Addiction Treatment Redefined
Dependency Pain Treatment Centers is finding success with a new method of treating opioid addiction.
Opioid addiction is nothing new — Homer wrote about its effects in The Odyssey and famed author Charles Dickens is among the countless who have struggled with an addiction to the potent poppy flower cultivated by humans since at least 3400 B.C.
In recent years, however, the increase of opioid addiction across America has been staggering.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 2 million Americans currently abuse prescription opioids. One in 10 Americans over the age of 12 has an addiction, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The numbers have hit hard locally, as well. In Orleans Parish alone, there has been a sharp increase in overdose deaths involving opioid users who have turned to street drugs such as heroin. And to date in 2017, there have been more opioid overdose deaths in the city than murders.
According to Dan Forman, president and CEO of Dependency Pain Treatment Centers, opioid addictions come in many different varieties, and they almost always go untreated, especially when it comes to abuse of prescription pain medications, where addicts can include priests, soccer moms and society leaders. In many cases, when an addict does seek treatment (or winds up in the criminal justice system because of actions related to their addiction) they are sent away for months to “detox.”
Unfortunately, said Forman, that system has been a revolving door, with addicts returning from distant treatment centers with the underlying problems of their addictions unaddressed.
Changing the Conversation
At Dependency Pain Treatment Centers, however, Forman said the solution starts with treating addiction as a disease, not a “moral failure.” Combining modern science and technology with the belief that the best way to cure addiction is to heal the individual, DPTC has been fighting the problem of addiction, whether it be to opioids or any other number of drugs (including alcohol), since opening in September 2016.
“First off, 90 percent of people don’t get the care they need,” Forman said. “And then, people are tired of the same old addiction treatments. We’ve come so far in treatments and in science and technology, but we’re still doing things the same old-fashioned way.”
That “old-fashioned” way involves sending addicts to treatment centers where they are isolated from their drug of choice. But when they return to their everyday lives (and to the availability of that substance) many people fall victim to the addiction again and again.
“The traditional way is you’re treated like a failure,” Forman said. “You’ve been given a legal medicine and your doctor said use it this way, now stop. But you can’t, and you’re told that’s your fault…Substance abuse and addiction are two completely different things, and recognizing that is a big difference in what we do.”
Forman said several things keep addicts from seeking help. The No. 1 reason, he said, is the unnecessary social stigma that comes with being addicted to an opioid or other substance, some of which are legally prescribed medicines.
“People worry about cost and they worry about how much time they might have to spend getting well,” he said. “But what other people will think about them is what keeps so many people from getting the treatment they need.”
Forman recalled one such patient — a pastor who was addicted to pain medication. The pastor delayed seeking help for addiction disorder for fear his congregation wouldn’t understand or wouldn’t trust in him anymore.
“People were coming to him for spiritual advice and he felt awful,” Forman said. “We told him he had a disease, and that he wasn’t a moral failure. That changed his entire outlook. He worked at it, and he got well. No one judged him, and he can still help people.”
When he started the center, Forman said the general thought was that pain would be the most common denominator for those that had fallen into addiction.
“What I didn’t anticipate is that it’s not pain, it’s unresolved trauma,” he said. “A lot of times people can develop physical pain as a result of unresolved trauma, so that is what we spend a good amount time treating.” Dependency Pain Treatment Centers employ a staff of counselors with special training in addiction, trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder.
Forman said all kinds of people seek freedom from addiction at Dependency Pain Treatment Centers — doctors, business professionals, civic leaders, religious leaders.
“We want to be barrier removal specialists,” Forman said. “People come in and think they’re not like everyone else. But they are, and we all can help one another.”
At DPTC, doctors and other medical professionals are using a three-pronged approach to stopping addiction.
The first prong is DPTC’s use of “time commitment technology” via a proprietary app that enables patients to be in contact with clinicians at all times without having to physically be at the treatment center.
To make sure all those in the program are staying free of the substances to which they are addicted, and are properly using medicines prescribed to them by staff psychiatrists to help transition from addiction to sobriety, DPTC conducts frequent urine tests on clients. They can also perform genetic tests to determine if underlying physiological problems have contributed to addiction.
Finally, each patient is presented with an iPad on which they perform cognitive skills testing on a regular basis. Once establishing a baseline, patients can chart how their brain function improves without using opioids, for instance. Having a visual representation of progress is vital to a patient, Forman said, because he or she can track their way toward freedom from addiction.
“If you say your pain scale is a 10, but then you see a picture of what a 10 really is, maybe you change your mind and say you’re more like a 5,” he said. “It’s a matter of changing perspective, and it works.”
DPTC’s methods are proving successful, said Forman, who reports that 80 percent of patients who visit one of their area facilities for the first time return to continue their work toward sobriety. He said removing the stigma of addiction, as well as reducing the time commitment and cost of treatment, is also key to the company’s success rate.
“These are discreet doctors’ visits,” he said. “Because of that, we can get people in sometimes during the early stages of addiction, so maybe they haven’t hit bottom. The patient visits one time a week for 90 minutes, and then it’s one time a week for 60 minutes. You’re going to have a doctor and a social worker assigned to you individually. We’re going to work together to give you a plan to wellness.
“You can come as often as you like,” he added, “and we can refer you to more intensive programs for (additional) assistance if necessary.”
DPTC accepts insurance, and each of the company’s four locations (Marrero, Kenner, Metairie and Uptown New Orleans) can see 15 patients a day; however, Forman sees that capability expanding as more people learn about the effectiveness of his organization’s treatment methods.
“We are redefining what mainstream is,” he said. “We are coming together to fight a war; not on drugs, but a war on addiction…This is us fighting back.”
For more information on Dependency Pain Treatment Centers, visit dependencypain.com or call (504) 535-7212.
The Cost of Opioid Dependency in the Workplace
annual cost of prescription opioid abuse to employers alone
(Source: Oxford Academic, 2007)
spent on opioids by workers compensation insurers in 2015
A Familiar Voice
A few years ago, if you heard a commercial for Townsend Treatment Centers on the radio, you were listening to the voice of Dan Forman, president and CEO of Dependency Pain Treatment Centers.
“I was part of the leadership team of Townsend and was the public voice of the organization,” he said.
Late in 2015, Townsend was sold to AAC Holdings, based out of Tennessee, for a mix of cash and stock valued at $21.25 million.
We’re No. 2
Louisiana is second in the country for most opioid prescriptions written for worker’s comp claims, with 87 percent of claims resulting in at least one opioid prescription. Alabama is slightly higher at 88 percent of claims.
Source: Workers Compensation Research Institute: Interstate Variations In Use Of Narcotics, 2nd Edition (May 2014)
Heroin Use Has INCREASED Among Most Demographic Groups (rate per 1,000 people)
Overdose Deaths Involving Opioids, by Type of Opioid, United States, 2000-2015
SOURCE: CDC/NCHS, National Vital Statistics System, Mortality. CDC WONDER, Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2016. wonder.cdc.gov