Local opiate treatment readily available

By David J. Coehrs - dcoehrs@aimmediamidwest.com

Treatment for opioid addiction is readily available in Fulton County, but the drug’s abusers must be open to that opportunity.

That’s according to administrators of three northwest Ohio treatment centers with county branches located in Wauseon. They say their facilities are well-publicized for being fully staffed and prepared to offer relief and a fresh start from opioid disorders but those who would benefit must be willing.

“I think the people do know and they’re not ready,” said A Renewed Mind CEO Matt Rizzo.

The center, at 138 N. Fulton St., provides addiction and mental health treatment, according to Rizzo. It begins with a thorough assessment of the client, then determines a joint treatment of medication and counseling services.

The medication of choice is Vivitrol, the brand name of naltrexone. Known as an opiate antagonist, the drug blocks the effects of and curbs the craving for opiates. An injection lasts for 30 days, allowing the client to concentrate on recovery.

Drug users typically abuse three types of opiates – prescription drugs like oxycodone, heroin or fentanyl. Of the three, fentanyl can be the most deadly. Used for post-surgery or chronic pain, the synthetic opiate is more potent than users often realize.

“It’s a super-charged opiate that, when taken in small quantities, can be lethal,” Rizzo said. “Any time fentanyl is mixed in with another drug or taken straight, that is usually a death sentence. People don’t even realize that fentanyl often is mixed in with heroin.”

Manufactured in China and Mexico and brought into the United States illegally, fentanyl is the drug people turn to when heroin becomes scarce or they want something stronger. And though public service announcements have warned of its potency, “sometimes people, for various reasons, aren’t open to that message,” Rizzo said.

“Opiate addiction is very, very rough to break the cycle. Opiates are often easier to get addicted to just because of the make-up of the medication.”

A Renewed Mind has treated 57 people from Fulton County the past six months. Of the 70 percent with an addiction diagnosis almost half were opiate dependent.

Rizzo said 65 percent of people with a substance abuse disorder are self-medicating a mental health issue. The facility provides both addiction and mental health treatment.

And while Ohio remains one of the country’s top three states for opioid deaths and overdoses, Fulton County has recorded a relatively low 44 deaths since 2010, as compared to other counties. In the four-county area no significant rise in opioid abuse has been recorded.

“I’m not saying we’re out of the weeds yet…but the four-county area didn’t have this uptick in opioids to begin with,” Rizzo said. “The area has really worked with the health departments and legal systems to make sure there’s access to care and capacity to treat. That’s really important.”

He said the best success rates occur when addicts get treatment quickly, don’t wait to get help, and have a support system in place. “Addiction can be very isolating, and losing one life is too many,” he said.

Addiction is difficult, and those affected must be ready for treatment, said Dawn Miller, clinical director for Maumee Valley Guidance Center. “There’s lots of reasons to get them here, and it’s our job to meet them where they are,” she said.

The outpatient mental health agency at 222 Depot St. focuses on dual diagnosis for a variety of addictions, and offers medication management, therapy, and community psychiatric supportive services. Treatment includes anti-depressant and anti-psychotic medications and a staff psychiatrist. It begins with Masters-level therapy and continues with a relapse prevention plan.

Miller said the agency does concentrate on opioid addiction but does not dispense naltrexone or similar type medications. “Not every person wants to go on medication for opioids. (We) concentrate on all other aspects of treatment,” she said.

Many of the agency’s clients began abusing drugs after receiving treatment from their doctors for pain management.

“A lot of the addiction has started because they were prescribed these for some legitimate reason and it’s gotten out of hand,” Miller said. “We get people who do not want to go through medical detox, so we provide them with resources to deal with (addiction) on their own and rebuild their lives.”

Clients who do want medication to ease their addiction get medication assisted treatment elsewhere, then receive dual diagnosis treatment at the agency, she said.

Another alternative, Recovery Services of Northwest Ohio, differs slightly due to its Intensive Outpatient Program, said Teresa Eicher, clinical director.

Held for three hours in a group format three days each week, “Our program can be a little more challenging in the sense that we have a heavy therapeutic piece and a medication piece,” she said. “It’s also evaluating some of the thinking that they’re doing that’s leading to the choices they’re making. Sometimes, in early recovery they’re learning behaviors and to be open and honest with those around them. The goal is to lead to a healthier individual, a healthier family.”

Individual counseling services are included within the group setting. Eicher said the goal is to help a person establish sobriety and keep them sober. To that end, outpatient treatment includes medication assistance using Vivitrol if an opioid dependency is diagnosed.

There’s a collaboration between both medical and behavioral treatment, she said.

Recovery Services has seen an overall increase in opioid addiction over the past several years, and its success rate is about half. Eicher said one reason seems to be that the risk associated with opioid use is more immediate.

“The reality is, when you’re dealing with opiates it’s a highly deadly substance,” she said. “With opiate addiction, it truly can be one use or a series and the person has died. I’m sure those types of cases exist.”

Eicher said the tolerance for opiates quickly diminishes after use has stopped. Should a person begin using again their body no longer tolerates the level of substance they were used to, which can lead to a high risk of overdose and death.

“These are very intense addictions, and addiction is a chronic disease,” she said.

The significance and importance of prevention services can’t be understated, Eicher added. Educating youth to assist them in making good choices is instrumental in the fight against opiates and other forms of drug abuse.

“It’s people taking steps to prevent these issues in their lives and with their families,” she said.


By David J. Coehrs