Tag Archives: best drug rehabilitation

Diversion Programs Instead of Jail

The justice system has become a lot more just lately when it comes to people suffering from substance use disorders by offering diversion programs that allow people who abuse drugs and commit crimes to avoid jail time by attending treatment and engaging in long-term monitoring. Certain professionals such as police, doctors, and lawyers have their own way of offering support to those willing to accept help.


Pilots in the throes of addiction are another group that has benefitted immensely from caring colleagues.
Larry Smith, a former commercial pilot for Braniff and United Airlines who was addicted to several substances received incredible support from United Airlines, the FAA Medical Division, and the program for pilots called HIMS (more about that later). Today he is CEO of Get Real Recovery in San Juan Capistrano, CA, an FAA-approved treatment center he co-founded with his wife Lori in 2011.

In 2008, the Office of Aerospace Medicine of the FAA produced a report titled Drug Usage in Pilots Involved in Aviation Accidents Compared With Drug Usage in the General Population: From 1990 to 2005. It mentions a long list of drugs that pilots were using during that time, but what’s also scary is knowing that the report deals only with pilots involved in accidents. You wonder how many other pilots flew under the influence that weren’t involved in accidents.

Larry’s story is mesmerizing. In 1983 he received a DUI, although he was a furloughed pilot at the time. He received a second one that was reduced to a charge of reckless operation without alcohol. Larry now openly admits it should have been a DUI. He thought it was clever how he was able to duck under the radar for so long. Most alcoholics and addicts suffer from extreme denial, he says, and he was no different. Larry teaches that denial is the brain’s defense mechanism to protect the perceived right to use, not a character defect.  Addicted people will use every type of denial possible to avoid being detected. They hide their pain and self-disgust with charm or anger, whatever is necessary. Larry sees himself in others at every intervention, counseling session, and group that he facilitates.

Diversion Programs Instead of Jail

 Larry’s addiction to alcohol started in 1965 at 14 years old. He started using cocaine occasionally in the 1980’s, and by 1998 he advanced to smoking crack. “I recognized I had a serious problem then, but I didn’t know what to do,” he recalls. He was afraid to turn himself in to the EAP or HIMS programs as he mistakenly thought he would be immediately fired if the truth about his chemical dependencies was exposed. 

 On February 3rd, 1999, a vice squad of 12 masked men with shotguns and riot batons used a battering ram to invade his home in Ohio. His arrest quickly made the national news. Smith was released from jail on February 5th and received a call from his chief pilot. He thought he was going to be fired, but instead, his boss offered him treatment. His first treatment center was too lenient with clients, so United’s EAP transferred him to Cornerstone of Southern California.  He admits now, “I wasn’t a model patient; nevertheless, I fell in love with recovery!”

Nine months later Smith flew a 747 from SFO to Kona with 400 passengers on board. He gives all the credit to God and a forward-thinking airline. The FAA, United’s EAP and Management, an Aviation Medical Examiner, a psychiatrist and the Pilot’s Union (ALPA) all closely monitored Captain Smith’s progress for 5 ½ years. During this time, Larry became a licensed counselor and started speaking on addiction and the hi-jacked brain. Immediately after being released from FAA Monitoring, he spent eight years as a volunteer Union Rep to United Airlines EAP. Then and now, he guides and counsel pilots who abuse alcohol and drugs.

 As the HIMS website explains: “The HIMS program was established to provide a system whereby afflicted individuals are treated and successfully returned to the cockpit under the FAA Special Issuance Regulations (14 CFR 67.401).”

It’s rigorous:

“The purpose of the HIMS program is to effectively treat the disease of chemical dependency in pilot populations in order to save lives and careers while enhancing flight safety. The HIMS concept is based on a cooperative and mutually supportive relationship between pilots, their management, and the FAA. Trained managers and peer pilots interact to identify and, in many cases, conduct an intervention to direct the troubled individual to a substance abuse professional for a diagnostic evaluation. If deemed medically necessary, treatment is then initiated. Following successful treatment and comprehensive continuing care, the pilot is eligible to seek FAA medical re-certification.

