Man Ends Fentanyl During Pandemic To Save His Mother


Earlier this week, James, a young man, and his 80-year old mother traveled from Kentucky to our facility for an accelerated detox off fentanyl. Admittedly grateful for a severe needle phobia, James was snorting about .2 to .3 grams regularly for about 3 years. They lost his father three years ago, a significant contribution to triggering his relapse. Prior to that, he’d enjoyed 6 years of abstinence from all mind-altering substances. His relapse was swift and dangerous. 

This is an extreme time in our planet’s history. Few people, if any, have been untouched by the impact of COVID-19. 

A Leap of Faith During COVID-19

So, the decision to seek treatment, specifically a rapid opioid detox, was not an inconsequential one for James. It was an enormous leap of faith for Mariah, his 80 year old mother who was also his support person, to join him.

We 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 asked James about his reason for choosing this particularly complex time, a world-wide pandemic, to detox. He told me he couldn’t bear it if his substance use disorder and irresponsibility risked his mother’s health. James lost his job and is back living with his mom. 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 I would have never guessed was eighty years old. She is thrilled that James made the decision to get clean. But she acknowledges it is a risky time to do anything but stay home. Mariah believes the reward of completing the detox will outweigh the risk.

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 knew their addiction created devastation and destruction. 

But here we are, in the midst of the novel coronavirus, 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, FNP

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