An Addictís Story: How a Controversial Drug Treatment Saved One Manís Life

Thursday , December 13, 2007

By Karlie Pouliot



For more than 20 years, David Smart was a meth addict. His life consisted of trying to score dope instead of taking care of his family. He was in and out of rehab, jail and even lived out of his truck.

VIDEO: Click Here To Watch David's Story

"I've been through treatment centers, inpatient centers, outpatient centers," said Smart. "I've worked the 12 steps through those centers... I've worked with NA (Narcotics Anonymous) and AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), but the cravings never left my head."

The cravings never left his head until eight months ago when the 41-year-old underwent a new and controversial treatment called "Prometa." Smart's wife, Donette, took him for his first infusion at a clinic in Tahoma, Wash. He described the first few hours after his treatment to

"I thought wow, that’s cool, I never made it to the dope man," he said. "That thing is not in the back of my head making me sweat, making me know that I’m going to get high anymore."

Smart got up the next morning and headed to the clinic for his second treatment.

"I went to my next appointment," he said. "I did my next infusion and went back home, went to bed and I’ve just never had another craving since.”

The Prometa treatment program, which combines three existing pharmaceuticals — flumazienil, hydroxyzine and gabapentin, promises to target withdrawal symptoms of cocaine, meth and alcohol. After a full medical and psychological screening, a typical Prometa program starts with three days of infusions tailored to the patient's needs along with an oral dose of various medications.

While it seems like a miracle cure for people like Smart — others aren't so sure about the drug cocktail. Prometa has come under fierce scrutiny for the lack of scientific testing and not being approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

But, for the Los Angeles-based Hythiam Inc., the company that sells the treatment, they say the results speak for themselves, and physicians who are using Prometa agree.

"When somebody comes in here, they are irritable, agitated, have low frustration tolerance," said Dr. David Ockert, executive director of the Parallax Center, an outpatient treatment facility in New York City. "But when you subject them to the treatment, after 20 minutes they get up and say, you know I feel a little better. So, what you're really talking about is what we call a biological recovery or a healing approach to treatment."

Parallax Center is one of about 70 locations throughout the country that is licensed by Hythiam to offer Prometa as a treatment. So far, more than 2,500 hundred addicts have had the therapy.

"This is not a magic bullet and there's not going to be a magic bullet in my lifetime for chemical dependency," said Ockert. "But this is a very good step forward and one that will enable many people to benefit."

Smart couldn’t agree more. He said it has dramatically changed his life for the better.

"I’m back at home with my wife, I see my two children all the time, I see my two grandchildren," he said. "I’m trusted with them again. I have vehicles, I have a driver’s license, I have a bank account… I mean the list just goes on and on. Life is not perfect and it never will be, but it’s a hell of a lot better than it was on meth."