Michele talks about her battles with substance abuse and her efforts to recover in the Odyssey House residential program on Wednesday, January 9, 2019. (Photo by Michael DeMocker, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
‘HELL ON EARTH’
Although medical detox is not necessary for all substance abuse issues, it is vital for patients battling opioid or alcohol withdrawal, for whom symptoms can come on quickly and are potentially deadly.
When Michele Vinetti, 50, was withdrawing from suboxone, a medicine used to reduce symptoms of opiate addiction and withdrawal, she began feeling symptoms four days later. Suboxone withdrawal can last a month and cause nausea, muscle aches and headaches.
“It was hell on Earth,” she said. “I was nauseous, I couldn’t sleep for four days.”
She checked in at Odyssey House on Jan. 2. A couple weeks later she was still detoxing, and doctors were slowly putting her back on psychiatric medication to treat bipolar disorder, she said.
Vinetti has relapsed 17 times and even so, this was the only place in New Orleans where she knew she could get help.
Experts say that having access to this first vital step in treating substance abuse is essential, in order to get patients immediately connected to long-term treatment options.
“Without quick access to medical detox, it is easier for patients to fall out of the system and not seek out help,” said Arvin Singh, chief operating officer at Odyssey House, which like a handful of other organizations in recent years has tried to address the need by opening up more detox beds.