At least 12 people have died since the beginning of the year in the Sioux Falls area from overdose. Nearly four dozen more people overdosed and lived.
Many were saved by Narcan. Many street drugs are laced with the deadly synthetic opioid, fentanyl. Treating people for opioids and other addictions is more vital than ever, in order to save lives.
There are a few different kinds of medication used to treat opioid addiction, and they aren’t without controversy. However, medically assisted treatment has shown the highest success rate, long term, to keep people in recovery. 30-year-old Megan Eichacker says Suboxone is just one tool that has helped her stay in recovery.
Megan Eichacker grew up on a farm in McCook County. She never imagined that she would end up addicted to heroin, living out of her car. It started with opioid pills at the age of 22.
“There were a couple of friends who were using them and I just tried it and I fell in love with how it made me feel,” Eichacker said.
Eventually the pills were too hard to get and too expensive and she turned to smoking heroin.
“It changes the way you think. Your brain would be telling you, you have to have this.”Megan Eichaker, in recovery for opioid use disorder
In her late 20’s after three stints in treatment centers, she was living on the streets.
“Everyday it was a challenge as to how you’re going to find drugs, where you’re going to sleep and how you’re going to just live. It’s like a struggle every day and it wears you down completely.”
Eventually her doctor suggested she try Suboxone, which is the combination of two different drugs, which reduces cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
“Essentially it takes away all that craving, It kind of normalizes behavior, it also kind of normalizes too how your brain works to a large extent. It is a life saving tool.”Addiction Psychiatrist, Dr. Vivek Anand, of Avera Medical Group, on medically assisted treatment
“If you actually are ready to stop using heroin and opiates, or oxy, or whatever you’re using–it works. If you take it as prescribed and you take it long term, you’ll see differences,” Eichaker said.
Eichacker took it throughout her pregnancy with her now 8-month-old daughter Jade, under close medical supervision.
“This is needed, just like insulin is for diabetes, I believe,” she said.
However, it’s not just Suboxone that has helped Eichacker stay off heroin.
“I believe that God has changed me completely. Only he can do that. I couldn’t do it myself. He did that for me.
And her daughter is her inspiration to stay in recovery.
“She is my miracle and she is the reason I am sober today, she saved my life.”
Suboxone can potentially be abused. Dr. Anand says anyone who prescribes it should be only giving a small amount at a time and should ask patients to bring in their medication to be counted during regular visits, as well as include random drug testing, to make sure it is being used as prescribed. Eichacker is currently being weaned off Suboxone after 18 months on it, by her doctor.