POSTED ON DECEMBER 5, 2012:
Program aims to aid addicts
Clients can keep jobs while getting assistance
The CDIOP Opiate Program at Parkside Psychiatric Hospital, 1228 S. Trenton Ave., aims to help people addicted to prescription painkillers such as Xanax, OxyContin, and Vicodin, as well as more serious opiates like heroin.
Parkside has been a mainstay in Tulsa since 1959. It is the only local psychiatric hospital that provides inpatient services for both adults and young children. It operates a food pantry and provides clothing for patients in need. It houses an inpatient detox program while helping patients afford the medications they do need.
And in July it started the CDIOP in order to meet a desperate need in the community -- helping those addicted to opiates.
Amanda Spriggs, who leads the CDIOP, started at Parkside when the program was created. The Northeastern State University-trained psychologist facilitates meetings for opiate addicts, who are able to discuss their problems and learn coping skills, all while continuing to live in their own homes and keep their jobs. The outpatient program allows clients to get help without completly uprooting their lives.
According to Spriggs, people in Oklahoma use prescriptions for non-medical use at a higher rate than any other state in the country. She explained that one Okie in 12 currently struggles with this problem. The problem "has definitely gotten worse" over the last few years, she said.
About half of Spriggs' clients begin their addiction innocently. "A lot of people go to their doctors to treat legitimate pain and then they abuse," she said. After they get addicted, they may buy prescription medications on the street or graduate to heroin or stronger drugs.
Spriggs said some patients go in the opposite direction, starting with heroin and then moving to prescription drugs because they are cheaper and easier to obtain. "Prescription meds are a problem because people think, 'I'm getting it from a doctor. Or I could be,'" she said.
Mixing medications only makes the problem worse. "There are a huge number of unintended deaths because of mixing meds," said Eric Sachau, development director at Parkside.
The CDIOP is an intensive program for individuals struggling with these addictions. Clients meet for most of the afternoon, three days a week for six weeks. In addition, they are expected to go to a 12-step program like Narcotics Anonymous. "They are encouraged to go to support groups," Sachau said.
Unlike a traditional support group for people struggling with addictions, the CDIOP consists of directed meetings in which Spriggs teaches clients ways to go through their daily lives without drugs. "I come with an idea or skill to present," she said. "Anything they need to process ... for relapse prevention, anger management, things like that."
Spriggs' clients come from all walks of life. "Some come by court order, some from [Parkside's] detox [program]," Spriggs said. Employers may refer others. Importantly, some clients realize they have a problem and are able to get a referral from their insurance.
A major advantage of the program is its outpatient nature, allowing patients to keep their jobs and stay with their families or other support networks. "It's a lot easier to get an employer to work around meetings three days a week than to go to an inpatient facility for 25 days," Sachau said.
As a brand new program, CDIOP has only served about 15-20 clients so far. The group has a capacity of eight, but enrollment has sagged over the past few months. "I would love to see it full" over the next year or two, Spriggs said.
"If demand is there, we'll start a second group," Sachau said.
Coordinators in any substance abuse program expect a fair number of relapses, and Spriggs is no exception. The 15 or 20 she has served so far include dropouts. As CDIOP grows, she would like to see more people complete the full six weeks. "We provide tools to improve their family life, work life, whatever the case may be," she said.
Another problem that must be watched is the possibility that addicts may get off opiates only to change their drug of choice. "Alcohol is a huge one ... it's a whole other spiral," Spriggs said.
There is reason to be optimistic, however. Part of Spriggs' job is to encourage clients to cultivate a support network in the community. The existence of the CDIOP is a first step for people struggling with addictions that they may not have been able to talk about before.
Cultivating a network is a two-way street. The broader community must be able to support addicts as they recover. "Greater knowledge [of the CDIOP] for the community is important, she said.
"Most people [with opiate addiction] have suffered for years. I want to get the word out," Sachau said.
While opiate addiction is an ongoing struggle even after leaving the program, CDIOP offers a chance for a return to normalcy that a client may not have had for years.
People struggling with opiate addictions and want more information may contact the program at 918-588-8888.
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