Las Vegan’s struggle with addiction led him to rehab abroad. Now he’s sharing those lessons back home

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Steve Marcus

Zack Deittrick, a Las Vegan who struggled with opioid abuse, is interviewed at the Las Vegas Sun offices Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019. Deittrick found success in recovery with a philosophy-based rehab center in Argentina.

Fri, Oct 4, 2019 (10 p.m.)

Zack Deittrick still has the notes he took outlining philosophical theories of Socrates and Plato. The Las Vegas resident says learning those theories during a yearlong drug rehabilitation program in Buenos Aires, Argentina, helped break his addiction.

The 27-year-old still applies the theories to his everyday life and wishes more rehabilitation facilities were open to alternative treatment methods — such as using a philosophical coach — that address the underlying causes of addiction. The program assigns patients certain readings, custom to their needs, and help them apply what they learn to their daily life.

He was a student and soccer player at Del Sol High School when one of his friends introduced him to Lortab to help quell his anxiety. He was only 15 at the time.

“It started as something casual,” he said. “At 15 years old, you think it’s something a doctor prescribes to help somebody. I never thought of it as a (problem).”

By the time he was 17, opioids like Vicodin and Percocet became Deittrick’s drugs of choice. When he was using, he would isolate himself from friends and loved ones.

In a series of videos Deittrick uploaded on YouTube, he described his experience as being “on the outside, looking in” and that he was confused and lost.

“It was as if I wasn’t part of the universal plan,” he said in the video. “I felt extremely different from my peers.”

In 2015, his sisters found him passed out on the floor of his parents’ bathroom after he smoked heroin.

“I wasn’t injecting it — I’ve always been afraid of needles — but I think it was maybe laced with something like fentanyl. So it was more accidental than anything,” he said. “I remember waking up and my sisters and one of their boyfriends had called the paramedics. I felt fine but I didn’t know what happened.”

This, in part, would prompt Deittrick to start seeking alternative methods to treating his addiction. He had gone through traditional rehabilitation facilities locally but said the 12-step methods and restrictive practices did little to help.

“I think I was doing it more for the peace of mind for my family than for myself,” he said.

It wasn’t until he met the organizers behind CMI Abasto, a Buenos Aires-based treatment facility, at an overdose awareness event when he decided to give treatment another chance.

CMI utilizes philosophical counseling to treat not only addiction, but depression and other forms of mental illness. That’s where he started reading the philosophical teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda, who popularized the practice of Kriya Yoga. It's something Deittrick still practices.

Luis Fain, philosophical coach at CMI, said he doesn’t treat addiction as a disease, and instead tries to focus on the underlying conditions that may cause drug and alcohol abuse.

“Drugs give you something to have on life, or at least they give you a sensation to numb the pain,” he said.

For more than a year, Deittrick followed a structured schedule while in treatment, even for something as simple as a shower. The structure helped Deittrick stay on track, but there was still a level of freedom to this structure, and he was allowed to meet with counselors and psychiatrists at coffee houses, rather than at an office or hospital.

Deittrick believes the methods he utilized while in treatment were far more therapeutic than what he had experienced in traditional rehab facilities. But most don’t have the support network to front the expenses of going overseas for treatment.

That’s why Deittrick said he’s working with Fain and Kim Advent, founder Avanti Wellness, a Nevada-based company that researched some of CMI’s methods, to make alternative treatments like philosophical counseling more accessible.

Fain and Advent, who are based in Reno, say they want to focus more attention on Nevada, where the opioid crisis has been a priority for state lawmakers.

Deittrick said while offering something as extensive as CMI in the U.S. may take time, he hopes to start teaching classes of his own, to pass on everything he has learned.

“I only hope that my experience can help save at least one other life,” he said.

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