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Samantha* describes her addiction to opiates as an “on-and-off love affair” that spanned more than a decade. She pinpoints the origin of her addiction to a Vicodin prescription that was prescribed to ease pain after having her wisdom teeth removed. Subsequent ailments, including a back injury, routinely brought painkillers back into her life. Samantha welcomed them and extended their stay each and every time.
Though the initial prescriptions were legitimate, Samantha took medications more often than required and in larger amounts. She was suffering from depression at the time, and found that the medications intended for her physical ailments helped soothe the emotional ones.
“All I cared about was getting high,” said Samantha. “I could not leave the house without my pills. My heart would race if I thought I had forgotten them.”
At the height of her addiction, Samantha was popping 400 to 500 pills per month. She left work during the middle of the day to pick up prescriptions, and coaxed multiple doctors into prescribing unnecessary pain pills. Each time she tried to stop or cut back, she would suffer from severe physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms.
“It was a vicious cycle,” Samantha revealed. “At the time, everyone thought my depression was to blame. They didn’t suspect that I was addicted to drugs.”
When Samantha contacted Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital, she was in a desperate place. She had been turned away from multiple pharmacies empty handed, was unable to work, lost her car and had completely withdrawn from loved ones.
“When I called Sharp Mesa Vista, I knew I had reached out to the right place,” Samantha said. “I could immediately sense that I was talking to someone who actually cared.”
After meeting with Dr. Fadi Nicolas, a licensed therapist and Sharp Mesa Vista's medical director, Samantha was enrolled in the Opiate Dependence Program. She was coached through detoxification with the aid of a groundbreaking medication called Suboxone, which decreases withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
As soon as Samantha was comfortable, she started therapy sessions within a small group setting. She was counseled regarding how to process and manage the day-to-day stressors that contributed to her drug use, and learned how to integrate recovery into her life.
“The love, the attention, the way they talk to you — helps you understand that you are not a bad person,” said Samantha. “Instead, they help you see yourself as a person who made a bad choice.”
With the support of a sponsor and her treatment team, Samantha gradually returned to work part time, and eventually, full time; all the while receiving support during the transitions. Following approximately two to three months of treatment, Samantha recovered to the point that she could officially “graduate” from the program.
“It meant the world to me. It showed me I could live life without the pills.”
One year later, still sober, Samantha returned to Sharp Mesa Vista to celebrate the anniversary of her “clean date.” Today, she remains drug-free and says she is now living life on her terms.
*The patient’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.
For More Information
Sharp's Opiate Dependence Program is offered at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital. To learn more, please call 858-836-8309.
To learn more about Sharp's mental health services or to find a Sharp-affiliated doctor, search for a San Diego psychiatrist or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm. To find general information about mental health, visit Mental Health Disorders in Adult Health or read the Mental Health News archive.