Medical Stabilization: The First Step Toward Freedom From Chemical Dependency

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

People who are addicted to alcohol or drugs face many disruptions in their lives, including problems with family, work, friends, school, finances, and their own physical and mental health.

A person who is addicted (chemically dependent) has no control over using a drug or drinking. It is a chronic disease, just like diabetes or kidney disease. People who are addicted rarely are able to quit by themselves.

When someone becomes physically ill due to their addiction, they may require medical stabilization in a hospital setting. New Vision at Columbia St. Mary’s offers a specialized inpatient program designed to help people safely withdraw from a chemical substance while effectively managing the physical symptoms of withdrawal. Medical stabilization is the first step in recovery from addiction.

Close supervision and aggressive medical treatment are important to stabilize someone facing other health problems that can complicate the withdrawal process. The program helps patients who have medical problems associated with their addiction to alcohol or drugs, or who are at risk for medical problems during the withdrawal process.

New Vision staff members understand that chemical dependency is difficult for the user as well as for family members. They offer a compassionate, non-judgmental approach that is sensitive to each person’s needs.

The most common reasons people are admitted to New Vision are for alcohol intoxication, alcohol withdrawal, opiate intoxication, and opiate withdrawal. Opiates are medications or illegal drugs (narcotics) either derived from the opium poppy or that mimic the effect of an opiate (a synthetic opiate). During the hospital stay, care is tailored to each patient’s unique needs. The average hospital stay is 3.3 days. During this time, patients are closely observed by physicians, nurses, and other team members committed to caring for their physical and emotional needs. As with any other illness, family members are encouraged to support the patient during the hospital stay.

Three intake coordinators are available for crisis intervention and to assess patients referred to the program. Anyone with a drug or alcohol problem may be evaluated. Some people need medical stabilization in the New Vision program. The coordinators can also assist with outpatient referrals for patients who may not require inpatient medical stabilization care.

If admitted to the hospital, a doctor will prescribe the most medically comfortable protocol for each patient, who will be closely monitored throughout the process by experienced staff. Following care, the intake coordinators assist with discharge planning and referrals for ongoing care within the community. They also follow the patients’ progress after leaving the hospital.

New Vision is based at Columbia St. Mary’s Columbia Campus. People may be referred to the program through their physician or other health professionals, family members, friends, coworkers, or self-referral.

Office hours for New Vision are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends and holidays. For after-hours care, patients need to go to the Columbia Campus’s Emergency Department.

Dr. James Volberding is the medical director of New Vision at Columbia St. Mary’s. For more information, call 414-961-5503.


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