The Faces of Addiction

Every day in the newspaper and during the evening television news, there is a story about addiction. Twenty years ago, addiction was a social concern that was rarely spoken about in any public forum. Today, ...

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Every day in the newspaper and during the evening television news, there is a story about addiction. Twenty years ago, addiction was a social concern that was rarely spoken about in any public forum. Today, there is probably not a family that does not struggle with this issue.

In recent times, addiction has taken on a very human face - the face of our young. A growing number of teenagers are experimenting and choosing very lethal drugs to experiment with and to recreate with. As more and more teenagers are coming forward with their drug use, it is clear that we don t have enough resources to provide competent, comprehensive care for those who wish to enter recovery.

Unfortunately, most treatment opportunities are financially driven. In English, that means if you don t have insurance or can t pay out-of-pocket, treatment opportunities are not available. A small group of treatment modalities will offer scholarships, and/or a sliding scale payment for services rendered.

The most underserved population is our teenagers. Most insurance companies want teenage addicts to try outpatient treatment first before they will authorize any kind of inpatient care. That approach to teenage addiction is unconscionable. With the rise in heroin use, we need additional beds for long-term treatment. Too many teenagers will die this year because of the lack of treatment opportunities for them.

We need more long-term treatment beds for adolescents and young adults. Twenty eight days is not long enough for young adults or adolescents who are battling heroin addiction. These young people need extensive time, not only to learn the lingo of recovery, but rather the meaning of recovery. They need to develop life skills that will help them navigate the drug infested neighborhoods they came from.

Too many heroin addicts return home after a brief stay in a short term rehab ill-equipped to handle life s challenges. Life is hard on a good day, never mind if you are battling an addiction.

Once the young addict returns home, he or she needs tremendous support; it is not enough to go to 12 step meetings every day, if the recovering person does not have the tools to empower him or her to make positive decisions and avoid negative choices.

The rooms of NA and AA have probably the best track record for sustaining ongoing recovery in the addict s life. However the rooms are not without their challenges. Recently a group of young recovering adolescents were working hard on their recovery. After leaving treatment, they were encouraged to find a network of 12 step meetings that would support their ongoing recovery.

They found a number of meetings that seemed to be everything that they were hoping for. These meetings were drawing a large group of recovering young people. The nightly speakers seemed well grounded in the principles of recovery. These two novices in recovery began attending these meetings.

As time passed, they noticed some things that were very troubling. A group of guys were hanging out outside the meeting and were drawing some young people from inside to the outside. They also noticed some strange exchanges taking place. By the second week, they realized that some of these strange exchanges were drug deals.

Guys that were supposed to be in early recovery were now getting high and lying about their clean-time. One of the veterans at this meeting saw what was happening and confronted the two young men who were using and the guy who was selling. The confrontation forced the seller to leave the meeting. The young man who confronted him, said he was welcomed back when he was prepared to be drug-free and not bring other recovering persons down.

JP is 18. He has been battling addiction since he was 15. Six months ago, he entered a long-term rehab. He worked hard on his recovery. It wasn t easy for him. His stay was extended twice due to noncompliance. He finally graduated from treatment and felt like he had a new lease on life. He had a good sponsor and was working his program every day but the demons of addiction were torturing him.

He was living in a sober environment, but was starting to cheat a little each day. After work he would meet a friend at happy hour. Initially he would just have cranberry juice. But then he started to sneak shots of vodka into his cranberry juice. Only the bartender knew his secret.

After awhile the vodka wasn t enough. He was craving something more. His drug of choice was never alcohol, but rather Oxycontin and heroin. He met his sponsor at his Sunday night meeting as he always did. What his sponsored did not know, was that he called an old drug dealer and asked him to meet him at the meeting with five bags of heroin.

JP very discreetly took the bags and needles from his dealer. He went into this meeting, listened for a while and left early, feigning illness. He went down the street to the local pub, bought a shot of vodka and went into the men s room. He went into the stall, shot up the five bags and passed out on the floor.

Thankfully, another patron came into the bathroom and discovered JP on the floor. He called 911 immediately. Thanks to their quick response, his life was saved in the emergency room of a local hospital.

After JP was medically detoxed, he went back into long-term treatment. Hopefully, he ll get it right this time. As parents and caring people, we need to be more vigilant, especially when people leave treatment; even The Rooms are not safe from this horrible infection and the people who spread it!