So many people need help with alcoholism or addiction—the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates 17.6 million Americans abuse alcohol and/or are alcohol-dependent; and the International Narcotics Control Board estimates that 6.2 Americans were abusing prescription drugs in 2008.
But so much misinformation prevails about addicts and addiction. Part of what I want this blog to do is help weed out fact from fiction, and offer sane voices speaking about this problem.
Thanks to my friend Sluggo at ODR for this link to this podcast featuring Steve Scanlan, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist and addiction-medicine physician who practices office-based opiate detox in Boca Raton, Fla. Scanlan is interviewed in this podcast about the use of Suboxone, a relatively new synthetic opiate that is not only FDA-approved to detox addicts from opiates but is also increasingly being used as a “maintenance” drug in the manner of methadone, with a high dose that is said to block cravings but causes all sorts of side-effects.
Scanlan’s conviction—one borne out by scads of anecdotal evidence—is that Suboxone is best used as a short-term detox tool, prescribed for no more than three weeks and at the lowest dose possible, preferably under 2mg. Refreshing to hear this sane truth spoken, when I’ve heard about so many addicts on 24 or 36 or even 48mg of Suboxone, unable to cut back because of the drug’s super-glue binding power.
At the top of my list of things I admired were these bald-faced statements: he tells patients he will help them detox once, and if they fail they need to seek inpatient treatment—so he’s not a revolving door; that they need to work for sobriety; and that he does not wish to make a ton of money in his business. That he sees physicians all around him using suboxone as a marketing tool, rather than a detox tool, and this doesn’t help addicts. He spoke in plain language. I heard the program working in him. This is what Getting Sober does: it cleans up distortion and allows us to see and act clearly. Man, I so appreciated it.
Scanlan said two more sane things in this interview:
1. Physician opinions of addicts: most physicians have a “low opinion” of addicts and dislike treating us—something both physician and patient know but never articulate to each other. canlan himself is a addict recovering through the 12 steps. He understands addicts are not Bad People but rather struggling with an illness and in need of help.
2. Sobriety success rates—rehab v. 12 steps: Scanlan said the average rate of sobriety after one year for rehabs is 3 percent—and that for those who complete a thorough fifth step (“Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs”) in AA/NA it’s 60 percent. Like to know where he got that second number—if it’s viable, it’s a great one.
Yeah I never thought I’d be touting a celebrity in this blog, but truth can come from the most unexpected places.
Michael Douglas’s 30-something kid, Cameron, was busted last year for selling drugs in a Manhattan hotel. He pleaded guilty and was finally sentenced to 5 years in prison. They’d been expecting 10 years.
What was sane about Douglas’s commentary on the Today Show this morning was that he took some responsibility for his son’s problem—but not all the responsibility. Like Scanlan, he also understood that his son was not an evil person.
“This disease, as you look at it, certainly the family has a lot to do with it,” Douglas said. “The fact is, with all the mistakes and the disease that Cameron has, he’s a great young man.”
Douglas talked humbly and directly about the strains of addiction that run throughout his family’s genetics and behavior. He spoke about his own stint in rehab, and he evinced a measure of gratitude that his kid is still alive:
My son has not been sober for this length of time since he was 13 years old. So he was going to be dead, or somebody was gonna kill him. So he has a chance to start a new life, and he knows that.