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Overdose Deaths Skyrocket During COVID Lockdown — It’s Time For A Change!

Yes, it is.

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At the beginning of the COVID lockdown, drug and alcohol treatment activists along with harm reduction activists, pushed for easier access to methadone and buprenorphine (Suboxone) to curb the potential for increased overdose rates during the mandatory virus quarantine period. It was thought that by allowing easier access to methadone and buprenorphine that they could reduce overdoses by 50% in the population of two million heavy opioid users nationwide. This push for an increase in Medication Assisted Therapies (MAT) has been happening for years, long before the COVID lockdown happened. But once the fears of COVID grew, the cry for universal MAT became deafening, the government responded immediately in March, and the floodgates opened to 28 day at-home methadone supplies for those with these issues.

Unfortunately this liberal access to replacement therapy has not had the intended effect of reducing the overall overdose rates. As a matter of fact, overdoses have risen steadily throughout the lockdown. By June monthly overdoses increased 42% when compared to the same time period in 2019. It’s safe to say the new rules allowing 28 day take-home supplies of methadone led to no improvement. By the end of 2020, it is expected that there will be thousands of additional deaths over the previous year’s estimated 50,000 deaths. From these numbers we can surmise that MAT is not the one-size-fits-all answer to the increased opioid overdose trend.

Where the MAT System “works”

Before I go on, I’m not here to demonize MAT as a solution to curbing some overdoses and preserving life. Providing methadone and/or other replacement substances to a demographic of opioid users that are at high risk for overdose or that have a history of multiple overdoses can make sense. For the man or woman who has no intention on abstaining from heavy opioid use, or who is using the substances in a geographic area known to contain black market opioids laced with fentanyl, the fact that they have a way to avoid withdrawal, (a major driver for continued opioid use in this particular heavy-use demographic) can help keep them away from these dangers. However, and here’s the rub, most users are not in this demographic. Most users do not overdose multiple times, and many have never encountered fentanyl. The fact is that historically, the vast majority of heroin and opioid users successfully quit without MAT, and the rates of overdose were far lower before MAT became the standard treatment. More than 96% percent overcome their heroin and other opioid addictions according to data spanning from at least the 1970s to the early 2000s. This is the great untold truth that gets ignored in the push for universal MAT as the only solution.

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The MYTH

The myth that MAT is not accessible to the needy addict keeps the narrative running that “opioid users don’t have the medicine they need.” With more than 1.5+ million people currently on MAT, and 2 million opioid users classified as “addicts” one must wonder why the push for this one-size-fits-all solution is even an issue. MAT is universally accepted already, and is accessible via treatment centers, is promoted in nearly all detoxes nationwide, and is available in nearly all geographic areas via private doctors certified in MAT therapies. Here’s the kicker – overdose rates haven’t gone down prior to the COVID lockdown, and during the lockdown they’ve skyrocketed 42% even with far more take-home methadone being made available!

Any solution for addiction that distracts the individual from making their own decisions, coming to their own conclusions, and knowing that they can change and overcome challenges through a variety of means is flawed and destined to cause more harm than success. The idea that every opioid addict needs to indefinitely take safer opioids such as methadone and buprenorphine is just such a flawed and deadly “solution.” It is even more deadly now that the COVID lockdown has been in effect. These are just the unintended consequences of knee-jerk solutions.

A Much Better Solution During the COVID-19 Lockdown

A better solution during the lockdown is twofold. First, it is vital people know that isolation, boredom stress and depression DO NOT CAUSE addiction. However, because we in America have been taught to believe in this causal relationship between these human problems and addiction, it’s important to break this connection. (To better understand how to break this connection, read The Freedom Model for Addictions Chapter 6, Learned Connections).

Next, know that no matter how bad your habit is, it’s not an incurable disease, and your statistical chances for moving on from your habit are 96% whether you’re treated or not. As we get older, we get wiser, and our preferences change. Even your preference for heavy use will change. It’s natural and inevitable, and you don’t need replacement therapies to stop. You can simply go to a detox, and within a week, walk out and move on with your life. You can take MAT meds to get you over the hump if that’s what you assess as the best option for you. You can take any number of paths. Whatever helps you to see that there is a bright light beyond heavy opioid use will work. Withdrawal is just one easily surmountable obstacle in this deeply individual process. But to scare people into thinking they can never succeed without MAT is not helpful, because it’s just plain untrue, and puts too much focus on withdrawal. Again, if you want to know more about your chances of moving past your addiction, read The Freedom Model for Addictions, Escape the Treatment and Recovery Trap. It’s all there for you, spelled out in detail. Know this – you too can escape addiction, treatment and recovery and move on!