The FAA requires the pilot to be further evaluated by a specially trained FAA Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) who then acts as the Independent Medical Sponsor (IMS) to coordinate the FAA re-certification process. The medical sponsor provides oversight of the pilot’s continuing care. This care includes a monthly interview by a trained flight manager and by a pilot peer committee member, as well as periodic follow-up observations. Because of the relapse potential of chemical dependency, the monitoring will typically continue for several years after the pilot resumes his duties. The HIMS program is designed to ensure the pilot maintains total abstinence and to protect flight safety.”

Larry explains some of the challenges pilots face this way: “Pilots are great at following directions, like the checklist we give them in recovery, but they’re not so great at processing what’s within. We find that some had trauma in their early life. For example, some were at war, and some grew up with rigid fathers and co-dependent mothers and so forth, and counseling helps them see what may have caused them to drink and help them get out of their own minds.”

In 2010 he wrote The Daily Life Plan Journal, a goal-setting journaling guide for people in recovery to be able to simply draw lines on airplane-like gauges to assess their feelings and emotions. For example, instead of asking them to mark their flight level, they’re asked, What is your motivation level “right at this moment?” It’s an effective way to journal for people who don’t like to write or have difficulty expressing themselves in writing. This journal allows a person to simply put pen to paper and measure their feelings by drawing a line. 

In addition, he wrote a book about overcoming addiction called Flight to Transformation. The book is part memoir and part a strongly spiritual walk through recovery. He’s also expanding his treatment knowledge to include MAT–Medically Assisted Treatment, and the use of Stem Cells in recovery.

Marijuana Causing Car Crashes, Sickness, and in a New Medication

Driving and Smoking

When it first appeared that recreational marijuana would be approved across the country, one of the concerns brought up was about users driving under the influence. When someone drives and drinks, you can ask him or her to walk a straight line, take a breathalyzer test, and so on, but determining if someone is high on pot is a problem. LiveScience reports that there’s no way to measure marijuana with a breathalyzer, so researchers use blood tests, but blood concentrations of marijuana’s active ingredient THC “can stay persistently high in chronic users” so that’s not a good test. In traffic-fatality studies, any amount of THC in the blood, no matter how tiny, counts as a positive drug test. So at least some of the smokers whose deaths are counted in studies may not have been high at the time of the accident. However, a study in JAMA reported in April contains data on car crashes after parties held on April 20, the day that smokers often get together and celebrate, and it’s not good. Based on 25 years of data, it seems that in fatal accidents between 4:20 p.m. and midnight each year, “there was a 12 percent increased risk of a fatal car crash compared with the control dates.”

Getting sick from Marijuana

How do you pass the word that marijuana can make you very very sick? Through the general media, and blogs like this. An article in April might surprise you because it was so unexpected. A heavy marijuana smoker began vomiting and experienced pain to such an extent that he was laid low every few weeks, for years. He tried on antidepressants, anti-nausea and anti-anxiety drugs, and…nothing. There were trips to the ER. He had his appendix and his gallbladder out and two endoscopies, and saw a psychiatrist. The only relief he could get was from taking a hot shower. About 10 years later, a doctor finally convinced him he had a disorder linked to his smoking. The man had C.H.S., cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, which causes cyclic vomiting in heavy marijuana users. The only thing that stops it is to stop smoking weed. Marijuana smokers suffering from C.H.S are showing up more frequently in ERs, and it’s become a common problem in the last five years, according to medical professionals interviewed for the article. (People likely are more prone to admit to the amount of their smoking since marijuana has become legalized in more states.

luxury drug rehab in California

Medication from Medical Marijuana

Unbelievably, a couple million are affected. Doctors aren’t even sure why vomiting occurs, especially when pot is used to cure nausea. But the effects can be devastating. Some smokers have lost jobs because they miss so much work going to doctors, and one person cited had broken bones from vomiting. Another went so far as to have exploratory surgery to check for a bowel obstruction. Drug for epilepsy coming from marijuana ingredient Who would have thought it? Cannabidiol, found in marijuana, can help epilepsy and is found in a drug called Epidiolex that is about to become the first “cannabis-derived medication” in the U.S. An F.D.A. advisory panel has recommended that it be approved, and it’s assumed that wen this happens, the drug is. The active ingredient does not make people high, which distinguishes this medication from medical marijuana. Designated an “orphan drug,” Epidiolex is thought to be especially helpful for two rare forms of epilepsy whose seizures have not responded to current medication. For more information please contact our luxury drug rehab in California at (866) 569-9391. 

