The maze of recovery – differing ideas on weaning a community off of opioids

By: Cory Berlekamp
Twitter: @Cberlekamp

“In most recovery pathways, it’s not so much about doing it alone, it’s about doing it with a community,” Ellyn Schmiesing says, the Executive Director at FOCUS: Recovery and Wellness Community. “It’s about building a support system for yourself that can help keep yourself accountable when you can’t keep yourself accountable.”

To Schmiesing and Precia Stuby, the Executice Director at the Hancock County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services, this means that whatever they can do to help get someone in to recovery is worth the try, especially in a time when opioid use has hit higher and higher numbers every single year. But to some people, things like methadone clinics and the use of drugs like buprenorphine, also known as Suboxone, are not as effective as other treatments.

Angela Clowtis, a recovering addict who moved to Findlay from Florida to be closer to her family, has reservations about medically assisted therapy.

“It’s still pharmaceutical and it’s really no different than me going to the doctor to get my drugs,” Clowtis said.

She had never had to buy her drugs off the street, she was able to get her prescription filled. Before getting clean, Clowtis was given two 100 mg Morphine pills a day along with four 8 mg Dilaudid. She took a moment to think about what she had said and then ended her statement echoing Stuby’s and Schmiesing’s.

“But if it’s gonna keep them off the street and from shooting this bad dope, I’m glad they have it.”

 Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Findlay, Andrea Mata, agrees with Clowtis, Stuby, and Schmiesing but still does not like medically assisted therapy. According to Mata, there are three main camps that are fighting addiction. The biological camp that uses medically assisted therapy, a social camp stating that through interaction and stimulus you can stay away from a drug, and then harm-reduction which is lessening the amount that someone does until they wean themselves off.

“But it really depends on coping skills,” says Mata. “Obviously the harm-reduction camp and the social camp are going to be much more along the lines of developing coping skills, relapse prevention stuff, whereas the medical camp is going to be ‘let’s emphasize medication assisted therapy’.

“From a psychological behavioral standpoint, that doesn’t make any sense to do because people are already addicted to the drugs.”

While getting in her last hours before she became a licensed psychologist, Mata had worked at Century Health when the ADAMHS Board was first making their task force. Because of her research background, she had been asked to cover the medically assisted therapy.

Drugs like Suboxone and Vivitrol are commonly used to treat recovering addicts by completely stopping the high that the addict would feel when using an opiate. Mata disagreed that someone could treat the addiction just by using them.

“I felt like they were completely disregarding the idea of behavioralism when it comes to addiction,” said Mata. “They (addicts) would just keep shooting themselves up with the heroin and then they would overdose because they didn’t believe that they wouldn’t be able to experience the high.”

All of this has now come to a time when Stuby says that the Hancock County services are all working together to help fight addiction and make the pathways to recovery accessible to everyone, no matter what those pathways are.

“There is a cumulative, positive impact of treatment on recovery, nothing was a waste before,” says Stuby looking forward to the future. But she notes that door has been open a long time when it has come to both prescription opiates and street drugs. “I pray every day that we are at the end but there are so many children impacted, so many families that are impacted. There is that whole generation behind that we are needing to give services to.”


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