If you or someone you love are ready to break free from the addiction and recovery trap and move on, call us at 888-424-2626.

For more information about The Freedom Model go to TheFreedomModel.org

Mr. Mark Scheeren is the Co-Founder and Chairman of the St. Jude Retreat, as is co-author of The Freedom Model for Addictions, Escape the Treatment and Recovery Trap, the original Non-12-Step approach for people who struggle with serious substance use issues. Mr. Scheeren and his staff of Researchers and Instructors have helped many thousands find permanent solutions to their drug and alcohol problems.

Freedom Model

You CAN Move Past an Addiction

…a message to those who feel hopeless

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There is a difference between struggling “one day at a time” in recovery and moving on from an addiction; there’s a big difference. We’ve been taught that once you’re an addict, you’ll always be an addict. This is not true. However, should you believe this, it becomes your truth. But it doesn’t have to be that way. So called addicts and alcoholics moderate their use with surprising frequency (for example, 50% of all “alcoholics” eventually moderate their drinking to non-problematic levels whether they’ve been treated or not – NESARC, 2005). While the facts are what they are – and they are very encouraging – people are woefully ignorant of these hopeful and empowering facts.

Here’s the truth; beliefs can change; and lives change when our beliefs do. Once I realized I’d been lied to and I found that alcohol and drugs were not the “cunning, baffling, powerful” agents they were said to be, I could easily choose better for myself. I didn’t need extra willpower, more strength, or any kind of special recovery formula once I realized that drugs were substances, not living, breathing, motivated entities bent on my destruction.

This bizarre and fictitious personified view of drugs as an all-powerful entity was one of the myths that caused me to fear them, and in turn, I feared the inevitable “triggered relapse” as well. That’s what fear based mythology can do. It keeps you trapped in the relapse loop. Even the word “relapse” makes a connotation to the “disease of addiction” myth. There are dozens of ways the treatment and recovery models have instilled this myth based fear throughout its messaging. The question is why?

Treatment and Recovery are about Control

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It’s all about control. A free thinking, freely choosing individual cannot be controlled because the center of that individual’s problem solving capability lies directly inside of them. As humans, our autonomous nature makes us immune to being manipulated, as long as you have the facts. In order for treatment and/or recovery to be necessary, the idea of self-efficacy needs to be extinguished. That can only be done by creating a straw man called the disease of addiction. A disease is, by its very definition, out of one’s control. And because of this defining characteristic, that same afflicted individual must find an outside power, force or method to combat the disease; much like chemotherapy in a cancer victim’s scenario.

The autonomous individual with full knowledge that addiction IS NOT a disease can therefore move past their “addiction” (we call it more accurately, a preference for heavy use) with seeming ease. They can make an internal choice to moderate or abstain that does not require an outside treatment of any kind to be made or supported. No need for recovery either, because without a disease present, there is nothing to recover from.

Now, we are not saying people don’t have serious issues with heavy use. This is why we call it problematic use. We also do not miss the fact that some people might even need to be physically detoxed from their drug of choice. These facts however, sit outside the scope of what we are talking about in this article. The “disease of addiction” we are referencing here is the idea that a person is compelled beyond their mindful will to use drugs and alcohol, and that an outside force called treatment is needed to solve that lack of will. That definition of addiction – as a disease of the mind – is absolutely incorrect. And, if we correct that definition to the following: addiction is a preference for heavy use as determined by the powers of reason in the mind of the individual, and only the individual can change that preference internally, then we bring the solution back where it belongs, inside the mind of the individual. Free will either exists or it doesn’t. Either you are a being capable of choosing or you are not. The treatment world wants you to believe you can choose certain aspects of your life (like the choice to go to treatment) but not have the power of choice in regards to the use of drugs and alcohol. But here is the problem with that – you cannot have it both ways. Either free will exists or it doesn’t. When you think about it, you know that the existence of free will is self evident – you are choosing to read this article right now. You’re a chooser.

Are you ready to move on from an adfdiction for good? Are you ready to moderate or abstain? Are you ready to own your use and its trade-offs? Are you ready to seek the truth to make these kinds of decisions? If so, The Freedom Model for Addictions, Escape the Treatment and Recovery Trap is the book to read and study. In it, all the addiction myths are exposed, and the researched truth provided. Moving on from an addiction is a wonderful and amazing event. I hope you take the time to learn the truth as I did. My life is amazing, and yours can be too!

