Battling opioid addiction through medicine and faith

Prisma Health opens new Addiction Medicine Center
Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 7:57 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - The opioid epidemic has wreaked havoc across the nation and here at home in South Carolina. The number of people overdosing from prescription and synthetic drug abuse is steadily increasing.

Prisma Health has opened a new Addiction Medicine Center to expand clinical services.

Drug addiction has been described as a chronic brain disease.

“It’s characterized by compulsive seeking and usage of drugs despite adverse or bad consequences,” said Dr. Alain Litwin, executive director for addiction center. “It’s not a moral failing, it’s not a judgement issue. It’s a disease like hypertension or asthma or cancer; and it’s treatable like those diseases.”

Many people who battle opioid addiction struggle with the dependency.

“It may start out as fun when using drugs and you’re getting high, but quickly, it turns into more of a way of life and feeling normal. You’re no longer getting high when using heroin, you’re just able to function; get of bed, do your work,” Dr. Litwin explained.

“It was all I cared about. All. Nothing else mattered, I worked in order to get drug money,” said Ashton Hunt explained.

She has been sober for three years. However, getting to this point was tough. Drug usage was apart of Hunt’s daily routing for 15 years. There was much pain, not only inflicted on her life but her family lives, too. This mother lost custody of her daughter, who was just one at the time. We asked her if she felt like a bad mother.

Hunt answered, “yes.”

A tough reality made even tougher by dependency of drugs. Soon enough, it was the constant substance abuse that led to serious consequences.

“I got a blood disease called endocarditis, which then I had to get my spleen removed; and then an aortic valve replacement,” Hunt said.

Chances are, the opioid crisis has affected you in some shape, form, or fashion. Directly or indirectly. While drug addiction is considered a disease, it’s also a choice a person makes. Whether clear-minded or altered.

“Disease of addiction does not care who you are, how much money you make, what color of skin you are,” Hunt said. “I just chose a different route.”

“Sometimes, people do truly hit their bottom,” Dr. Litwin said. “They may have an overdose and almost die; that really is jarring because you never thought that would happen to you. Or, you’re 23 and have a terrible heart infection now; and getting a heart surgery; and getting a new valve, being told that you won’t be a candidate for another valve if you re-infect that.”

This was a pivotal moment in her life, as more than 60 days were spent in the hospital recovering. Choosing the next steps on this journey were critical to the success of recovery. Putting the positive action into to those steps is what Hunt describes as a life-changing outcome. Deciding to listen instead pretending to know everything helped usher in the change she so desperately needed and wanted.

Hunt described doing the right thing filled her soul, spirit, and community. Understand, the road to sobriety wasn’t the easiest. She credits her faith in God for allowing her to be steadfast.

The AMC is primarily outpatient focused but they do consult with inpatient physicians when necessary. The center is based in Greenville at the Memorial campus.

“A lot of our folks are using heroin and they’re suing stimulants: cocaine, methamphetamine,” Dr. Litwin explained.

He called fentanyl the unifying drug in a lot their patients. It’s showing up in multiple substances.

September is National Recovery Month. If you or anyone you know needs help fighting the opioid epidemic, you can give the AMC a call at 864-455-5994.