Heroin Addiction Treatment Options, Part 3 of 4

Odds of Recovering from Heroin Addiction-

heroin-addicts-need-help

Why do heroin deaths continue to grow unchecked when good treatment options have been proven?

The Huff Post January 28, 2015 article by Jason Cherkis, “Dying To Be Free: There’s A Treatment For Heroin Addiction That Actually Works. Why Aren’t We Using It?” tells us that according to the addicts, their families, their doctors, and the historical research, the best of the three most useful medications for maintenance is buprenorphine with naloxone—a.k.a. Suboxone. It was formulated back in 1970 and proven effective by the black market where addicts trying to stay clean have used it for decades. Meanwhile the FDA has been extremely slow to give it the green light.[3]

The many restrictions placed on Suboxone include allowing only a small percentage of doctors to prescribe it. Additionally, the number of patients they can prescribe it to is limited, along with the amount that may be prescribed at one time, the dosage, and the length of time the patient can continue with it. Doctors point out this is hampering both their and their patients’ efforts at recovery, and many experts say keeping this drug out of the hands of those it could help is medical abuse.[3]

Many medical experts agree that Suboxone is the best hope for overcoming heroin addiction. Suboxone can easily be taken at home, allowing the recovering addict to go on to live a fairly normal life because it relieves the patient of the burden of commuting to a methadone clinic early in the morning, as required by law.[3]

Could it really be a surprise to lawmakers that the restriction of Suboxone leaves the addict to increased risk of failure in their quest to stay clean? We are talking about coping with what is probably the most addictive mind-altering substance on the planet. Why are lawmakers making it as difficult as possible for addicts to get something that will help them recover? It has to do with fears of Suboxone addiction. While this is a possibility, there are safeguards to prevent this problem. With so many addicts dying, it seems too much weight is put on the wrong safety valve.

pull-up-by-bootstraps

Even the US Surgeon General says we cannot expect opioid addicts to pull themselves up by the bootstraps.

The Failure of Willpower

Besides maintenance medication, emotional and mental support must be built in to the addict’s lifestyle to prevent recidivism. This support might include Narcotics Anonymous, psychology-based therapies, behavior modification courses, etc., which, incorporated into the addict’s life become the “new normal.” These support options have been proven to improve a great number of addicts in their chances of maintaining a wholesome, productive life.

Dr. Mary Jeanne Kreek would agree. She is one of the three scientists who, back in 1960, deemed methadone as being successful in helping addicts maintain sobriety. She points out that medication and counseling combined is most effective for treating and maintaining sobriety in opioid addicts. But, she says, there is currently resistance with an emphasis on “willpower over chemistry.” She points out this is the standard despite “peer-reviewed data and evidence-based practices.”[3]

The results of the “willpower over chemistry” stance is told in Cherkis’ Huff Post article through the heartbreaking stories of families in Kentucky, the US’s highest heroin offender state. He reveals the no substances stance has its stronghold with the judges there who repeatedly send addicts to the revolving doors of either the prisons or the rehab centers that do not want to include drugs as part of the treatment for drug addiction. Their logic is that the treatment drug is only a replacement addiction. Based on evidence that “drug-free” prisons and rehab centers have high recidivism rates, and a high incidence of death among offenders shortly after a second or third stay, you would hope these judges would consider what peer-reviewed data show, that willpower alone largely does not work.[3]

behavioral-therapy-alone-doesn't-work

Behavioral therapy alone is not working.

Luxury Drug Rehab Centers

A google of luxury facilities will help you quickly find centers that follow the experts’ recommended protocol of combining behavior modification and medication to reduce cravings, improve maintenance, and improve long-term results.14 But most people don’t have the spare funds or insurance coverage for these, and have to rely on taxpayer-subsidized centers which, like the many judges who send them there or to prison, are of the opinion that using another drug to treat drug addiction is a mistake.[3]

With subsidized rehab centers for heroin addicts primarily consisting of 12-Step programs without the aid of medications, their revolving doors appear to be financially lucrative. “It’s a service that rewards the failure of the service,” says Dr. Johnson of the University of Maryland, who has received honors for his research, including a 2001 award from Hazelden, a Minnesota-based drug and alcohol treatment provider that helped to popularize the 12-step method, for having furthered “the scientific knowledge of addiction recovery.” In a recent interview, he called conventional 12-step treatments by themselves “inadequate care.”[3]

Doing No Harm

doctor-patient-trust

We entrust our medical care to experts. Why are their hands tied by lawmakers when it comes to this epidemic?

