Kim’s Journey to Fentanyl Recovery
Recently I have been encouraged by a patient of ours named Kim.
She has been off of fentanyl and heroin for almost 2 years now. We worked with her through terrifying near-death experiences when Kim overdosed from fentanyl relapse. She has seen much gang-related violence and shooting in a lower-income neighborhood. Her daughter’s heroin habit has left her with substantial medical problems. Kim and her husband divorced a few years before finding the Coleman Network of Addiction Medicine.
Her urine was positive for cannabis during her appointment today but clean for everything else.
More like this: The Safest & Best Way to Detox Off Fentanyl
Kim Finding the Coleman Network of Addiction Medicine
I talked with Dr. Coleman about our definition of recovery. Dr. Coleman acknowledges that it is necessary that talk to our patients about what recovery means to them.
For Kim, who has been using street drugs for far too long, perhaps using cannabis is her interpretation of being in fentanyl recovery. Yet, from where I am standing, I am hesitant to ‘judge’ her or anyone for using a substance that is now primarily legal in her refraining from potentially fatal substances.
With that in mind, I asked her, “what is your definition of fentanyl recovery?”
More like this: Is Recovery Possible For Fentanyl Addiction?
Kim’s Definition of Fentanyl Recovery
For now, Kim is finding stability in her job. She is the first to sign on to her computer in the morning and the last one to set her notifications to “away” on Slack. Kim uses her job to escape the issues around her in her neighborhood and the damaged relationships from her previous substance use.
Though she has asked her boss many times, they refuse to let her work 7-days a week. So she is left to her own devices 2 days a week. This is where the thoughts of her daughter’s struggles with what she once was and that 911 calls are responded more frequently to her neighborhood trouble Kim.
Kim Asking, “Is Cannabis (Pot) Safe?”
Kim shared that she has been asking tough questions about if using cannabis (pot) is safe to cope with her life’s struggles. She takes edibles at night and on her days off to help exist with her struggles. But, Kim realizes that she takes them when her life feels too complicated. In her new sober mindset, Kim understands why she takes them and has noticed the pattern.
I have been contemplating if I am doing the right thing by looking the other way when I know my patients are using cannabis. However, I can see the importance of talking with them about not using any substance that alters their state of mind. This is part of the Coleman Network for Addiction Medicine’s definition of being in full recovery from fentanyl or other opioids.
Because we believe that being in recovery includes a change in our patient’s spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical realms, we do not see a place for mind-altering substances.
Regardless, most of my patients fiercely defend cannabis who are using it.
“My depression is out of control; this is what helps me get through another day.”
“It helps me cope with my overwhelming anxiety.”
“It’s the only thing that gets me to sleep; otherwise, I’m useless.”
People may continue to believe they need to take a legal or illegal substance without first considering whether it is really needed. We will convince ourselves that what we are doing is needed and gather “evidence” to defend our logic.
Cannabis Withdrawal Symptoms
The myth that you will not experience withdrawal symptoms when stopping cannabis is false. Mainly for those who have been using cannabis (pot) for a prolonged time.
Don’t just take my word for it. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse:
The primary cognitive cannabis withdrawal symptoms include:
- Being restless
- Feeling anxious or worried
- Being irritable
- Feeling depressed
- Having low appetite or losing weight
- Having trouble sleeping at night and feeling tired during the day
Physical cannabis withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Stomach pain
Avoiding Pain and Seeking Pleasure
All creatures, including humans, are wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain. This is how humans have survived as a species to a large extent.
We crave water when we are thirsty.
We want to eat to avoid hunger.
We yearn for physical intimacy, so we reproduce and keep the species going.
When we experience psychological or emotional pain, taking a substance can stop it for a while. Though eventually, the existing problem gets worse and not better.
Generally, I don’t write about people using cannabis. But, I have seen too many patients who have chosen to stop taking it and don’t experience withdrawal symptoms within the month.
At present, we have more significant issues to tackle.
Accelerated Opioid Detox
The Coleman Network for Addiction Medicine specializes in helping people with our Accelerated Opioid Detox get off fentanyl and other opioids.
Every year opioid overdoses kill thousands of people; fentanyl is 50-100 times stronger than morphine and has made the margin of error worse. It is commonly used by dealers claiming to sell street pills or heroin.
When a person has developed a tolerance for opioids, stopping taking them is challenging because of the severe physical side effects.
That’s where the Coleman Network for Addiction Medicine’s Accelerated Opioid Detox program can help recover. We have specialized in getting people off pain medications (like Percocet® and other products such as methadone, hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, and buprenorphine), street drugs (such as pressed pills, fentanyl, and heroin), and over-the-counter substances such as poppy-seed tea and kratom. Our Accelerated Opioid Detox treatment includes using long-acting naltrexone to help block opioid receptors in the brain and curb physical cravings. As a result, if a patient takes an opioid, it can’t attach to the brain.
More like this: Accelerated Opioid Detox: Explained Using The Coleman Method
Outpatient Opioid Detox
We treat people in our clinic in a comfortable outpatient setting so that their loved ones can stay with them during the treatment.
Generally, during a heroin or fentanyl detox, treatment is done over 5-6 days at our clinic.
Living a life free from addiction is more of a life-or-death situation than stopping cannabis. But, full recovery consists of growth in all areas of oneself—emotionally, psychologically, spirituality, and physicality. Hopefully, our patients who have found freedom from opioids will one day be liberated from their cannabis dependence.
More like this: Detoxing off Opioids: 5 Things That Could Stop You
The raised awareness of methods to help people suffering from Substance Use Disorders is the silver lining of our nation’s opioid crisis. Several counseling services and high-quality programs are offered for opioid and fentanyl addiction. And now, many recovery support groups are meeting via Zoom and in person.
If you or a loved one would like to get off opioids or live a life free from fentanyl addiction, please call our office at 888-736-1720. Stay safe in the meantime.
Joan R. Shepherd, FNP