioral therapy are utilized in tandem or on their own as effective treatment modalities. Pharmacological treatment involves prescribing medication to help with withdrawal symptoms, as well as medication that interferes or blocks the brain's opioid receptors. One commonly administered medication is Methadone. Methadone is an opioid agonist, which means it blocks the brain's receptors that tell us heroin feels good. The theory here, is that our bodies will not crave heroin if there are no receptor sites for the drug to lock into.  

            Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a common behavior therapy used to help modify the patient’s expectations and behaviors related to their heroin use and to increase skills in coping with various life stressors (National Institute on Drug Abuse).

            Both of these modalities are examples of Harm Reduction, which is basically a therapeutic movement meant to make the lives of addicted human beings more bearable (Maté, 332).

            It is fantastic that modern medicine is moving towards these specific models of harm reduction, but so much more can be done. International cities that have clean needle exchange programs, or injection sites, which are safe, monitored places where people can inject with clean needles in a judgment free zone, have seen dramatic reductions in needle sharing which has reduced HIV and Hepatitis C infection, as well as increased enrollment in detoxification programs and addiction treatment (Maté, 342).

            Harm Reduction recognizes that people undergoing treatment need to feel welcomed, respected, and safe, and because of this, it has the propensity to reach and heal people who have historically been left behind. Maia Szalavitz urges us to define recovery as "any positive change," and eloquently describes harm reduction as the opposite of tough love — "it is unconditional kindness and imbues what looks to outsiders like irredeemable ugliness with startling moments of transcendent beauty" (Szalavitz, 237).


Herbal Medicine and Flower Essences to support the Addicted Person


            When thinking about a therapeutic approach for treating heroin addiction, I have found the harm reduction model to be incredibly useful. As herbalists I believe we can empower, support, and assist in the many layers of healing that the addicted person may require. We can advocate for compassionate plans of care that treat the addicted person with integrity and respect, and we can count on the plants to work their magic.

            There are many herbalists out there doing fierce work in the realms of addiction education, herbal care, and activism. I have loved the recipes that Dr. Donna Odierna has published in issues of Harm Reduction Communication, which was a journal regularly published by the Harm Reduction Coalition. I will share some of them here, along with my own recipes, and also explore Kratom, which feels like an essential herb for addiction. Since addiction can be considered a disease of the spirit, it also feels important to consider spirit doses and flower essences as integral components to herbal treatment.

            During her time as an herbalist working during needle exchange hours at a clinic in Oakland, Odierna developed the following tried and true recipes that became favorites among the communities she served. 




Used for insomnia, restlessness, and sleep deprivation that accompanies withdrawal or (recently) short-term methadone detox programs.


This tea, and a similar tincture formula have been among our most popular herbal remedies over the years.


3 parts passionflower

2 parts skullcap

2 parts linden flower

1 part hops


In general, Teas or Oxymels feel like fantastic alternatives to tincture based medicine, as alcohol could be another problematic substance. There is also something beautifully ritualistic about preparing yourself a cup of tea. Since addiction requires you to re-pattern your brain with new coping rituals for stress, the medicine of Tea making and Tea drinking feels especially potent. 

            If we are thinking of harm reduction, it's important to think about the wear and tear that heroin injection can have on the body, and supporting the body as is. In addition to the detrimental effects to major organs, you are also leaving your body incredibly vulnerable to pathogens by weakening your immune system, as well as creating sites for infection and abscess where you've injected. For this I like the idea of wound washes and healing salves, wound healing tea, and immunity boosting formulas. Odierna has a fantastic recipe for a wound healing tea:




Speeds healing, improves circulation, reduces swelling.


3 parts gotu kola

2 parts cleavers

2 parts calendula

1 part yarrow leaf and flower

1 part gingko leaf

1 part horsetail


For Wound Healing Washes and Salves, Yarrow, Calendula, and Plantain will help stop bleeding, relieve pain and itching, and offer anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory support to the wound. There is also something empowering about putting healing into the literal hands of the addicted person. By applying a wash or ointment to infected areas, they are taking an active part in their healing process. This should not be underestimated as a powerful therapeutic tool.

            General Immunity support is also important, as so many systems are compromised during addiction, which leaves the addicted person susceptible to countless infections and disease. Immunity Teas, Syrups, or Oxymels can be great here, depending on the compliance of your client. Plants to think about for immunity support might be Ginger, Elderberry, Echinacea, Reishi, and Garlic. If possible, nourishing the addicted person during seasonal transitions with hearty soups and stews can be a great way to introduce this medicine into the body. This is also a place where we can use Burdock, which is an incredible ally for addiction. Often bodies transitioning to less heroin use, or abstinence, suffer immunity issues while they are trying to quit. Burdock offers gentle support, and when taken as food it strengthens all body systems and assists in general recovery. Donna Odierna suggests making Burdock Cold Infusions. This is such an accessible way for folks to make and use this medicine. All they need is clean water and a jar.

