Habit OPCO’s Treatment, Support, and Encouragement is Helping Me Regain a Satisfying Life

I’ve always been very social. During high school, alcohol and marijuana were part of my weekend routine but I never engaged in any “harder” drugs. It wasn’t until my boyfriend passed away a few years after graduation that I began experimenting with opiates. The line between occasional use and full blown addiction became blurry. I didn’t even recognize the person I was becoming.

During the height of my addiction, I became consumed with getting high. My daily goal was to find drugs. Despite once being against them, I was now introducing my friends to painkillers. My family also noticed a difference in me as I isolated and cared less about myself. I knew I needed to get help.

I made the decision to come to Habit OPCO, which provided several positive benefits. First, it gave me structure and stability in my daily routine. It helped me set and achieve goals for myself. The greatest benefit of all was having the support and encouragement of the staff.

Today, I am extremely active in both my personal life and recovery. I’ve found a good balance between keeping my recovery a priority and my other responsibilities. I’m engaged in drug-free counseling, weekly NA meetings, as well as recreational sports. Recovery is a learning experience, and one of the most important lessons I’ve learned as a patient is that an addict needs to want sobriety. Habit OPCO taught me that a satisfying life is achievable and helped guide me on this journey.

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Methadone Maintenance Treatment is the Most Effective Solution for Communities Fighting Opiate Addiction

Opioid addiction, including the use of heroin and prescription painkillers, such as oxycodone (e.g., OxyContin, Percocet), hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin), morphine, codeine and related drugs, affects individuals and families in all communities, regardless of income level.  The problem has grown increasingly worse during the past 10 years as evidenced by emergency room visits for opioid-related overdose and deaths.[1]  In 2007, the number of overdose deaths from prescription opioids outnumbered deaths from heroin and cocaine combined.[2]  Although it affects people of all ages, trends indicate that abuse of prescription drugs is highest among young adults aged 18 to 25.[3]  Many individuals who become addicted to prescription painkillers eventually switch to heroin because they can buy it for less than prescription drugs (i.e., as little as $5 with purity levels exceeding 70% and 80%).

Access to methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) for opioid addiction is important for individuals, families and communities.  The impact on public health in communities can be enormous.  In addition to deaths by overdose, injection of heroin has been associated with many serious communicable diseases, including HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C and tuberculosis.[4] MMT is an effective form of treatment.  Studies have shown significant reductions in illicit opioid use using MMT; 80% or more of those who remain in treatment more than one year are free of illicit opiate use.[5]  It is also a cost effective alternative to the expensive use of emergency rooms and incarceration and helps individuals return to normal lives.  The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has reported that among patients in methadone maintenance treatment, illegal activity declined by 52% and full-time employment increased by 24%.[6]

Opioid Addiction is a Chronic Disease of the Brain

Treatment for drug addiction is often stigmatized in much the same way mental illness has been in the past.  It was viewed as a failure of willpower, a lack of self-discipline or as a flaw of moral character, but medical authorities now understand and accept drug addiction as a chronic, relapsing disorder that alters normal brain function.  Addiction to opioids is particularly bad because it alters brain chemistry “and the person becomes physically, emotionally and mentally dysfunctional unless more opioid drug is regularly taken.”[7]  The disease of addiction is similar to other chronic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, which require ongoing medication and treatment to help manage the disease.

How Does MMT Work?

Oral methadone, typically in liquid form, has been used for more than 50 years to treat the painful symptoms of persons withdrawing from opioids, usually heroin.  Its use in treatment is safe when properly prescribed and used.  “Women stabilized on methadone generally have more healthful pregnancies and their newborns do not suffer any lasting adverse consequences.”[8]  Moreover, methadone at appropriate dose levels does not affect a person’s intellectual abilities or ability to work.[9]  The prescribed methadone serves several purposes – (i) it attaches to receptors of the brain and blocks the euphoric effects of heroin or other opioids and (ii) it prevents severe withdrawal which can cause painful symptoms.

