How drug-assisted treatment can save an addict’s life

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CLEVELAND – More than 95,000 people have overdosed their lives in the United States in the past 12 months during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is an increase of 31% from the previous year.

In this “Finding a Solution” report, we take a look at drug-assisted treatment, or MAT, which has saved the lives of many.

Just ask Megan Thomas.

“So my son’s father was prescribed for them. He started using them, ”said Thomas, 31, of Lakewood. She then started taking the pills as well.

“We were probably each making 30 Percocets a day,” she said.

“How did you feel? ” we asked.

“Like I can do anything,” she replied.

From the pill to heroin
When doctors curtailed prescriptions across the country and the supply of pills dried up, Thomas started snorting heroin, a drug she described as scary.

“It’s scary, like where you have to go to get it and who you get it from,” Thomas said.

Despite the danger, she even turned to dancing for money to afford her outfit.

“It brought in a lot of money. None of that money went to bills or anything – everything to drugs, ”Thomas said.

And it all had an effect on her children.

“My oldest son has been through a lot, and I did this to him,” Thomas said, wiping away tears.

The tipping point for her heroin use dates back 10 years. Her brother was in the wrong frame of mind.

“He was on drugs, like really bad bath salts, and he went crazy,” Thomas said.

He grabbed a gun and shot himself in front of her.

“It’s the first time I’ve taken heroin because I didn’t want to like it,” Thomas said.

MAT and circle health
Dave Brager is Associate Director of Medication Assisted Treatment Services at Circle Health in Cleveland.

“(Drug addiction) is a chronic, recurring brain disease, and if it’s left untreated, they will die,” Brager said. “Any good treatment program in my description is someone who takes treatment in conjunction with drug-assisted treatment. “

Circle Health uses opioid blockers like Vivitrol and Subutex (for pregnant women). The percentage of ambulatory care facilities in the United States offering methadone and other opioid treatments has increased from 9% in 2010 to 36% in 2020, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.

“Drug assisted treatment is a game changer,” said Eric Morse, CEO of Circle Health and the Cleveland Centers.

“The old days when we had to have really severe TDs and get really sick… we can shorten that,” Morse said. “We can even prevent it with some of these drugs.”

“The best I have ever done”
Thomas was in and out of treatments, arrested several times, and then she was ordered by the court to go through the MAT. At first, she was skeptical about taking a drug called Suboxone.

“But I think if you really want to be sober, that’s a really amazing thing to do. Because it’s the best I’ve ever done, ”said Thomas.

“It’s not that you’re just going to get the drugs, but you’re also going to be getting counseling, you’re going to learn new coping skills,” Morse said. “These changes in your life are more important than just the change with the drugs.”

Thomas uses the services of Circle Health. Brager is one of the staff who helps him.

“What keeps me going each day are people raising their kids and having full-time jobs who live their lives,” Brager said.

“I get up and go to work. I take (my son) to daycare. I cook, I clean… (without illegal drugs), ”said Thomas.

Not just drugs to replace other drugs
Some opponents of MAT said the program only used drugs to replace other drugs. However, for Thomas, it transformed his life.

“If it hadn’t been for this… either I wouldn’t be here or I would be in jail,” Thomas said.

“We really need solutions that work,” Morse said.

“I’ve been to enough funerals that I didn’t want this to happen anymore,” Brager said.

Circle health services and the centers have services for mental and physical health.

There are several locations: 12201 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, OH 44106; 4400 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland; 5955 Ridge Road, Parma; 3929 Rocky River Drive, Cleveland; 5209 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland.

The phone number is: 216-325-WELL (9355)

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