Utah doctor’s opioid-addiction recovery program aims to save lives

Utah doctor’s opioid-addiction program aims to save lives (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) — Doctors at a Salt Lake City clinic are trying to save lives by educating the public about programs to help get people off opioids.

The team at Equilibrium Healthcare is developing a multi-prong approach to battling opioid-dependency. The program involves a mix between out-patient therapy and medication like Suboxone or Vivitrol.

“It locks onto receptors and decreases withdrawal symptoms and decreases people’s cravings without causing any of the euphoria,” Dr. Amy De La Garza, founder of Equilibrium said. “It decreases withdrawal symptoms so people don’t have the drive to go out and use so they won’t feel sick and it also helps people not crave using opioids.”

De La Garza developed the clinic with her partner, Jonathan Bone, a year and a half ago. She is a member of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

Last year, the nationally recognized medical organization started Treatment Gap Awareness Week, which occurs annually the last seven days of April.

“I think a lot of people miss out on treatment because they don’t know there is an option like this,” De La Garza said .

Her patient, Suzanne Severini, has been using Suboxone for ten years.

“I’m a productive professional. A good mother, a good wife, a good friend, a good sponsor. None of that could happen in my life on a consistent basis until I was able to get into this program,” Severini said.

De La Garza said she sees lots of patients like Severini get hooked on painkillers after legitimate medical issues. She said it’s often difficult for them to seek treatment because they cannot afford time or money for intensive in-patient treatment, which is commonplace.

For a lot of people who have families and children and jobs, it’s really hard to disengage from your life for an extended period of time, and so I think a lot of people just don’t access it. You get out of residential and you’re sort of dropped back into your normal world with all of the triggers and stressors that helped get you there in the first place, but you haven’t had any practice in how to apply those things you’ve learned,” she said. “If you can’t totally disengage from your life, stop going to your job and taking care of your family, you don’t access treatment for a long period of time, that disease just perpetuates itself.”

Both women agreed treatments like Suboxone have had a bad reputation in the past due to misuse, but it is a viable and effective treatment option for many opioid-dependent patients.

“We need to change the conversation and the paradigm about what’s around and surrounds suboxone.”

Utah has the seventh highest rate of opioid-related deaths. Only one in ten addicts will seek treatment. De La Garza said Suboxone therapy helps increase the rate of recovery by 50 percent.

You can find out more about the program at Equilibriumclinicslc.com/.

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