An independent panel of experts convened by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 1997 concluded that, “Of the various treatments available [for opioid addiction], MMT, combined with attention to medical, psychiatric and socioeconomic issues, as well as drug counseling, has the highest probability of being effective.”[10]

Overcoming the Stigma, Prejudice, Misunderstandings and Discrimination

“The World Health Organization and others have recognized that the stigma, prejudice, and misunderstandings surrounding persons with addictive disorders is a major barrier to their treatment and proper care.”[11]  Such biases have become obstacles interfering with patients entering methadone treatment when communities adopt irrational stereotypes to protect their communities from methadone rather than focusing on the public health crises that MMT can help reduce.  “Rather than embracing MMT as a solution, some short-sighted communities have rallied against the opening of new MMT clinics – even in the midst of ever-increasing opioid addiction problems – and forcing their citizens to travel hours each day to other locales for methadone treatment.  Hopefully, better evidence-based information and education will succeed in overcoming all of the barriers facing MMT for the benefit of patients, their families, and their communities.”[12]


[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.  Vital Signs:  Overdoses of Prescription Opioid Pain Relievers and Other Drugs Among Women – United States, 1999 – 2010.  July 5, 2013.  (Reporting that between 1999 and 2010, the number of fatal drug overdoses from opioid pain relievers (OPR) had increased fivefold among women and OPR deaths among men had increased 3.6 times.)

[2] National Institute on Drug Abuse.  Research Report Series – Prescription Drugs:  Abuse and Addiction.  NIH Publication Number 11-4881, Printed July 2001, Revised October 2011.  p. 3.

[3] Ibid.  p. 8.

[4] Addiction Treatment Forum.  Leavitt, Stewart B., PhD, Editor.  A Community-Centered Solution for Opioid Addiction:  Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT). May 2004, p. 2.

[5] Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).  Policy Paper:  Opioid Agonist Treatment.  Washington, D.C.:  Office of National Drug Control Policy; March 1999.

[6] Ibid.

[7]Addiction Treatment Forum.  Leavitt, Stewart B., PhD, Editor.  A Community-Centered Solution for Opioid Addiction:  Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT). May 2004, p. 1.

[8]Ibid, p. 4, citing Payte JT, Zweben, JE, Martin J.  Opioid Maintenance Treatment.  In:  Graham AW, et al. eds.  Principles of Addiction Medicine.  3rd ed.  Chevy Chase, MD:  American Society of Addiction Medicine; 2003:751-766.

[9]Ibid, p. 4.

[10] Ibid, p. 4, citing Effective Medical Treatment of Opiate Addiction.  NIH Consensus Statement.  1997 (Nov 17-19); 15(6):1-38.  Bethesda, MD:  National Institutes of Health.

[11] Ibid, p. 7, citing Neuroscience of Pyschoactive Substance Use and Dependence.  Geneva:  World Health Organization; 2004.

[12] Ibid, p. 7.

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Habit OPCO Pennsylvania Programs Add Medication-Free Treatment Option

All of Habit OPCO’s Pennsylvania treatment centers – including Allentown, Pottstown, Dunmore, and Watsontown – have added medication-free outpatient treatment services. Effective December 10, 2013, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs has approved and licensed Habit OPCO to offer medication-free counseling services at all of our existing medication-assisted treatment facilities. This addition will provide a more comprehensive choice of options to individuals seeking services for addiction treatment.
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Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Substance Abuse Treatment Contract

Habit OPCO was recently awarded a contract to provide outpatient substance abuse treatment services, using an evidence-based curriculum, for individuals referred by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and the Commonwealth Board of Probation and Parole. All four of our Pennsylvania treatment centers – Allentown, Dunmore, Pottstown, and Watsontown – will provide treatment services under this contract.

Pennsylvania has a very important historical role in penology, having built the first modern penitentiary (Eastern State Penitentiary, 1829). Today the Department of Corrections, in recognition of the number of inmates that have substance abuse histories and ongoing unresolved substance abuse relapse triggers, is embarking on a mission to connect and fund outpatient behavioral health services and transitional services to assist inmates as they transition from prison to productivity. This transition is an example of how the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections is once again leading correctional system transformation in the U.S., and Habit OPCO is excited to be part of this transformation.

