Jun 14, 2014 Tami Scott Uncategorized
For Baldwinsville native Micah Wood, 20, the need to get clean finally became evident when he sat in a jail cell for the first time. He had been using heroin, among other drugs, for about a year and half at that point, and on Nov. 23, while high and without remembering, he was arrested for criminal mischief, resisting arrest and assault and held at the Onondaga County Justice Center.
“There comes a point in time where you’re just sick of the same old crap and sick of regressing instead of progressing,” said Wood, who started smoking pot at age 10. “The first time I made the decision to stop, I couldn’t. I stopped doing harder drugs like pills and cocaine and ecstasy. I’d pretty much just smoke and drink, but eventually the smoking and drinking isn’t enough and you want more. That’s what ended up happening, just saying ‘screw it,’ and [I] ended up doing the things I didn’t want to do.”
On Jan. 23, Wood checked in to the Watertown-based Credo Community Center for the Treatment of Addictions, Inc. There, he continues to receive inpatient treatment and has been sober for six months now. Upon graduation, he’ll go to a halfway house for up to six months. Then, he said, he’ll start life from scratch.
Relapse, therapists say, is part of the recovery process. Prior to his admission at Credo, Wood had tried on several occasions to stop using drugs — on his own and with both inpatient and outpatient clinics — but he wasn’t ready.
“I think there’s a difference between realizing you need help and actually wanting to change,” he said. “And I realized that I needed help when I was probably 16.”
Central New York has several treatment options for people who have become dependent on drugs and want their life back. Two unique programs are located right in the heart of Syracuse at Crouse Hospital and Upstate Medical University.
Established in the mid 1970s, Crouse Hospital offers the only OASIS-certified medication-assisted outpatient treatment program in CNY, which uses methadone to manage opioid addiction, including heroin. The program currently sees 532 patients from 16 counties and is in the process of expanding to accept more.
“Methadone is a synthetic opiate and if taken properly — not too high of a dose and not too low of a dose — the medication will allow for a person to function normally,” said Mark Raymond, manager of the Crouse Hospital Opioid Treatment Program. “They won’t be high, they won’t be intoxicated, but they also won’t be in withdrawal. They can reach what is a steady state.”
Methadone, which is first administered by a nurse as an oral liquid, alleviates withdrawal syndrome and blocks cravings for other opiates.
“If they’re on the right dose and doing everything they’re supposed to, they can use the medication once per day and it will allow them to function in their various roles,” said Raymond, noting that the program doesn’t aim to wean patients off methadone. Rather, it’s a medication they’ll most likely take for the rest of their lives.
“Research shows that, once somebody becomes truly addicted to opiates, without medication, about eight or nine out of every 10 people will have real difficulty maintaining abstinence from opiates over time,” he said. “They eventually relapse, and that’s due to both acute and post-acute withdrawal symptoms. Success without medication is not so great. Not impossible, but not so great. Success with medication is much higher.”
Methadone, as well as Suboxone and buprenorphine (both narcotic analgesics), have similar benefits, but don’t change somebody’s brain chemistry. Rather, they help a person maintain. While it’s not impossible for patients to wean off the medication, Raymond said it’s important to continue with wraparound services that the program provides, such as counseling, medical care and psychiatric care.
“If somebody does all those things and works on those things, that will give them maybe a better chance of success, but it’s still physiologically changing for them to have been addicted to opiates, so the success rate is still low without medication,” he said. “With medication, it’s been proven to reduce harm to the individual, it’s been proven to lower crime rate, reduce the spread of infection and diseases, improve function on families and work productivity. Hands down, it can increase the life expectancy of the individual.
“These patients, they’re not some sort of stereotype,” Raymond added. “They come in all shapes and sizes, different ethnicities, we have about 50/50 males and females … they’re pretty amazing people what they can accomplish. It’s not an easy thing to do. A lot of work goes into recovery.”
To find out more about this and other programs at Crouse Hospital, call 470-8304 or 1-800-727-6873 or visit crouse.org/services/chemical-dependency.
Upstate Medical University
Dr. Brian Johnson leads the neuropsychoanalytic program at Upstate Medical University, which is unique
Dr. Brian Johnson authored a book about drug addiction called, “Widespread Zombification in the 21st Century and the Wars of the Zombie Masters: Drugs: For Kids and the Occasional Interested Parent.”
The book is targeted for young teens and can be purchased online at Amazon.com.
not only to CNY, but also nationally and internationally. It starts with detox.
“We use a single dose of long-acting buprenorphine, [which is] an opioid,” Johnson said. “The half-life of heroin is three hours; the half-life of buprenorphine is 26 hours.”
When a client begins the program, they’re asked to stop using heroin the night before so it’s out of their system and the hospital can administer the new opioid. Four other standard medicines are then used, which Johnson said are effective in controlling the withdrawal symptoms like gut cramps, insomnia, anxiety and nausea. The detox is over after one week and has a 92 percent completion rate. Additionally, it’s outpatient, though it’s required that a sober support person accompany you.
“We have the technology, whether it’s alcohol, benzodiazepines or opioids. We can have you go home, sleep in your bed, and that’s one of the functions of a sober support person,” Johnson said. “Especially the first day could be tricky, so someone volunteers to monitor you and everyone goes home with my cell phone number, and I sleep next to it, so if there’s a problem they call me up.”
After the first week, the patient will receive psychotherapy twice a week and be asked to attend Narcotics Anonymous. The program has no waiting time and is covered by insurance.
“We take you, we treat you, you sleep in your own bed, you have a month of treatment, you get discharged,” Johnson said. “Most people do maintenance. The American style is if you’re addicted to opioids, you’ll always be addicted to opioids. Better a doctor should give you methadone or buprenorphine and you should get off this drug. Because of these innovations in treatment, we feel actually comfortable getting people off opioids and treating everything else that’s going on with them and seeing how they do.”
For more information on Upstate’s program, call Jackie at 464-3130.