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Could Psychotherapy Combined with Rapid Detox Be the Key to Beating Painkiller and Heroin Addiction?

Aug 09, 2013 - 2 comments

One of the main reasons we created a specialized center for opiate dependency that has such a high rate of success, is because we integrate psychotherapy into our medical detoxification and/ or rapid detox programs in some way. Using this type of therapy helps us and each of our patients gain a clearer understanding of what led to a dependency to opiates in the first place, giving them a better chance of living an opiate-free life once and for all.

There are so many different motives for why people start taking and can’t stop using opiates. Some patients are simply in a stage of life that feels overwhelming or difficult to navigate. For others, the feeling of helplessness is driven by loss or due to physical pain and limitations imposed by the pain. There are many individuals who also have untreated or undiagnosed anxiety or depression. What’s important to remember is that in all cases, the ability to identify and understand the feeling of being “stuck” and how this feeling is often the core driving force for substance abuse, which allows for a new process of healing to begin. This is where psychotherapy comes in, and why it has the power to successfully empower patients to overcome opiate dependency.

We use individual psychotherapy as a tool to uncover the internal and external tensions that drive any unwanted behaviors, as well as understanding the underlying needs that may be holding someone back from achieving sobriety. For example, an individual may have the feeling of “being stuck,” which comes from an extremely busy and responsibility-driven life. On the outside, their lives may appear wonderful, but on the inside there is a buildup of extreme stress and tension. This accumulated stress often goes unrecognized or is minimized until there is a disruptive event, like an injury or a type of fatigue. In this situation, the chemical dependency acts as a coping mechanism so that the individual can temporarily feel better while maintaining their responsibilities. The coping mechanism or chemical may help temporarily, but eventually causes its own problems and dangers while leaving the underlying needs (stress and tension) unmet and unrecognized.
Also, since opiates create a sense of well-being, the pattern of taking these drugs to cope is often repeated. Over time, physical tolerance increases, leading to even greater substance use accompanied by physical and emotional dependency to the drugs. This progression of abuse often creates a feeling of helplessness because the body goes through a continuous cycle of needing to fend off constant states of physical withdrawal. At this point, even if the individual has a desire to stop this painful cycle, the substance use is often continued until there is a critical moment where the cycle is no longer sustainable. Patients in this situation often carry a sense of guilt and shame that they cannot stop the cycle of abuse, which makes the individual feel like they have less of a right to seek treatment.

Usually in order for anyone to sustain sobriety, we believe it is critical they truly understand the factors that weaken their commitment to staying sober, as well as the factors that help them continue to live an opiate-free life. The psychotherapy helps patients gain a level of self-awareness and understanding, which is essential to the process of recovery. In fact, we now offer a special program at Domus Retreat, which helps patients identify and address real world triggers to ensure their sobriety. Through this program, patients are able to return a month or two after they complete their treatment and aftercare. By returning to their homes, jobs and personal lives, patients can assess any triggers in their day-to-day lives that may cause a relapse then return for a few days  to address these issues through psychotherapy and learn how to cope without resorting to substance abuse.

People are much more likely to maintain their commitments when they believe in their importance and have a clear awareness of what drives their behaviors.  Through psychotherapy and our medical detoxification we are able to recognize these factors and their correlation to help patients stop using opiates once and for all.


Rate of Newborns Born Addicted to Opiates Triples

May 30, 2013 - 3 comments


It’s of course heartbreaking to watch anyone battle prescription painkiller addiction, but the recent news about the growing number of babies born addicted to these narcotics weighs heavy on my heart. To give you some background on the issue, in the first-ever national study of its kind, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association researchers looked at the number of newborns who suffered from withdrawal commonly observed in the babies of pregnant women who abused narcotic pain medications, like Vicodin and Oxycontin. The study reported that the number of newborns with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) tripled between 2000 and 2009, equating to roughly 13,539 drug-addicted newborns born each year, while the number of mothers using opiates at the time of delivery rose five-fold over that period

While both the issue and the number of victims are astounding, I think part of the issue is that many pregnant women may unfortunately not be aware that prescription painkillers can be harmful to their babies. Since the drugs are technically legal, many may assume that they are “safe.” In addition, since opiates are so highly addictive, if a mother is already taking the pills and becomes pregnant she simply may not be able to quit.

