According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control, the rate of heroin-related deaths has quadrupled in the past 10 years. Of people surveyed between 2011 and 2013, nearly 663,000 said they had used heroin in the past year; 379,000 said they had between 2002 and 2004.
Scott Davis, Clinical Director at The Meadows, says that the path that leads to heroin addiction is often different than that of other drug addictions. In many cases, it begins with a prescription for an opioid painkiller, such as hydrocodone or oxycodone. (In others, it begins with prescriptions for Benzodiazepines, such as Xanax or Ativan.)
“A lot of the people who are coming to us with opiate addictions don’t necessarily fit the mold for most addiction. They don’t typically have the family history of addiction or the long-term dependence on the drug that you see with many other addicts.” “That doesn’t mean that they don’t have trauma, or that their family doesn’t have issues—in fact, they may have issues which exacerbated their dependence on the drug and made the addiction more likely—but, they might not have otherwise found themselves addicted had they not been prescribed an opiate as a pain killer.”
Once the pills become difficult to obtain, it can be easy for a person to slip into heroin abuse. Heroin’s chemical structure is very similar to that of prescription pain medications and works in the same group of receptors in the brain. It’s also cheaper.
For heroin and opiate addicts, there are typically three levels of pain that they must overcome in order to reach sobriety: the physical pain that led them to drug, the pain of detoxing from the drug, and emotional pain that led to their addiction.
For many opioid addicts, their drug problems start with chronic physical pain. That pain is real and needs to be taken into account when developing a treatment program for the patients.
At The Meadows, we have a full-time medical doctor on our staff to help patients address the pain and the medical issues that are causing it. Patients cannot thoroughly address any underlying psychological aspects of their addiction if they are suffering too much from the physical pain that lead them to abuse drugs in the first place.
Heroin disrupts the brain’s natural opiate production process, which helps reduce pain and calm the nervous system. So, when a person stops taking the drug, he or she feels pain and anxiety more intensely than before. This makes detoxing from heroin especially painful. The Meadows highly-trained medical team, which includes a 24-hour nursing staff, can help patients safely and comfortably detox from heroin and opiates onsite. They develop a detox plan for each person that helps them to stabilize more quickly, experience less pain, and avoid some of the withdrawal symptoms they would have if they went off the drug cold turkey. Easing patients through detox makes it a whole lot easier for people to stay in treatment and stay off of the drug.
In many treatment systems, patients detox in a hospital or other setting and then go to the treatment program. Because we have the ability to help patients detox in-house at The Meadows, they don’t have to wait to begin treatment. As long as the patient is feeling well enough, they can begin attending classes and therapy sessions within the first two to three days after their arrival on campus. This makes the transition into treatment easier for them and allows them to start developing coping strategies for living without the drug right away.
While the path that led to heroin use may have begun with a need to address physical pain, the user probably soon found that it also minimized their emotional and psychological pain as well. Whatever coping mechanisms the addict had used before to manage their stress and anxiety may have fallen by the wayside, as the drug was able to do the trick much more quickly and effectively.
That’s why a key component of the treatment program at The Meadows focuses on addressing trauma, family issues, and emotion regulation. Our staff works with patients to help them identify and address any buried psychological pain and repressed feelings that may have played a role in triggering their addiction.
Many people who become addicted to heroin found their way to the drug unintentionally. Many of them may also be the only people in their families with an addiction problem, which can contribute to feelings of isolation and shame. Scott Davis says that one thing that makes The Meadows program especially well-suited for them is that there is no shame attached.
“We’re not going to tell them that they are bad people. We’re not going to tell them that it’s all their fault and that they should have known better. Because drug addiction is a disease. We’re going to look at the chemical addiction, and we’re also going to deal with the underlying issues that make this drug particularly potent for them in a non-judgmental way.”
If you think you or someone you love may have a problem with heroin or prescription medications, The Meadows can help. Give us a call at 800-244-4949 today or contact us online here.
Sean Walsh, Chief Executive Officer at The Meadows, talks with Mark Lewis on the Empowerment Team show about the heroin epidemic and the “Hooked: Tracking Heroin’s Hold on Arizona” simulcast project. This interview covers the law enforcement as well as the addicts side of this national crisis and offers Sean’s viewpoint on treatment.
New Bill Aims to Secure Addiction Treatment and Recovery
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdoses now surpass automobile accidents as the leading cause of injury-related deaths for Americans between ages 25 and 64. Approximately 100 Americans die each day from opioid overdoses, and about 75 percent of opioid addiction disease patients switch to heroin as a cheaper opioid source, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s 2014 Facts and Figures.
Opioids and heroin use are fueling the addiction landscape, and the problem is accelerating at lightning speed. Although heroin users were once associated with young men from low-income neighborhoods, this is no longer the case. Such users now come in all shapes and sizes with far-reaching demographics.
The problem has reached such epidemic proportions that senators are introducing legislation to combat the problem. The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2014 is aimed to address this epidemic by helping to secure treatment for individuals – especially young adults – in the throes of addiction.
It has become clear that ignoring the problem or wishing it away isn’t the answer. Educating the medical community is another part of the solution. Many doctors just don’t have the necessary education when it comes to opioid addiction – or even addiction in general. The majority of doctors intend to be of service to their patients, but many of them don’t have sufficient knowledge about opioid addiction. Opioids should not be the first resort in dealing with pain management. This is especially important because people who become dependent on opioids often turn to heroin as a cheaper alternative.
Here at The Meadows we have physicians sit in on our lectures all the time and when we speak about opioid addiction, we’ll hear some of them say, “I do that all the time. I’ve been handing out prescriptions much too readily.”
Fortunately, addiction is a treatable disease, but studies reveal that only a small fraction of those who need treatment receive it. The most successful outcomes are realized through in-patient residential programs such as The Meadows who also offer patients solid after-care strategies.
The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2014 – introduced by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) and Senator Rob Portman (D-Ohio) – would make up to $80 million available to states and local governments to expand drug treatment, prevention, and recovery. More specifically, the Act would:
According to Patrick Kennedy, a former congressman from Rhode Island who himself suffered from drug and alcohol addiction. “The bill represents a significant step forward in how we understand and address addiction. The bottom line is that addiction and other mental illnesses are treatable, and recovery is real.”
If you or a loved one is addicted to opioids or heroin – or anything else – The Meadows is here to help. We’re the most trusted name in addiction and trauma treatment, so feel free to call The Meadows Intake Team at 800.244.4949 or visit us here.
“Hooked: Tracking Heroin’s Hold on Arizona” will simultaneously air January 13 at 6:30 p.m. on every broadcast TV station and most radio outlets across Arizona. The 30-minute commercial-free investigative report was produced by Arizona State University student journalists and focuses on the growing perils of heroin and opioid use.
Sean Walsh, Executive Director at The Meadows, contributed to the project which was supported by The Meadows. Walsh was a member of the Steering/Planning Committee in charge of coordinating the large undertaking, and also chaired the Recovery/Response Committee. In this role, Walsh worked with different representatives from the treatment community around the state of Arizona to coordinate, staff, and oversee the 100-phone call center. The call center, sponsored by the Arizona Broadcasters Association (ABA), will be manned by trained professionals during and after the telecast for viewers seeking counseling or needing more information on heroin and opioid addiction.
“The growing heroin and opioid problem is reaching epidemic levels and has become a critical public health issue,” Walsh said. “I’m proud to be involved in this massive project that will no doubt save lives.”
The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU have produced packages of digital stories and data analyses that will be available on the Web, an accompanying mobile tablet app, plus Spanish-language and radio versions of the documentary.
The TV stations committed to the simulcast include: