Doctor offers addicts 'rapid' way off heroin
October 10, 1996
Web posted at: 11:15 p.m. EDT
From Correspondent Peg Tyre
MERCHANTVILLE, New Jersey (CNN) -- Trisha Andrews has quit
heroin cold turkey, and it's an experience she said "she
wouldn't wish on her worst enemy."
First she worried she would die. Then she was afraid that she
wouldn't. "I feel like I'm gonna jump out of my skin," she
said of the withdrawal process.
Heroin detoxification has always been an excruciating ordeal.
But Dr. Lance Gooberman, who operates out of a small New
Jersey clinic, says he offers a better way: "ultra-rapid
Gooberman puts his patients under general anesthesia, uses
drugs to purge the heroin from their bodies and sends them
home in as little as four hours.
With standard detoxification programs, "patients don't come
in for treatment because they're afraid of pain," Gooberman
said. And checking in doesn't guarantee success. "They don't
stay to complete the treatment," he said.
Heroin has been part of Michelle Rossel's life for 10 years.
She says she's an addict who has tried many times to stop.
"I'm really trying a lot to get it right. I've been in quite
a few detoxes."
Gooberman usually charges $2,800, an expense not covered by
insurance. He agreed to detox Rossel for free after she
agreed to be videotaped by CNN.
Here's what happened during the process:
- After a nurse anesthetist put her under general anesthesia,
Gooberman gave her drugs to flush the heroin from her system.
- Gooberman placed a pellet of the drug naltrexone under the
skin of Michelle's belly to prevent a relapse. If Michelle
starts to use heroin again naltrexone works in the brain to
block the high the drug ordinarily gives.
Hospitals in New York and Florida offer a similar procedure
costing as much as $7,500. They keep patients overnight, and the procedure
involves extensive follow-up care.
Bennett Oppenheim, who runs the New York program, is critical
of Gooberman. "In my opinion, four hours for a procedure of
that type is grossly insufficient to deal with the
circumstances that we're dealing with."
Other addiction experts say ultra-rapid detox is risky and
costs too much for an unproven procedure. "This is clearly
not a miracle cure," said Dr. Herbert Kleber. "If it lived up
to everything its sponsors wanted it to do it would simply be
a better way of getting people detoxified. The trick is still
keeping them off."
Three hours after going under anesthesia, Michelle began to
stir. After 90 more minutes she's groggy and disoriented. But
it is time to go home.
Home to a new life. Maybe.
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