Thursday, April 24, 2014

Opiate addicts- Is there hope for a sober tomorrow?

There is a somewhat high instance of opiate addiction in my family. It is something that is very close to my heart and invades my thoughts daily. I constantly wonder if they will ever find help. If they will call yelling at me one minute then call back crying the next, if they are going to end up in jail or the hospital. I worry constantly about them. While surfing the internet today I ran across a study called: Opiate-addicted Parents in Methadone Treatment: Long-term Recovery, Health and Family Relationships from the National Institute of Health this morning. It can be found at I was extremely saddened by the findings in this well researched study. 

They started following a group of 144 Seattle parents in the early 1990's. They were all in Methadone Clinics to treat opiate addictions. The study followed them throughout the next 12 years and documented their recovery, or attempt at it, and the lives of their children (all ages 3-14 at the start of the study). All the individuals were inteviewed several times over the years and the results compiled and released to the public. 

To summarize some of the report for you:

At the end of the survey 13.2% of the original parents had been able to maintain their sobriety over the 12 year period of time and 9.7% of the parents were able to maintain sobriety during the last 5-10 year period of the study. All the parents that were able to maintain their sobriety linked it to some sort of long term/consistent treatment, like a methadone clinic. That in and of itself is sad to me. I have witnessed the madness of methadone clinics and the behavior of most of their patients- like the "methadone nod-off" as me and my husband have come to call it. While I recognize it is the ONLY answer for some people, it doesn't make it any less disheartening that people who start there typically only maintain their sobriety by staying on there so they can be given another drug to keep them off the opiate. They also found that 25% of the original parents had actually died from overdosing or from a condition that could be linked to opiate misuse throughout the course of the study. 

46% of the original parents were NOT able to stay sober throughout the years. They had either constant or periodic opiate usage over the course of the study. Almost half of the addicts were unable to maintain sobriety! That is a real eye opener for me. How can a substance be such a large problem for an extended period of time and STILL be so easy to obtain? Things such as an astounding homelessness rate (44.8% for the individuals that still used), criminal records (90% had a criminal record from the last decade), and a heightened need for prescription drugs for other conditions (79% where only 47% of the general public use prescriptions) now plagued the individuals so many years after becoming addicted. These statistics do NOT give me much hope for the family members that I have with opiate issues. 

My biggest problem with the opiate addicts in my life and the ones I witness out in the world is the babies. They all have children that they love intensely but refuse to see how much they are messing up by using. This study even states that 1/2 of the children involved in the study were removed from their parents care during their childhood. In my experience and as mentioned in the study, in a lot of the cases the children were removed due in large part to neglect and an unwillingness to keep their house clean. 19% also claimed physical abuse from their parents. 

The point in writing this is to raise this question- Why are we not offering FREE treatment facilities for opiate addicts to get their lives back on track? If a success rate is notable as long as the individual stays in a treatment then why is treatment SO hard to obtain? A few of my family members are desperate to quit using, have been for years. They are hard core addicts that shoot up. The places they have tried to get help from are of NO help. I mean, you can detox a person in a few days, but you can't recover them unless you teach them how to live sober, and most of the places don't or do a poor job of attempting to do so. It's either that or the cost is so high that they have NO hope of getting help at the place. There are great treatment facilities out there and great programs to help with the costs, but not enough of them, only the lucky few get their help. This problem is continuing to grow and doesn't discriminate against color or age. It ruins families and ruins a large number of the next generation by allowing them to be raised by opiate addicts or placing them in the system to avoid being raised by an opiate addict. This shouldn't and really can't be ignored any longer. Something needs to change.

Most of these addicts didn't ask to become addicted or want too. They were hurt in some fashion, whether it be fighting in a war or getting into an automobile accident, and had their doctor prescribe them little pills to aid with the pain. They became addicted over time because of poor self control and doctors that didn't pay attention to their patients or the amount of medication they were dispensing. Addictions being prescribed by doctors one refill at a time and NO adequate treatment measures for correcting it- and this is suppose to be acceptable? I know, I know... FREE TREATMENT FOR ADDICTS! PSSST... Just a dream! It's a nice one though, isn't it?  

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