“I remember fading into black and then coming to with a bunch of people staring down at me,” explained Devon the beautiful young man I was treating for heroin addiction. At 23, Devon appeared to have it all –handsome, smart, charming, and Ivy League educated. But the lovely externals of his life contradicted the horrific internal pain that in his mind, only heroin could banish.
And while naloxone brought him back to life from his overdose, it would never “cure” him of his opioid addiction. The sad truth of the matter is that nothing would completely cure Devon of his disease; it would remain with him throughout his hopefully long and fruitful life, seducing him back to its promise of pure bliss and ecstasy.
Rather than curing Devon, naloxone gave Devon another chance to heal from his disease by learning how to stay away from heroin a second at a time. More than another medical intervention, Devon ultimately needed more time, more courage, more hope, more patience and more capacity to tolerate the pain of life and the piercing discomfort of his emotions. He needed to be desensitized the trauma of his past, learn how to turn down the piercing volume of his present and sidestep his paralyzing fear of the future. In short, he needed a diverse set of tools to enable him to hold and tolerate the fullness of his highly sensitive human existence.
Was naloxone a critically important part of this tool box? Absolutely. It allowed Devon and me to continue working towards his solution, rather than being forever trapped in the finality of his death. Is it a comprehensive cure for an opioid epidemic? Absolutely not. Rather than a cure, naloxone is a critically important agent that delivers men, women and families back to the hope and healing force of the universe where they belong. It gives them another chance to continue walking, however labored and haltingly, towards a life based on freedom rather than enslaved to the darkness of their disease.
Read more from Pro Talk author Paul Hokemeyer, Ph.D.