By Matt Montgomery
Oklahoma City addiction medicine doctor Charles J. Shaw, M.D., has been treating addicts with an effective and non-addictive drug called Subutex and requiring his patients to attend Narcotics Anonymous, both at a fraction of the cost of inpatient treatment.
Shaw, who operates out of an office in northwest Oklahoma City and who has been a doctor for more than 50 years in Oklahoma, says his patients who follow his treatment plan are far more likely to succeed and have their names added to his wall of stars who have celebrated one year of sobriety than those who check into a high-priced inpatient facility, often times paying more than $30,000 for treatment.
Shaw, now in his 80s, is passionate about helping his patients recover from pain pill addiction. He’s helped thousands recover their lives by prescribing them the safe, but effective, opiate antagonist drug, Subutex, and by assigning them to go to 90 Narcotics Anonymous meeting in 90 days and complete the 12 steps of Narcotics Anonymous.
“Almost every day, I see or talk to people about their addiction – most are younger people between 20 and 40 years old,” Shaw said. “They seek my help as a specialist in addiction medicine – many in utter desperation from their addiction to pain pills.”
Most of Shaw’s patients began their road down addiction using hydrocodone as a teenager to party or use with others usually in their age group.
One of Shaw’s patients, Kyle Hill, formerly of Yukon, is an Iraq War veteran, who served as a combat engineer.
Hill, developed an addiction to pain pills after suffering from degenerative disk disease. He also suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD, after witnesses many horrors during his time in Iraq. Shaw said Hill also suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder, or ADD, and lived most of his life undiagnosed until Shaw gave him that diagnosis.
He said there is a correlation between those who have ADD and are addicts. In fact, 18 percent of Shaw’s patients who are addicted to opiates also suffer from ADD.
Now, more than a year and a half has gone by since Hill began seeing Shaw, and he has now almost completed most of the 12 steps of Narcotics Anonymous and has been clean for more than a year.
During his tenure of treating addicts in Oklahoma, Shaw said he has seen many different types of addicts, some very extremely addicted and others who were somewhat manageable.
“Some of the more unfortunate addicts, many have even chose to use IV (intravenous) drug, not just heroin, but Oxycontin and Opana,” Shaw said. “What are these people to do if they try to get out of their horrible situation – addicted to opiates? The majority of these addicted young people- probably less than 3 percent-can afford the $20,000 to $30,000 it costs for one month of good addiction treatment. They are literally trapped in their addiction. Some overdose and die, accidentally, every day.”
The vast majority can’t afford to be uprooted and live in an inpatient facility, often times out of state, Shaw said.
He said he even helps pregnant mothers recover from opiate addiction and prescribes them Subutex, which he said is safe for mothers to take while pregnant. He has several patients who are pregnant and opiate addicts.
Subutex is not habit forming, Shaw said, because it only binds to one of the three pain receptors in the human brain. Other drugs, like hydrocodone, bind to all three. Shaw said those taking Subutex do not get a “buzz,” but rather the drug is designed to take away an addict’s craving and help aide them while they complete their 12 steps through NA.
Shaw stands by the free program that even helped him many years ago when he was an alcoholic, NA or even Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Shaw said AA saved his life those many years ago and is one of the main reasons he is so passionate today in his practice about guiding young Oklahomans to these programs.
This September, Shaw will be retiring from a long career of helping addicts recover and lead prosperous lives.
Narcotics Anonymous was introduced in 1953 by Jimmy Kinnon and others in California.
The 12 steps of NA are as follows:
1. We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. We continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.