06/29/14 — Heroin: Drug counselor -- Addiction catches all types of people

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Heroin: Drug counselor -- Addiction catches all types of people

By John Joyce
Published in News on June 29, 2014 3:55 PM

It could be your nurse. It could be your doctor. It might be your child.

No one is immune from becoming an addict, Carolina Treatment Center director Amy Garner said.

“Our No. 1 focus is to stop the use of opioids,” she said.

The center has treated more than 2,000 patients since opening its doors in 2007.

Patients come by regularly for group therapy and medication — Methadone, Subutex, Vivitrol — standard medications distributed sometimes daily to patients whose cravings and withdrawal symptoms act as obstacles to their recovery and well being.

Over the last year, the number of people seeking assistance with heroin addiction has increased, Ms. Garner said.

“Addiction is a disease,” she said.

Narcotics use over time reconfigures the way the brain is wired, altering not only a person’s mood and behavior patterns, but also they way he or she thinks, Ms. Garner said.

“It impacts their ability to make good decisions and lowers inhibitions,” she said.

The addictions often begin with a legitimate prescription for pain medicine.

The user develops a high they like and begins to crave it, prompting them to lie, to cheat or to commit fraud to get more pills, she said. Eventually the person becomes addicted.

“They don’t use alone. They don’t doctor shop alone. They use together. They work together. They are family members,” Ms. Garner said.

Carolina Treatment Center currently has 230 patients with various drug addictions in a setting where the addiction is treated with medication and the addict is treated through therapy.

Ms. Garner said her facility is unique in that patients generally remain in treatment for seven months, rather just enduring a three-day detoxification period and a 30- to 90-day outpatient program.

Patients range from 18-year-olds to senior citizens, each of them addicted to one or more substances — alcohol, pain medications, cocaine, methamphetamine or heroin.

Ms. Garner said that neither her facility, nor any she is aware of, treats adolescent addiction, yet it is during the teenage years that many become addicts.

“Most often if a parent calls or comes in seeking treatment for a child under 18, they are referred to a private clinic.”

Managing an addiction is not an exact science.

Even with all the therapy, medication and treatment, and with family support Ms. Garner said some of her patients are lucky enough to have, most addicts relapse on the road to recovery.

“The average is 4.5 times,” she said.

And each time it gets worse.

“For someone who has been through rehab and gone through treatment, they do say when they come back after a relapse that things were worse than when they were using before,” she said.

Each relapse tends to be worse than the last, until the addict absolutely hits rock bottom and decides he or she has had enough.