It’s absolutely heart wrenching to see that the rate of opiate addiction not only continues to rise in adolescent and adult populations, but that newborn babies are being affected as well. Rather than being given the chance to enter this world with a pure, clean slate these infants are born experiencing opiate withdrawal, which causes intense pain and suffering.

Based on what we now know to be a growing problem, it is crucial now more than ever that we as a nation and in our local communities provide increased public health measures to reduce prenatal exposure to opiates across the U.S. In the comments section below, I’d love to hear your thoughts on why the rate of babies being born addicted has tripled. Do you think providing more education to those who are pregnant and/or addicted will help alleviate this problem? Please share with me below.


Heroin Use in the U.S.

May 08, 2013 - 6 comments

During the past several years it seems there is no escaping the news about prescription drug use running rampant in the U.S.  From our local communities to the national level, opiate-based medications like Vicodin and oxycodone have spurred an onslaught of addiction, crime and devastation to families and individual lives. Sadly, prescription painkiller abuse now also seems to be sparking a resurgence of heroin abuse.  That’s right, heroin. The 2013 National Drug Control Strategy released by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, reported that a surge in heroin use across the nation has particularly affected young adults living in suburban and rural areas.

Having worked with thousands of patients seeking treatment for opiate dependency over the years, it’s extremely disturbing to see that heroin is becoming the drug of choice for an alarming number of young adults and professionals.  Although heroin was once primarily considered a street drug, many people in suburban communities are finding it easier to access than prescription painkillers – and more affordable. As mindboggling as it may be, it’s true. The 2013 National Drug Control Strategy highlighted that heroin addiction, especially among 18-25-year-olds has grown, with approximately 68,000 seeking treatment in 2010, which was up from 43,000 in 2000.

Why is heroin easier for some to get than, say Vicodin? Well, with the increase in people illegally abusing prescription painkillers, these medications have become much more difficult – and more expensive – to obtain. Heroin on the other hand is unregulated, cheap and readily available from a local dealer. While government agencies and legislators are doing what they can to impose tighter regulations and monitoring programs, I think it’s important to be aware of this potential unintended consequence; users turning to other, more dangerous substances.  

I truly feel it is our duty as a country to support action to help combat this problem, by not only adopting stricter laws for those found to be dealing heroin, but also offering more community programs and information on treatments to help those battling these addictions. Trading one drug for another is not the answer to dependency, and will only serve to cause more damage in the short and long term.  How do you think we should be addressing heroin and prescription painkiller abuse in the U.S.? Please leave your comment below.      


Rapid Detox

Mar 07, 2013 - 5 comments

With all of the different rapid detox treatments available to patients these days, it can be extremely difficult to sort through the programs that are truly effective and those that many times just set patients up to fail.  If you're considering a rapid detox program, it's important to remember that many treatments have very low success rates, and some people aren't even eligible for certain procedures.  Many of you already know the serious effects opiates can have on the body because of changes in the chemistry of the brain and organ function, as well as how these drugs can alter social, emotional and mental health.   All of these effects vary tremendously depending on the person, which is why a safe and successful detoxification program will always addresses the unique needs of each individual on a case-by-case basis.  Rapid detox is not always indicated to patients. A proper assessment is crucial for the safety and success of the process.

If you come across a rapid detox treatment that uses a "one size fits all" approach that doesn't consider the medical, social and psychological histories of each patient, I would strongly recommend against seeking help from that program.  You'll be shocked to find that many programs administer the same treatment to all of their patients, and even take them to hotel rooms immediately after detoxification to recover, without the proper medical supervision.  You can just imagine how incredibly dangerous it could be, leaving a patient   unmonitored after treatment without any medical or personal attention, they're at risk for a host of complications.  Aftercare is an extremely important part of the journey to a life without opiates, and many times is responsible for the success of the program, so it’s vital to seriously consider your aftercare options along with the procedure.

When searching for a rapid detox program, please have an open conversation with your doctor so together you can find the safest and most successful treatment available.  A combination of factors must be taken into consideration, including your age, health, medical history and condition, psychological state, and most importantly, your own personal preference and what you feel comfortable with.  Not all patients are, or should be, a candidate for rapid detox, since some prefer not to undergo sedation, and others may not be physically well enough for the detoxification. Patients are human beings with unique situations that requires unique answers.