Percy Menzies, President of ARCA, has been treating individuals with drug and alcohol addiction for many years and has found that making sure patients stick to their monthly Vivitrol medication regimen is key to achieving sobriety. Addiction is a disease the affects the entire family, and it takes an addict’s family to help in the recovery process of the disease. Often times it is the patient’s family that suffers more throughout the addiction process. ARCA Midwest has found that involving patients’ mothers with medication compliance during outpatient treatment leads to a more successful recovery process. A phone call from mom can truly save a son or daughter’s life. Mr. Menzies elaborates on the importance of moms in the addiction recovery process below.
“One of the most maddening aspects of drug addiction treatment is the ambivalence about long-term recovery. When patients are in acute withdrawal, the promises and commitment not to use drugs ever again seem so strong. Many of the patients, especially the younger ones, rarely stay clean for any length of time. The behavior fits neatly within the definition of a progressive relapsing disease. Patients addicted to heroin will go through five or more treatment episodes before they finally get it.
It is not unheard of families spending tens of thousands of dollars on residential programs only to see their loved one use drugs within days of returning home, sometimes with tragic results. Naltrexone was developed as a non-addicting opioid antagonist (often described as an ‘opioid blocker’) to prevent detoxed heroin addicts from relapsing. The medication works so well that it leaves no room for equivocation. One single oral dose of naltrexone will prevent heroin or any other opioid from activating the opiate receptor and causing the high for 24 hours. Few patients will attempt to override the drug and instead cheek the pill and spit it out or not take it. The compliance with the oral dosage was so poor that this highly effective medication never took off and was considered a failure. Naltrexone was seen as an appropriate medication for a very narrow segment of patients – healthcare professionals addicted to opioids.
Vivitrol was introduced not quite ten years ago as a monthly injection that significantly improved compliance. One injection protects the patient from accidentally or impulsively using opioids for up to a month. If patients drink on it, they do not experience a ‘high’ and are less inclined to take a second drink. Vivitrol has been a major breakthrough in medication compliance and our clinics in St Louis have used in excess of 5000 injections since its introduction! Vivitrol has made a huge difference in keeping patients from relapsing.
The compliance window went up from a day to a month, but not the ambivalence. The heroin epidemic hit young people – ages 17-30 hard. Patients in this age group feel immune to the risk of overdose and death. Most of them have been brought for treatment under some pressure from the family. They may take the shot, come for counseling but they are walking on the narrow edge of ambivalence. Most of these patients have not moved away from their ‘friends ‘and the drug environment and are not quite ready to enter a new and ‘frightening’ world of abstinence – the monkey is still perched on the shoulder!
Since most young opioid patients consider themselves experts on pharmacology, they want to prove their inner strength to recover without a crutch (do you hear the whisper of the evil voice?). We have developed various strategies including text messaging, phone calls etc. to get them to the clinic for the shots, but none has proven more effective than MOM POWER!
The majority of the young patients are brought to the clinic by their mothers. Mother by nature are understandably very concerned about the problem become involved in the recovery of their sons or daughters. Almost all these young patients give consent to contact their mothers. If the patient misses an appointment and we cannot contact the patient for a day, we call the mothers and the results are amazing! The patient most of the time shows up within hours of the phone call to mom!
VIVITROL and MOMS make a great treatment team.”