I recently read an article in the NY Daily News on Ray Lucas the former NY Jet QB, about his addiction to pain pills. The article raised the question: “Do traditional recovery models work for athletes who become addicted to painkillers during the course of their careers?
This is one of the main challenges the treatment industry faces and most agencies ignore. It is not only individuals that are athletes, for many folks a doctor will prescribe these highly addictive substances for pain and it doesn’t take long for the unsuspecting patient to be thrust into dependence. Many of these folks have no family history of substance abuse, no history of abuse or trauma, no history of substance abuse in their personal past and now they are addicted to Opioids, pharmaceutical heroin! Remember heroin? The drug that the professionals said is impossible to recover from in the 60’s and 70’s? Yes, the same stuff, our medical doctors get people hooked on everyday of the week.
Then the industry with their counselors that are “Clean and Sober” for a year or so (yes at one point you needed to be sober three years just to go to school, not anymore, today you can go to school right out of detox) through the twelve-step approach tell these folks they are addicts and are in denial!
Some agencies specialize in pain management and my hat is off to them. Others accept anyone breathing with money or the right insurance and thrust them into their prototypical treatment program. This is one of the challenges the industry faces. Many of these folks leave against medical or staff advice, confused and untreated.
What can be done? First this patient requires treatment specific to their needs and includes pain management options. A strong educational component outlining the difference between addiction and dependence. How to avoid repeating dependence in the future, ie “Red-flags”. The traditional approach to overcoming dependence is less likely to work with these folks.