Jerry Davich: All the ‘anonymous people’ in addiction recovery
February 8, 2014 10:38PM
Aaron Kochar, director of prevention and education at Porter-Starke Services Inc., shows the rescue kit used to respond to opioid overdose - the antagonist naloxone. | Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 10, 2014 6:13AM
The 19-year-old woman started dating a man who was a recovering heroin junkie, figuring her attention and affection could help him fight his addiction.
Her romantic notion backfired. Within a few weeks, she was an addict, too.
“Although she smokes cigarettes every so often, she never made a habit of it,” the woman’s mother told me. “She thought doing heroin was going to be the same thing. She could just stop when she wanted to.”
How quaint. How misguided. How potentially deadly.
The Hobart woman is now in recovery, though she relapsed shortly after receiving treatment. She was selling her Suboxone medication to buy more heroin, a common tactic for users in recovery.
Addicts will sell anything to get their fix, even their soul if they could. Also, they will not only steal your money and lie about it. They’ll pretend to help you look for it.
“Since that happened, I started watching her take her medication,” the mother said. “I have it locked up so she can’t get to it.”
This is yet another oh-so-familiar scenario for the frustrated loved ones of users in recovery, the “anonymous people” of our society. We like to pretend they don’t exist but, as I learned firsthand, they do and their troubles are our troubles.
“The problem is there is so many young adults dying around here and not one of their deaths were made public that it was caused by an overdose of heroin,” the mother said.
She’s right — most heroin-related deaths are brushed under the societal carpet of shame, stigma and embarrassment. When I see an obit of someone between the age of 16 and 25 with no listed cause of death, I immediately assume it was drug addiction.
For nearly a decade now I’ve been asking the same questions: Has too much disposable cash in our drive-thru society led to the notion of drive-by, disposable lives? Can boredom be blamed for sliding needles of excitement into the veins of the young and restless? Are tomorrow’s expectations too much for today’s students? Do four-star schools not hear the five-alarm warnings?
Back then, heroin use was stupidly dismissed as a passing fad, not the plague of a generation. With the recent death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, the national spotlight is once again shining on the shadowy effects of heroin use, overdoses and deaths.
“One tool to respond to opioid overdose is the antagonist naloxone, it’s really is a miracle drug,” said Aaron Kochar, director of prevention and education at Porter-Starke Services Inc. in Valparaiso. “It can bring a person back from the brink of death in a matter of minutes.”
Most opioid overdose deaths occur one to three hours afterward, and stem from oxygen deprivation, Kochar said. Naloxone reverses opioid overdose by replacing and blocking agonists such as heroin, Vicodin, or OxyContin from attaching to the brain’s opioid receptors.
Naloxone has been used for decades and has been proven effective, nonaddictive and almost perfectly safe for anyone to use, he said. Since 1996, naloxone prevention programs have trained 53,032 people and 10,171 people have had an overdose reversed.
“It’s easy to use, relatively inexpensive, can’t be abused and poses almost no side effects,” Kochar said. “The sooner naloxone is administered, the greater the chance for recovery. It’s a tool that helps keep our loved ones alive so they can have a chance to seek help.”
Senate Bill 227, which expands those who can administer naloxone in Indiana, unanimously passed the Senate and has been assigned to the Courts and Criminal Code Committee of the House.
“Substance abuse has been a problem in Porter County for some time,” said Beatrice Owen, director of the Porter County Substance Abuse Council. “Our efforts, along with many others in the county, are helping to turn the tide.”
The council’s latest effort is by sponsoring the screening of an insightful film that explores this stigmatized topic. It’s titled, “The Anonymous People,” featuring interviews with more than 30 people, among the millions in long-term recovery from addiction, who are making the courageous decision to speak out publicly.
“I heard about this movie while attending a training seminar in Washington, D.C.,” Owen told me. “When we returned to Porter County, we investigated the movie. It’s about moving addiction from the shadows and into the light.”
“People in recovery are especially excited about this,” she said. “Imagine feeling stigmatized for years, outcast and unwanted.”
“For individuals who have become addicted, we need to make sure treatment is available. And we need to accept addicted individuals. We are very excited about this opportunity to keep the conversation going in Porter County,” Owen said.
The film’s Northwest Indiana premiere will take place at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19, at the Portage 16 IMAX Theater. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased online at http://gathr.us/screening/6957 or by calling the Porter County Substance Abuse Council at 462-0946.
“Our connection is the need to start talking about substance abuse in an open, effective manner,” Owen said. “People get sick, we need to help them get better. We need to lessen the incidence of experimentation, abuse, addiction.”
By the way, the council sells drug-testing kits to parents who wish to test a child 17 years or younger. The kits cost $5, and parents can purchase up to four kits at a time to regularly test for marijuana, heroin, cocaine and ecstasy.
For more info on the film and its mission, visit its organizer, Many Faces 1 Voice, at http://manyfaces1voice.org. To watch the film’s trailer, visit www.the
“This movie is a first step in helping people with addiction feel they are wanted and part of the community,” Owen said.
Connect with Jerry via email, at email@example.com, voice mail, at 713-7237, or Facebook, Twitter, and his blog, at jerrydavich.wordpress.com.