Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Phone call from an addict

One of the important aspects of my state representative job is reaching out to constituents about issues kicking around in the joint committees on which I serve. Nothing we've been working on has been more high profile and critical to Cape Cod than opiate addiction.

I received a call the other day from a friend who is an addiction counselor at a rehab facility. He told me that he was sitting in his office with Faye, a 21-year-old cocaine and heroin addict who had been at the facility for 18 days. She was insisting on being released so that she could get back to her neighborhood to get high.

The rehab facility cannot force people to stay, but my friend told her that she needed to speak with her state representative before making her final decision. I am in no way qualified to counsel addicts; I'm just a father of six with a passion for changing our model for dealing with addiction.

With Faye now on the speakerphone, I asked her why she was abandoning her treatment plan. She told me that all she wanted to do was to get high. Nothing else mattered. She and her boyfriend had overdosed on a narcotic a few weeks before. He died. She survived, but the need to get high had clearly overtaken her free will.

I told her that I have six kids and have worried about them getting involved with opiates, even innocently by taking pain medications after a wisdom tooth removal. I asked her what I should say to convinced them to steer clear of opiates. Faye suggested that all I would need to do is to introduce my kids to her. After seeing the impact of drug addiction on her, my children would never consider using.

I asked how Faye views her future. She had no thoughts of what might become of her, other than to say that she'd probably be better off dead. What was important to her, however, was getting out of the rehab facility to chase her next high.

Faye was released later that day.


  1. Addiction treatment is a real puzzler for a "free" society. Is it a crime that should involve jail time? Is it a disease that requires medical treatment? Prison time doesn't appear to help people with addictions and is an expensive taxpayer burden with rare positive results. Conversely what do we do with an addict who does not want medical treatment and declines it, as in your example above? Can we force someone with a potentially life ending disease, be it cancer or addiction, to receive treatment? Perhaps we should treat those addicts who decline treatment as we would an unsuccesful suicide attempt and require them to be held in custody until they are judged to be no longer a danger to themselves. The measure of that could be an involuntary commitment to a drug treatment program and the judgment of medical treatment providers as to when someone has regained the will to resist returning to addiction. This is an imperfect solution with the probability of a significant failure rate, but still appears to be a better approach than locking up addicts and paying their room and board with our tax money.


  2. This is heartbreaking. Peter's questions are well-put. I wonder what recovered addicts have to say about involuntary (at the time) commitment? In any case Randy, thank you for working on the issue and keeping it in our (mostly sheltered, I dare say) sights.


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