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.
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.
You CAN Move Past an Addiction
…a message to those who feel hopeless
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…
Am I An Addict?
Objective Truth vs. Subjective ‘Truth’
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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