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Re: “Guest Commentary

twowheeler, I know Carlos' family, and I can assure you they did all they could to try to get help for him. But you can't force an addict to accept help, particularly once they start to feel the whole world is against them and they are invincible.

I lost my own daughter to a heroin overdose five years ago. She and Carlos had played together as children; her story ended up much the same as his. She went through methadone treatment a few times, but the cursory counseling that comes with that did nothing to help get to the root of the mental health issues that kept her returning to the heroin. Also no help was the fact that the drug suppliers often hung around the methadone clinics to provide "the real thing" to those who were not strong enough to follow through with treatment.

The red tape of the mental health system doesn't make it easy to help an addict when they are most likely to need help, either. My daughter became increasingly depressed and irrational in the last few weeks of her life. She was in and out of crisis care several times, finally returning to detox after being released from several days in the hospital.

I found myself begging the detox to not let her out until we were able to find a way to get her into a mental health clinic for evaluation, because I could tell she had given up hope. I was her mother, I knew what I was seeing. They told me that due to privacy laws, they couldn't even legally admit she was in their care! They said that there was no way they could hold her against her will unless she admitted to being suicidal -- but how many addicts who are bent on doing themselves in are going to do that? They are usually far too clever; they say what it takes to get what they want.

The counselor I spoke to gave me a handful of paperwork to fill out, told me I needed to schedule a hearing, and wait for judgment that she was at risk -- then we MIGHT be able to have her picked up and taken for treatment. I told them we didn't have the time, that I knew if she was allowed to leave there, we would find her dead. They said she was an addict who was making poor choices, but that there was nothing that could be done.

My daughter was found dead of an overdose the next morning, alone in her old apartment, after being released from the detox center not long after I last spoke to her and begged her to wait for us to find a way to help. The counselor I spoke to the day before called to tell me how sorry he was that she had died. He clearly did not understand how serious I was about how badly she needed mental help.

I share Karen's grief, and that of every other parent who has done all they could to save a beloved child when everything is going against them. Our children were indeed ill, not bad people, but society so easily dismisses heroin addicts as if they were trash. Other countries have managed to find positive and supportive ways to treat their addicts so they have every opportunity to come out of their nightmare alive. But unless they have the money to go to the classy treatment resorts, ours end up being put out on the streets or locked up in jail -- where, in many cases, it's just as easy for them to obtain illegal drugs.

I agree that legalization would solve many of the problems. We need to remove the drug cartels from the equation by making it less lucrative for them to bring their products into this country. We also need to be able to obtain the necessary help for our addicted loved ones, instead of being forced to wait for them to be incarcerated, or dead.

Posted by lunarmagpie on 09/23/2010 at 10:02 PM

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