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As Vermont Governor Declares Full-Blown Heroin Crisis, Habit OPCO Introduces First-of-its-Kind, Comprehensive Treatment Model in Southeast Vermont

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin dedicated his recent annual address to acknowledging the heroin crisis in his state. In response to this crisis, Habit OPCO has introduced Hub Health Care Services in southeast Vermont, at its Brattleboro, VT, and West Lebanon, NH, treatment centers. The formation of these programs is in response to progressive new health care initiatives developed within the State of Vermont and in close collaboration with the Vermont Department of Health (VDH), the Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs (ADAP), as well as statewide substance use and other treatment providers. Habit OPCO has participated in creating Resiliency and Recovery Oriented Systems of Care (RROSC) as a means of providing more comprehensive treatment in addressing the complex issues of opiate and other addictions including the medical, psychiatric, and social impact of these disorders. Medication-assisted treatment in combination with counseling and structured care coordination will provide a more holistic approach to patient care in the treatment of substance use disorders for Vermont residents.

This is a first-of-its-kind treatment approach which allows for improved, more comprehensive health care services.  Each Habit OPCO treatment center now employs a Care Coordinator who supports patients by coordinating and tracking referrals with other health care and human service providers.  Hub sites will be dispensing both Suboxone© and methadone with patients receiving the medication most appropriate for their individual treatment needs.

Other Hub services provided by Habit OPCO include the completion of patient biopsychosocial and case management assessments.  Patient input is a crucial component in building individual treatment plans that identify specific goals related to various areas such as substance abuse, mental health, physical health, and family relationships all of which are addressed in treatment.

The Habit OPCO Hub at each location will also empower patients to take charge of education, resources, and treatment support for co-morbid medical and psychiatric conditions. Treatment personnel will assist patients in accessing information and resources to address chronic conditions and problems to facilitate transition to higher levels of care when medically or clinically indicated.

Habit OPCO will also provide education on addiction, medication-assisted treatment and local area resources to strengthen the recovery environment and help facilitate patient access to health care coverage and other social supports.

For more information on these Hub health care services, please call either Habit OPCO’s Brattleboro treatment center at 802.258.4627 or West Lebanon treatment center at 603.298.2146.

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I’m 8 Years Clean Thanks to Habit OPCO’s Methadone Treatment Program

I never thought I’d be a 19-year-old drug addict; homeless, defeated and so very sick. My life had become a web of lies, twisting and turning in ways that I never knew were possible. The worst part was that I wove it all on my own. I was the one with a gun to my head. Though only metaphorical, the effect was the same: I was killing myself and I couldn’t stop. I tried everything that I could think of, but I didn’t know how to get clean. At one of the many facilities I had been in previously, someone had mentioned the concept of a methadone treatment program to me. With nowhere else to go and nothing left to lose, aside from my life, I reluctantly decided to seek help through methadone. It was then that I found Habit OPCO.

I was at my lowest point, void of all that makes one human, and they picked me up, dusted me off and gave me the push that I needed to save myself.

I remember my first experience at Habit so vividly. I pulled into the parking lot, scared and entirely out of my element. After going through the initial intake assessment, I was finally ready to receive my medicine. I was ready to get my “dose”. My hands trembled as I waited in line. Hoping nobody noticed and called me out on my newcomer status, I made as little eye contact as possible. Soon enough, it was my turn. I approached the window and gave the nurse a nervous smile. She smiled back and explained the whole process to me. In a new and frightening world, she made me feel like I was making the right decision. For the first time in a very long time, I breathed a little easier.

It is often said that the more you hear something, the more you start to believe it. In the dozens of detox facilities and rehabs I’d been in, it was drilled into my head that, if I wanted to get clean and stay clean, I had to put as much effort into my opiate addiction recovery as I had put into using. Somewhere deep down, this resonated with me. I had reached the point where I absolutely wanted to get clean. I longed to live a normal life again. So I truly worked my recovery – visiting Habit every morning for my medicine, and attending every group and individual counseling session.

Six months after I stopped using, and was holding a steady job, I made the decision that it was time for me to start planning my departure from the Habit program. Weaning yourself off of methadone is a process, slowly lowering your dose under medical supervision. For a small girl, I was on a pretty high dose because my tolerance level for opiates was through the roof when I came to Habit. Just like I had to gradually work up to my comfortable dose level when I started at Habit, in turn, I had to slowly lower it in order to manage the methadone withdrawal symptoms and safely get off of the program.

I’m not going to claim it was easy. My journey to recovery required commitment and patience. It took me a year and a half of lowering my dose each week for me to finally reach the point where I did not need methadone anymore. The withdrawals were difficult at times, but I expected that. In fact, I welcomed it. For the first time since I was 15, I was actually feeling again. I no longer needed to mask the reality of my life with drugs. I was liberated and the methadone was my knight in shining armor.

