Special Agent Brad Dunlap of the Lake Winnebago Area Metropolitan Enforcement Group describes heroin as “far more addictive” than other drugs like cocaine.
A first-time user can quickly spiral into drug abuse and will likely begin trafficking to support the expensive habit, which only expands the opiate’s reach, especially in small cities like Fond du Lac, he said.
According to Dunlap, Mexican street gangs transport heroin across the border and into Chicago, where it is then taken to Milwaukee or directly to the Lake Winnebago area. It is no secret that Fond du Lac County has been touched by the drug trafficking activities.
Since 2011, 13 deaths related to heroin overdose have occurred in Fond du Lac County, according to the Fond du Lac County medical examiner.
Moreover, Dunlap said his experience would suggest an increase in heroin-related arrests, seizures and overdoses in Fond du Lac County and the Lake Winnebago area since 2010.
However, what if a heroin addict wants to escape the cycle?
The Reporter examined various local resources to find out where individuals struggling with an addiction or grappling with the symptoms of withdrawal can find support and which places should not be an addict’s first stop.
Emergency rooms not best option
An individual’s first instinct may be to seek refuge in an emergency room when withdrawal symptoms become unbearable, but most hospitals will not admit a person for withdrawal symptoms alone, according to Amy Johannes, clinical supervisor of addiction services at Agnesian HealthCare in Fond du Lac.
When individuals experiencing withdrawal symptoms come to the Emergency Department of St. Agnes Hospital, Johannes says their medical needs will be assessed by providers, and if necessary, they would be admitted to a medical floor and possibly to inpatient behavioral health services.
“However, this most often is not the case,” Johannes said. “Although uncomfortable, opioid withdrawal is not typically life-threatening in otherwise healthy individuals. Our physicians can work with patients to manage their symptoms, but this generally does not require an inpatient visit.”
Instead of detoxing alone and turning to emergency rooms when symptoms prove unmanageable, Johannes suggests individuals inform their primary physicians of their decision to quit. It is possible the doctors could recommend medications to lessen the severity of symptoms.
Johannes says recovering addicts should try to find solace in the fact that severe withdrawal symptoms only last seven to 10 days with subtle symptoms remaining for several months.
During this time, she encourages individuals to treat themselves as if recovering from a severe flu.
Johannes says it is important to sleep 10-14 hours a day, stay hydrated with at least 64 ounces of water per day and electrolyte-rich drinks, avoid unhealthy foods and reach out to family and friends for assistance with sticking to these habits to minimize the risk of dehydration and possibly lessen the severity of symptoms.
Agnesian HealthCare next day services
For individuals looking for additional support during the recovery process, Johannes says they would be best served in Agnesian HealthCare’s outpatient resources.
Agnesian HealthCare Behavioral Health Services can offer next-day heroin assessments for patients who arrive in the Emergency Department experiencing withdrawal.
There is no wait list for initial assessments or the Day Treatment program.
“After the initial assessment, in most cases, they can receive assistance through our Day Treatment services,” Johannes said. “They attend treatment every day, and then go home in the evening.”
In addition to advice and support for recovering addicts, a few programs available through Agnesian HealthCare’s outpatient treatment include a relapse prevention group and family counseling.
For individuals who are still grappling with a severe addiction, Agnesian also offers inpatient services where individuals can escape their environments for a while and focus entirely on recovery.
Individuals can be considered for inpatient treatment when their needs cannot be adequately met by outpatient services.
In the program, addictionologists, behavioral health nurses and psychiatric support are available to help create a plan for recovery based on an addict’s specific needs, which may include medication education, group therapy, counseling sessions and therapeutic activity therapy.
Johannes says one’s financial situation should not deter an individual from exploring options at Agnesian HealthCare.
“While Agnesian HealthCare accepts most forms of insurance, we encourage individuals to check with their insurance plan or state Medicaid, Forward Health or CHIP program to see what services are covered,” Johannes said. “At the individual’s initial consultation, it is best to make the counselor aware of any financial concerns.”
Narcotics Anonymous groups
In the case that a heroin addict is unable to receive his or her desired treatment because of inadequate insurance coverage or is simply looking for additional support on the road to recovery, free Narcotics Anonymous (NA) groups are available throughout Fond du Lac County.
A recovering heroin addict from a local NA group, who would prefer to withhold his identity, says there are no facilitators or counselors at the meetings.
Every week, an individual who has abstained from drug use for a certain period of time may volunteer to lead the discussion, but the member says the meetings are meant to offer individuals with similar struggles the chance to “support one another and hold each other accountable.”
“No one understands me like another addict or alcoholic understands me,” said the NA member. “When it comes down to it, it is all about recovery, whether it’s heroin or something else. Once you get past pride in your substance, you realize it’s all the same problem.”
The NA member has abstained from heroin for nearly three years. Like Johannes, he makes it clear that withdrawal symptoms do eventually pass, and for him, meetings helped take his mind off symptoms and allowed him to speak with individuals who had already gone through the process.
“However, a group can only do so much; it’s a program helping those who want it, not people who need it. If it was for those who need it, the people on the street would be inside and taking part in our group,” the NA member said. “Sometimes you just have to keep showing up for a while until you realize that you want it.”
Nevertheless, the NA member says an individual’s stage of recovery should not deter him or her from attending meetings and sharing with the group.
“NA only has one requirement: the desire to stop using,” the NA member said. “Even if someone isn’t in recovery yet, we would like them to come.”
According to NA.org, NA meetings are not classes or group therapy sessions; members simply share their personal experiences with addiction and recovery, including what has worked for them and what has been ineffective.
Meetings are often held in churches, treatment centers or other facilities because of the availability of such places, but NA is not connected to any institution.
The NA member said there is no “cross talk” during meetings, which means one member cannot admonish another. Rather, the group members speak about their own experiences and indirectly provide advice and support for others through sharing their own mistakes and what tactics worked well for them in recovery.
According to the member, the signature NA 12-step program is a “perfect guideline for life” and is founded on the principles of honesty, open-mindedness and willingness.
“The program introduces you to a higher power, whether it is God, Buddha or the group as a whole,” the NA member said. “For addicts, you have to be living for something bigger than yourself, and it can’t be a kid or a relationship because a lot of addicts have those things and still don’t change. The program helps you rediscover your spirituality, whatever that means for you.”
The NA member said he found inspiration within the group. For him, the friendships and support are irreplaceable, especially after leaving his old relationships and lifestyle to embark on the road to recovery.
“It’s a simple program for complicated people,” the NA member said. Article Link…