I am not a unicorn

3508516524_aafd54c476The NY Post just published an article about Jennifer Matesa and her recovery.

She just published a post addressing a very important omission:

The biggest thing that didn’t make it in is my main reason for talking to thePost. (I mean, the Post is famous for Page Six, right? but if it had been the New York Times or Pro Publica or the Kalamazoo Gazette, my motive would have been the same.)

I talked to this reporter because there are other reporters out there saying that once you’re addicted to opioids, you may as well resign yourself to taking drugs for the rest of your life.

I am, however, not a unicorn. I know so many people, including many many women, who no longer cop heroin or snort Oxy. And they don’t take methadone or Suboxone, either.

photo credit: Jeff Tabaco
photo credit: Jeff Tabaco

But in some public health circles, it is said that there is no “proof” that we can actually do this. Nobody has “proven” that abstinence from opioids is possible—that human beings can choose to live drug-free, and actually Do That.

There does exist, however, some evidence that people who are addicted to painkillers or heroin stay off street drugs and stop injecting if they take other opioids. (A lot of the research is driven by the desire to find a way to control the spread of HIV infection through needles.) So indefinite maintenance with these drugs—possibly for a lifetime—is now touted as the “evidence-based standard of treatment” for illnesses like the one I have, no matter what your circumstances.

This isn’t about evangelizing.

This isn’t about there being “one true way”.

This is about a truth (not the truth) being denied/ignored under the cover of phony objectivity.


3 thoughts on “I am not a unicorn

  1. Jason, I have found you, usually, a stickler for identifying sources, yet, your own post talks about some people somewhere that are saying that there is no way to get off opiates except via suboxone. I am paraphrasing, so please forgive me if I missed a bit there.
    As an advocate, for the inclusion of medication assisted treatment, including buprenorphine (don’t like to use that other compound), I am, also, an advocate for abstinence based medication assisted treatment. We have been doing it for as long as I’ve been in recovery and I just celebrated 35 years without a drink or anything that gets me high. All of us are unicorns, because, the majority of those with this disease end of dead of in prison. Remember that old adage: jails, institutions or death. Well, not a lo
    t of folks are dying of marijuana, hallucinogens, cocaine or meth, when we compare the statistics to opiates, alcohol, tobacco and benzodiazepines. Especially, in combination.
    It isn’t that opiate addicts can’t get clean and sober, they just have a really dismal rate of retention in recovery, relapse and mortality. They, also, tend to die young, too, so it leaves so much collateral damage in families that will never be the same again. Other countries, like France, have been using bupe for years, and, sophisticated- non-pharma studies indicate somewhere around an 82% recovery rate. Is there a bigger chip to get if we obtain our recovery the hard way. I did that, coming off of 80 mgs. of valium in 1980 and it was the worst year of my life. Knowing how many times and how close I came to relapsing, the panic attacks, hallucinations and inability to concentrate or sleep, left me in a state of dysphoria that responded only to hours in the gym and hanging around people in recovery from alcohol, until they couldn’t stand my incessant whining about my fear that my brain was broken. It was luck, God, my fellows and a doctor who explained benzo withdrawals that got me through. We, all , need to be able to be exposed to all of the ways that we can save and enhance the quality of our lives. The individual needs to choose, not the treatment program or sponsor or some other expert in addictions. Otherwise, we won’t be working OUR OWN PROGRAM. Thank again for your thoughts and I think that I’m going to put some cones on my horses heads to remind me how grateful I am that recovery is the foundation of my life.


  2. You’re asking me to provide a source for Jennifer Matesa’s post on her personal experience that did not pretend to be reporting or scholarly writing?

    I don’t know who she might have had in mind. However, your average reader of Maia Szalavitz (Time, Vice, HuffPo, Pacific Standard, New Scientist, NY Times, Washington Post), Mark Willenbring (former NIAAA Director of the Institute’s Division of Treatment and Recovery Researc) or Jason Cherkis (HuffPo) would walk away thinking that methadone and suboxone are the only evidence-based and only responsible approaches to opioid addiction.

    Can you shared your source for the 82% recovery rate in France?


    1. I’ll have to dig, as it is from 1994, thus, was old when I first found it but it is around somewhere on the net. I don’t really care about who your sources are, only, that it seemed vague for your writing style. The real essence is that I would agree with you since, I believe that patient centered care mandates that the patient should be given a fair and unbiased evaluation of the pluses and minuses of different modalities and allowed to choose. If that doesn’t work, than the treatment plan, can always, be revised for any new information or experience. I am, equally, against so called “abstinence only” programs that will only discuss and/or allow patients to use that belief structure. What gives a judge, in a drug court, the right to refuse to allow program participants to be on buprenorphine or anything else that their physician believes will enhance their chances of staying off of opiates. The same is true for nurse diversion programs and a bevy of other social systems that may be facing changes in future funding if they insist on acting like doctors.
      I think that we agree, that patients should have the right to choose their treatment. It is their life as long as they are adhering to the mandates to remain free of full agonists.


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