Monthly Archives: April 2014

Advocating For Addiction Treatment

recovery-journeyTreatment for addiction is one path which may be taken to help rebuild a person’s life when alcohol or drugs have become a problem. There is a compelling documentary recovery film recently out entitled The Anonymous People. The film is an interesting retrospective on the recovery movement in the United States and how it evolved, beginning with AA in the 1930’s, until present day.

A special focus in the film is highlighting the message that people do recover from addiction, that there is a solution to this disease – and that solution is the decision to choose recovery. Recovery is a process that changes lives and takes individuals to a new destination in their life. Recovery is the journey that saves & enhances lives. To that end, recovery from addiction is of incomparable value.

In life, bad choices are made every day. As human beings, we learn to make better choices – often through the mistakes we endure as we travel through life one day at a time.

In reviewing the variety of recovery “paths”, there exist several routes by which an addicted person can find hope and direction in learning to live a drug free life. Some find their answers in church-based recovery programs. Churches recognize the reality of substance addictions and many have developed their own spiritual programs for dealing with drug addiction and offering hope for a better future.

12 Step Programs have been in widespread use for a long time and many lost in addiction have found the support, fellowship, and help needed in the rooms of AA, NA and other 12 step based programs. Some people in recovery from opioid addiction may find that their decision to take methadone or buprenorphine (suboxone) is not well-received in 12 step programs. This can make it difficult to feel accepted or supported there. However, not all NA or AA meetings are the same. NA and AA have themselves evolved over time, and some NA and AA members welcome all people suffering from addiction regardless of their drug of choice.

Addiction treatment is yet another path that leads toward recovery and the possibility of positive change. Treatment, like 12 step meetings, can vary considerably from one program to the next. Opioid treatment in particular often uses medication assistance as an additional tool to help people in their recovery journey. While medication assistance is scientifically proven to be beneficial to opioid addicted persons, it has endured some controversy through the years as those on the outside looking in chose judgment & criticism over compassion and understanding. Methadone and suboxone are proven, effective tools for alleviating the suffering that comes from opioid withdrawal.

In The Anonymous People documentary, there is a strong message that addicted people deserve love & support. Addicted people are from all walks of life. If treatment works, then advocating and supporting treatment is just and worthwhile. The film makes a persuasive argument that better advocacy is needed for the funding of addiction treatment services across the country. Addiction treatment advocacy has not been as effective as advocacy for other critical health conditions like HIV/AIDS or cancer.

As more families struggle with addiction and more voices are ultimately heard in their plea for treatment funding & support, we will hopefully see a shift in society whereby recovery is embraced as the answer to addiction.

Why Methadone Is Effective

methadone-researchMany opioid addicted individuals eventually become interested in methadone after hearing others speak of its effectiveness in eliminating opiate withdrawal sickness.

Methadone has been in use for well over 40 years as a leading treatment for opioid addiction. There are now hundreds of methadone clinics in operation across the U.S. The popularity of methadone as an addiction treatment rests in its proven benefit in completely removing withdrawal symptoms and in methadone’s uniquely long half life.

Heroin and most prescription opiates have a quick onset, short duration. In other words, you feel the effect quickly but the effect does not last long. Methadone is designed to remain in an individual’s system for a prolonged period of time thus keeping withdrawal symptoms at bay for a full day or longer.

Someone who is opioid tolerant and adjusted to their daily methadone medication will experience no high whatsoever from the medication. It will not interfere with their daily responsibilities, work, family, or other obligations. Often, families wonder what effect methadone will have on their loved one. Most family members are surprised to see their loved one return to being functional again and able to live a normal daily life.

Methadone is a full opioid agonist and binds very well to the body’s mu opioid receptors. This action causes withdrawal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, chills, ¬†diarrhea, and runny nose to disappear. Once these symptoms are removed, the addicted person can finally resume a full life and refocus themselves on important personal goals.

While the news media have frequently focused on addiction tragedies, the real stories are those in which countless people’s lives have been saved by methadone. In the North Carolina clinic where I have been employed, I have seen enormous numbers of individuals re-engage with their family, their career, their academic pursuits, home ownership, and a rewarding way of life.

There is a considerable amount of misinformation and fear-mongering that goes on around the topic of tapering off of methadone. It is important to emphasize that a patient is physically dependent upon methadone and must take the medication regularly to avoid opioid withdrawal. However, individuals taper off of methadone successfully everyday in programs across the country. Managing your anxiety during the taper process is important because this helps you stay focused and rational as you slowly reduce your methadone dosage.

