If you suspect that your son or daughter is using heroin, you should intervene immediately. Waiting and treating this issue lightly could cause your son or daughter to lose his or her life. Heroin use can be lethal.
Teenagers who have a serious addiction to heroin, crack-cocaine and/or pills should seriously consider a detox program as the first step toward recovery. Withdrawal can be a painful and difficult process. Oftentimes, medical supervision is necessary.
After a detox program, if your son or daughter has become addicted to heroin you should consider long-term/residential treatment. Most insurance companies are scandalous in their resistance to approve this form of treatment for this serious addiction. More often than not, they recommend intensive outpatient treatment, which is a recipe for failure and disaster for most teenagers. Some will even die in the process.
As a clinically trained social worker, who has worked with heroin addicts for over 25 years, outpatient modalities are rarely effective for adolescents; short-term rehabs are often inadequate. The best chance at recovery for recovering teenage heroin addicts is long-term residential treatment programs for a minimum of one year.
The average teenage addict does not get it through outpatient treatment. There are too many distractions and temptations. Short-term rehabs do not have enough time to really secure the skills for recovery in the recovering person. Few short-term rehabs adequately prepare teenagers appropriately to reenter the drug and alcohol infested neighborhoods that they came from.
Self-help groups like narcotic anonymous and alcoholics anonymous are very effective support mechanisms for people trying to maintain and sustain recovery. However, they don't always work for everyone.
During the first year of recovery, the teenage addict should see an individual psychotherapist on a weekly basis. There are few supports for teenagers battling recovery.
Unfortunately, insurance companies make recovery even more complicated, because they pay for little to nothing. For some addicts, treatment is defined by what insurance will cover-and that is a scandal. Most insurance companies that provide treatment coverage are incompetent.
The other tragic issue is that we lack the resources necessary to support recovering teenagers. We do not have an adequate number of beds to care for the growing number of adolescents whose lives are out of control due to addiction. We do not have enough licensed professionals to work with teenage addicts one-on-one.
Although Suffolk County's Office of Community Mental Hygiene Services, which includes substance-abuse services, saw a 2% rise in funding that minimal increase had nothing to do with adding more beds for adolescent treatment.
The budget for the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, which regulates treatment for chemical and gambling addictions, was cut this past year by 10%. That is outrageous.
Private facilities can cost as much as $30,000 for a month-long stay. Needless to say, there are very few parents who can afford that kind of expensive treatment, which at best, is still not enough. Heroin addicts need so much more.
Too many insurance companies that do cover substance abuse treatment and/or mental health treatment have a "once-in-a-lifetime" clause or an ex-amount of visits within one year, whether the person is better or not. Insurance companies should not legislate the kind of treatment for a person battling addiction.
Lack of resources and the inept bureaucracy are costing drug addicts their lives. JK was 23. His life is not perfect. As a teenager, he struggled with serious mental health difficulties. His parents literally abandoned him at the age of 16. He found his way to a community residence and reclaimed his life. He graduated from high school, got healthy mentally, and went on to study at a local community college. He eventually was able to manage his life independently.
JK found his career path working construction, specifically as a roofer. Financially, he was managing reasonably well. Unfortunately, his social life had become quite unmanageable. He was drinking heavily after work and started experimenting with a wide range of pills, street drugs and heroin.
Once he started experimenting with heroin, it quickly consumed him. He lost his job, and almost his life, so he sought help. He didn't have any insurance. He applied for emergency Medicaid. At his eligibility hearing, he was honest and admitted to having a few hundred dollars saved for his rent. His honesty cost him a 30 day sanction and put his Medicaid application on hold. Without a Medicaid number pending, no treatment program would take him at the time.
On the 29th day of his sanction, his best friend found him dead in his shower. He died of a heroin overdose, the night before.
JK's death was preventable. The system took his life. What will it take for us to address this serious health crisis? How many more young people will senselessly die? Will someone with power have to bury his son or daughter, before we get action that will provide the necessary beds for treatment and hold insurance companies and Medicaid more accountable? Someone in your circle of life could be battling a heroin addiction. It could be your son or daughter, let s make a difference before it s too late!
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