Patients left without meds after drug bust face few alternatives

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RENO, Nev., (KOLO) As DEA agents raided the offices of Dr. Robert Rand in April 2016 and his practice closed, the clock began ticking on the lives of many of his patients, putting them at risk.

"It's been almost a couple of weeks since he's been writing prescriptions," says Dr. Ryan Zeller, "So you're looking at the number increasing throughout the next two weeks."

When time and their supply runs out, those patients--with real medical conditions--will be facing withdrawal.

"When you're in this level of need we're talking full-blown opiate withdrawals," says Zeller. "This is why drug addicts stay drug addicts because they can't over come this. You'll take what's available whether trying to get pills the easiest and quickest way possible and some people do turn to heroin."

And that's the fear.

An alternative is a clinic like the Life Change Center, where Dr. Zeller is Medical Director.

"We treat addiction with what we call replacement therapy. And in replacement therapy we utilize a long-acting opiod drug so that you can be dosed once a day."

Patients can receive a safer alternative like methadone, until they can transition to another doctor's care or perhaps make the decision to gradually leave their addiction.

"I think those who do the best are the ones who come off their pain medications. I think being on high-dose pain medications kind of puts you in a pain cycle. So you need the medications and when they start to wear off, your pain flares up and that reinforces the fact that you need the medications."

But that's a difficult, if not impossible, step for some.

Dr. Zeller says he's already seen a few of Dr. Rand's patients, including a 79-year-old Vietnam veteran who has been on long-term high level pain medication for some time. He needed help until he could transition to a new doctor. He needed temporary relief and got it.

A good resource for these people is also Crisis Call Center's line, 825-HELP.