NP Patrice Gordon helps patients overcome alcohol addiction by prescribing a simple prescription medication that takes away cravings and withdrawal symptoms. For good.
“I know it seems too good to be true. But it’s not,” says Gordon about the medications, which are now provincially and nationally recommended for treating and curing the compulsion to drink. “I’ve seen lives transformed. And it’s so simple.”
Matched with the right medication, prescribed for a short period of time, almost anyone can gain control over cravings and withdrawal, making it so they can choose how much they drink.
“They don’t have to make a radical change,” says Gordon, who explains that going to rehab can be disruptive and doesn’t always work. “I remember one young patient who came out and felt really strong, but in about a week, she was powerless to resist and was thrust right back into her old life.” Being prescribed medications for AUD took away that compulsion, allowing her the freedom to access counselling and supports. In short, it turned her life around.
But, if this treatment works so well, and for almost everyone, why isn’t it standard?
The reasons are many. But none that can’t be overcome:
- Societal beliefs that alcoholics are weak or lack strength stand in the way of understanding that this compulsion is actually a medical disorder.
- An ineffective medication called disulfiram, prescribed decades ago, set back interest in medical treatments for AUD.
- Few physicians and NPs learn about effective medical treatment for AUD during their training, and so don’t offer it to patients. In fact, less than 5% of Canadians are offered AUD medical treatment when they visit their doctor’s office.
“When I first saw a presentation about treatment a few years ago, I just thought. ‘How can it be that there is something this simple out there for people, and I didn’t know about it?’” says Gordon, speaking of a practice-changing educational session given by Canadian AUD Society founder, Dr. Jeff Harries.
“It still confounds me,” she says. “As I listened to that presentation, so many faces flashed before my mind. So many people I could help.”
Gordon was relieved have something more to offer patients — whether alcohol consumption was causing a health issue, or disrupting a life so much that children were being removed from the home. “When you can look into the eyes of one person and see them having this joy in their life that they weren’t having before, you have new hope.”
To advocate for changing how we think about and how we treat alcohol use disorder, Gordon serves as a board member for the Canadian AUD Society, a national non-profit formed in Penticton. “I’m telling all kinds of people that we can transform lives. It’s really that simple.”