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Local clinic hopes to break stigma on medication for opioid use disorder

methadone for opioid use disorder
Posted at 10:44 PM, Oct 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-13 01:44:52-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — For those in the throes of addiction, it can be hard to find recovery. Bryan Hamilton has been on the journey to recovery since he was introduced to narcotics at 12 years old.

"By 14 I was using every day and that continued on for 20 something years,” he said.

During his time in prison, he said the door to heroin access was wide open. But as he continued forward in his journey, he came across Methadone, one of the main medications that helps fight opioid addiction.

"I had used methadone before but not for the right reasons," he said. " I was using it to stay well, not get sick and still continue to use."

But his first use of methadone helped set him on a path to recovery.

"That was the beginning because that medicine helped decrease my use," he said.

The medications that aim to fight opioid addiction — Methadone, Suboxone and Vivitrol — block the effects of opioids. Desiree Voshefsky, the correctional health supervisor at Community Medical Services, said since opioid use brings people on a rollercoaster of highs and lows, the medications helps keep the person stable.

“When you get to a stable dose of the methadone, it should keep them level," she said. "That way we can work on the other stuff like the psycho social through counseling."

She said at Community Medical Services, they not only provide the treatment but they walk with their patients by providing counseling and small groups.

But according to the National Institute for Drug Abuse, less than half of substance use disorder treatment programs offer the medicines and only a third of those patients receive the medicines. Voshefsky said there's a lot of stigma associated with this treatment option.

"People say that it's replacing one drug for another or you're not really in recovery if you're using this medication, " she said.

Hamilton said the stigma against this treatment kept him from reaching out for help, especially enforced by the people he was using with. He said it's not replacing the drug with another drug.

"They’d be like no you don’t want that, it’s worse for you," he said "That’s just another drug you might as well keep doing heroin. And I believed them. It make your teeth fall out and it's bad for your bones. There are so many lies about it."

Voshefsky said Methadone, Suboxone and Vivitrol all reduce the risk of overdose by 75%.

"You’re using this medication but it’s fully regulated by a doctor so we shouldn’t be limiting people on treatment," she said.

With Methadone, Suboxone and Vivitrol treatment, Hamilton said it's a way to work toward recovery while still living your life.

"You don’t have to put your life on hold," he said. "You can carry on with your life and still manage your addiction.”

Hamilton hopes that with more education about this treatment option, people will help break that stigma.

"I just don’t want to see anyone else die," he said. "If you need help come get help."