KNOXVILLE (WATE) – The Knox County Detention Facility unveiled a pilot program earlier this year using a medication that blocks the effects of opioids, the drugs that have their grip on so many in East Tennessee. That same treatment is at work in the community.
A young mother named Jade decided to share her story with the hopes of helping others who may be in the spiral of drug addition. When she spoke with WATE 6 On Your Side, Jade looked like any other mom enjoying a nice day outside with her little girl.
She has worked hard to be able to enjoy simple things with her child: pushing her on a swing, showing her how to care for newborn puppies. Jade only recently regained custody after the Department of Children’s Services removed her toddler and her 5-year old-son from her home.
It was impossible to be both good parent and drug addict.
“For a long time, I wanted to stop and just couldn’t,” Jade said. “I didn’t know how to ask for help, I didn’t know where to go to seek help, but really when DCS got involved in my life is when I decided something had to stop.”
Jade is celebrating 10 months in recovery from a 10-year dependency on opiates. She credits her success in large part to monthly injections of Vivitrol which blocks opioid receptors in the brain.
“It was amazing,” Jade recalls. “Like no cravings. I haven’t had the first craving at all.”
At Westbrook Medical Center in West Knoxville, boxes of the drug are stored for the growing number of people coming in for help.
Brooke Estes is a nurse practitioner at Westbrook. “We’re seeing over a hundred patients a month with the office now and the numbers keep increasing. We see new patients every day,” she said.
Each box of the treatment comes with a clear, saline-based solution. The liquid is drawn into a syringe, then injected into a vial of powdered Vivitrol. It’s mixed, and must be administered to the patient within just a few minutes.
Vivitrol is prescription only. TennCare pays for it, and so do the other major insurance companies. Without insurance, the shot would cost anywhere from $900 to $1,500 a month. There are also cost-cutting programs Westbrook helps its non-insured patients with.
Before a patient can begin Vivitrol, they must have a battery of blood tests – tests for other drugs like amphetamines, marijuana, and cocaine to formulate a treatment plan to help the patient stop using those as well. If the patient is a woman, a pregnancy test is required.
“We cannot give it to them if they’re pregnant, so that’s one of the most important things we look at immediately,” says the onsite manager of drug testing at Westbrook.
Jade says it’s a miracle that she managed to stay clean during her pregnancies, and that she made it through that terrible week of withdrawals before being allowed to start Vivitrol. The whole time, she just kept thinking about her kids.
“If I had my way, I would not have chosen this life for myself and hopefully my kids won’t have to go through this,” Jade said.
While she says Vivitrol is a wonder drug, she says the shot alone isn’t enough, and medical experts agree.
“If you get the shot,” Brooke Estes says, “you’re about 50 percent of the way towards recovery, but you also need counseling to figure out why the addiction started and how we can prevent it from happening again in the future.”
“Its a rough road,” says Jade. “it’s definitely rough. But there is help for anyone who wants it. You have to put in the work or it doesn’t work for you.”
If you or someone you know needs help with opiate or other drug addiction contact:
Westbrook Medical Center
930 Adell Ree Park Lane, Knoxville, TN 37909
If you are pregnant and need help with addiction:
Renaissance Recovery Group
7220 Wellington Drive, Knoxville, TN 37919