Even with supervision and assistance drawn from the experience of a team of medical professionals, withdrawal from opiate use is a tough thing to take.
Staff members working at Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital’s Behavioral Health Center provide a 12-bed facility dedicated to helping people who qualify battle their addictions and live a drug-free life. There is often a waiting list for the next available space, and empty beds are filled quickly. Increasing use of heroin in the area in the wake of widespread prescription opiate abuse is reflected on the intake charts, alongside addictions to anything else classified as a narcotic.
“Medical detox” is a therapy which relies upon psychiatrists managing medicines with the help of a team of registered nurses with a goal of managing withdrawal symptoms. “It gives some relief, not total relief,” said Marti Tolliver, Director of Business Development for Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital’s Behavioral Health Center. There is no blanket approach to detox treatment, Tolliver said, explaining different patients require personalized plans to help them deal with symptoms, which can include seizures, blackouts, tremors, pain, nausea, severe abdominal discomfort and other physical reactions.
“They are going to feel their withdrawal symptoms. They’re not going to sleep through it,” she said, noting OLBH does not use replacement drug therapies, specifically the use of Suboxone or Methadone, as part of any detox program they offer. The program does offer assistance for people trying to get off of Suboxone, she said, adding “Suboxone is a tough detox — a really, really hard detox.”
Success in addiction recovery is often a direct reflection of an individual’s determination to change their lifestyle.
“It is a voluntary program. The patient themselves has to make the call. The family can’t force them into treatment,” Tolliver said, noting there is an exclusion to that under “Casey’s Law,” although it is rarely implemented.
“If a person is serious and follows the program, they are going to be much more successful than a person who wants to do it on their own with AA and NA,” she said, adding those who graduate into the outpatient program receive a full year of weekly “after care” consultations at no charge. Those who turn to the program to avoid jail or to appease family members, retain custody of children or satisfy a work requirement don’t tend to do well with their recovery, Tolliver said.
“Those are the ones that are usually not successful. The ones that are successful are the ones who are committed to their treatment — the ones who really want it,” she said.
Addiction is difficult to understand, Tolliver said, adding “when you hear peoples’ stories, it is easier to understand.” While not all have been neglected or faced serious problems in their life, “most are dealing with some significant issues,” she said, with their addictions sometimes resulting from years of attempts at “self medication.” Others, she said, deal with legitimate pain issues such as severe nerve and bone damage, which can only be eased through use of the substances they have become addicted to.
Anyone who is “sick” and facing active withdrawal symptoms should find a way to “the closest E.R.” and receive medical assistance.
“We try to get them in on the day of the call, but right now there is a waiting list,” Tolliver added.
Getting a spot
Potential medical-detox patients must meet certain criteria to get a spot in the program.
“You can’t just come in and say ‘I have opiate addiction.’” said Tolliver, who explained insurance policies tend to favor patients with “co-morbid” or “more than one” medical condition, such as opiate addiction combined with seizure disorder, hypertension or heart disease.
Despite the ongoing struggle with opiate addiction in the area, Tolliver said insurance programs for addiction recovery tend to favor treatment for addiction to the family of tranquilizers known as “benzos,” (Xanax, Valium, Klonopin) because of the potential for death if an addict suddenly stops taking the drugs.
“Insurance is more likely to pay for benzo detox than narcotic addiction. Opiate detox is not always seen as medically necessary,” she said.
While most in the detox program do have insurance, Tolliver said the hospital is dedicated to providing assistance when possible.
“OLBH is mission driven. That gives us a little help,” explaining there are options for those with no coverage.
For more information about medical detox programs for addiction and recovery, call (606) 833-3555.
TIM PRESTON can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2651.