If you or someone you love are ready to break free from the addiction and recovery trap and move on, call us at 888-424-2626.

For more information about The Freedom Model go to TheFreedomModel.org

Mr. Mark Scheeren is the Co-Founder and Chairman of the St. Jude Retreat, as is co-author of The Freedom Model for Addictions, Escape the Treatment and Recovery Trap, the original Non-12-Step approach for people who struggle with serious substance use issues. Mr. Scheeren and his staff of Researchers and Instructors have helped many thousands find permanent solutions to their drug and alcohol problems.

There is a difference between struggling “one day at a time” in recovery and moving on from an addiction; there’s a big difference. We’ve been taught that once you’re an addict, you’ll always be an addict. This is not true. However, should you believe this, it becomes your truth. But it doesn’t have to be that way. So called addicts and alcoholics moderate their use with surprising frequency (for example, 50% of all “alcoholics” eventually moderate their drinking to non-problematic levels whether they’ve been treated or not – NESARC, 2005). While the facts are what they are – and they are very encouraging – people are woefully ignorant of these hopeful and empowering facts. Here’s the truth; beliefs can change; and lives change when our beliefs do. Once I realized I’d been lied to and I found that alcohol and drugs were not the “cunning, baffling, powerful” agents they were said to be, I could easily choose better for myself. I didn’t need extra willpower, more strength, or any kind of special recovery formula once I realized that drugs were substances, not living, breathing, motivated entities bent on my destruction. This bizarre and fictitious personified view of drugs as an all-powerful entity was one of the myths that caused me to fear them, and in turn, I feared the inevitable “triggered relapse” as well. That’s what fear based mythology can do. It keeps you trapped in the relapse loop. Even the word “relapse” makes a connotation to the “disease of addiction” myth. There are dozens of ways the treatment and recovery models have instilled this myth based fear throughout its messaging. The question is why? Treatment and Recovery are about Control It’s all about control. A free thinking, freely choosing individual cannot be controlled because the center of that individual’s…

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Freedom Model

Am I An Addict?

Objective Truth vs. Subjective ‘Truth’

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With so much talk about heavy substance use increasing as a result of the pandemic lockdowns, there are many people wondering if they may have crossed the line from reasonable substance use to “addiction”. Rates of serious emotional problems such as depression and anxiety are skyrocketing across the country as a result of people being locked in their homes and many are using alcohol and other drugs to try and get some relief. But is this increasing demographic now officially suffering from addiction? Are these millions of people now doomed to lifetime of addiction treatment, meetings, and perpetual struggle? Let me answer this straight – absolutely not.

In the book, The Freedom Model for Addictions, Escape the Treatment and Recovery Trap, we discuss the concept of addiction as the following:

The very concept of addiction – whether it’s called a disease, a disorder, or something else – says that some people (i.e. “addicts & alcoholics”) are enslaved to the behavior of substance use in some way. That is, they cross some line where they are no longer actively choosing to use substances of their own free will, but instead are compelled to use substances. It’s also said that they are unable to stop themselves from using once they start (they experience a loss of control); that they are unable to stop wanting to use substances (they experience craving); that all of this just happens without their consent (that they’re triggered by various things and feelings); and finally, that they’re in for a lifetime of struggling with their demons (the “chronic relapsing disease” and “ongoing recovery.”)

This definition is a construct of the treatment industry – in other words, it’s made up. But because it has been repeated for nearly eight decades, it has become truth to believers. I was once a believer myself. I felt compelled to drink and drug. I believed addiction was something that happened to me. I felt that I was “powerless”. I felt that I would lose control after the first beer, hit or shot. I felt addicted, and I’ve since met tens of thousands who do as well.

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Objective Truth vs. Subjective “Truth”

There is a difference between an objective truth and a subjective “truth”. An objective truth is the kind of reality that takes human opinion and feelings and throws them out the window. It just looks at the merits of the facts and we determine what the truth is based on that foundation. A subjective perception is just that, a perception or opinion-laden perspective. The concept of addiction, as defined above, is fully subjective, it is not grounded in fact. But because the idea that people are addicted – that addiction happens to them – is so oft repeated in our society today, it seems as if it is an objective truth. This definition of addiction is then taken as fact, and so the fear of becoming addicted becomes very real. It might even feel real to you personally or someone you know. The good news is once you know the facts, you can let go of this powerlessness narrative, and move on with your life without an “addiction.” In essence you can become truly objective about the subject.

What is Addiction Really?

