Saturday, 17 January 2015

Playing Doctor is a Deadly Game

When my husband and I first started out on this journey with our son, we didn’t know much about addiction. But, we did know that people could die from it, and that was enough to scare us half to death. We couldn’t afford to be complacent so we jumped into action. We had a lot to learn in a short amount of time.

There’s a saying that a worried mother does better research than the FBI. Well, that was certainly the case here. I left no stone unturned searching for information about addiction. My experience in preparing and writing research papers really came in handy because I knew the value in finding reputable sources. I could also easily identify writings that were based on personal opinion only, not on evidence. There is a lot of that out there, by the way!

I also talked to people in recovery who took the time to share their experience, strength and hope with me. I have nothing but love and respect for each and every one of them for what they taught me and the care they showed in my time of need. Unfortunately, though, many of them were anti-methadone (most people are because we only hear the bad stuff – this needs to change) and this, sadly, made me anti-methadone, too, for a little while. I was easily influenced because I hadn’t researched methadone at that point in time. They had more experience so if they said methadone was not a good thing, who was I to argue? That is why when our son first started talking about getting on the waiting list for methadone, I turned my nose up at the idea but, thankfully, he put his name on the list anyway.

To prepare for our son to be on methadone, I started doing research on it. I discovered that the consensus from the leaders in health (World Health Organization, for example) is that medications like methadone and suboxone are very effective in the treatment of opioid addiction, especially when combined with other therapies. With this newfound knowledge, I was so glad that my son was on the waiting list for methadone. I prayed the call to start the program would come before it was too late.

The call finally came fifteen months ago, and his whole life changed thanks to methadone. He got healthy physically, mentally and emotionally. He is independent and self-sufficient. He is a successful full-time college student. He is a contributing member of the household. He is a taxpayer. He is everything that a person his age should be. We have our son back. We are blessed.

After being on methadone for ten successful months, our son decided that he wanted to try to slowly taper off of it. We were nervous about this because he was doing so well on the medications and we were VERY proud of him. He was and is very smart about his recovery and loves having his life back so that helped to put our minds at ease about the taper and to trust in the process.

His taper has been very successful so far. There was only one time where he had to ask to go back up and stay at the previous level a little bit longer. We told him that there is no shame in having to go back up in dosage or in staying on methadone long-term, for that matter. He knows that we are proud and supportive of him no matter what. There is no stigma, judgement or pressure in our house....just two proud parents who are so grateful to have their son back.

I am writing this today because I do not want another family to turn their nose up like we did at the very treatment that just may save their loved one. Let your loved ones choose the path that is right for them, and be supportive and proud of him/her for doing so. This world is not kind to people who struggle with addiction and it is not easy to stay in recovery regardless of the path you’re on so family support is crucial.  Look at your child on medications with pride, not disappointment or disgust.

We should always follow the advice of medical experts on the treatment of any disease and be open to “whatever works” for each person. It is their life after all! There are far too many “doctors” out there when it comes to addiction and it is a deadly game they are playing. Playing doctor is a fun game for kids, but it is not so fun for adults in the real world when lives are at stake. It is a fact that addiction kills many people; most of whom couldn’t get the proper level of help, wouldn’t reach out for help because of stigma, or who felt forced to end their treatment too soon. That is sad.

The reality is that recovering from the disease of addiction no more qualifies one to provide medical advice on the disease than recovering from heart disease qualifies one to provide medical advice on that disease. If you had a serious disease, would you want to be treated by a medical professional trained in the disease or someone who has recovered from it but has no medical training? People in recovery from diseases have an important place in the continuum of care in the role of after-care support, not treatment provider. 

I am quite sure that my views, which are based on scientific evidence, do not make me popular with some people in the recovery community and I am okay with that. What I am not okay with is people dying while we try to fit them into a box when it comes to their recovery. Our knowledge of addiction has changed in the last 80 years but our treatment and recovery programs have not kept pace. We would not accept this for any other illness and I personally will not accept it for addiction either. I will make waves, tick people off, and continue to fight to have addiction treated like any other serious health issue because lives depend on it. I hope that you will care enough to get informed, too. Did you know that addiction-related deaths are decreased by 50% with methadone and suboxone? These medications are effective treatments for this deadly disease. It is time to end the stigma!

My friend, Ronnie, and I have also created a Facebook group called Take it to the MAT for people in PEI (and elsewhere) on medication assisted treatments (MAT) and their families.  It is also for people who are considering this option and want some reliable information.  Please join us if you meet the criteria. We’d love to support and empower you and your loved one in reaching and maintaining the beautiful gift of recovery.


Please click HERE to watch an informative video featuring Michael P. Botticelli, Acting Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and Dr. Melinda Campopiano, Medical Officer for the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment at SAMHSA and Board Certified Family Medicine Physician who discuss the benefits of medication assisted treatment at the 12:00 minute mark.

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