White Collar Professionals and Addiction

Often, the stereotype of someone suffering from alcohol or other substance use disorder is that they’re down and out, barely functioning most of the time, and always looking for the next drink or fix. Yet if you’re at all knowledgeable about addiction, you know that addiction affects people at all socioeconomic levels, including executives in the corner office and other white collar professionals.

 

These employees often work in highly stressful jobs, such as in high-tech companies, where much is expected of them. They also fall prey to the stigma of addiction, so the fear of losing their job is strong.

 

Denial is strong at this level, and the excuses are many.  Perhaps the most common is that they don’t have a problem. Some people say they deserve to drink or take drugs because of all they’re dealing with, or even that they can do their job better with drugs. (I interviewed one woman addicted to oxycodone who said she took a handful of pills every day just to feel normal.) Others say they could never take time from work for treatment.Tyler Fitzgerald, Clinical Director of Summit Estate, says his experience has been that most companies are incredibly supportive of people getting help, especially in Silicon Valley. “What they won’t put up with is the absenteeism, the hangovers, and the outbursts,” adds Jon Heller, Summit Estate’s Admissions Director.

 

You may have done some research and learned that effective treatment facilities group people with similar needs for the best results. A teenage boy does not have the same rehabilitation needs as a high-level executive, for example. Summit Estate caters to white collar professionals with stressful jobs. “We’re the non-luxury luxury treatment center,” says Fitzgerald. “This is not the kind of place where people come and are pampered and get to sleep until noon and have breakfast brought to them. We don’t emphasize the things that aren’t necessary. We focus on real treatment for real people.”

 

Similarly, he explains, the reintegration program is an intensive daily program that can be built around people’s work schedules, if need be. “People continue working with their therapist and their treatment team while being reintegrated into the community and learn how to deal with the everyday stresses of work.” 

 

Even during the program, people who absolutely need to keep in touch with work can be accommodated. “What we do is take away excuses not to come,” says Fitzgerald.

 

On Psych Central, Dr. David Sack explains that addicts may think they’re “getting away with” their addition quite awhile before taking action:  “High-functioning addicts are masters of disguise whose struggles with drugs and alcohol may go unnoticed for years, often with increasingly severe consequences. A … position of power at work … may cushion them from the consequences of their drug use, while a sense of self-importance or belief that they can resolve their own problems may prevent them from seeking treatment.

 

 

Fitzgerald offers the perfect conclusion for this post with an apt observation about treatment: “Our clients could be at their bottom. They could have been called in at work and spoken to about their performance, or perhaps other people have noticed they’ve been intoxicated or are increasingly missing deadlines or work. Everyone’s bottom is the same — you’re up against a wall, and the rug’s about to be pulled out from under you and you’re going to be exposed. Our clients often come to us in a state of panic that they’re going to lose their job; this is the time to save it.” 

Overcoming Abuse with a Drug Rehab Program

Drug addiction is a very serious condition that is very hard to overcome. When you abuse of any type of narcotics, it’s highly likely that you have changed the natural chemical balance in your brain. In this case, attending a drug rehab program is essential to find a successful solution.

Chemical imbalance can increase dependence on drugs, and cause you to need larger and larger doses to reach the same high as you continue using. On the other hand, when your body is deprived of the drug for an extended period of time, you may suffer a wide range of negative side effects, which can include but not limited to cold sweats, headaches and shaking.

Overcoming drug abuse and addiction is a difficult and intricate process since drug abuse affects your body both physically and mentally. When overcome by drug abuse, you are unable to think and reason properly which can result in thinking that your drug use is not a problem. Once you have accepted that drug abuse is a problem, it’s extremely difficult to cope and deal with the withdrawal symptoms.