            Another therapeutic strategy to think about is deeply nourishing the nervous system. Robin Rose Bennett has outlined a case in her book The Gift of Healing Herbs, that describes a client who was able to recover from an OxyContin addiction by taking a heavy hitting nervine formula of Motherwort, California Poppy, Milky Oats, and Skullcap as well as a tea of Oat Straw and Chamomile. Here is her recipe:


Super-Soother Oat Tincture Blend


1 part fresh Motherwort (leaf, stalk, and flower)

1 part fresh California Poppy (leaf, stalk, and flower)

1 part fresh Oat Tops

1 part fresh Skullcap (leaf, stalk, and flower)

Add 25-75 drops into water or infusion, as needed. This is a recipe to use for a finite period of time, not for years on end.


            My favorite parts of this blend are the Oat Tops and Skullcap. Both plants can soothe and coat the myelin sheath of frayed nerve endings, which is beyond helpful for treating the shredded nervous system that accompanies addiction. Energetically, skullcap is often thought of as an herb that severs attachment to addictions, and Motherwort works to heal Mom relationships, and brings in the medicine of the Divine Mother. What a beautiful blend for someone who is reaching for deep healing.

            I have come up with a similar formula that is specifically formulated for folks who need to heal their relationship with "home." As we have seen, so much of this disease can be traced to imbalances and trauma that originate in family dynamics and the dislocation and isolation of individuals from "the tribe." We no longer have the benefits of being looked after and supported by extended family or tight knit community, and this has proven to be detrimental to our health.


Home Again Tincture

8 parts Albizia

5 parts Hawthorn

3 parts Linden

2 parts Burdock

1 Motherwort

1 Lemon Balm

Tulsi, Cinnamon and Rose infused Wildflower Honey

Flower Essences of Yarrow, Willow, Motherwort, Borage


My intention for this blend is for it to ground a person deeply in their body, and allow their heart to defend, honor, heal from, and reach for, a sense of "Home." The combination of adaptogens and nervines that are specifically helpful for trauma, as well as the lymphatic properties of burdock, support the body as it deals with stress while it processes and heals the body from toxins. The honey and flower essence blend inspires courage, boundaries, a sense of safety in the home, and forgiveness.

            A final plant that is not in this formula, but feels important to acknowledge is Kratom. Michael Tierra, founder of the American Herbalist Guild, has a fantastic webinar on Kratom, and explores the plant in depth on his blog. He believes there is a scandal and buzz surrounding the plant because it is threatening an entire industry of prescription drugs, ranging from pain relievers to anti-depressants. In other words, it is a plant that can really help addicted and depressed people, so look into acquiring some for your apothecary now, in case purchasing becomes illegal.

            This hype has caused many people to use Kratom recreationally, which has somehow spread rumors that Kratom is synthetic and dangerous and must be controlled by the FDA. In reality, it is a natural botanical native to tropical Southeast Asia, and it is part of the Rubiaceae or Coffee Family. It has been used for thousands of years by natives to Southeastern Asian for various health reasons— including pain relief. Dr. Tierra has explored Kratom in his clinical practice and notes "I can’t think of any herb other than opioid drugs derived from poppies that provides such immediate pain relief and overall sense of well-being" (Tierra).

            Kratom is especially helpful for Pain Relief, Opiate Withdrawal, Alcohol Withdrawal, PTSD, Anxiety, Depression, Insomnia, Inflammation, Immune Stimulation and ADHD. He recommends beginning with a teaspoon (about 3 grams) of the powder and trying up to 8 grams. Swallow the powder first, then chase down with a glass of water once or twice a day. The dose can be repeated, increased or decreased as needed, with the general rule being, to always take the lowest dose necessary to receive the desired effects (Tierra).

            Lastly, Flower Essences should play an integral part of any herbal plan of care. Some flower essences that feel especially relevant are:

Self Heal helps you tap into the life giving forces of the body and soul and inspires you to reach for lifestyle choices that lead to wellness and wholeness.

Borage inspires courage and helps transform sorrow and depression

Bloodroot helps heal wounds of rejection for those who feel ostracized from a group or community, and suffer from feelings of unworthiness. It also helps to move along physical, emotional, and spiritual patterns that have been ancestrally inherited in order to make room for new, healthier patterns.

