For those of you interested in learning more about how addiction specifically affects the brain, I encourage you to watch Dr. Kevin McCauley’s movies and YouTube presentations. Dr. McCauley was an Air Force surgeon who became addicted to pain medications after he went through a surgery himself. Rather than receiving treatment, he was sent to Leavenworth Prison.

Dr. McCauley loved his position treating members of the Air Force and his addiction — then seen as a moral impairment, rather than a medical condition — caused him to lose everything.

He took advantage of his time in prison to learn everything he could about this incredible condition that was so powerful it compelled him to continue to take drugs even though he knew it was jeopardizing everything he valued.

He now writes, creates movies, and educates people around the world on addiction and recovery.

Listening to one of his recent lectures I was deeply moved by his sentiments about working in the field of addiction medicine. To paraphrase:

Those of us who practice addiction medicine know that we are working with patients who are not at their best. We try to protect their dignity until they find the tools to get better.

As Dr. McCauley breaks down how the various regions of the brain are individually affected by drug use and addiction, he paints a very accurate—and not very pretty—picture of the condition we see in many of our patients being treated at the Coleman Institute for Addiction Medicine.

As the need for the addictive drug — be it Oxycontin®, heroin, morphine, Dilaudid®, fentanyl, or Vicodin®, just to name a few—becomes stronger and stronger, the more the brain is "highjacked."

It is devastating for family members or loved ones to watch the person they raised or married morph into someone they no longer recognize. While it isn’t true for every person going through opioid withdrawal, we witness our fair share of patients who yell, argue with, and even curse at their loved ones. We have seen family members ignored, blamed, and criticized. We see spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends, partners, children, parents, and friends who are there to support their loved one being belittled and berated.

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Being the support person can be a very tough job. It can be painful and embarrassing. They sometimes become fed up with their child/partner/friend who they are trying to help. Instead of gratitude, they get abuse.

But people who choose to work in this field understand that these are the drugs talking. This is a damaged brain and it can heal. Beyond the fact that our team has years of medical expertise under the leadership of Dr. Peter Coleman, and our patients will receive the best and safest Accelerated Opioid Detox (AOD), our team members truly care about our patients.

The person we see on Day One of an AOD is often uncomfortable and minimally communicative… Unless they are describing how bad they feel and how skeptical they are about our program — then, they can be pretty expressive. Sometimes we see the support person wincing or rolling their eyes, appalled at what the patient has just said.

We get it. And as Dr. McCauley so beautifully stated, we try to protect their dignity until they find the tools to get better.

Our toolbox is pretty unique:

  • Outpatient detox
  • Small micro-dose naltrexone administered daily
  • After-care coordination
  • Long-acting naltrexone in the form of an implant (naltrexone is a non-addictive opioid-blocking medication)
  • Lots of expertise and
  • A staff that cares; again-
  • A staff that cares.

I heard a doctor give a lecture one day. He was speaking to medical students and said, “Look around you; you are surrounded by the best and the brightest people from around the world. If you want to distinguish yourself, be kind.”

You will find excellent care and a lot of kindness at the Coleman Institute.


Joan R. Shepherd, FNP

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