Heroes come in many forms.

Earlier this week a young man traveled from Kentucky to the Coleman Institute for Addiction Medicine in Richmond, Virginia for an accelerated detox off heroin and fentanyl. (His urine drug screen revealed there was actually no heroin; it was all fentanyl).

Admittedly grateful for a severe needle phobia, James was snorting about .2 to .3 grams daily, and had been using regularly for about three years. Prior to that, he’d enjoyed six years of abstinence from all mind-altering substances. 
His relapse was fast and brutal and reminded me of a woman in long term recovery who told me, “…my disease is out there doing Cross-Fit, waiting for me to have a moment of weakness…”

This is an extreme time in our planet’s history. Very few people have been untouched or are unaware of the radical practices necessary to keep ourselves and others safe from COVID-19. 

A Leap of Faith During COVID-19

So, the decision to travel to Richmond, Virginia for a rapid opioid detox was not an insignificant one for James, or for our staff. And it was an enormous leap of faith for his support person to join him—Mariah, his 80 year old mother.

Our office in Richmond — and other affiliated offices who have learned The Coleman Method for accelerated opioid detox — have decades of experience helping people get off opioids such as hydrocodone, tramadol, hydromorphone, oxymorphone, kratom, methadone, and the partial agonist, buprenorphine. Our process involves introducing micro-doses of naltrexone daily, carefully sweeping the opioids off the receptors, thus re-setting them. 

The final step is to provide long acting naltrexone via an implant which will give freedom from opioid cravings and the inability to get high for about two months. (Some patients will work with their insurance companies to have access to Vivitrol®, a long acting injectable form of naltrexone, which covers the opioid receptors for about a month).


Why Detox During a Pandemic

When I queried James about his reason for choosing this particularly complex time to detox, he told me he couldn’t bear it if his being an addict and acting irresponsibly ultimately compromised his mother’s health. They lost his father three years ago, a significant contribution to triggering his relapse. He is back living with his mom due to losing his job and he realized that all of his contacts in his drug procurement process were “careless, sloppy, and stupid” when it came to mitigating the potential spread of COVID-19.

“None of them are practicing anything like social distancing…they are still getting together with each other and getting high. I became acutely aware of how much risk I was exposing myself and my mom to.” 

Mariah is an incredibly sharp woman, and one would never guess was eighty years old. She is grateful that her son made the decision to get clean and, even though she acknowledges it is a risky time to do anything but stay home, believes the risk/reward ratio supports their choice.

A Reluctant Hero During Coronavirus

Neither James nor Mariah are glorifying their reason for being here. Over the years, hundreds of my patients have chosen to detox largely because they value their families and were aware of the devastation their addiction created on so many levels. 

But here we are, in the midst of one of the most challenging and extreme times our world has ever seen. In many ways, it would be a lot easier to stay home and stay stoned rather than travel here and get clean. In my opinion, James meets the criteria of the Reluctant Hero, a “tarnished or ordinary man with several faults or a troubled past, pulled reluctantly into heroic acts.”

Patients and support people are screened, gloved, and masked when they come to the Coleman Institute. We are striking the balance between minimizing face to face exposure, but being completely accessible to our patients and their support people.

If this bizarre chapter in our world’s history is calling you to be the hero of your own story, give us a call and we can see if we are the right fit for each other.

In the meantime, be safe.

Joan R. Shepherd, FN