By Alfa · Jun 21, 2004 ·
  1. Alfa

    The process wasn't pretty.

    For those addicted to drugs like Oxycontin, methadone or other opiate-based
    narcotics who sought out recovery, withdrawal was like fighting a war they
    couldn't win.

    The physical symptoms -- vomiting, diarrhea, chills, fever, fatigue and
    sleeplessness were enough to make them raise the white flag.

    Today, however, there is a new drug being offered around the country,
    including at Cornerstone of Recovery in Louisville, that brings withdrawal
    into a comfort zone easier to tolerate. Buprenex, which is approved by the
    U.S. Food and Drug Administration, stops those withdrawal symptoms.

    According to Dr. Gary O'Shaughnessy, medical director at Cornerstone, a
    different version of Buprenex was offered several years ago, but had to be
    injected quite frequently. Now the new form can be placed under the tongue,
    once a day.

    ``It is convenient for the patient and convenient for the staff,''
    O'Shaughnessy said. ``That makes it easier to keep up with.''

    As the medical director explained, Buprenex takes the edge off -- the
    anxiety associated with withdrawal. The new drug actually occupies the same
    receptors in the brain as drugs like heroin or Oxycontin, which tells the
    brain it is getting opiates. That translates into the body not having to
    suffer through intense withdrawal.

    ``I hate to say it's a comfortable withdrawal but it's pretty darn
    comfortable,'' O'Shaughnessy said.

    Common symptoms with Buprenex include mild muscle aches and mild stomach
    ache, he said. O'Shaughnessy said he has talked to those who have gone
    through withdrawal with other drugs and Buprenex. They have told him the
    new drug makes the process much easier.

    Typically, withdrawal takes about five days.

    Cornerstone, an inpatient and outpatient treatment facility, has three
    programs to help individuals with recovery. One is for adults going through
    drug dependency for the first time or who have been sober for many years.
    There is also the Residential Relapse Treatment Program for addicts who
    have tried numerous treatment programs in the past, and the Young Adult
    Treatment Program for young adults ages 17 to 26. This is the age group
    where the problem of drug addiction is increasing, O'Shaughnessy said.

    Heroin is part of the reason. There is a new, cheaper, purer form of heroin
    that is starting to show up here, the medical director said, and it's
    making it's way across the country.

    Typically, about 50 percent of patients at Cornerstone leave before
    ully detoxing, O'Shaughnessy said. They leave for two reasons --
    either the withdrawal is too painful or they like their drugs too much.
    With Buprenex, the medical director said that figure is being reduced to
    about 10 percent.

    O'Shaughnessy is optimistic this treatment will help drug abusers with
    their journey to recovery. He stressed this is only one step in a long
    recovery process.

    ``Detox is a good first step that has to be done,'' he said. ``Then there's
    follow-up treatment that will help change what was wrong inside in the
    first place. You have to change what was wrong or you will go back to
    using, be it alcohol or hydrocodone.''

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