There is more hope out there for opiate addiction than big pharma and the media report!
Updated: Jan 14
Frontline’s airing on PBS addressing the current opiate epidemic offered very little, if any hope to people that are effected by addiction. I want to take a little time to reflect and offer my opinion regarding the program. It seems that the media these days is busy promoting fear and hopelessness surrounding the opiate epidemic, and Frontline was no different. I noticed on Facebook there was quite a bit of interest and anticipation about the program and probably some hopes that it would provide some much needed attention to one of our country’s top problems. As I was sitting down to watch the program I have to confess that I was very skeptical. I mentioned to my wife, Liz, “wait until they get to the solution, it may be disappointing”. I was feeling pessimistic about what the program would focus on. I am sorry to say that in my humble opinion, the program was very disappointing. As a person in long-term recovery from opiate addiction, a dedicated therapist that works with opiate addiction on a daily basis, and one who has been involved with this problem for years, I was shocked at what I watched. At first the program started out fantastic, they were exposing the oxycontin and hydrocodone epidemic and showing how big pharma, medicine and pure greed had driven this monster into a full scale epidemic. They also reported on the staggering numbers of opiate use and overdoses occurring. This is much needed and under reported information and I say “wonderful” to all of that. They could have spent the entire two hours exposing this healthcare catastrophe and really enlightened the public about the problem. In my opinion, there has not been enough accountability in this area and many people have died because of the greed, incompetence and exploitation of people. As I was saying, the program started off great, but shortly after the reporting on big pharma and the Purdue Corporation started, the program quickly spun off into some areas that were very concerning to me. The program used three people as examples that were in active heroin addiction. It covered their struggles with sobriety and how they were unable to stop using. This is all good, but I felt like the show turned into an hour long methadone commercial. It didn’t take long for the doctors to again start ranting and raving about pharma treating pharma. My question is, if the doctors and the pharmaceutical companies are the ones that got us into this mess, why are we listening to them to get out of it? Don’t get me wrong, I have seen some real benefits with people taking replacement drugs like suboxone and methadone, but to cover it like it was the preferred method of treatment and the best solution is freaking scary. At one point of the program there was a doctor comparing methadone treatment to insulin treatment for diabetics. This insults my intelligence. People need insulin, a natural chemical in the body to live, but I have never heard of anyone needing methadone in their body to live. Actually, methadone is a poison. I have been on methadone. I wonder if any of these experts that think it is so great have ever really experienced what methadone is like. Maybe they should take this crap for a couple of years and come back and tell us all how great and wonderful it is. I have mothers, young adults, and everyone else sitting in my office crying and full of fear because they don’t know how they will ever stop using suboxone and methadone once they have started. The withdrawal effects are significantly worse than heroin. They didn’t report that did they? Most of the people that I work with initially feel relieved they are off pills or heroin when they begin drug replacement therapy. But after the excitement wears off, they report that they feel just as hopeless, trapped and drugged as they did before. They didn’t cover that either. Enough of my rant. Like I said, I think these replacement therapies have a place in treatment and have and will continue to help. SHORT TERM IF ANY! The part of the program or I should say lack of the program that I most disappointed with is that there were no real examples of people in long-term recovery from opiates that have successfully found a way out. There are millions of us walking around the streets of every town in America that are not on anything and have been so for years. Where in the heck were those voices? That’s the real story. Frontline could have showed the American public how people are standing up to this horrible disease in so many great ways. I felt so bad for my fellow people in opiate recovery because I know how they must have felt watching this. I’m not speaking for everyone, but I was sitting next to my wife who is in long-term recovery from opiates and she was very upset, and I know that a lot of us were thinking this isn’t the voice or the solution. Especially, when so many of us followed pharma and ended right back at square one. It’s pretty much every addict’s dream to be told by a doctor that the solution to their drug problem is another drug. Yipee. I felt horrible for Frontline’s people they used for examples when they reported that they had all suffered relapse and were back on the street. I went to bed holding my wife feeling disappointed at the direction and the solution that the program offered and grateful that me and millions of other opiate addicts in recovery have found a much better way out. I remember when I was new in recovery with six months sober. I was refused care by a VA doctor because I wouldn’t go on methadone maintenance. She stated that my chances of continued sobriety without methadone were too small and that I needed to begin methadone if she was going to help me with my other concerns. She indicated that my life on methadone maintenance would be much better than the extremely high chances of ending up dead or in prison. I told her that I literally went through hell getting off of methadone in the past and there was no way I was going to be taking it again. She refused care and told me good luck. I paid for help on the private market after that. I would have lost everything had I followed her “expert” advice. My experience with methadone was that it dulled my senses, got me slightly high and euphoric, and drained my energy. Not to mention the physical issues. On some days I was bombed out. I would frequently use cocaine and other opiates along with it. It was in no way shape or form helping me. That is my experience. I don’t want to sit on a high horse and say that it doesn’t work for anyone because I have seen it help some people. Especially when it is very temporary and used for withdrawal or a short period of time. What really bothers me about the Frontline Program and my doctor is that they rested on pharma being the answer. There was no talk about a person’s true worth. Their absolute ability to recover and how they have everything they need to do so right inside of them. There was no discussion around the millions of people that have found a spiritual solution in 12-step recovery. How about abstinence. Are we throwing that concept out the window too? What about all of the fantastic mentors, counselors, groups and community organizations that work tirelessly with great success on a daily basis to stop this problem. Their coverage of drug courts was dismal. I have seen life after life saved in treatment courts over the years, I don’t know what they were talking about. It’s scary to think that this is the information the American public is getting regarding one of its greatest health problems. It really looks like pharma ran this particular show. I was scratching my head wondering if it was 1985 all over again, or if Frontline dropped the ball, or if we haven’t really made past first base with this problem. I can say this. If you rely on the information from last night’s program it is going to seem like no progress. Please don’t. There is a much greater perspective than this and thousands of people ready to help solve this problem with an array of solutions and answers. Just look around. Chances are there is someone in your backyard that can help. To learn more about bridging the gap between science, recovery, and spirituality, please visit website. Please visit Milford Counseling’s website for professional counseling services.