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America's Drug Wars
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My 37-year Battle With Opioid Addiction

My name is Michael J. I've spent thirty-seven years using and abusing drugs. As a flower child who came of age in the San Francisco Bay Area in the late sixties, I used all of the psychedelic drugs, LSD, Peyote, Mescaline, etc. In fact, I attended the first "Acid Tests" at the Fillmore Auditorium, when we were all locked inside with the Grateful Dead and a giant tub of LSD. As soon as I first shot heroin around 1972, opioids (narcotics) were the only drugs that interested me. During the following twenty plus years I became a Respiratory Therapist, father of two girls and a husband. I published peer reviewed journal articles in my profession. I joined and became an officer in professional organizations in critical care medicine. And almost all of that time I was using, or searching for or, quitting and starting again on narcotic pain medicine (street drugs were long behind me).

I tried psychotherapy, AA, NA, Buddhism, fundamentalism, and will power without success. I spent a total of almost three years inpatient in 14 treatment centers without long-term success. I just felt too bad and had too much pain when I wasn't on narcotics to maintain sobriety.

Finally, two years ago, after a particularly horrific withdrawal from a 7-month binge on hydrocodone (Vicodin) and morphine, I placed myself back under the treatment of a renowned addiction specialist. He told me that the only way I would survive was to methadone maintenance for the rest of my life. My brain had become so used to opioids that even in a prolonged period of abstinence from them, I would continue to feel so bad, that relapse was inevitable. Since I have a severe allergy to methadone, he placed me on an experimental narcotic agonist\antagonist that is being tested as a substitute for methadone, buprenorphine (Buprenex).

It was a miracle!! I've been taking buprenorphine daily now for two plus years and my life has improved wondrously. I have no drug craving that I can't handle. My severe chronic pain is well controlled by the drug and I have been able to go back to school to study for a new profession as a computer programmer. After one year in school at the age of 52, I am in the top 5% of my class with a 3.88 gpa.

I am an extremely lucky man; I am one of a handful of people in the U.S. who are taking buprenorphine for opioid addiction since it still hasn't gotten final approval by the FDA.

This is in spite of wonderful results in all multi-center trails over the last ten years. Apparently, they would prefer to see narcotic addicts forging prescriptions, robbing drug stores, or over-dosing on heroin rather than make this very safe and effective drug available.

Michael J.
Gainesville, FL

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