Basic Steps to Recovery

There are a few steps required to start the journey in overcoming drug abuse:

  1. Recognize the problem

This very first step in overcoming a problem is always recognizing that you have a problem and accepting that your actions or behavior is problematic.

This can be a very difficult thing to do, especially after a long time of qualifying the behavior as a choice that you can stop at any time you choose. It takes a great amount of strength to accept the reality of your problem and do something about it.

  1. A want for change

Once you accept that you have a problem, the next step is wanting to change your destructive behavior. Without making excuses, you need to take a good look at your life from an outsider perspective.

Look at the costs involved in your addiction, which are not limited to finances, but also include your health and relationships. Think about the advice you would give yourself if you were an outsider looking in at your life. 

Overcoming Abuse with a Drug Rehab Program

  1. Get help

As if it’s not difficult enough to recognize that you have a problem, approaching someone else to ask for help is just as difficult, especially admitting that you can’t handle the problem on your own. There is a huge misconception that asking for help is a sign of weakness.

In fact, asking for help is a sign of great strength and that you have the willpower to get overcome the abuse and become even stronger. The next step would be to find the best drug addiction treatment center available for you.

  1. Find professional help

The only way to successfully overcome drug abuse is to seek professional help. Once you have the support of friends and family, consulting with a professional will give you the facilities and tools to help with addiction. Professionals are well-equipped with the right tools and knowledge to help you detox your body from the drugs to eventually overcome addiction. Once you have dealt with the previous steps, you will be able to start removing drugs from your system and learn how to cope with a new drug-free lifestyle.

Find the proper Drug Rehab Program

At Summit Estate, we have a team of professionals dedicated to problems like the one you’re going through now. Give us a call at (866) 569-9391 to know more about how we can help you change your life for good.

Helping to Stop Relapse at Bay Area Recovery

When interventions are successful, a process of Bay Area recovery is started. It is vital that some support network exists and that the network provides positive encouragement for the recovering addict. For a person going through relapse, a change in mindset is needed. Relapsing is not a sign of failure. It is a sign that current treatment methods need to be tweaked or changed so that the abuse can stop again.

Around half of people who enter rehab will relapse at some point, whether in two weeks or 30 years, the point is to be available and help where and how you can.

Find the best course of treatment (and stick to it!)

This will often be done by the Medical Detox / drug rehab program; however, it is vital to help the recovering person to stick to the schedule. More so, if the treatment is not as effective as desired, you as a loved one are often one of the first to notice any regression in the addicts’ behavior.  Being alert to changes in behavior and mood can often head off an ‘’episode’’.

A change of lifestyle

Finding out what caused it is the first step to long-term recovery. For some recovering addicts, it was often people or places that would trigger the need for whatever drug they were abusing. Reducing these triggers as much as possible exponentially increases the likely success of a rehab regime.

Reducing the triggers is one thing, however, situations will arise naturally where the recovering abuser will be tempted to use drugs again. In these situations, being available to distract or help the person may be vital, at the same time you could also help take them to get more professional help if needed.

Helping to Stop Relapse in Bay Area Recovery

Prepare for the worst.

Hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Accept that relapse may happen and have a plan for if/when it does.

Having a plan of action that the person in recovery agrees to is also just as important, often the abuser will recognize that they will not be in ‘’headspace’’ to make rational decisions. It may even be necessary to have ‘’power of attorney’’ for the person assigned to you, though this is only done in exceptional circumstances.

Be there!

Most importantly is that you make yourself available! Having a proper support network is vital to a person’s recovery. Every recovering addict will have moments of weakness, getting involved can often be the difference between a bad few days and a death spiral back to addiction.

Knowing that others care for them and are willing to help with their problems can make all the difference to an abuser in the internal fight between substance dependence and the desire to be drug-free. Call Summit Estate at (866) 569-9391 to learn how we can help you win that battle.

The Best Drug Rehabilitation Is Just the First Step

For many people, this first step into recovery is the hardest. It’s perhaps one of the greatest challenges in a lifetime. Even if you go to the best drug rehabilitation, this is just the beginning of a long, complex process. Many pitfalls and obstacles remain, and those who have just left rehab need to realize that the journey has just begun:

Rehab is not a silver bullet

Many recovering addicts view therapy mistakenly as a magic solution that will solve all their problems. The truth, however, is far more complicated.

