Leigh Ann Jones began her journey into addiction when she was 13. Her journey ended more than 25 years later at the Center for Addiction Services and Treatment in the UAMS Psychiatric Research Institute.
“I haven’t thought of using anything since going to the center,” Jones said. “My life has gotten unbelievably better. I got my driver’s license back. I’m working, and I’m just a different person than who I was.”
Although she also was alcohol dependent, her substance abuse began with opiates — oxycontin, Percocet and hydrocodone. She is not alone.
“Probably the biggest problem right now is addiction to prescription drugs and abuse of them,” said Michael Mancino, M.D., program director of the Center for Addiction Services and Treatment.
I haven’t thought of using anything since going to the center. My life has gotten unbelievably better.Leigh Ann Jones
He said the most common addictions the center sees are for opiates, then stimulants like methamphetamine and finally, benzodiazepines. Prescription drug abuse is most common in rural states like Arkansas. The center now has about 200 patients in treatment.
Jones, who also has bipolar disorder, came to the institute seeking treatment for depression. She had sought treatment for it before but never told anyone about her substance abuse. This time she was at her lowest point, and finally told a clinician, who suggested she try methadone.
“I didn’t think it would work, but it did,” Jones said. “Suddenly, I wasn’t craving it. Before the treatment, every day I would wake up thinking about how I would get high that day. Those feelings were gone. It was amazing.”
About 10 percent of the general population has problems with an addiction. There is no common psychological trauma or set of psychological causes underlying addiction, Mancino said.
“For whatever reason, that 10 percent has a different response when they put alcohol or methamphetamine or cocaine or opiates into their brain and that leads them often to have a very positive experience,” he said. “When they have that experience, they want to use it again. Before they know it, they look up, and they’re addicted to the substance.”
Typically, an addicted person fears withdrawal should they cease using. They want help with that first and usually have only a slight interest in counseling. Counseling however is a much bigger part of the therapy that the center provides.
Under an older model of treatment, some facilities treated chemical dependence, and other facilities provided counseling services, but the center does both in parallel, Mancino said.
“The methadone took away the withdrawal and cravings, but I wouldn’t have stayed clean without the counseling and support groups,” Jones said. “The counseling is so important. You are so weak at the beginning, and they help you through it.”
Jones also attends support groups outside the center and now sponsors a younger woman who is struggling with addiction.
The center also prescribes Suboxone to patients addicted to opiates. Because of federal drug laws and controls, methadone patients must pick up their doses daily, but they are allowed to have a month’s supply of Suboxone.
The center has many success stories. Jones’ story isn’t unique, but it’s special to her.
“I was ready,” she said. “I was ready to know my children. I’m 42, and now my kids and I don’t go a day without seeing each other. I could talk about it for forever.”