Medically Assisted Addiction Treatment

Is Medically Assisted Treatment Right for Me?

While Discovery Place cannot answer that question for you, we would like to share some information that may help you answer that question for yourself. Our Executive Director, Thomas McCollum has 10 years of personal experience with medically assisted treatment. Here’s his story:

I started drinking and smoking pot at 13, doing hallucinogens by 16 and by 18 I was doing cocaine. In my own mind I was still “partying”, and quite frankly still having a good time. I’d like to add that while I was having a good time, my family was highly concerned from the beginning. 

In my early 20s I became addicted to prescription painkillers like Lortab, Percocet, and eventually OxyContin. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but by the time I was 24 years old I was completely addicted. 

I finally got tired of waking up dope sick, constantly being broke, and trying to keep up with all my lies. At that point I was highly motivated to get off opiates, so I entered my first methadone clinic. It seemed like a good plan…get on methadone, taper off, ride off into the sunset free of opiate addiction. But I had a much different experience.

Entering the Methadone Clinic: Hopes vs Realities

I was on 80 milligrams in the beginning, and did manage to stay away from other opiates for a time. I did however continue to drink and smoke pot excessively, and I also soon realized that methamphetamine really helped with the “nodding off” that methadone causes. 

If you’re wondering if I was drug tested at the clinic, yes I was. Testing positive for pot wasn’t a deal breaker, alcohol gets out of your system pretty quickly, and cocaine/meth is out in a few days. Please remember, I am an addict. We can be pretty resourceful when we have to be. If I couldn’t pass a drug screen, I simply asked someone at the clinic for some of their urine, which was commonplace. Non-addicts may have a hard time understanding this, but addicts know that a once a week random drug screen is easy to get around. If I were to test positive, I simply would tell my sob story, pull on the heartstrings of the “counselors” there, and make sure I had my weekly payment of 100 dollars.

This went on for about a year, and being legitimately motivated to get off opiates, I worked my way down to 5 milligrams a day. At that point it seemed silly to continue to pay the same 100 dollars a week for such a small amount of methadone, so I told the counselors I was “ready.” I took my last dose at the clinic, and looking back, knew I wasn’t truly “done.” I had been drinking, smoking pot, doing meth, cocaine, etc. the entire time I was there. 

A day or two after leaving the clinic, I began to experience withdrawal symptoms…I was dope sick. Still motivated to not get wrapped up in the cycle again, my best thinking told me to take a couple of Lortabs, nothing heavy, to help with the methadone withdrawal. And so the cycle starts over, and sadly lasts for ten more years.

Another Attempt At Recovery with Suboxone

I went back to the same clinic somewhere around a year later – it’s a little hazy, as most of those years are. This time I was going to try suboxone, which in drug circles was talked about more like “methadone light.” They gave me my pill, it dissolved under my tongue and in no time I went from making sure everyone in the waiting room knew how sick I was, to feeling full of energy and ready to go grab life by the horns. 

Sadly, the same behavior continued for me throughout my time there: still using other drugs, drinking daily and skipping doses so I could get high. I’d also sell or trade my “subs” for more Oxy, which had become my drug of choice.

Escalation to Harder Drugs

I can’t really tell you for sure how many times over the next few years I was in and out of these clinics, because as I said before, it’s all very hazy. I can tell you by the time I was 29, I was injecting Oxy, and a short time later heroin, into my veins. The cycle didn’t just continue, it got progressively worse. I was constantly sick, and getting more and more miserable. I’d go back to the clinic, try to do better, and start it all over. 

Reflecting On My MAT Experience

It may sound like I’m blaming the clinic for my behavior, I assure you I’m not. Maybe it’s what I needed, but again maybe had I known another way out I could’ve saved myself that last ten years of hell. Not everyone who uses Medically Assisted Treatment has this experience, and I certainly don’t have any right to judge anyone. This is my experience. I do know, for a fact, that I’m far from the only one who’s had this kind of experience with M.A.T.

Is it the clinic’s fault? Is it the medication’s fault? I don’t know that it’s anyone’s “fault” – I just know that I’m eternally grateful to not be sick this morning, to not have to stand in line to wait for my dose. I get a knot in my throat when I think of the pregnant women standing in line beside me, trying to hide their guilt and shame. I’ve personally known children born addicted to methadone and suboxone, and have had to go through withdrawal symptoms a day after being born. Many of these children show signs of learning and behavioral issues.

My story isn’t meant to be distasteful, or shocking. It’s my experience. Anyone whose life has improved as a result of M.A.T., I’m happy for you. Legitimately. But, to those whose experience is like mine, please know there’s a way out. There’s a life out there beyond anything you could imagine. I’m living proof of that. I’ve been completely sober for over 9 years now, one day at a time.

My Path To Sobriety

It started with a medical detox, and then I came to Discovery Place. At Discovery Place, I found men that were as desperate, unhappy, and tired as I was, but had found a way out. They were now smiling, laughing, and had developed relationships with friends and family. Seeing this modeled by men who had walked in my shoes made all the difference in my life. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, know you’re not alone. Contact Discovery Place 24/7 and talk about your options with someone who knows first-hand what you’re going through. 

Speak with someone who understands

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