Sunday, 24 February 2013

John's Story / Accessing Treatment

This blog entry has two parts. One is the story about one Island youth battling addiction. The other is about the lack of treatment options available when they do reach out for help.

John's story...

When I was 13-years-old, a friend got some marijuana from his older brother and wanted me to try it with him. I thought my parents were just bullshitting me about the dangers of drugs in order to scare me from ever trying them, so I wanted to see what it was like. I really liked the feeling it gave me. I felt relaxed and happy.

This experience with drugs led me down a road to hell. When I no longer got that great feeling from marijuana, I moved on to acid, ecstasy, cocaine, and opiates. My opiate addiction is now killing me mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

I continue to battle my addiction and am having a hard time to overcome it. I have lost my health, my reputation, my education, my job, my spirit, my self-esteem, and myself. I do not even know who I am anymore.

I am paying a very heavy price for a decision that I made as a teenager. I wish I could turn back the time and take back the moment that I decided to try drugs, especially the opiates that are killing me little by little. Since I can’t take that moment back, I pray that I can overcome this before it is too late. Many have died from this disease and I do not want to be one of them.

I was clean for 30 days recently when I was serving time in jail. I felt good about myself. I gained some weight and was getting my health back. It was the closest thing to treatment that I received for my addiction. However, the jail had very little in the way of actual treatment programs and I relapsed within a day of getting out.

I honestly do not know how to live without drugs. They have been part of my life since I was 13. I feel bad about myself now because of the people that I’ve hurt through my addiction. I hate what I am doing to my family. The cravings and withdrawals are so bad that I just want to die. I don’t know how to handle them so I use drugs to stop the pain. I don’t like myself very much, at least not this addicted person that I have become. The real me is here behind all of this but I don’t know how to dig my way out of this mess that I’m in.

I am sharing my story in the hopes that other kids will learn from it and not try drugs at all. I never expected to become addicted. I thought that I could handle it and stop when I wanted to. I was very WRONG.

Note from Rose on Accessing Treatment

At the time John told his story, he was 20-years-old and really struggling with his addiction. There are many people on PEI (and elsewhere) just like him. With the prescription drug epidemic in North America, we are now faced with a crisis. Prescription Drug Addiction a Major Public Health Crisis

There are record numbers of people battling addictions to these prescription pills. There are many others who die from trying pills just once. One pill can kill. Unfortunately, John, like many others, has not been able to access adequate enough treatment for his addiction. Without treatment, addicts will continue to relapse because they don't know how to deal with cravings, triggers, living a clean life, guilt, etc. I want all youth to be able to break free from their addictions when they ask for help. Whether they have success after the first time or not, treatment never loses value. In their darkest days, what they learned in treatment could light the way back to their lives and their families.

The biggest downfall for PEI is that we are the only province without a residential treatment centre, which is significant considering that this type of treatment offers the best outcome.  On shows like Intervention, Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz and others who do interventions, addicts are always sent to residential treatment centres. There is a reason for that. It is their best chance to overcome the addiction. While I am not a fan of the way these shows perpetuate the stereotypes around addiction (a dysfunctional family with a lot of drama is more fun to watch than a normal, everyday family), the shows are getting it right in the area of treatment.  Housing Following Detox Coupled With Day Treatment Increases Chances Of Drug Abstinence At 6 Months

Our provincial government says that when a youth needs it, they are sent to residential treatment at Portage Atlantic in New Brunswick. As someone who knows a lot of addicted youth and their families, I can tell you that I know more kids who have been turned down (our son was one of them) than who have been sent to treatment. Many of the lucky ones who were given the opportunity to go had to fight for it. This shouldn’t be. I will talk about our son’s rejection – one of the most devastating days in our life – in another post. There are empty beds at Portage. This shouldn't be when so many youth are asking for help and being turned down (like my son)! Addictions Facility Underused, says Opposition

The fact is that without treatment, there are three outcomes for addiction: jails, institutions, and death.

Youth like John need to have access to adequate treatment so they can get well. All you have to do is talk to a parent of an addict if you want to hear what accessing treatment is like.

A few years ago, I did a survey that was filled out by people who are addicted or have loved ones who are. In other words, they or their loved ones are clients of our Addiction Services. Please keep in mind that I am not a survey expert. I am presenting the raw data to you below.

Survey Results

Only 8% felt that we had adequate enough treatment here on PEI for addictions.

85% had to wait more than a week for a detox bed. (When an addict says they want treatment, it needs to be immediate because tomorrow could be too late. They could be dead. Treatment is not immediate on PEI.)

58% of those addicted were under the age of 30.

Only 7% of those addicted were sent to Portage Atlantic.

