If you believe that a family member has an addiction to drugs or alcohol, you're not alone. In the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nearly one in 11 Americans reported using illegal drugs in the past month. That's an estimated 22.6 million people admitting to drug abuse.
The picture is equally bleak in our area. The Carbon-Monroe-Pike Drug and Alcohol Commission (CMPDA) has seen a surge in addiction among young adults between the age of 18 and 34. The most common types of addiction involve opiates such as heroin or prescription pain medication like OxyContin or codeine.
"Narcotics are very easy to get addicted to," said Jamie Drake, treatment program manager at the CMPDA. "It's easy to get. We take too many pills in our society, and medical professionals don't get a lot of education about substance abuse."
Perhaps the first step to reduce drug dependence is to realize the power prescription drugs can hold. Pain medications can be a great tool to control acute pain, said Drake, while noting that it's not uncommon for young adults to search for and abuse pain medication found in their parents' or grandparents' medicine cabinets. Heroin is also easy to obtain and relatively inexpensive.
"So many parents have told me, please don't tell anyone that my daughter or son has a problem. I'm so embarrassed," said Louisa Sarge of Lansford, the mother of Lauren Daderko Buscher, a recovered heroin addict. Both play an active role in encouraging other addicts and their family members to find help.
"Since this all happened, we've had a lot of people calling and asking for help. They're humiliated that their child or loved one is struggling from this addiction, not realizing how many other people have this problem," she said. "Do not be ashamed of this disease. Scream from the rooftops for help. Until you do this, you're going to continue failing. It's just going to get progressively worse, and unfortunately some of these young people will die," said Sarge.
Drug or alcohol addicts seeking help can contact the CMPDA's referral agency at 888-824-3578. Financial help is available for those without insurance. Sarge and Buscher also recommend that addicts seeking help look into national programs like the Salvation Army's Adult Rehabilitation Center.
"There is free help out there," added Buscher. "You just have to know where to look."
Recognizing that a loved one has a problem is important for families, but it can also be frustrating. Legally, you can't force a person over the age of 18 to accept help.
"You can't commit somebody to drug and alcohol treatment. They have to be willing to come in for treatment," said Drake, adding that there is a legal process for parents who wish to get help for their minor children. For young adults, all they can do is work with addicts to help them admit they have a problem.
"We try to move our clients along this process, to realize that they need help, but they've got to come to this on their own. The bad has to outweigh the good."
While family members cannot request intervention or treatment, they can contact the Carbon County office for advice on their situation and to request counseling for themselves. Ideally, the entire family should receive counseling, because addiction affects more than just the person abusing drugs or alcohol; it touches every person in the family.
While Drake and her associates cannot provide advice on how family members should convince their loved ones to get help, she does try to provide them with options. Some parents cut off financial support, removing their child's ability to buy drugs.
Others contact law enforcement in the hopes that criminal charges will push their child into court-ordered rehab. She offers parents a chance to discuss options and ramifications, but urges them to make their own decisions for their child.
"You have to be comfortable with the decision that you make. For many parents, especially mothers, it's a difficult thing to do."