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Appalachian addiction: Man says buprenorphine treatment saved his life

Zach Vance • Aug 1, 2016 at 12:00 AM

Misty Smith clearly remembers the moment she walked into a buprenorphine clinic, fell to her knees and begged doctors to admit her husband, Darrell Smith, into treatment. 

The year was 2008, and Misty was expecting her second child.

Darrell had spent two stints in prison while managing an opioid and Xanex addiction. 

“I was four months pregnant, and it really came down to, ‘Listen we’ve got this second baby on the way, and you have to go to detox. I can’t live like this any more. I can’t raise kids this way. We just can’t do this,” Misty said. “It was pretty much, ‘You either go through detox or I’m leaving and I’m taking the kids with me.’”

Misty was giving her husband one more shot to free himself from opioid addiction, and Darrell certainly had his doubts about the treatment would work. 

“At that time, I’d been on and off opioids for 17 years,” said Darrell, who had tried Suboxone before without success.

But he was willing to try anything to keep his family intact.  

“When Misty got pregnant with our second child, that’s really when it hit me that I had to change,” Darrell said. “I had to do something or someone else would be raising my children.” 

Even after the decision was made, a six-month waiting list still remained in Darrell’s way. 

“Just to get into a treatment program and come off drugs was a six-month wait, let alone get into a Suboxone treatment program. I literally cried and begged until they agreed to take him,” Misty said.

Darrell eventually found himself in a detox program at a clinic in Corbin, Kentucky, an hour away from his home in Harlan.

Misty said she remembers her husband claiming the treatment wouldn’t work and he would eventually try drugs again. 

And she was right.

Whether out of curiosity or habit, while taking buprenorphine, Darrell tried OxyContin.

And it immediately made him sick.

“I tried to do an 80 (milligram OxyContin) and that’s the only (OxyContin) I’ve done since 2008. It made me sicker than a dog,” Darrell said.

While staring at the toilet, Darrell said he knew his addiction was over.

Darrell said as long as he continues receiving his treatment and counseling, the opioid cravings would never return. 

“I know I’ll never do another pill as long as I’ve got (buprenorphine) in my system ’cause (doing one) would make me sick anyways,” Darrell said.

Misty’s husband now travels to Kingsport once a month to receive counseling and medication at a clinic.

Despite having to pay around $800 for a month’s worth of medication, Darrell said it’s well worth it considering the amount he paid for a week’s worth of pills on the street.

With the extra money, Darrell cashed in on several business ventures. He now owns and operates his own electronic cigarette business along with a handful of rental properties.

“I’d say his addiction is now money,” Misty said with a laugh. “But I’m OK with that one.”

Darrell said his current treatment program allows him to make decisions on allotment and dosage.

For now, Darrell said he is content with taking burenorphine for his foreseeable future.

But he’s OK with that.

“I just want to be a great father and provide for my family,” Darrell said.

Email Zach Vance at zvance@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow Zach Vance on Twitter at @ZachVanceJCP. Like him on Facebook.com/ZachVanceJCP

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