Answers to the question: If you could wave a magic wand and have the ideal treatment options on PEI that would lead to more success in overcoming addiction, what would be available?

·         A full time rehab program

·         To be able to go right into the addiction center and have a bed and to be able to get through the program and not just go for a detox and then back out on the street

·         I would have more experienced workers. A few are good but there's room for improvement. We need more beds for males in detox and we need more involved recovery programs.

·         At least a 30 day treatment facility program, or even longer for that matter. Then an outpatient deal that will help him when he is out.

·         Less of a wait time to get into detox.

·         Complimentary treatments also offered, immediate care (no waiting lists) admission, support, medical care... given to those who seek it, real and effective after care programs, more community involvement and education, better schools commitment vs kicking these kids out, remove the stigma and embrace addiction with the respect and love it requires.

·         Faster access to help and to treatment.

·         Opiod only treatment facility.

·         A transition home for women and teenagers coming back from Portage, Strength, etc.

·         Counseling for non-chemical addictions.

·         Extensive long period treatment (6 months to a year).

·         Long-term treatment facility and access to detox without a two week wait.

·         Better detox, more inpatient treatment, more affordable access to Portage, stop detoxing opiate addicts for up to 8 days with the use of Methadone and then sending them back on to the streets - this does not work!

·         Available detox when needed with effective follow up treatment.

·         Increase beds for adults and youth alike. 2 beds for all PEI youth is almost a joke ( is a joke) - post-treatment programs.

·         I think detox, yes, but I do believe 1 week not near long enough, therefore would like to see detox straight to aftercare for the addicts.

·         An actual addiction rehab centre where patients stay longer than just a few weeks. You can barely quit smoking let alone hard drugs in that amount of time. Also follow up programs and more info on programs that are offered. I had to really dig to find out what was available for my son. Very sad. A fight all the way.

·         A place for all ages to go and get the treatment needed for their addictions.

·         It would be for a large treatment center to be built and have enough rooms for people to either come in on there own or start after they leave jail. You should be able to have 30, 60, 90 day programs or more if that is what you feel you need to have the skills to stay away from drugs. And to the government, think of the jobs. That would great.

·         A treatment facility that is readily available to everyone.

·         Doctors trained in addictions with compassion, councilors with compassionate, and an expert in the field of all addictions seen and unseen. Most of all education in prevention.

·         More facilities.

·         More & easier access to extended programs, a place where youth can stay for extended periods of time.

·         We need a rehab facility and more detox places, too, because it takes too long to get into detox. There’s not enough space available.

·         More available emergency beds.

·         Recovery center and intensive treatment.

·         Inpatient treatment program with unlimited beds and to stay as long as needed.

·         There would be a centre for teens, where parents can sign them in and they don't leave until ready. More beds in the detox facility. More options then just detox.

·         Longer treatment is necessary and patients need to learn to cope in the real world and deal with daily issues.

·         More rehab options.

·         A treatment program that didn’t send you back into the world before you were prepared to cope... they don’t give you two legs to stand on and expect you to stay clean.

·         Better treatment options.

·         A rehabilitation center that would help young people to get the information and education they need about drugs, not just a detox center.

·         Not just a week for detox. It doesn’t do any help... and if you’re so bad into drugs they should be forced to stay until treated.

·         Help in prescription pill addictions. So many youth - adults of today are dangerously addicted.

·         A rehab center with full time physicians and way more beds in our communities. Respect for addicts is not given in a lot of places, including hospitals.

·         When the addicted person is asking for help, it should be available at once instead of saying “you'll have to try tomorrow”. Too many gaps in the system. Youth addictions don't recognize the addiction counselor at the jail. No long term youth rehab in the province.

·         Have a place where they can stay longer to fight addictions. They’re let out way to soon and fall back into their old habits right away.

·         More programs, more beds, more help.

·         I would have treatment centres readily available, not a long waiting list.

·         Long term care facility where they work on a farm while getting counseling.

·         Better treatment facilities, more inpatient programs, which are longer than 30 days.

·         Send them off Island, away from all their friends and family.

·         Better educated staff, more beds as a person I know was told to leave after their second day there because someone else needed his bed worse than him, it was so sad because he relapsed.

·         Camps for children to get away from drugs, friends, and peer-pressure, until they are clean and feel strong enough.

·         A youth residential treatment program

We ALL need to fight for better services (more funding) because one day it could be your child, grandchild, niece, nephew, aunt, uncle, or another family member who is addicted. It is hard enough to deal with the addiction. It is downright devastating when your child is turned down for the help that you know will give them the best chance to overcome the addiction. For every $1 spent on treatment, $12 is saved in other areas including Justice and Health. The investment needs to be made today before more lives are lost.