Not all heroes wear capes.
Earlier this month, a young man named James traveled to our treatment facility for an accelerated detox off fentanyl. For 3 years, James had been snorting about .2 to .3 grams regularly. I learned that he lost his father 3 years ago and this was a significant contribution to triggering his relapse. Prior to that, he’d enjoyed 6 years of abstinence from all mind-altering substances. His relapse was fast and brutal.
Right now, we are experiencing an extreme time in our planet’s history. COVID-19 has impacted, in one form or another, almost every single individual in the world. Very few people have been untouched or are unaware of the radical practices necessary to keep ourselves and others safe from COVID-19.
A Leap of Faith During COVID-19
So, the decision to travel to our treatment facility for a rapid opioid detox was not an insignificant one for James. It was an enormous leap of faith for his support person to join him—Mariah, his 80 year old mother. As we know, older individuals are at a higher risk for contracting coronavirus.
We have decades of experience helping people get off opioids. Our process involves introducing micro-doses of naltrexone daily, carefully sweeping the opioids off the receptors. Essentially, we are resetting them.
The final step is to provide long acting naltrexone via an implant which will give freedom from opioid cravings and the inability to get high for about two months. (Through their own insurance, some patients have access to Vivitrol®, a long acting injectable form of naltrexone, which covers the opioid receptors for about a month).
Why Detox During a Pandemic
When I spoke with James about his reason for choosing to detox during a pandemic, he told me he couldn’t bear it if his substance use disorder and irresponsible behavior ultimately compromised his mother’s health. James is living with his mom after losing his job and he realized that all of his contacts in his drug procurement process were “careless, sloppy, and stupid” when it came to practicing safety and mitigating the potential spread of COVID-19.
“None of them are practicing anything like social distancing…they are still getting together with each other and getting high. I became acutely aware of how much risk I was exposing myself and my mom to.”
Mariah is an incredibly sharp woman. I would have never guessed she was 80 years old. She is glad that her son made the decision to get clean and, even though she acknowledges it is a risky time to do it, believes the reward outweighs the risk.
A Reluctant Hero During Coronavirus
Over the years, hundreds of my patients have chosen to detox because they value their families and were aware of the devastation and destruction their addiction created.
Being in the midst of one of the most challenging and extreme times our world has ever seen, it would be a lot easier to stay home and stay stoned rather than travel here and get clean. I believe that James meets the criteria of the Reluctant Hero, a “tarnished or ordinary man with several faults or a troubled past, pulled reluctantly into heroic acts.”
Patients and support people are screened, gloved, and masked when they come to our office. We are striking the balance between minimizing face to face exposure, but being completely accessible to our patients and their support people. If this bizarre chapter in our world’s history is calling you to be the hero of your own story, give us a call and we can see if we are the right fit for each other.
In the meantime, be safe.
Joan R. Shepherd, FNP