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Latest Addition to Heroin Treatment Arsenal: Recovery Coaches

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Some people struggling to overcome an addiction to heroin are getting help from recovery coaches. The use of coaches is based on the idea that addiction is a lifetime disease.

There is growing interest across the country in using recovery coaches to help people addicted to heroin, according to Robert Lubran, Director of the Division of Pharmacologic Therapies at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. New York state is paying for coaches to help treat addiction through its Medicaid program.

“This is an evolving field,” Lubran told WBUR. “[We are] learning more and more about the best ways to treat addiction and certainly the use of peer counselors, or peer coaches, has become more and more widespread.”

Of patients addicted to heroin who stop, between 40 and 60 percent relapse in the first year, the article notes. Many relapse soon after finishing a treatment program.

In one treatment program in Massachusetts, people live in a sober house, attend daily 12-step group meetings, and receive individual counseling. They can use a smartphone app that includes GPS tracking so their recovery coach can know if they are near areas where heroin is known to be sold and used.

“[We show patients] how to manage their emotions, how to fill out job applications, how to go to meetings, how to take care of themselves, how to go back to school,” said recovery coach Kristoph Pydynkowski, who has been off heroin for seven years.

Pydynkowski does everything from visiting patients’ parents, to meeting patients for coffee before 12-step meetings, to fishing, hiking and kayaking with them. “Our job is to replace the old positive feeling about getting high with a new positive trigger point for recovery,” said Pydynkowski, who works with 10 patients at one time. “There is life after drugs.”

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