PHOTO CREDIT: Gage Skidmore via Flickr
It was a prescription for painkillers after eye surgery that served as the entry into a battle against opioid abuse for “Halloween” actress and children’s book author Jamie Lee Curtis.
“Getting sober remains my single greatest accomplishment,” she told People. “Bigger than my husband, bigger than both of my children and bigger than any work, success, failure. Anything.”
Curtis, who revealed a decade-long addiction in the national publication, is the most recent celebrity to admit having a struggle with opioids. She managed to keep the addiction a secret, she says, even as she stole pills from family and friends to feed her cravings.
“This just underscores the fact that opioid addiction can happen to anyone. It knows no financial, social, gender or racial boundaries,” says John Santopietro, MD, physician-in-chief of the Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network.
Opioid addiction still carried a stigma, but he says addicts come from every neighborhood and walk of life.The illicit street drug, he adds, is just one form of opioid. Another and, perhaps more insidious, is prescribed legally for pain relief, as was the case for Curtis.
“These are very powerful drugs and while they certainly have their role in helping battle pain after surgery or major illness, they must be prescribed and used on a limited basis because they are physically and mentally addicting for many people,” Dr. Santopietro explains.
Connecticut has one of the highest rates of emergency department visits and overdoses from opioid use in the nation, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Yet, help is available, including medication assisted treatment, which is considered the first-line treatment for opioid use disorder.
Hartford HealthCare’s Behavioral Health Network’s MATCH (Medication assisted Treatment Close to Home) Program operates clinics offering buprenorphine-based agonist medications (such as Suboxone) or opioid receptor antagonist medications like naltrexone extended release (Vivitrol) paired with psychotherapy to treat patients with an opioid use disorder.
“Patients who are engaged in medication-assisted treatment half their risk of overdose, have decreased drug-related medical problems and increased social function and quality of life,” notes Dr. J. Craig Allen, medical director of Rushford.