By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
"If you have both the desire to use and the habit to use, and these are now hardwired in your brain, it takes an enormous amount of effort to stop," Adinoff says. "If I can treat somebody through medication that they take once a day and they have a stable family life, stay out of jail, are medically healthy and everything in their life is going well, who am I to refuse that to somebody? Especially when I know that if they don't take that medication there's an enormous likelihood that they'll go back to the previous lifestyle. You can't take a drug—you can't do anything repeatedly—without changing your brain...to say that you can just stop using a drug through willpower or whatever is just hope against hope."
While Adinoff works to pave the way for a relapse solution, addicts who have so far succeeded with Prometa say they've already found theirs—a formula that like the potion Dr. Jekyll used to keep the evil Mr. Hyde at bay, has the power to silence The Addict within them.
While Steve had quit and relapsed only twice, other Murray Hill Prometa patients say they'd relapsed numerous times over decades of use before they found the experimental protocol. Michlin, who had tried a residential treatment center and Narcotics Anonymous, found out about Prometa from a friend who saw it on the TV news program 20/20. On February 6, Michlin received his first injection of flumazenil at Murray Hill. He's been clean since and says he's never felt better. He still attends Narcotics Anonymous meetings, and he tells other addicts about Prometa whenever he gets the chance.
"The medicine got into my brain somehow, and I didn't want cocaine anymore," he says. "Compared to going to some clinic in Beverly Hills with a low success rate, it's dirt cheap! And with what I was spending on cocaine, the money I save, it pays for itself." To those who think Prometa sounds too good to be true? "It doesn't cure all of life's ills," he says. "I've got plenty of problems, but I don't want that crap anymore. I could jump out a window or something if life gets bad, but I don't want cocaine."
By the time David Cook turned to Prometa, he was willing to try anything. He and his wife were unemployed, on the verge of divorce and about to have their children taken away by relatives. They were spending around $700 per week on meth, and their lives had fallen into a routine of getting high, coming down and having tantrums until they could get more drugs, then doing it all again.
"We'd demolished the entire inside of the house," says Cook, who lives in Missouri and underwent the Prometa Protocol in Dallas. "There were holes through the walls, messes, projects that got started but never completed, Christmas lights strung all over the house...One time I'd thrown a table through a wall, and there was a 4-foot-wide hole. I have no idea what happened, but I guarantee it was something to do with not having drugs."
He got his first treatment at Murray Hill in February 2007.
"I woke up the next morning, and I knew what they'd done had fixed it because I had no urge, no craving," he says. His wife doubted his endorsement, but when he returned home and was able to spend time with her and her friends while they smoked meth without any desire to do it himself, she decided to do the protocol too.
Now, 18 months later, they attend regular Narcotics Anonymous meetings. "I'd do NA and couldn't get through a week, then I did Prometa and was there every day for a year," he says. The couple has since started a recovery group at their church. Cook is back to work at his vehicle repair business, his wife works at a nursing home, and they abandoned their divorce, remodeled their house and brought their children back home to live with them.
Steve and Cook have been clean for more than a year and Michlin almost six months, but to Adinoff, the jury is still out. Even at a year of sobriety, he says, addicts remain at risk. He fears that if Prometa turns out to be a sham, the disappointment could compromise the hard-won progress scientists have made in convincing people that addiction is not a personal failing but a biological condition that requires medical treatment.
"We'll come out with something really great," he says. "And people will say, 'Oh yeah, right, we've heard that before.'"
Yet Steve believes that without the medical component of the Prometa program, he would have been ripe for another relapse, unable to focus on therapy and learning to deal with day-to-day life without the old crutch. "For me," he says, "getting free of those thoughts firing all day, that was the key."
To scientists like Adinoff, Steve's 180 could have been the result of a placebo effect or sheer determination, considering that he was about to lose his family. But for Steve, whatever the explanation, life after Prometa has been radically different.