I spent a lot of time blaming myself for JoDee’s addiction. It’s hard not to. Any parent will say the same. I wondered if I missed something or if she gave me hints, or did I help her use by giving her money or letting her use my car. Blame is a really hard thing to get away from. All too often when something bad or tragic happens we as humans, need someone to point the finger at, so to point the finger away from ourselves. I spent a lot of time blaming Long Gone (the boyfriend she had when she began using). I still hate his guts, don’t get me wrong. I mean, I wouldn’t mind at all if he was struck by lightening, in the face, twice, and lived, but I can’t blame him entirely. Blaming myself or blaming Long Gone takes any responsibility away from JoDee. I know this sounds contradictory to my stance that addiction is a disease, I still believe that. But, just like any disease, once it’s diagnosed a person has to make decisions that affect the outcome of the illness.
This past Sunday in the Boston Globe Magazine which comes in the Sunday paper (copy of article attached) there was a piece written by a doctor. He outlines how medical practice guidelines and insurance policies geared the health community to begin medicating patients. There were studies done on how patients were suffering with pain and opiates were a good pain reliever with little side effects and low risk of dependency. At the time, I believe this was in the 90’s; there was a push for providers to write prescriptions for pain medications so not to have patients experience unnecessary pain. The writer believed that there are some bad apples that over-prescribed knowingly but the larger percentage of doctors began prescribing pain meds as a way to provide better healthcare. Now, the fall out is that there are millions of addicts not dependent but addicted to pain killers. There are lots of studies that show opiates are addictive, and many people become addicted to them and when the supply is cut off addicts are turning to heroin which has similar effect with less the expense. I give the writer a lot of credit for acknowledging the problem and outlining, in an educated and eloquent way, how the problem came to be.
However (insert big sigh so you know I am about to get on my soapbox), that isn’t entirely accurate. I know that JoDee did not have a sports injury that caused her to become dependent and then addicted. She didn’t take meds from our bathroom cabinet or a friend’s bathroom cabinet. She didn’t even jump from pills on the street to heroin. She went from drinking and smoking pot to heroin in one step. I don’t know why that happened. Boredom? Poor decision-making? Peer pressure from Lone Gone? Stupidity? Something much deeper and psychological that we may never truly understand? I think it was probably a little of all of the above. That doesn’t mean that what the good doctor was saying isn’t true. There is some truth to it, but it’s not entirely the reason. I have met plenty of people along the way that had a drug of choice being pills and never deviated from that. In the 90’s we were so busy educated girls on teen pregnancy and abstinence that we missed that they went from shooting sperm to shooting drugs. (TMI?) Teen pregnancy went down dramatically in the late 90’s and into 2000’s. Contraception became more available, there was more focus on long-term parenting and responsibility, and schools began classes where a student would bring home a life-like doll to emulate infancy. This was all great steps and as a result, the next generation began to realize that baby mama drama is no fun.
That’s what needs to happen with addiction. Instead of trying to find out why our kids are electing to stick a needle in their arm, we need to educate them better on the after effect. Pointing fingers and blaming anyone is sort of irrelevant. It’s not helping the dying and suffering addict obtain the life-saving help they desperately need. Ridicule, shaming, disowning, even sky-rocketing overdoses is not stopping them. There is an element to finding the why to prevent it in the future, but at the rate that this generation is being wiped out, it’s time ill spent.
The direct result of the mass closing of all mental health facilities aside from court ordered and acute hospitals we have collectively displaced thousands of people who would have otherwise gotten mental health services. Now there are wait lists for a psychiatrist, and waitlist for the vivtrol clinic, but no waiting line for the suboxone and methadone clinics. Drug replacement therapy has become the norm, and for some that’s fine, but it shouldn’t be the only. Too few services available against too many people in need; that’s the why. JoDee get’s discharged from programs with a list of psychiatrists and a hand full of prescriptions which should last her 30 days. Meanwhile, it takes her 3 months to see a prescribing practitioner so her meds run out and no one to refill them. Off the meds she goes, the cycle starts again. The after-care is deplorable. And the spin cycle that has become detox is a joke. I won’t get started about how a large percentage of the time my daughter has been in detox she was more drugged into a zobbie and less tapered off. Once the 5 days is up, out you go with a prayer, a list and a “see you soon”. Over and over addicts are told stop doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results yet that is exactly the case with the substance abuse programs. Relapse? Go to detox. After detox? Go to an IOP. Show up at your IOP high, get kicked out and put into a relapse prevention group therapy. Group therapy is a code word for Monday Night Supply Group? Get kicked out again. Need a therapist? Put you on the wait list. Call 3 months later with a therapist but addict doesn’t answer because they are using? Not shocking.
I think it’s wonderful that addiction is a discussion that is happening. It can only open more minds to see that there is a real crisis happening. Even if folks are saying it’s a choice, addicts are bums, whatever. If I have that argument with 10 people and 1 walks away seeing it from a different perspective then I think it’s a job well done. And, I give the writer a lot of credit for putting himself out there. But let’s spend less time trying to decide whose fault it is, more time brainstorming ways to save an addict.