Rehab enables a person to have the emotional and psychological ‘’breathing room’’ to begin to fix their problems themselves whilst at the same time providing them with the necessary tools to so, whether that be help in psychological or other medical areas.

Avoiding a (re)-relapse is key

Some people relapse and fall back into their destructive ways. It often takes a relapse for a person to truly decide to fix their issues once and for all. Though the circumstance change from situational and personal differences between different people, some will have to fully reinvent themselves to move on with life.

This includes eliminating toxic relationships and often changing where they live or work. The fact remains that they have made the choice to change their circumstances to avoid a repeat of the same destructive actions/environments.

recovering addict

Mental Health is Physical Health

Many recovering addicts were addicted because of some psychological issues and the problems associated with them. Depression can cause insomnia and an eating disorders. This may lead to physical conditions like anorexia, for example.

Receiving counseling of some kind after rehab is strongly advised. Fixing/managing the issue that was causing dependence is the only real long-term solution to not becoming an addict again.

Medication may be necessary

Whether it is for physical or mental reasons, consulting with a doctor and a psychiatrist whilst during and also after rehab may be necessary to change one’s lifestyle.

The circumstances of each recovering addict are different even if broad similarities are present, so it is important to consult with those who are there to help about the best course of treatment in both the long term and short term.

A support network

One of the most important factors to consider is if a support network exists. Whether family, friends or a formal ‘’support group’’, not being isolated is a key factor in breaking away from addiction. Preferably all 3 forms of support are available but this is sadly often not the case for many recovering addicts.

The key is to find what works for you. At Summit Estate, we can help you find the best solution for your problem. Please give us a call at (866) 569-9391.

Choose Among the Many Options for Rehab

Substance abuse can happen to anyone. Nobody can say “it won’t happen to me”. For numerous reasons, an individual can fall in alcohol, illegal or prescribed drugs addiction. If this is your case or a beloved one’s, you need to know there is a way out of this problem. You can choose among the many options for rehab available. And Summit Estate Recovery Center has a wide variety of therapies for this matter.

Summit Estate Recovery Center provides two different facilities. A 23-acres luxury property for a residential patients, located in the Santa Cruz Mountains. And an outpatient facility located in a beautiful historic converted barn in downtown Saratoga, California. In both places, many patients get several different types of treatments for their disease.

Making the right choices

The first and most difficult step is to admit you have a problem. No matter what other people say, it’s no shame to go through this and nobody is a position to judge you. Summit Estate Recovery Center accepts people from all over the world looking to overcome their drug or alcohol addictions. Their expert team can treat several types of drug addictions, like:

  • Heroin
  • Cocaine
  • Opioids (Hydrocodone)
  • Marijuana (cannabis)
  • Methamphetamine
  • LSD

Choose Among the Many Options for Rehab

In addition, Summit Estate Recovery Center can treat other different problems. For example, prescription drugs and painkillers abuse, which is a much common disease than many people think. This dependence usually starts when individuals are prescribed a certain drug by a doctor. It’s a much more difficult addiction than one may think because of the easy access to the substances. And it caused thousands of deaths over the last decade.

Among the many options for rehab, Summit Estate Recovery Center also provides alcohol addiction treatment and dual diagnosis treatment. Although alcohol is socially accepted and of legal access, its constant use can lead to serious problems. A successful counseling on these issues craft an individualized plan for each client. The main focus is to modify behaviors and show there’re better possibilities in life. Most of the time, addictions go hand to hand with psychological issues. That’s when a dual diagnosis treatment is needed.

A better quality of life is possible

Summit Estate Recovery Center professionals know how much addictions can take from people’s lives. If you’re going through such experience, choose among the many options for rehab the institution has for you. Give yourself and our beloved ones a better life. Call 866-569-9391 and get the help you need and deserve.

