In this installment of Tales From the Clinic: The Art of Psychiatry, we cover an intriguing case of dual substance use super-imposed on mood, anxiety, and trauma clinical picture. A significant challenge for this group of patients is the need for patient, methodical, consistent care to unravel the complex multifaceted triggers and perpetuating factors for continued maladaptive behaviors. The case description spans years of treatment and, while the details may seem sensational, they reflect the reality of what the addiction treatment clinic team encounters. In addition, there is much difficulty in hearing and processing patient accounts of trauma, which could lead to physician burnout.
"Ms Martin" is a 45-year-old female with bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and suspected borderline personality disorder. She was transferred to the substance use disorders clinic by another psychiatrist after a diagnosis of opioid use disorder was obvious. At the time of her transfer, she was involved in prostitution to finance her roughly 25 tablets of acetaminophen and hydrocodone daily. Her opioid use disorder history had a protracted course, with her first exposure to prescription opioids at the age of 16 following a significant injury requiring surgical intervention. Her longest lifetime period of sobriety was 2 years.
Her immediate environment was not conducive to recovery, as she lived in a trailer with a male roommate who had mutual acquaintances that provided pain pills. In addition, Ms Martin engaged in sexual activity with the roommate in exchange for opioids. As time progressed, the relationship became physically abusive; she left after her roommate tried to hit her with a vacuum cleaner when she "didn't do a good job cleaning the trailer." At the time, she had been in treatment for 1 year, was started in medication-assisted therapy (MAT), and had been prescribed buprenorphine. She moved into an apartment with her mother, which greatly reduced access to opioids. She responded very well to MAT, with an absence of significant relapses as evidenced by the drug screenings during her monthly visits.
Three years into treatment, Ms Martin met a new boyfriend. Her urine drug screen (UDS) resulted positive for amphetamine. He provided her with substances that boosted her energy and aided in weight loss. She was not fully aware of what she was taking, but she thought it might have been amphetamine since it came in a "large jar with many capsules." Testing verified the presence of methamphetamine.
These results were shared with Ms Martin, to her genuine surprise, and she expressed earnest motivation to stop methamphetamine use. Unfortunately, over the next year, she eventually met criteria for stimulant (methamphetamine) use disorder. This paralleled toxic developments in her relationship. She described a continued strong sexual attachment to her partner, and she remained intimate with him despite knowledge that he was simultaneously sexually active with her mother. She later bashfully admitted engaging in group intercourse with her partner and mother. During intercourse she described her partner's derogatory and sadistic tendencies, which she felt she "deserved."
Eventually, she developed disgust...