Mar 2, 2015

Out for Justice -- for Addicts

Last week, the Cincinnati Enquirer published an opinion piece I wrote: Drug Courts Addicted to Ignorance. It has generated well over 500 Facebook shares and 30 comments. I know it is controversial. It was meant to generate discussion. Here are some of the comments.
I am an opiate addict of 16+ yrs . I've been to detox centers and rehab, and I've quit cold turkey more than a dozen times, only until I got into a medical treatment program coupled with meetings and 1 on 1 therapy , on March 11th I celebrate my first year in 16 year without taking 1 opiate, I also am a dual-diagnosis case , not only do I suffer from addiction I suffer from ptsd, bipolar, and anxiety disorder this medication based treatment as helped me regain myself, my children, I'm a productive member of society. I support this type of treatment 100 %
That is what I hear from people who have not been able to succeed on 12-step alone.  Another commentator saw things differently:
"When people switch to medicine instead of street drugs, criminal behavior stops." Anyone who knows anyone on methadone knows this just ain't the case. Why would the author make such a statement?
"...medication-assisted treatment is the only way to successfully keep people from relapsing on illegal drugs." Again, we all know numerous folks who have done it differently, and successfully. Again, why would the author make such a statement? Mr. Komarek himself acknowledges that at least "one out of 10 find recovery through an abstinence-based program."
"We've even learned that 12-step programs like AA and NA do not work for the population using heroin today." But we all know people for whom these programs have worked. More often than not the "heroin population" is not working the programs, not the other way around. So again , why would the author make such a negative blanket statement?
In my experience, people who have achieved recovery through 12-step methods see their own experience as typical. When someone fails, they say the person fails because they are not "working the program." What the research says, and what I have seen, is that working a program is not enough for most people. People try, and try, and some succeed, but too many lose their tolerance to the drug, relapse, and die --- after being shamed and blamed repeatedly for "failing to work their program."

Someone who works with local drug courts wrote an extensive criticism.  It started with this.
"Has the author ever even spoken with a drug court Judge or attended a drug court session. Has he asked the Judge's opinions about MAT. I know he hasn't in NKY."
I have not visited any of those drug courts, but I know of many people who have suffered because of them. I asked my advisory group to give me a reality check about this comment. They referred me to the recent Huffington Post expose on lack of access to evidence-based care. One sent me a copy of this sign found hanging in a northern Kentucky courtroom -- published in the same article.

This is serious stuff.  In many parts of the addiction treatment industry, medication assisted treatment is seen as a threat. One of my advisors told me someone lost their job at a local treatment agency after speaking with reporters about the need to include medicine as part of treatment.

This is an important concern -- truly life and death for many people in our communities. Let's keep working on it.

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