, Salem, MA


April 1, 2014

Watson: Treating drug addiction needs less stigma

Last week, I sat in on two support-group meetings conducted by Learn To Cope, an organization dedicated to providing information and guidance to the parents and family members of children addicted to opiates and other drugs.

Recently, a cluster of heroin overdoses and deaths on the South Shore of Massachusetts captured public attention and focused both citizens and local and state officials on the issues of drug use, prevention and treatment.

Since 1996, when opiate-based prescription painkillers like OxyContin were introduced into wide use, illicit use of opiates has increased. Especially in suburbs and rural areas, misuse of OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, Demerol and codeine among young people ages 12 to 25 became significant. An estimated 15 percent of high school seniors have tried prescription drugs (for fun) within the past year.

As the availability of opioid prescriptions has become more restricted — a deliberate crackdown — and the street price of those drugs has climbed, youthful addicts have increasingly turned to heroin. It is a well-known pattern: experiment with a variety of Vicodin, Adderall, Ecstasy, weed and hallucinogens and end up hooked mostly on the opiates. As the addict’s tolerance to the chemicals increases, he needs bigger and more frequent doses to attain the same high. Eventually, his budget, drug availability and the maturing strength of his habit lead him to heroin (cheaper and purer), which at first he just snorts or smokes. Ultimately, the addict moves to needles, which provide the fastest, most powerful drug delivery.

The grip of opiate addiction is fearsome. An opiate habit causes long-term changes in the structure and functioning of the brain. A full-blown addict is helpless not to lie, cheat, steal, sell his or her body, or do just about anything to procure the drug. Seeking heroin becomes the primary purpose in life.

Text Only | Photo Reprints

AP Video
Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Palestinians and Israeli Soldiers Clash Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kerry: No Deal Yet on 7-Day Gaza Truce Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Gaza Residents Mourn Dead Amid Airstrikes Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe Raw: Big Rig Stuck in Illinois Swamp Cumberbatch Brings 'Penguins' to Comic-Con Raw: Air Algerie Crash Site in Mali Power to Be Restored After Wash. Wildfire Crashed Air Algerie Plane Found in Mali Israel Mulls Ceasefire Amid Gaza Offensive
Comments Tracker
Roll Call
Helium debate