About 4 years ago, Whitney suffered from severe knee pain that led to knee surgery. Prior to that, she was prescribed a combination of Tramadol and a hydrocodone product. She took them as directed by her doctor, but was also aware of how much she loved the feeling in her mind and body as the opioids did their work. As her body developed a tolerance to these medications, her doctor dropped the Tramadol and switched her to a hydrocodone/oxycodone regimen.
In Denial and Justifying Opioid Use
Whitney sought help at the Coleman Network for Addiction Medicine when she had had enough of justifying her opioid use to herself. She was in denial about her prescription pill habits because she was a recovered alcoholic, abstinent for the last 22 years. She told herself was strong because her recovery from alcohol use disorder was going very well. She continued to attend meetings, share with others, live in gratitude for her sobriety from alcohol, and consume approximately 160mg daily of various opioids — some prescribed and some bought from “friends.”
From Innocent Prescription to Substance Use Disorder
Following her surgery, she was prescribed Dilaudid® and a relief from her knee pain. But the opioids had already begun altering her brain chemistry. Stopping was not going to be easy.
It was fairly easy for Whitney to get refills of the Dilaudid® from her surgeon’s office. But soon her surgeon stopped refilling the pain medication and she turned to her primary care provider to resume prescribing for her. She described her fear of withdrawal and her PCP reluctantly put her back on oxycodone with the forewarning that there would be an intentional and precise taper to get her off completely. She gratefully agreed to his terms, but any time the subject of the taper came up, Whitney was able to persuade her providers that this dose was reasonable and kept her pain free.
The Physician’s Dilemma of Opioid Prescriptions
Because of the opioid crisis, physicians and other medical providers have been re-educated about using narcotics for pain management. This has created a backlash and many providers have made the decision to stop including pain management as part of their practices at all. The number of patients who have contacted the Coleman Network because their physician abruptly stopped prescribing their opioid medication is staggering.
Withdrawal Symptoms and Detoxing Off of Opioids
Whitney had been around enough people in recovery to have heard horror stories about withdrawal. She started making inquiries and found other sources of pain medication. It was expensive, but she told herself it was ok.
Whitney continued living this fragmented lifestyle for several years. She was a woman in recovery from alcohol, But she was also a woman who needed pain medication and had to take the initiative to care for herself, which meant supplementing prescriptions with illegally purchased drugs.
Safe and Effective Method for Accelerated Opioid Detox
She knew about the Coleman Network; she had actually referred many people to us for safe, medical outpatient alcohol detoxes over the years. Now, she knew, she needed our help.
Getting off opioid pain medications is difficult. When someone with an opioid dependence is denied their medication, the body goes into withdrawal. They can experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, body aches, ‘kicks’, and more. These symptoms are even worse when a person has turned to street drugs such as fentanyl.
The Coleman Method for withdrawal management (also known as detox) provides a compassionate solution for those who find themselves in the grip of this situation. Our outpatient Accelerated Opioid Detox includes a minimum of five different comfort meds to mitigate the symptoms of withdrawal. Each patient brings the support person of their choice. Over a 3-8 day period, depending on what medication is being stopped (methadone and buprenorphine products require the longer timeframes for successful accelerated detoxing), the opioids residing on the receptors are replaced with naltrexone, a non-addictive opioid antagonist that will essentially block other drugs in this class.
Naltrexone Gives the Best Chance for Lasting Success
Using long-acting naltrexone at the completion of the detox gives the brain the chance to begin the healing process, producing its own dopamine stores again. Whitney has been opioid-free for 2 months. She checked in for her 2nd naltrexone implant last week, talking about how relieved she is about not having to live her double life.
For people who prefer an Accelerated Detox in an outpatient setting rather than months of tapering, the Coleman Method may be the right fit.
Schedule a callback below to speak with one of our Care Advocates and start your path to freedom from addiction.
Joan Shepherd FNP