It is absolutely possible to stop using opioids and enjoy recovery. In fact, it is simple. It just may not be easy. Over the years working as a medical professional in the field of Substance Use Disorders (SUD), I have enjoyed poignant and memorable conversations with hundreds of patients who have shared recovery experiences. There are so many universal advantages to being off fentanyl and other opioids; no more being chained to the source of the medication (whether legal or illicit), no worries about losing prescriptions, no anxiety about travel dates aligning with picking up medication, libido getting its groove again, and so much more. But part of what makes our work at the Coleman Institute for Addiction Medicine so gratifying is the quiet victories our patients share.

Naltrexone Implant to Aid in Sobriety

Jimmy had us all teary-eyed when he told the story of how on payday he had no less than a dozen places he could stop on his way home to buy drugs. Visiting us for a 4th naltrexone implant, going into his 7th month of sobriety, Jimmy told us how now on payday, his three children were waiting for his arrival home, clamoring for their allowance, which he was able to give them for the first time in years.

Accelerated Opioid Detox for the Holidays

I’ll never forget Adam’s Christmas story. After an Accelerated Opioid Detox, he had several months of sobriety from high dose Oxycontin under his belt. (To be honest, he detoxed with us three times before he finally got sober). Adam was still in fairly regular contact with people in active addiction; many were old friends. One of his friends whose drug problem was out of control had a four-year-old son.

Adam stopped by on Christmas Eve and realized there would be nothing from Santa for this kid in the morning. Any extra money was going into his dad’s veins. Adam went to a 24-hour CVS and pretty much bought out the toy section as well as a little lit-up plastic Christmas tree. (CVS has a rather robust toy selection during the holidays). My heart was in my throat when he told me he even wrapped the gifts himself and left them in the living room. (I’m not making this up and I didn’t see it on a Lifetime movie.)

Robbie's Prescription Drug Detox

Robbie struggled a lot with his drug use. College-educated, groomed for success, he just couldn’t resist the pull of these medications. He worked sporadically at jobs that didn’t fulfill him until he finally gave up and lived at home with his parents. No job. No interests but getting his daily dose. He longed for a career and a good relationship.

Jump forward to eighteen months of drug-free time. At the most recent appointment for his naltrexone implant, we inquired ‘what’s new?’, Robbie had a quick answer. Now that he had a solid job, the hits on his dating app had picked up markedly. Girls were leery of guys without jobs, it seems. Just another perk in the ‘getting sober’ schema.

Breaking Free from Pain Medication and Street Pills Through Detox

Lorraine owns and runs a small, successful, and quickly growing delivery company based in Tennessee. She was prescribed pain medication for a back condition for years and ended up supplementing with pills bought off the street. She told me how she basked on this past Christmas morning with the knowledge that for the first time in recent memory, her waking thought was not I need my pills. She was able to be there, in every sense of the word, for her children and her husband.


Sober from Heroin and Fentanyl

Tony is a country boy. He is incredibly shy, but once he gets talking, he has us all in stitches. Sober for almost 2 years now off heroin and fentanyl, I asked him about the money he wasn’t spending on drugs. “I knew how much I was spending on dope,” he says, “I just didn’t think about what I wasn’t doing for myself and my family.” For instance, in the last several months, with money that would have previously fed his addiction, Tony bought three cows, a horse for his daughter, and a new truck. No bull.

From Cancer Remission to Accelerated Opioid Detox and Recovery

Reserved and professional, Bill was treated for a painful cancer condition with high-dose pain medication. In remission for several years, he had still not managed to completely get off his prescribed Dilaudid® (hydromorphone) and fentanyl. After his Accelerated Opioid Detox with us, one of the most satisfying results (pun intended) he reported was his ability to finally move his bowels freely. This, of course, is a frequently reported benefit from many, many patients.

Getting off and Staying off Fentanyl, Heroin, or Pain Pills

When a person takes fentanyl (or other opioids such as Percocet®, Roxicet®, hydrocodone, Vicodin®, oxycodone, Opana®, tramadol, methadone, or buprenorphine…or opiates like codeine, morphine, and heroin) long enough, the body becomes physically dependent on these medications and builds up a tolerance. Tolerance is defined as needing increased doses of an opioid to achieve the same analgesic effect.

That’s why I am rarely surprised when someone calls for help getting off pain medication and admits they are taking far beyond the 30-60mg daily dose originally prescribed by their physician. Over the years we have helped patients successfully get off of doses as high as 800mg a day (and even higher amounts, if people are accurate).

While some medical providers prescribe combinations of short and long-acting pain medication (for instance the long-acting Oxycontin® twice a day with short-acting Percocet® or a hydrocodone product as needed every few hours for ‘breakthrough pain), many patients who have developed a tolerance to the prescribed dose have turned to other means to supplement their pain management regimen.

Are Your Street Pills Actually Fentanyl?

Almost without exception, our patients who have been finding medication from other sources besides their prescriber, are probably buying products containing illegal fentanyl. During our screening process, we will discuss this, and many people are absolutely certain that is an impossibility-- they have a trusted source for their extra medication and are astonished when they have a positive urine test for fentanyl.

For anyone who is reading this and feeling trapped and ashamed by similar behavior, I want to reassure you how frequently people feel compelled to do this. Most of our patients are hardworking professional people, many in long-term relationships with families who love them, and responsibilities to tend to. Physical dependence and addiction are equal opportunity offenders, and anyone can develop a tolerance to these types of medications. Feeling ashamed and terrified to share this secret with loved ones is often a huge deterrent for getting help with opioid withdrawal.

And getting help is important because opioid withdrawal can be a very painful experience.

Accelerated Opioid Detox at the Coleman Institute

If you or a loved one are contemplating how life might look without opioids, the Coleman Institute for Addiction Medicine may have some answers for you. Our Accelerated Opioid Detoxes are tailored to your particular situation, taking into account the amount and type of opioid you have been using, how long you have been on it, and other possible medical conditions you are dealing with.

Getting off opioids is generally a very safe process, so our program is completely outpatient, and your support person is able to stay by your side through the entire experience. While I have heard from other patients who have experienced less-than-satisfactory detox experiences in the past, our program provides ample comfort medications to make this as tolerable and comfortable as possible.

There are plenty of obvious benefits from getting off opioids. I’d love to add your small and powerful victory story to our ever-growing list. Please call us with your questions at 877-773-3869.

Joan R. Shepherd, FNP