 

The Help Available at the Summit Rehab Center

Drug or alcohol addiction destroys lives and families each day. The longer you or a loved one suffer from an addiction, the harder it may become to overcome the problem and reclaim what has been lost in life. If you or someone you care about it is struggling with an addiction, you know the devastation it can cause, and you want to do whatever you can to get the person you love the help they need. It is important for you to know that help is available here at our Summit Rehab Center, where we work with individuals dealing with addiction in a highly effective manner.

Providing Personalized Care at Our Center

Here at Summit Rehab Center, we are the best drug and alcohol treatment center available in Northern California. We understand that each person deals with addiction differently and that there is no “cookie cutter” approach to treatment that works for everyone. We craft a personalized treatment plan for each individual and have a high staff to client ratio so that you are sure to get the attention you need and deserve for your treatment. This approach for much greater success in treatment and recovery.

The Help Available at the Summit Rehab Center

Care That Goes Beyond the Standards

The care we provide for each client at Summit Estate Recovery Center goes beyond the norm that you may find at other treatment facilities. We start working with our clients from the time that an intervention may be necessary. From that time forward, through admission, detox treatments, and therapy sessions, right through the necessary aftercare, we will be there for you to help you so that you can have the best chance at a successful recovery. We offer several program options, including outpatient treatment and a residential rehab facility, so that you have the options before you that work best for your situation.

Talk to Us about Our Rehab Center

If you would like to learn more about us at Summit Estate Recovery Center and see how our Summit Rehab Center can help you or a loved one, please take the time to review our website and take a visual tour of our facility. If you have any questions or need any help, we have staff available to speak with you 24 hours a day, seven days a week so you can get the help you need. You can phone us at 866-569-9391 to begin the process and learn what we can do to help you.

Why is it so Easy to Get Addicted to Pain Pills?

Pain Pill Addiction Let’s get two things on the table right away. First, anyone can get addicted to pain pills. Anyone. Me, you, your doctor, your neighbor, and anybody in your family or circle of friends. Remember Brett Favre, NFL Hall of Fame quarterback, Super Bowl winner, star and starter for the Green Bay Packers? He got addicted to pain pills while recovering from a shoulder injury. How about music legend Prince? Yes, the Purple One, famous not only for his music, but for avoiding – and criticizing – the use of drugs by his peers during his thirty-five years in the celebrity limelight. He got addicted to pain pills while trying to manage problems with his hips. Then he died from an accidental overdose in his own home. How about Rush Limbaugh? Yes, the fiery, often-controversial conservative talk radio host. He got addicted to pain pills while trying to manage pain after back surgery. He battled the addiction for years, checking in and out of rehab, and even got tangled up in a criminal investigation related to obtaining prescriptions illegally. That’s the first thing, worthy of repeating: no one is immune to opioid addiction. Second, getting addicted to pain pills has absolutely nothing to do with your character. Getting addicted to pain pills doesn’t make you a bad person. Not getting addicted to pain pills doesn’t make you a good person. Addiction does not care about your good deeds or your bad deeds. It doesn’t care if you’re a good parent or a deadbeat dad. You could be as good as Mother Theresa, or as bad as Jack the Ripper. It doesn’t matter. It simply happens. That’s the second thing, worthy of repeating as well: getting addicted has nothing to do with your value as a human being.

Getting Addicted is Easy: The Biological Reasons

Let’s get another thing out of the way: when we talk about addictive pain pills, we’re talking about opioids. Here’s a short list of pain medications being prescribed today whose pain-relieving properties rely on our endogenous opioid system:

  • Codeine
  • Oxycodone
  • Oxycontin
  • Fentanyl
  • Percocet
  • Vicodin
  • Lortab
  • Lorcet
  • Dilaudid

