COLORADO — Fentanyl has taken center stage in Colorado, as the Northern Colorado Drug Task Force (NCDTF) recently reported eight fatal overdoses over a two-week time period due to Fentanyl-laced tablets, Dr. Hunter Kennedy, Executive Director of Footprints to Recovery stated recently.
Fentanyl is 40 to 50 times stronger than street-level heroin and up to 100 times stronger than morphine. It is the most potent member of the opiate family, and Kennedy fears that Colorado is on the verge of experiencing a fentanyl epidemic. His solution is multi-faceted individual treatment offered at his drug and alcohol treatment center in Centennial.
Footprints to Recovery is a nationwide collection of drug and alcohol treatment facilities that also specialize in the treatment of co-occurring mental health disorders. Other centers are located in Illinois and New Jersey.
Statistics furnished by Kennedy show that more than six percent of the American population over the age of 11 misused a prescription drug in 2017, (National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA). The top classes of drugs misused include stimulants, opioids, and central nervous system depressant drugs, such as hypnotics, sedatives, and tranquilizers, NIDA further explains.
Kennedy’s Centennial center offers a variety of program options that address each individual’s specific needs. This integrated and individualized approach to treatment allows clients to begin their recovery with a fully customized treatment plan.
“At Footprints to Recovery we provide personalized care to address substance use and the co-occurrence of mental health,” Kennedy commented last month. “Our care model places an emphasis on the mindful integration of traditional therapy, evidenced-based practice, and complementary approaches which aim to restore the balance and well-being of the whole person — mind, body, brain and spirit.”
After fighting the “drug war” beginning in the 1970s, Kennedy notes, “We didn’t win the war. Doctors and pharmacies created the problem and now they are cracking down on over-prescribing, so people are turning to the streets.”
People come to his clinic, he says, who had no intention of ever becoming addicts. Addiction often is genetic and runs in families, he observed. With a genetically based addiction problem, “The addict has no stop sign — they are not able to put on the brakes.” Use happens more frequently and the body and brain become more and more dependent. As the disease progresses, it actually changes body and brain chemistry.
“The individual gives control to another entity called the addict which feeds the addiction,” Kennedy explained. “Addiction is all it cares about. When the addict is in control it’s not the person making the decisions. How many people are hiding and going through this?”
He described the process many addicts go through in recovery as follows: After one month, they are getting better. After three months they feel better still, but it takes the brain a year at least to heal. Within that year the addict is walking a fine line of danger, and they begin to feel cocky. So they think they can use. It often takes three or four attempts at rehabilitation or more before they understand they can never use drugs again.
Kennedy emphasized the need to start addiction treatment early, before it spirals out of control. The following is taken from his website at https://footprintstorecovery.com/addiction-treatment-locations/colorado/:
“I spent four or five years in private practice doing marriage and family therapy. And the thing I can tell you is that the problem was people always came to me when it was too late. Once you get to the point where you hate each other, it’s going to be really hard to save the marriage where if you come in when you first start having problems, it’s going to be really easy. That’s kind of the story with addiction.
“If you come in early when you are dealing with substance [abuse] and addiction, or if you’re willing to get educated on how this is a progressive disease and how it takes over more and more and more and more of your body, mind and your soul, and that’s what it does. I mean, it is a virus that grows inside of you until it owns you.
“And usually when people hit rock bottom, it’s when that disease has fully taken over and they’ve lost their job and their marriage and their family and their homes, and they’re broke. Their life is just in shambles. And then of course you have to rebuild that.
“And so my plea to people is recognize when you’re having these problems and when you have an addiction. When this is going on, don’t wait until you hit rock bottom, but instead recognize this is where it goes. You can ask any addict, you can ask any alcoholic, you go to a meeting and you’ll find a room full of people that have found that bottom and said, “I’ve got to stop. I’ve got to change this.”
“You can change it — and my advice is change it early and avoid many, many, many of the pains and throes in the agony that you’re going to go through. It’s just a matter of when. So that would be my advice to those people and you can do it — the sooner the better.”
Kennedy also has some unique perspectives on prevention, and this will be covered in part three next week.