After 3 years at Habit, I completed the program at the age of 21. I still remember my last day there so vividly. I confidently waited in line to get my dose. As I gazed around the room, making eye contact with those that were surely newcomers, I couldn’t help but smile. When I reached the window for my last dose, the same nurse that saw me on day one, and guided me through the past few years, was there waiting. I continued smiling as we both just looked at each other for a minute. I think I even saw her eyes well up a little. It was in that moment that I knew that coming to Habit was the best decision I had ever made and will probably ever make. The staff genuinely cared about me, as evidenced by the salutations from the nurse, wishing me luck, assuring me that it will get easier and encouraging me to stay the course.

I have almost 8 years clean now. After going back to college to finish my degree, I’m now in graduate school and working full-time. I just recently married the love of my life and I have never been happier. And I am forever thankful to Habit for helping me make the journey from hopeless to hopeful and from desolate to deserving. I owe the staff there everything. When I couldn’t even pick myself up off the ground, there they were. I was at my lowest point, void of all that makes one human, and they picked me up, dusted me off and gave me the push that I needed to save myself. I am so grateful for everything that I learned there, not only about myself, but about life. While surrounding me with fellow addicts that were fighting the same fight as I, the counseling sessions allowed me room to speak my mind. The unwavering support from everyone at Habit, along with the tools that they provided me, is something that I will never forget. I truly believe that I am here today because I found Habit OPCO.

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Habit Presents on Patient Safety Strategies at AATOD Meeting

Habit presented at the American Association for the Treatment of Opiate Dependence (AATOD) meeting in Philadelphia PA on November 13, 2013.

The Habit team presented strategies and suggestions to increase patient safety and identify patients who may need more services to succeed in their recovery.

Pictured from left to right are Mary Crockett (Program Director, Boston), Tracey Nicolosi (Director of Clinical Services) and Lawrence O’Toole (Director of Software Development).

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CARF International Accreditation of Habit OPCO’s Opioid Treatment Programs

All Habit OPCO opioid treatment programs go through the process of accreditation. The accreditation process focuses on quality of services, outcomes, consumer satisfaction, organizational fiscal health and accountability.  While there are options regarding which accreditation organization to use, Habit OPCO has chosen to have all of its sites accredited by CARF International – the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities.  CARF is an independent accrediting body located in Tucson, Arizona. Their accreditation involves a peer review process in which CARF representatives make site visits to the opioid treatment programs (OTPs) and review the policies, procedures, practices and patient services of the organization as a whole, and each program specifically. All OTPs are required to follow federal, state and organizational regulations and standards.  The site visits make certain that programs meet nationally-accepted standards and guidelines in areas including, but not limited to: Program Service & Structure, Screening & Access to Services, Medication Management, Quality Records Management, Rights of the Persons Served, Health & Safety, and Strategic Planning & Implementation.

The main objective of the accreditation process is to assist programs in improving the quality of care that is provided to individuals seeking and receiving treatment. The accreditation process and the resulting outcomes place an emphasis on providing quality care with an individualized approach, and providing tools/resources that can assist programs to improve their overall service delivery and outcomes. Habit OPCO has learned much through the accreditation process, and has implemented what has been learned into its core practices and procedures. The accreditation process has also helped Habit OPCO as a means of providing staff education, developing community confidence, and meeting Federal and State requirements.

Taunton Program’s Successful 2013 CARF Survey Results

Habit OPCO’s program in Taunton, Massachusetts, which provides methadone and Suboxone treatment services, went through an on-site survey in August 2013, and has been fully accredited by CARF International for a 3 year period – the highest level of accreditation granted. CARF’s Survey Report was very complimentary, recognizing the program for its efforts to provide high quality services to the individuals receiving treatment and to the communities it serves.  Several of the strengths of the program mentioned in the Report include:

  • Experienced, knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff
  • Recognition as a leader in addiction care
  • The outcomes management system
  • Spacious, well-maintained and centrally located treatment facility
  • Services provided to high-risk pregnant patients
  • Commitment to decreasing barriers to treatment
  • Ensuring a safe and secure environment that enhances the health and well-being of those served
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