Local recovery center helps people overcome addictions

A person walks into ProTech Recovery in Seymour with an addiction to opiates or methamphetamine.

Once they start the medication-assisted treatment, it’s combined with counseling and behavioral therapies to treat their substance use disorder.

Some people are able to eventually taper off of the medication, while others stay on it for the rest of their lives.

Dr. Joseph Koenigsmark and his staff are happy to report more than 80% of their patients do very well with the program.

No longer focused on getting their next fix, they are able to reestablish bonds with family, get their kids back, buy their own home, land a job and build credit.

Koenigsmark said it’s about bringing people from the brink of destruction to having a life they realize can be normal again.

“It makes for an enjoyable day because you’re checking on people that you actually have made a big difference in their life,” he said. “It’s a very pleasing feeling to know that you’ve been able to help people that way. We’re actually helping people get their lives back.”

ProTech Recovery has been at 626 W. Second St. since 2016. At that time, Koenigsmark said there weren’t many treatment options available in the area.

Within a few months, he opened Journey Road Treatment Center on the east side of Indianapolis. Then three years later, another location opened on the west side of the state’s capital city.

Koenigsmark is the medical director at all three offices. He and two nurse practitioners work in Seymour, while there are six nurse practitioners and one other doctor in Indianapolis.

Koenigsmark’s background is in family practice after receiving board certification in 1987. He later moved to Louisville, Kentucky, and practiced family medicine and administrative medicine for 24 years.

In 2010, he became an addiction specialist to assist patients overcome chemical dependency. He served as medical director of The Coleman Institute, where he oversaw detoxification/withdrawal management for alcohol, benzodiazepines and opioids.

When he learned about medication-assisted treatment, he started ProTech Recovery.

In that program, medications, such as Buprenorphine, are prescribed for patients in order to remove their need for opiate medications and keep them from going into withdrawal.

Compared to opiates, Buprenorphine does not get patients high. Essentially, there is just enough stimulation of the receptors in a patient’s brain that they are able to fully function without the need to get pain pills prescribed, find pills on the street or have to resort to heroin, Koenigsmark said.

There are several name brands of Buprenorphine, such as Suboxone, Zubsolv or Bunavail. Those brands or even generic medications can help patients become opiate-free. The specific medicine is decided when the patient meets with the physician.

“With Suboxone, those cravings, the thoughts of drugs, the withdrawal, all of that effect is not always removed, but it’s reduced to the point people can live with it,” Koenigsmark said. “In many people, it’s reduced to the point that they don’t have any desire to use drugs or even think about drugs anymore, so it works very well.”

Some people say that’s just addicting a person from one drug to another, he said. While Suboxone is addictive and a person will go through withdrawals if they stop it, he said they will be tapered off. Plus, it has pain-relieving factors that help people.

“Once you are on the right pill, if it’s working, doctors are going to keep you on that as long as they possibly can,” Koenigsmark said.

“With Suboxone, in many cases, I’ll have people that want to eventually taper off. They get to that point where they don’t need it,” he said. “A lot of people are like, ‘My life’s awesome. I got my children back from the Department of Child Services. I finally got a place to live, got a job. Why would I want to rock the boat? My life is good.’ We have people want to get off of it, and others, ‘This is what I want out of life and I want to stay there.’”

In the beginning of his practice in Seymour, Koenigsmark said he saw more patients who were addicted to opiate pills.

As those became more difficult to get, heroin was more common because it was cheaper and more readily available, he said.

The program started with patients receiving treatment for six to 12 months and then tapering off of Suboxone to the point where they were off of all drugs.

Over time, though, Koenigsmark said that transformed for doctors as they realized this is a treatment, not just a steppingstone.

“If you have people that are doing well, there’s nothing wrong with keeping them in the treatment program for as long as they need,” he said. “We discuss it at each visit: ‘Do you want to start going down? Do you want to start tapering?’ If they do, then we’ll start that. If they don’t, that’s your choice and I can understand.”

Since addiction is a disease, Koenigsmark said the treatment is all about getting patients to a level place.

“If I can get them in here on Suboxone and then get them the right psychiatric medications, we’re many times able to get them more stable to the point that they want to get off Suboxone because they are like, ‘My ups and downs have gotten better. Maybe I don’t need Suboxone anymore,’” he said. “Then we’ll taper them.”

Koenigsmark and his staff also have had success treating people who are addicted to meth.

“The research is showing that targeting a person that’s on methamphetamine with Suboxone, then adding a certain amount of stimulants that are prescribed … giving that in a dosage that you can control, you can get rid of the person’s cravings for meth,” he said.

The weekly or monthly office visits include a physical examination with a urine test, addiction counseling and psychiatric services. Also, a prescription can be written for needed medications.

The program follows all of the guidelines established by the Drug Enforcement Administration and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. All patients must sign an agreement with Koenigsmark and follow the strict set of rules.

Once a patient completes the program, Koenigsmark said his office manager works to check in on them within six months to a year.

If the person is doing well, they receive encouragement to keep moving forward in life. If they have relapsed, they are offered an opportunity to come back to receive help.

“We have a small enough clinic here that I think most of our patients think they are our family,” he said. “We get to know them.”

At a glance 

ProTech Recovery is at 626 W. Second St., Seymour.

For information, call 812-271-1798 or visit protechrecovery.org.