Willow helps with forgiveness when you feel resentful and bitter

Sticky Monkey Flower is helpful for those who feel cut off from human love. It assists with intimacy and connection and is especially helpful for those who have experienced sexual trauma.

Oak is helpful for pushing past the limits of endurance and facing the unknown

There are so many more, but this is a great start.


Flower Essence for Friends and Family of Addicted Person


            As caretakers, friends, lovers, and family members of addicted persons, it is important to also take care of yourself during your loved one's healing process. Dr. Maté reminds us that the addicted person "doesn’t engage in their habits out of a desire to betray or hurt anyone else, but to escape their own distress." He continues to explain that once we are armed with compassion, we can recognize "that addiction was the answer—the best answer we could find at one time in our lives—to the problem of isolation from our true selves and from the rest of creation" (Maté, 404, 421). When someone you love is struggling with addiction it feels so important to remember this, that they are doing the best they can, with the tools they have in this moment. As you continue to foster compassion and an open heart, flower essences can support the development of healthy boundaries as you process the many emotions you encounter.


Blue Vervain is helpful for cultivating moderation, tolerance and balance. Helpful for folks with passionate idealism.


Yarrow which is helpful for protection and boundaries. It's often recommend for the "wounded healer." It helps you to not take responsibility for other peoples ailments.


Honeysuckle is helpful for regret and loss, especially when these feelings are wrapped up in nostalgia. It helps us recall and learn from the past, without having to re-live it, so we can embrace the joy of the present moment and beyond.


Agrimony is helpful for people who hide their problems and grief behind a cheerful face.


Pine is helpful for releasing feelings of guilt over situations that were beyond your control.


Bach Rescue Remedy is especially helpful when you find yourself in stressful or traumatic situations.


Again, there are so many flower essences to reach for here, but this is great start.




I'd like to close this report by offering addicted people of the bay area, a list of resources and organizations that believe in harm reduction and the empowerment of your unique healing process. If you do not live in the bay area, these are still organizations you can reach out to, and think of as models for local organizations that have yet to be built. I also want to suggest a societal plan of care, which is to re-imagine what it means to be a neighbor, a community member, a family member, a lover, a co-worker, and a friend, and really work on connecting and supporting one another during times of emotional instability. It also feels imperative that we get trained and train others in how to administer Narcan, which is the life saving emergency drug naloxone, that is used when someone has overdosed. Lastly, it feels essential for prevention to support pregnant mothers. It is vital that we create systems that relieve stress for new mothers and create community support systems for child rearing. We are all in this together.

Resources for Harm Reduction


The San Francisco Drug User's Union



Syringe Access Services (Needle Exchange Programs)




(HIV Education and Prevention Project of Alameda County)



Harm Reduction Coalition



The DOPE Project

(Drug Overdose Prevention Education)

They train folks how to use narcan and give it out for free

Find on https://harmreduction.org

then follow them on facebook and twitter, they have no official website of their own



Works Cited

Bennett, Robin Rose. The Gift of Healing Herbs. North Atlantic Books, 2014.


Gunderman, Richard. "OxyContin: How Purdue Pharma Helped Spark the Opioid Epidemic." The Conversation, https://theconversation.com/oxycontin-how-      purdue-pharma-helped-spark-the-opioid-epidemic-57331, April 19, 2016.   Accessed October 2018.


"Heroin Overdose Data." Center for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/heroin.html, January 26, 2017. Accessed October 2018.

 Kaminski, Patricia and Richard Katz. Flower Essence Repertory: A Comprehensive Guide to North American and English Flower Essences for Emotional and            Spiritual Well-Being. Flower Essence Society, 1994.  


Maté, Gabor. In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts. North Atlantic Books, 2010.


"Opioid Addiction 2016 Facts and Figures." American Society of Addiction Medicine,    https://www.asam.org. Accessed October 2018.


"Opioid Overdose Crisis." National Institute on Drug Abuse,  https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis, March, 2018. Accessed October 2018.


"Preventing Drug Use Among Children and Adolescents." National Institute on Drug Abuse, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/preventing-drug-abuse-    among-children-adolescents/chapter-1-risk-factors-protective-factors/what-are-risk-factors, October, 2003. Accessed October 2018.


Szalavitz, Maia. Unbroken Brain. Picador, 2016.


Tierra, Michael. "Kratom: the Herbal Pain Relieving Answer to the Opiod Epidemic?" The East West School of Planetary Herbology, https://planetherbs.com/blogs/michaels-blogs/kratom-the-herbal-pain-relieving-answer-to-the-opioid-epidemic. Accessed October, 2018.

 "5 Things You Should Know About Stress." National Institute on Mental Health,             https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml. Accessed October 2018.