The key to tapering successfully is to do so gradually and in cooperation with your prescribing physician and methadone clinic medical team. Some people may try to taper off of methadone too quickly and will consequently begin to feel their withdrawal symptoms return. This is most often avoided by simply proceeding slowly with a methadone taper.

Massachusetts Is Prohibited From Banning Zohydro

court-decisionSomewhat of a surprise was the recent ruling that the state of Massachusetts cannot ban the powerful new painkiller, Zohydro, from being prescribed in the state. The manufacturer of Zohydro, Zogenix, had argued that the ban was not constitutional and must be reversed.

The state governor, Deval Patrick, had announced his intention to make Zohydro unavailable since the manufacturer’s initial plan was to provide it without a tamper-proof component to deter abuse and potential overdose.

Judge Rya Zobel ruled that the state of Massachusetts had exceeded its authority in banning the drug, and she consequently implemented a preliminary injunction temporarily reversing the ban. The governor expressed disappointment that the public’s safety concerns were not sufficient to halt the sale of Zohydro, but he stated he would pursue other channels for addressing the widespread opioid abuse problem that is continuing to grow in the state and across the country.

Opioid pain medications have become a primary drug of abuse for a number of age groups. Deaths by opioid overdose now surpass deaths by homicide and motor vehicle accidents in numerous states.

While Zohydro may be an effective pain management medication, it will very likely be sought (and purchased illegally) by those with severe opioid addictions trying to avoid daily opioid withdrawal sickness. Sadly, overdose deaths will result from the use of this medication in similar fashion to the problems that surfaced when oxycontin hit the market. Please keep yourself informed, and if you are suffering with opioid addiction and withdrawal sickness, seek treatment immediately. There is opioid detox, methadone medication assistance, and private physicians using suboxone to help patients cope with their addiction.

Recovery From Heroin Addiction Helps Parenting

methadone-clinic-7When a parent enters treatment for opioid addiction and begins methadone dosing, hopefully that person embraces the recovery process and the resumption of certain responsibilities that may have been neglected during addiction.

Many parents in addiction live with a sense of regret and shame over not always being there for their children. Opiate addiction is particularly brutal and can derail a person’s priorities for extended periods of time. Families can suffer, and their bonds strained to the limit for years because of drug addiction.

When a parent begins to find true recovery and is able to take an honest look at their life, they recognize how their mistakes affected others – most often their families and particularly their children.

Effective parenting requires a notable combination of talents & abilities – obviously love mixed with patience, availability, consistency, and attention. These qualities suffer and are diminished for a majority of addicted parents when drugs are in control. As the years roll on while a parent remains in active addiction, their children may develop behavior problems, experience depression or rage, or feel lonely or abandoned. Facing this damage can be very hard for a parent in early recovery. Trying to resume the role of an “active parent” may not be well-received once the kids have endured on their own without supervision or proper care.

Rebuilding trust and good communication will take time. As a parent in recovery, it will require a new commitment from you to your children (and family) to be there when you can and to be honest and genuine. Addicted people have often broken multiple promises to those they love. Family who were lied to or repeatedly disappointed will be in a cautious, protective mode for a long time – perhaps hopeful that Dad is really going to stay sober, yet fearful he will return to drugs and restart the painful cycle all over again.

If you are a parent in recovery, you should have your own support group who can help to nurture you through the transitions and stresses of getting clean & sober and learning to deal with past damage. The path of recovery obviously involves a strong commitment to sober living. Good intentions are important, but real follow-through and demonstrated effort are much more important. It’s not enough to talk-the-talk. You must walk-the-walk if you are to truly succeed in achieving a sober life and recapturing the trust of those who were harmed or neglected.

The good news is that families, and children, often have a remarkable sense of love and willingness to forgive when they see that you are real about your recovery. Recovery changes people from the inside out. It returns people to a better form, and in some instances makes them better than they ever were. These positive changes in attitude, behavior, and lifestyle are visible to others. When they see the real you, the better you – that has evolved during the recovery process – the love, trust, and communication often return and may actually surpass what they once were.

It is important to do the work of recovery and to recognize that you must work on yourself. This is the basis for leaving the past in the past, and moving forward to a better future.

For More On Becoming a Client in a Methadone Program