These familiar drugs are the opioids that have been in the news so much lately. They’re the pain pills that are currently ravaging our nation, sparing no population. Rural, urban, suburban. White, black, Latino. Young people. Old people. Rich people. Poor people. The opioids that caused the new President of the United States to sign an Executive Order forming a Special Commission to handle the crisis – a commission which, in its first public report, recommended that the President declare national emergency because of the crisis. It’s that serious, and it’s happening to everyone, everywhere. Why? Because it’s natural. That’s right. Getting addicted to opioids is almost as easy as getting addicted to food, sex, exercise, or anything that feels good. Synthetic opioids contain the most powerful pain-relieving molecules known to medical science because of a quirk of human physiology: the endogenous opioid system present in the human nervous system. Synthetic opioids relieve pain by leveraging this naturally occurring pain-relief system, and they’re so easy to abuse because they hijack this naturally occurring system. Opioids are problematic because this internal pain-relief network is linked, at the cellular level, to how humans experience feelings of pleasure, satisfaction, and reward. When we do something that makes us feel good, our brain guides us back to that behavior. That’s how our neurobiological reward system works. Our brain remembers what feels good, and when the opportunity to experience that good feeling presents itself again, our brain tells us to go for it – even if another part of our brain knows we shouldn’t. This is an oversimplification, but it’s true: we get addicted to opioids because we’re hard-wired for them.

The Problem(s) With Opioids:

Long-Term Effectiveness

Opioid pain medications have a significant set of limitations and complications that are neither widely known nor publicized. While they’re incredibly effective at relieving acute pain and there are many situations for which opioids are the logical and appropriate choice for pain management, the effectiveness of long term use of opioids for chronic pain management is not supported by medical research. That may come as a surprise to most people, but it’s true. In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, a comprehensive and systematic review of existing scientific evidence “to identify the effectiveness, benefits, and harms of long-term opioid therapy for chronic pain.” The study defines long-term as use of opioids for over three months. The conclusion as to the effectiveness and benefits of opioid therapy for chronic pain management is concise and unequivocal: “…no study of opioid therapy versus placebo…evaluated long-term (≥ 1 year) outcomes related to pain, function, or quality of life. Most placebo-controlled randomized studies were ≤ 6 weeks in duration. The body of evidence…is rated as insufficient.”

Risks and Harms

The absence of clinical support for long-term opioid therapy in chronic pain management may come as a shock, but the complications of long-term opioid use are well-known and broadly publicized in online, print, and television media. The statistics reveal a pattern which, taken at face value, should cause a complete re-evaluation of the long-term use of opioids for chronic pain:

Getting Addicted is Easy: The Problem with Prescriptions

Prescription opioids are big business. Experts estimate the value of the North American opioid market at $12.4 billion for 2015, a figure which quadrupled between 1999 – 2014, and is projected to grow to over $17 billion by the year 2024. This enormous increase occurred even though the amount of pain reported by Americans during the same period did not change. When correlated with CDC data indicating a dramatic surge in opioid prescribing between 2007 – 2012, and the steady increase in abuse, overdose, and opioid-related fatalities since 1999, a clear picture of the past decade and a half emerges. Profit, expediency, and our cultural tendency to trust physicians and the prescriptions they write combined to create a perfect storm in which medication developed to alleviate suffering has arguably done more harm than good, and likely caused more pain than it has relieved. If you’re addicted to pain pills, it’s likely your addiction happened something like this: you had a surgery, an injury, or a condition that caused you so much pain your day-to-day life became difficult. Your doctor prescribed you an opioid pain medication, and you took it as ordered. You didn’t realize it, but by taking the pills every day, you built up a tolerance, meaning you had to take more pills, or a higher dose of the same medication, to achieve the same analgesic effect. You didn’t think much of it. You simply took an extra pill, or asked your doctor to prescribe something stronger. Then, after a few weeks, you started getting cranky between doses. You didn’t know it, but that crankiness has a medical term: anhedonia. Anhedonia is the opposite of euphoria, the pleasurable sensation that accompanies opioid pain relief. You probably didn’t know that anhedonia is an early symptom of opioid withdrawal. You didn’t make the connection because addiction probably wasn’t on your radar. Why should it have been? You trust your doctor, and you were following orders. Besides, your crankiness disappeared when you took your medication – as ordered by the doctor. After a couple of months, you crossed an invisible line: you started to need the pills just to feel normal. You tried to quit, but couldn’t. And now there you are: addicted to pain pills, and all you did was follow doctor’s orders. It’s an awful situation, and you’re not alone. It’s playing out every day across our country. The media attention and the new CDC guidelines for prescribing opioids have caused many doctors to scale back their prescription writing practices, which is a double-edge sword: of course, it’s a good thing that they’re not prescribing as many opioids as in the past decade, but they’re also leaving many people in the lurch. Their patients are addicted, and they’re cutting off their supply of drugs. People are quite literally left out in the cold. Sick, in withdrawal, with no idea what to do next. Desperate, they turn to street drugs like heroin or black-market knock-offs of the prescription medications they began with. The problems with street drugs and illegally produced pills are numerous, but can be distilled down to three basic issues:

