I had a wonderful experience yesterday. As I went about my daily rounds meeting with patients, I heard one success story after another. This doesn’t happen every day, but I love it when it does.
Jordan has been off fentanyl since the middle of April. He is sleeping well and doing home renovation projects he’d delayed for years. Now he has the energy, time, and the money to do so for the first time.
Setting Recovery Up for Success
Craig hasn’t had any alcohol since he got walloped in June by Corona—the virus, not the beer. He thought that vodka could help him deal with a stressful home situation involving his young children and his nervous wife. It seemed to at first, but then it definitely didn’t. OJ and vodka started perking up the mornings around 10:00 a.m. and also settling his slight tremors. The memes he saw online proved that he wasn’t alone in using alcohol to obscure concerns associated with Covid.
Julie has been dealing with an emotional annual event: the birthday of her much-loved, deceased husband. It’s the first time in 6 years that she’s been able to do so without using addictive substances. She stopped taking the oxycodone (which proved to be fentanyl in reality) eight months ago. She has been able to lean on a close circle of friends who understand the pain that she was trying to numb in past years on this day.
Mark hasn’t had any alcohol for 5 months. He is very quiet, but shared with me that he now understands why his wife left their marriage. With alcohol affecting his mind, he played the victim. He thought that his job, his wife, and his parents were creating the negativity in his life. Even though he sometimes experiences a desire to drink, he now turns to his growing belief system that his life is absolutely better without any booze. He regularly attends Zoom meetings of 12 Step We Agnostics.
Will all of these people be able to remain sober? People use substances for a long list of reasons. Sometimes a habit or a prescription have evolved into physical dependence. Sometimes a drug helped ease emotional or physical pain. Our brains create powerful memories of the dopamine rush that these addictive substances can create.
What Perfect Storm is Present When a Person Relapses?
In another exam room I met with Rhett and his sister. Rhett is from Maryland and had detoxed using the Coleman Method a few years ago. He stopped using opiates for 5 ½ years and was able to create a stable and pleasant during that era. Unfortunately, while politics and Covid have taken over media coverage lately, the opioid epidemic continues to smolder across our country. Rhett has lost 5 friends in recent months. I was admittedly a bit surprised to learn that although 2 had overdosed, the other 3 had all taken their own lives. Their despair about their addiction and the course of their lives drove them into a corner. While facing all these losses, Rhett gave in and began to use again.
It is important to build practices that increase the chances for success. It is a truism, but the farther away the drug, the better the odds of not using it. Situations that generate powerful negative emotions or fear can torpedo someone’s recovery. It is helpful to understand how the brain responds when re-exposed to a dopamine-stimulating chemical.
Medical Detox for Substance Use Disorder and Alcohol Use Disorder
The physicians who have joined the Coleman Network for Addiction Medicine can help you begin, or return to–a life of long-term recovery. We focus on providing safe and effective outpatient detoxes from opiates like heroin, Oxycontin®, Percocet®, Roxicet®, fentanyl, kratom, poppy seed tea, methadone, and many others. We also help people who need a medical detox to safely stop drinking alcohol.
Over the past 20 years, a core element of the Coleman Method for detoxing has been the use of long-acting naltrexone on the final day of the detox. Naltrexone is a pure opioid blocker, so it fills up the opioid receptors and stops opioids from attaching to them. A major reason to opt for naltrexone over buprenorphine for Opioid Use Disorder is that it does not create physical dependence. When someone is ready to stop taking this particular form of Medication-Assisted Treatment, they don’t have to go through withdrawal. With our long-acting naltrexone implant, patients typically feel protected for up to 8 weeks and they aren’t having to visit a medical office for daily, weekly, or biweekly urine drug screens.
Is naltrexone as effective as buprenorphine? Yes, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse:
“A NIDA study showed that once treatment is initiated, a buprenorphine/naloxone combination and an extended release naltrexone formulation are similarly effective in treating opioid use disorder. Because naltrexone requires full detoxification, initiating treatment among active opioid users was more difficult with this medication. However, once detoxification was complete, the naltrexone formulation had a similar effectiveness as the buprenorphine/naloxone combination.” Source
One of the most important advantages of the Coleman Method for detoxing is that almost all of our patients complete their detox and are successfully transitioned onto long-acting naltrexone.
Long-Acting Naltrexone for Recovery
Naltrexone is also a powerful tool for our patients with Alcohol Use Disorder, although it works in a different way than it does for opioids. Naltrexone curbs the desire to drink and reduces the pleasure from doing so. Although it doesn’t make a person sick when they drink, it makes it easier to let go of the habit.
All the patients I wrote about above have the potential to stay in long-term recovery with the right support and personal commitment. Sometimes I feel like the biggest contribution we can make in people’s lives through our unique detox programs is restoring hope.
If you or your loved one wants to learn more about the Coleman Method, please call us at 877-773-3869. With very best wishes,
Joan R. Shepherd, FNP