On November 17, 2016, the Surgeon General reported that telling the opioid addict to make better choices is useless in treating addiction. He adds that one in ten Americans are addicted to drugs, and the result is one overdose death every 19 minutes in the U.S. He considers the directive based on current legal and protocol standards–instead of appropriate medical intervention–is proving dangerous.[5] It seems clear, per the Surgeon General’s caveat, the addict must be treated as a patient rather than a criminal to have any hope of recovery.

Once the opioid addict receives the medications and behavioral therapies that are supported by the data and practical evidence, I believe they can latch on to their life, to at least a small degree, via their interests—their passions. I saw one of my sons, addicted to methamphetamine, latch on to the therapeutic directive of positive thinking, sans drugs. That said, numbers of overdose by meth is not an epidemic, and apparently it doesn’t carry the extremely strong craving over time, as does heroin.[15]

No, he was not a heroin or opioid addict. Neither was my other son—until he became one. But quitting crystal meth is no picnic either.[15] Although overdose death by methamphetamine, cocaine, or ecstasy is not so common as death by opioid, there unfortunately is no safe medication that can be administered to a dying victim of overdose by those. The only emergency treatment for those substances is benzodiazepine, which only treats paranoia and agitation and can only be administered by a medical doctor.[16] In a sense, this ironically makes an opioid overdose more treatable than overdose by meth, coke or ecstasy; yet death by opioid overdose is far more common.

My point here is that my now successful son took on his new life with positive thinking, which allowed him to believe he could pursue his passion of driving a race car. Yes, he replaced his addiction with another addiction, a somewhat dangerous one, but I’m certain it not only saved his life, it gave him a chance to gain satisfaction in adding value to the world. He pursued Nascar racing with his newly-established habit of a positive attitude (something I didn’t initially have about his new sport). This led to his achievement of winning a coveted regional championship in America’s most popular sport.

race-to-save-addicts-lives

Let’s hope the delay in using proven protocol for heroin treatment is going to be only a quick pitstop.

It’s time to stop all this horrific drama by learning the realities about drug prevention, addiction and recovery, and stop allowing this deadly opioid epidemic to continue growing unchecked. We can solve this problem by teaching our children well, providing them with the means to value life—their own and others’. Meanwhile, addicts need the means to get clean and learn how to pursue life happily and successfully.

It seems apparent that once addicts’ willpower is intact with the aid of medications, behavioral therapies can work. Learning to cope with emotional and physical pain through positive thinking habits, along with discovering and living value-creating passions, are the means by which anyone not in the throes of addiction cravings can latch on to life without drugs. Anyone who values and has latched on to their life is unwilling to give in to a recreational high or pain reduction with drugs.

But leaving the recovering addict to a non-existent willpower without medications is throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Withholding medications hasn’t worked to get addicts to where they can cope with life. Meanwhile there is proof that addicts can be weaned from this gripping drug. Opiates are valuable in managing major pain without the patient becoming addicted, and using them to wean the addict off of them is said to be their best hope.

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End of Part 3; Part 4 Coming Soon!

I hope you found Part 3 of this article helpful. Your comments are valued and welcome; please scroll all the way down past the Footnotes to the highlighted word, “comments.” To get on my list to automatically receive my new blogs as they are posted, please email me at RoriOhara@SuccessSystemsInstitute.com. You can unsubscribe at any time.

For more helpful information like this about drug prevention and achieving successful life outcomes, be sure to visit my pages Help Starts Here and About RoriO. For affordable, helpful products I use, and have chosen carefully to share with you, please visit my Product Reviews page. Those products may help you while sales help keep my website running.

Part 3 Footnotes

3.  http://www.bing.com/cr?IG=F6B3F614E8BB435EBA0E524D1556A03F&CID=242B61A83AF66B95200168473BC76A74&rd=1&h=lDDAEYyE6RbO8ECw9TaFBIGLoQR1RWBl4TmXsOjj9dQ&v=1&r=http%3a%2f%2fprojects.huffingtonpost.com%2fdying-to-be-free-heroin-treatment&p=DevEx,5087.1.

