Welcome to Sheridan Memorial Hospital
1401 West 5th St. Sheridan, WY — 307.672.1000

Understanding Addiction and Recovery– Seeking Treatment is the First Step


By Jason Ackerman, MD – Sheridan Memorial Hospital Addiction and Internal Medicine Clinic

September is National Recovery Month.  I hope this column is helpful to you in understanding addiction and recovery.

Mr. B is a polite, quiet carpenter with a slow southern drawl. The work he does is intricate and precise, his services are in such demand that he can barely take days off and is considering expanding his company. He and his wife are looking toward buying their first home soon. But, he is quite certain he would not be here without a life-saving medication that helped him overcome his addiction.

He moved to Sheridan 5 years ago. He had been using various drugs since he was 13, and that had become a way of life for him. Prescription opioids were his drug of choice, but he would use heroin and methamphetamines or anything else he could find. A brief stint in prison was not enough to stop using. But his wife had also struggled with substance use and had moved to Sheridan to be with family. She managed to get sober with the help of a medication called buprenorphine; she had done so well that he decided to follow her and see if he could get things turned around.

After the first week of buprenorphine treatment, he had completely stopped using opiates. He had no cravings, no desire to use them. Within the first year, he had also stopped using marijuana and even kicked his cigarette habit. The substances that had been his way of life for nearly 20 years were now a thing of the past. Triggers that would have previously sent him spiraling were dealt with, coped with, and forgotten. He went from barely holding down jobs to starting his own company.

Buprenorphine is a medication used to treat opioid use disorder (OUD). It eliminates withdrawal symptoms for patients who are coming off of drugs. By binding to the same opioid receptors in the brain that are targeted by opioids like oxycodone and heroin and fentanyl, buprenorphine can also reduce or eliminate cravings. This allows patients with OUD to stop using the drugs that have come to rule their lives.

Our medical understanding of addictions and substance use disorders has come a long way in the last 10 years or so. Fortunately, with the increased knowledge and understanding of the disease process of addiction, more treatments are emerging. Unfortunately, not everybody has access to or is offered treatment. In the current fentanyl epidemic, there have been measures enacted and pushes to make treatment more understood and available at nearly every level. Unfortunately, overdose deaths across the country continue to climb.

While addiction is a terrible, destructive disease, many afflicted people are too ashamed to seek treatment. Others aren’t aware that there are medications that can help them in recovery. And others are contemplating making the change but waiting for a nudge in the right direction. For people suffering from addiction, whether it is opioids or alcohol, or even stimulants like methamphetamine, the first step in recovery can be making an appointment with a trusted doctor and asking about available treatments.

To learn more about the Addiction and Internal Medicine Clinic at
Sheridan Memorial Hospital, click on the link or
call 307.675.2674.