Fentanyl-laced drugs, plus COVID-19 affecting addiction treatment in Lubbock

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LUBBOCK, Texas– September is National Recovery Month, but two Lubbock organizations recognize every month as a time to raise awareness and take steps toward recovery. KLBK and EverythingLubbock.com spoke with them on Monday.

Substance Use Disorder in the area has worsened with the increase in fentanyl-laced drugs combined with the impact of COVID-19, said Melissa Silva the Clinical Supervisor for Stages of Recovery Addiction Services and Robin Casey the Executive Director of Aspire Recovery.

“Substance Use Disorder is high in Lubbock,” Silva said. Casey agreed, saying this has always been a problem, but proved to be even deadlier now.

Silva said people mix fentanyl with other street drugs to amplify the euphoria. She noted, “If they are buying pills on the street, they’re being pressed with fentanyl.”

Fentanyl is 800 times stronger than morphine, and about 50 times stronger than heroine, Silva explained.

Casey, who is in recovery, has been sober for 20 years. He said, “Due to COVID, what we’ve seen over the last year [is] an increase.”

An increase, in this case, refers to the amount of relapses they have seen in their programs, as well as more professionals working from home who have developed moderate alcohol and drug problems.

COVID-19 has changed the way people seek treatment, and has created more barriers to access.

“We’re asking addicts and alcoholics to go to meetings and work with their sponsor– put themselves out there– but then COVID came,” Silva stated. “You have to stay indoors, you attend [meetings] online, which triggers that isolation, depression [and] anxiety.”

Silva said all of those reasons could trigger cravings and lead to relapse. She added, some people in recovery have struggled to find privacy, while others can’t find the money to pay for internet to attend the meetings.

“There’s so many contributing factors,” Silva said. For example, she mentioned genetics.

“They tried it for the first time and it stuck with them, [or] that’s how they cope with the trauma,” Silva explained.

Silva shared her personal experiences with having “legitimate pain” that warranted a visit to the ER. Before she knew it, she became addicted to pain pills.

Silva got clean in 2009, but relapsed in 2011.

When she came back from treatment, “A friend told me that if I didn’t do anything different, that I was going to die. And that word die was so profound,” she said.

After her wake-up call, Silva got clean again and has been sober for nearly ten years. She has been pursuing her doctorate’s degree and has two years left.

“For me, that is a freakin’ miracle,” Silva acknowledged, using her story as proof that people who go to treatment can succeed. “There is hope. I believe in recovery that we can offer each other three things: unconditional love, faith and hope.”

Treatments for people struggling with Substance Use Disorder include clinical services, psycho-education, coping skills, life skills, relapse prevention, attending 12-step meetings and working with sponsors.

While barriers exist for accessing treatment, both Silva and Casey said reaching out to local treatment centers can help you get on the track to recovery.

Silva and Casey discussed the stigma of addiction, talking about how necessary it is for our culture to move from a place where addiction is seen as a choice, to a place where it is seen as a disorder needing medical treatment.

To learn more about how ending the stigma of addiction could empower individuals to seek help, and maybe even save their lives, visit shatterproof.org.

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