5.  Choice, Giles: Addiction Isn’t a. “Giles: Addiction Isn’t a Choice.” Www.roanoke.com. Accessed December 16, 2016. http://www.roanoke.com/opinion/letters/giles-addiction-isn-t-a-choice/article_341bd7e1-a53d-553d-a413-83e8e168ecde.html.

15.  “The 5 Stages of Meth Recovery.” Quitting Crystal Meth. Accessed December 17, 2016. http://www.quittingcrystalmeth.com/the-5-stages-of-meth-recovery/.

16. http://towardtheheart.com/assets/uploads/files/OD_Survival_Guide_Tips_to_Save_a_Life_2012.08.29_upright_for_website.pdf

7 Comments

  1. Riaz Shah

    Hey Rori,
    This is good knowledge you’ve shared with me, I have friends who are addicted to heroin and they all wanted me to try but I never took.

    If Suboxone works, why is the FDA reluctant in giving the green light? I think anything we take if we are desperate to stop is worth taking because when we’re disorientated, its either try or stop trying, there is no such thing as waiting for a cure to get a green light.

    The will to stop doesn’t just come to anyone and if someone actually professes that he wants to try and stop, we need to guide them. Just sharing my 2 cents though, hope you don’t mind 😀

    • Rori O'Hara

      Much appreciated, Riaz. There is no willpower when it comes to this drug because of the damage to the brain. However, the brain can heal. After Part 4, I will write a series on the changes in the brain and how to heal it. I’m glad you didn’t fall prey. It is estimated that the death count will be 65,000 for 2016. Sad.

  2. Michel

    It is a living hell for these drug users who are trying to come clean, as well as the hell that the immediate families go through.

    We have friends whose son is constantly in and out of rehab, and he just can’t seem to stay clean. What a difference a proper cure would make to their lives, if only the FDA would approve it.

    Reading your article, it almost makes me think that the FDA and rehab centres want drug addicts to stay drug addicts.

    • Rori O'Hara

      It’s a terrible crisis about which the powers that be have remained ignorant, at great cost to our young people. Part 4 will tell you what you can do about it. Thanks for commenting, Michel.

  3. Gary

    Thank you for bringing to my attention the need for our legal system to approve Suboxone. I didn’t know there was such a thing.

    My ex-wife is an addict. Her two brothers are too. They come from a good home. Their father is a retired VP with IBM. I cannot imagine any of them overcoming their addiction without some kind of pharmacological help.

    They’ve been addicts since their teens and never developed the ability to delay gratification or to weight the consequences of their actions. To my knowledge, my ex and her brothers have not gone to rehab.

    As I’m sure you know, getting someone to go to rehab and to stay there until they are clean and sober is a very difficult task. Once we get them there, the doctors really need to have the most powerful tools to get them well. You have convinced me that Suboxone must be approved.

    • Rori O'Hara

      Gary, thanks for your candor about your experience with this problem. I really appreciate it whenever someone with “boots on the ground” supports the experts’ opinions that, because addictions cause brain injury, addicts need more than just rehab and continued behavioral therapy to heal. Hopefully, enough people like you will step up and write lawmakers to help make suboxone appropriately available to addicts, instead of expecting therapy alone to work. With so many young people dying (65,000 expected opioid death count for 2016), it’s time for lawmakers to change their “punishment” stance to one of compassion. I hope you’ll be reading the conclusion, coming soon. I’m sure your experience with this has not been easy, and Part 4 will tell you how you can be proactive in helping turn this epidemic around. Thanks again.

  4. Hi, this is Rori. I just picked up on the fact that some of the comments here are misleading in the idea that suboxone is not available or not FDA approved. I just want to clarify that it is FDA approved and available, but not widely enough. My article states that only a small percentage of doctors are allowed to prescribe it, and length of the prescription is curbed. Many doctors are finding this creates inadequate treatment that is frustrating for both patients and doctors, and contributes to more deaths than experts expect would otherwise occur.

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