Detoxing from opioids needs medical supervision John Bachman tells SELF

Philip Seymour Hoffman's Partner Dispels a Major Myth About Drug Relapse

[Carolyn Todd, SELF]

Mimi O’Donnell, the longtime partner of Philip Seymour Hoffman—who died from an accidental overdose involving heroin in 2014—sheds light on one of the most misunderstood aspects of addiction and overdose.

While movies and tabloids would have us believe that relapses and overdoses like Hoffman’s are the inevitable result of a singular event in someone’s life (they had an addiction, something bad happened, then they overdosed), the reality is much more complex, O’Donnell explains in a new essay for Vogue.

“I hesitate to ascribe Phil’s relapse after two decades to any one thing, or even to a series of things, because the stressors—or, in the parlance, triggers—that preceded it didn’t cause him to start using again, any more than being a child of divorce did,” she writes. “Lots of people go through difficult life events. Only addicts start taking drugs to blunt the pain of them. And Phil was an addict, though at the time I didn’t fully understand that addiction is always lurking just below the surface, looking for a moment of weakness to come roaring back to life.”

O’Donnell describes several factors that ...

Accidental overdose from opioids, including prescription narcotics like OxyContin and illegal drugs like heroin, commonly occur when somebody stops using and then relapses. “Relapse is a multifaceted phenomenon,” John Bachman, Ph.D, a psychologist at the El Dorado County Community Health Center who specializes in helping patients with addiction and substance abuse issues, tells SELF. “But for almost any drug, the highest probability [factor] for relapse is the withdrawal syndrome,” or the mental cravings and physical symptoms of ...

Detoxing from opioids is not only extremely difficult to do without medical supervision, it's also potentially dangerous and ineffective.

The detox process can be incredibly painful, Bachman explains, and should only be done with medical supervision (which is often referred to as medically supervised withdrawal). “So even with the best intentions in the world—[people who say] ‘I’m never touching that stuff again’—once withdrawal sets in, the next use is often almost inevitable,” potentially leading to an unintentional overdose.

...And Phil was an addict, though at the time I didn’t fully understand that addiction is always lurking just below the surface, looking for a moment of weakness to come roaring back to life.” ...

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