Suboxone Clinic Gives Hope to Mother and Daughter
Five months ago, Alecia was shooting heroin into the main vein of her own neck,
the backs of her knees, or between her toes. At times she would even inject herself in the thin veins of her nipples.
“Yeah, I made my own daughter shot me up,” Alecia says. “I couldn’t get clean (off Heroin). It, formed a painful closeness between us. I know that sounds horrible and strange. But it did.”
Of all drugs classified as opioids — including morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone and fentanyl, which work inside the brain like morphine from poppy plants turned into opium — heroin is the cheapest and easy to obtain with the worst reputation.
On March 29th President Donald Trump signed an executive order creating a commission to fight opioid abuse, addiction and overdose.
“We want to help those who have become so badly addicted,” Trump said, calling the United States’ opioid addiction a “total epidemic” that now afflicts some 2.5 million people.
Opponents faulted president trump for not including specific funding increases as part of his program. Some critics doubt the president’s commitment to the policy. The Republican replacement for the Affordable Care Act would have stripped the requirement that health insurers cover substance abuse as an “essential” benefit. This is hypocricy at it’s finest.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, appointed as the commissioner of the new policy,said he and Trump “want to save lives.”
“Addiction is a disease,” Christie said, “and no life is disposable.”
If anyone illustrates both the depth of the problem as well as possible hope for recovery, it might be Alecia.
“If you believe in God, he definitely has a purpose for this lady,” Miami Medical Center psychiatrist Adam Koss said of Alecia. “She should have died 10 times over. I treated them as director of the hospital’s suboxone clinic. ”
Most news reports have focused on suburban patients with back pain who accidentally become hooked on OxyContin, or other pain killers who turn to heroin after being on prescription pain drugs. Alecia started on drugs as a child to self-medicate the trauma of what Koss called a “horrific” childhood.
Buprenorphine Offers Relief From Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms
Opioids, including Heroin, and Prescription pain medications, have the most difficult withdrawal of any addictive drugs. “It’s probably the worst feeling you’ll ever feel in your life,” Alecia said. “You really just feel like you will die: pain, diarrhea, you can’t stop vomiting. Your bones feel like they’re being crushed.
“Even if you take them exactly as prescribed by your buprenorphine doctor, in 6 to 8 weeks there is a chance you will become physically dependent.
Alecia received her first treatment at Miami Medical Center’s Suboxone clinic on October 3rd, and the change in her life over the next few weeks was positive and happened quickly.
“I have such a great outlook on life now,” she said. “I’m looking forward to every day that I wake up.”
A number of medications to treat heroin addiction and other opiates exist. Some are controversial.
The most well-known is methadone, which has been available for use in the U.S. since the 1940s. The patients must line up at specialized clinics, and there is a stigma attached. The drug cuts back on drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms while creating no high. Critics oppose the drug because some addicts will remain on methadone maintenance programs for years. Many professionals in the field assert they are effectively just substituting one drug dependence for another with a death toll of its own that is not insignificant. In 2012, methadone overdoses killed 900 people.
At Miami Medical Center, Alecia received Suboxone, a combination of two anti-opiate drugs, buprenorphine and naloxone. Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2002, it is a replacement drug that links to opioid receptors, and prevents heroin and other drugs from attaching, cuts cravings for more opioids and all but eliminates withdrawal. After your initial suboxone clinic visit, addicts can take it at home.
You can’t get high on heroin, as Alecia discovered, because the brain’s opioid receptors are filled with buprenorphine.
“When I first started (on Suboxone), I tried shooting up dope,” Alecia said. “Nothing happened.”
The naloxone part of the drug safeguards against addicts trying to abuse Suboxone for any possible high.
Suboxone is prescribed for three times a day as a pill or strips of film that dissolve under the tongue. If the patient decides to melt it down and inject it, the naloxone kicks in and sends users into sudden withdrawal — which itself acts as an intense physical warning to use the drug correctly.
It took three visits to the Miami Medical Suboxone clinic for doctors to get Alecia up to correct full dosage.
The Heroin epidemic in america won’t be solved with medications alone. MAT must be combined with intensive outpatient addiction programs and therapy. Many suboxone clinics also offer individual and group counseling sessions 5 times per week. He estimated that only about 10 percent of the addicts long-term recovery will come from Buprenorphine treatment. The addict must make many personal life changes to stay clean and sober long term.
Nationally, the relapse rate for heroin addicts can run as high as 90 percent for people who don’t receive correct medication assisted treatment.
“There is always hope,” he said, “and people who are engaged and stay in treatment are almost universally successful.”