It is completely possible to stop using fentanyl and get into recovery. Even though it may be simple, it is not necessarily easy. In my many years working as a Nurse Practitioner in the field of Substance Use Disorders (SUD), I have had numerous powerful and unforgettable conversations with people about their experiences in recovery. There are incredible advantages to being off of fentanyl and other opiates—from not being tied down to the supplier of the medication–whether legal or not–no worries about losing prescriptions, no anxiety about syncing travel dates and medication supplies, getting your libido on track again, and many others. But much of what brightens my days and those of my colleagues at Coleman Addiction Medicine are the quiet victories that our patients share with us.
Allowance for Kids
Jared had our eyes clouding up when he shared his story about how on payday there were over a dozen places where he could buy drugs before he got home. Visiting our office for his 4th naltrexone implant and entering his 7th month of sobriety, Jared shared that on recent paydays, his children look forward to his getting home, clamoring for their allowances, which he is able to share with them for the first time in many years.
Ethan’s Christmas story is unforgettable. After he detoxed off of opioids using the outpatient Coleman Method, he enjoyed months of sobriety from high doses of oxycodone. Ethan still had many friends who continued to use opioids regularly. One of them had a 4 year-old son. Sadly, hen Ethan visited his friend on Christmas Eve, he realized that Santa wasn’t going to bring anything to this boy, since all his dad’s money was being spent on heroin. Ethan went to a 24-hour Walgreens and bought some toys along with small Christmas tree. I choked up when he described how he wrapped the presents and put them in the living room. (True story. Not a show on the Lifetime channel.)
Eric struggled mightily with his drug use. Despite a college degree and a supportive family, he still found it hard to stay away from opioids. He worked sporadically at menial jobs until he basically gave up and moved in with mom and dad. He had no job and few interests, but was able to get his daily dose. He longed for more fulfillment in his life.
Fast forward to 18 months of drug-fee living. At his last office visit for a naltrexone implant, we asked him what was new in his life. Eric was quick with his answer: with a solid job, way more women were ‘swiping right’ on his profile in his dating app. Women had been skeptical of an unemployed guy. Just another perk for getting into recovery.
Whitney owns a successful delivery company in Tennessee. After a doctor prescribed opiate pain medications for a back injury for many years, she started supplementing with some pills she bought on the street. She told us how amazing it felt to wake up on Christmas morning and recognize that her first thought was no longer “I need my pills.” For the first time in many years, she was able to be fully present with her family on that special day for them.
Landon is a country boy. Although he can be shy and soft-spoken, once he gets going, he can get our entire team laughing out loud. Following 2 years of sobriety from heroin and fentanyl, I recently asked him how he was using the money he was no longer spending on drugs. “I knew exactly much I was spending on heroin,” he says, “But I didn’t think about the things that I wasn’t doing for my family or for myself.” Recently, he bought 3 cows, a new truck, and a horse for his daughter, using money that he once would have spent on drugs.
How Do You Get Off and Stay Off Opioids Like Fentanyl?
When a person takes fentanyl (or other opioids such as Percocet®, hydrocodone, Vicodin®, oxycodone, tramadol, methadone, or buprenorphine) long enough, their body becomes physically dependent and develops a tolerance for it. ‘Tolerance’ means needing increased doses to achieve the same analgesic effect.
Because of this reality, I’m never surprised when someone calls us asking for help getting off pain medicine and admits they are taking a lot more than the prescribed dose. Over the years we have helped patients get off doses as high as 800mg a day and even higher (if self-reports are believed).
Almost without exception, our patients who have been sourcing their medication from anywhere other than their local pharmacy are actually buying products laced with illegal fentanyl. When we discuss this in our screening process, many people challenge this, believing that they have a reliable supplier. They are often shocked when their urine tests are positive for fentanyl.
For anyone ashamed of this behavior or feeling trapped by it, I can assure you that you are not alone. The majority of our patients are professionals with caring families and a strong work ethic. Physical dependence doesn’t discriminate; all of us can develop a tolerance to these substances. Feeling ashamed and being unwilling to share this truth with loved ones is often the largest stumbling block in seeking treatment for opioid withdrawal.
And getting help is absolutely crucial because opioid withdrawal can be an excruciating experience.
If you or a loved one are considering how life might be without opioids, the team at Coleman Addiction Medicine may have some answers for you. Our Accelerated Opioid Detoxes are tailored to your specific situation, taking into account the dosage and type of opioids you have been using, how long you have been on them, and other medical conditions you might have.
Getting off opiates using the Coleman Method is a very safe process, so our program is completely outpatient, and your support person can stay with you throughout the whole process. While I have heard from other patients who have experienced less-than-satisfactory detox experiences at other facilities in the past, our program provides enough comfort medications to make this as tolerable and comfortable as possible.
There are many profound benefits from getting off opiates. I’d love to add your story of victory to our growing collection. Please call us with any questions at 877-773-3869.
Joan R. Shepherd, FNP