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West Ridge director talks addiction~ RH May 28, 2015

West Ridge director talks addiction
By Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | May 28, 2015

The life of a heroin addict is difficult but there is hope, and recovery could benefit the community.

That was the point emphasized Wednesday by the medical director of the West Ridge Center for Addiction Recovery.

About 80 people attended a meeting at the Holiday Inn on Wednesday to hear a presentation by Dr. William Gordon Frankle. He said he had made a lot of presentations, but he was more nervous Wednesday night than when making medical presentations to colleagues.

“The reason why I’m doing this talk really comes from my patients,” he said. “Over the last several years, as I’ve been treating patients for opiate dependence, I’ve heard over and over again, ‘My significant other doesn’t understand what I’m doing, they don’t understand treatment. My parents don’t understand it, my grandparents don’t understand it.’”

Frankle said he even heard patients say their own doctors didn’t understand addiction treatment. He said he decided he should make a presentation to the public in the hopes of spreading understanding and dispelling myths — such as addiction is a sign of a weak personality or methadone treatment is simply trading one drug addiction for another.

Frankle also shared positive news from Project VISION, a Rutland community program which has reported a decrease in the number of reported burglaries, larcenies and overall calls to the police for service.

Frankle said all those improvements can’t be attributed to the work being done at West Ridge, a program run by Rutland Regional Medical Center. But he said the facility in the Howe Center complex, which is treating about 430 people and has a waiting list of about 90 people, is doing its part.

Studies of addiction are showing more evidence that drug addiction is a chronic condition like heart disease or diabetes that might require long-term or even lifelong treatment.

Frankle said it’s not uncommon for patients to ask how long they will need to take methadone or buprenorphine. But he said those drugs don’t cure addiction; they only provide “breathing room” so the addiction can be treated.

Other factors need to be addressed, such as avoiding people who use drugs.

Frankle said it’s unlikely that measures can be taken to keep drugs out of the community, especially because many of them are prescription drugs that have legitimate uses.

“Anyone who wants to get an opiate on the street, here in Rutland, from the patients I’ve talked to, can get it fairly easily,” he said.

Frankle said it’s true that not everyone who tries drugs become addicted, which he said contributes to the idea that addicts simply lack willpower. However, Frankle said there is evidence that addiction has a physical effect on the brain.

The doctor also pointed out the simple truth that using drugs not only feels good but also takes away bad feelings.

However, he said the downside is considerable.

“It’s really a tough job to be a heroin addict,” he said. “Essentially, your entire day is spent trying to figure out how to get the drug. You’re running around, you’re trying to figure out how to get money, you’re trying to figure out who has it, who can buy it, how you’re going to pay for it. That leads to illegal behaviors in order to get the drug.”

That obsession can lead to poor decisions about children, work or school, he said.

Addicts in recovery, however, are engaged with family, careers, education or other socially positive activity, he said.

People who take treatment drugs like methadone are different than heroin addicts, Frankle said, because they are not pursuing the “high” that comes from opiates, and they can get treatment drugs without breaking the law.

patrick.mcardle@rutlandherald.com

Albert J. Marro / Staff Photo Dr. William Gordon Frankle, left, addresses a large audience Wednesday at the Holiday Inn in Rutland Town on “Understanding Addiction.” Frankle is medical director of the West Ridge Center for Addiction Recovery.

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