  1. There’s no way to guarantee what you’re getting.
  2. There’s no way to be sure of your dosage.
  3. They’re illegal. If you buy them, you can get arrested and thrown in jail.

But that doesn’t have to be you. You don’t have to go down that road. There’s another option. A much, much better option.

You Can Get Help

At Summit Estate, we understand opioid addiction. We’ve spent years on the front lines, helping people detox, helping people rebuild themselves from the ground up, and helping people take control of their lives. We don’t want you to become a statistic. We want to offer you a way out. We want you to explore our Medical Drug and Alcohol Detox Center, our Residential Programs, our  Day Programs, and our Outpatient Programs. We want to work with you to create a custom treatment program that meets your needs. We’ll help you find your way back to a healthy, sustainable life, free from the cycle of addiction you find yourself trapped in – through no real fault of your own.

Summer 2017—The Opioid Epidemic:  Where Are We Now?

The Opioid Epidemic

The good news is that the number of opioid prescriptions being written by doctors is starting to decrease. The number peaked in 2010, but since then, prescriptions for high, dangerous doses have dropped roughly 41 percent. To put that in perspective, the prescribing rate in 2015 was triple the rate in 1999, when the current opioid problem began. The reasons for the decrease range from tighter state and insurer limits on how many pills can be prescribed, to stricter regulations concerning pain clinics, to a new set of prescription guidelines released by the CDC in 2016.

However, there’s still much work to be done – and that’s putting it mildly.

Many people are looking to President Trump and the new administration in Washington to help end the epidemic. When he was elected, President Trump said he’d make the opioid crisis a priority, and addiction experts raised their voices in support of swift and forceful action. On March 29th, 2017,  two months after being sworn into office, he signed an Executive Order establishing the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, and appointed New Jersey governor Chris Christie to head the commission. Christie convened the commission’s first meeting in June and recently issued an interim report. He promised to deliver a final report in October.

The commission advised Trump to declare the opioid crisis a national emergency. The report does not shy away from the facts, stating “The opioid epidemic we are facing is unparalleled. The average American would likely be shocked to know that drug overdoses now kill more people than gun homicides and car crashes combined.”

The report makes several recommendations, including:

  1. Mandating prescriber education and training for both opioid prescribing and the risks of developing a substance use disorder.
  2. Rapidly increasing treatment capacity.
  3. Eliminating barriers to treatment resulting from exclusions within the Medicare program.
  4. Expanding access to medications that help treat opioid addiction.

(Read a full draft of the interim report here.)

It remains to be seen where all this will lead. Not everyone is hopeful. Michael Fraser, the executive director of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, recently told The New York Times, “It’s really about drawing attention to the issue and pushing for all hands on deck. It would allow a level of attention and coordination that the federal agencies might not otherwise have, but in terms of day-to-day lifesaving, I don’t think it would make much difference.” One governor called the report incomplete because it doesn’t do enough to ensure that people with mental health and substance abuse issues have access to healthcare.

In another development, a report appeared this summer describing a new legal tactic to battle the opioid crisis: in one area on the east coast, prosecutors began charging drug dealers with second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide if they could prove the dealers were responsible for an overdose death. In such cases, prosecutors are required to provide evidence that the accused “knew the risks of the drugs yet provided them anyway.” Observers point out that this requirement could be problematic, since defense lawyers might argue that drug dealers want to cultivate customers, rather than kill them.

Meanwhile, the epidemic rages. The CDC estimates that 142 people die every day from drug overdoses. As with most bureaucracies, organizations like President Trump’s new commission tend to move slowly. Unfortunately, where the opioid epidemic is concerned, there is no time to lose.