Objectively speaking, what we think of as an addiction is a habitual preference for heavy use. We use heavily based on our perception that drugs and alcohol provide certain personal benefits. In the COVID scare, these benefits might include the belief that substances cure boredom, anxiety, depression and trauma. If we believe drugs can provide this relief, we will habitually prefer them and crave them.

But a subjective want (or a craving) is different than an objective need. In the conventional subjective definition of addiction as a disease or disorder, the “addict” is told they will always crave and need the substance for these magical qualities of relief. They are further told that they will always need substances to solve these human problems. Further still, the addiction model says that the COVID scare causes them to feel this way, and that their need for the substances becomes enormous and only intense treatment can stop the cravings and the desires for consistent use.

Moving Past the Lies

So how does someone get past the lies? What is the objective truth? Is addiction an unstoppable disease that requires lifelong treatment and struggle? Or is it a preference that can change – even in an environment defined by a pandemic?

The answer is the latter. You do not have a disease of addiction – the disease model of addiction was created to make an efficient path for third party reimbursement of drug and alcohol related medical and psychiatric needs. In other words the disease concept created a way for health insurance providers to pay the treatment and rehab industry for its services, it’s creation had nothing to do with whether, in fact, a disease existed. What you have is not a disease, but rather a preference for heavy use that you might choose to call “addiction.” That preference is based on the perception that drinking and drugging can somehow help you cope with the COVID scare and shutdowns. Substances can’t do that of course, but if you belief they can, then the belief will drive further heavy use.

Know this – you are not powerless. You are not compelled to use substances by an outside force called addiction. Your feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness are learned. You have reasons for your belief that substances provide benefits to you. But equally important is the truth that you can change your point of view and see that stopping or moderating your use might have more benefits than trying to cope by using drugs and alcohol heavily.

In short, addiction is what you make it. You can choose to see it as an unstoppable outside force that creates havoc in your life. You can even see it as a solution to boredom, worry, depression, trauma and anxiety, making heavy use seem so much more necessary than it actually is. Or, you can see it as a temporary habit you’ve created yourself. You can challenge the benefits you see in heavy use. You can challenge the idea that heavy use solves depression, anxiety and trauma. You can decide to deal with your human struggles without the idea that substances need to be front and center in solving them.

Let Go of the Construct of Addiction

Addiction, seen as a powerless state of mind is a construct meant to lead you to endless treatment. Let go of these myths! It is time to move on from this narrative, and challenge all the benefits you see in using. The benefits of not using or moderating far outweigh believing you are powerless and addicted. Once you come to grips with this objective truth, you will never use heavily again – even in the COVID era.

If you or someone you love are ready to break free from the addiction and recovery trap and move on, call us at 888-424-2626.

For more information about The Freedom Model go to TheFreedomModel.org

Mr. Mark Scheeren is the Co-Founder and Chairman of the St. Jude Retreat, as is co-author of The Freedom Model for Addictions, Escape the Treatment and Recovery Trap, the original Non-12-Step approach for people who struggle with serious substance use issues. Mr. Scheeren and his staff of Researchers and Instructors have helped many thousands find permanent solutions to their drug and alcohol problems.

With so much talk about heavy substance use increasing as a result of the pandemic lockdowns, there are many people wondering if they may have crossed the line from reasonable substance use to “addiction”. Rates of serious emotional problems such as depression and anxiety are skyrocketing across the country as a result of people being locked in their homes and many are using alcohol and other drugs to try and get some relief. But is this increasing demographic now officially suffering from addiction? Are these millions of people now doomed to lifetime of addiction treatment, meetings, and perpetual struggle? Let me answer this straight – absolutely not. In the book, The Freedom Model for Addictions, Escape the Treatment and Recovery Trap, we discuss the concept of addiction as the following: The very concept of addiction – whether it’s called a disease, a disorder, or something else – says that some people (i.e. “addicts & alcoholics”) are enslaved to the behavior of substance use in some way. That is, they cross some line where they are no longer actively choosing to use substances of their own free will, but instead are compelled to use substances. It’s also said that they are unable to stop themselves from using once they start (they experience a loss of control); that they are unable to stop wanting to use substances (they experience craving); that all of this just happens without their consent (that they’re triggered by various things and feelings); and finally, that they’re in for a lifetime of struggling with their demons (the “chronic relapsing disease” and “ongoing recovery.”) This definition is a construct of the treatment industry – in other words, it’s made up. But because it has been repeated for nearly eight decades, it has become truth to believers. I was once…

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