There is help. Don’t wait.
That was the message at an addiction program in Marblehead last week, sponsored by the discussion group 3 Voices.
A panel of experts, survivors, and advocates agreed - there are many kinds of prevention and treatment programs available for addicts and their families, if they’ll only reach out.
“Don’t let stigma stop you,” said Paul Kusiak, a Beverly father whose two sons are recovering addicts. “As a nation, stigma is one of our biggest problems and it keeps families from getting help sooner.”
Much of the program focused on how to keep kids off drugs. Bob Erbetta, a retired Navy captain from Marblehead who works with the Navy and Rotary International on drug prevention efforts, wanted to know the best way to teach kids the dangers of addiction.
“The key is to provide information in a non-judgmental way,” said Ellen Terry, an addiction counselor at the Salem Hospital ER. “You can’t just tell teens, ‘Don’t do drugs.’”
The panel agreed that peer-to-peer education is most effective, with recovering teen addicts talking to other teens about the horrors of addiction.
“Kids will listen to another teen who is a recovering addict,” said Ariele Goldman, who got clean two years ago after starting to use as a Swampscott teenager. “They need to hear real-life stories.”
Anne Lucas of Marblehead says her daughter went in and out drug rehab and only stayed clean after working with counselors who were recovering addicts themselves. Lucas has since written a play, Recovery, after families coping with an addicted child.
She recommends parents of addicts educate themselves.
“Go to an Al-Anon or AA meeting. Learning about disease is the first foothold to understanding it,” Lucas said.
Michelle Simons, the substance abuse prevention coordinator for the city of Lynn, says it’s important to teach kids how to regulate their emotions, since so many users are trying to dull their pain. Teens also need training in self-esteem and how to say no to friends pushing drugs. She called it “refusal training.”
Frightening Numbers, Close to Home
Drug overdoses are a huge problem nationally, killing more than 700,000 people in 2017. That’s double the number from a decade ago.
Terry says Salem Hospital sees about two overdose patients every night, with one to two people dying of an OD there each week.
“Ten percent of all people who drink or drug will become addicted,” she said. “And your chance is four times greater if your parents are addicts.”
Terry said Marblehead is a hotbed for addiction.
“Marblehead has got to be one of the most alcoholic towns on the planet,” she said and encouraged parents to examine their own addictive behaviors, whether with alcohol or prescription medications.
The panel recommended several resources, including:
Partnership for Drug-Free Kids at www.drugfree.org
Grayken Center for Addiction at Boston Medical Center https://www.bmc.org/addiction/new-resources-massachusetts-parents
Bridgewell in Lynn at www.bridgewell.org
Lahey Behavioral Health at http://nebhealth.org/services-locations/addiction-treatment/
“There is hope,” Terry said. “It feels very hopeless sometimes, but there is hope.”
3 Voices - Should I Stay or Should I Go?
3 Voices is planning a fall series looking at questions facing seniors deciding whether to stay in their homes or move on to smaller settings, perhaps with assistance. 3 Voices will post more information as it becomes available at www.3voices.org.