Addiction

Help and hope for addicts

 

The Philadelphia Inquirer

Dennis Chambers was introduced to heroin on spring break in 2013. “Dude, it’s cool,” a buddy told him. “Why don’t you just try it?”

He was a freshman at Seton Hall University, 18, and had been battling prescription painkiller addiction for two years.

Home for the summer, Chambers commuted daily from Mantua, N.J., to Camden, N.J., to feed what quickly became a heroin habit.

“It made all my troubles go away, but it brought me to the lowest point imaginable,” he says. “I had everything going for me. And I lost it.”

Unlike less fortunate heroin addicts — the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman comes to mind — Chambers didn’t lose his life.

He went to inpatient rehab, stays clean and sober through 12-Step meetings, and attends community college near Scranton, Pa.

“Recovery doesn’t stop when a person gets out of treatment,” says Randy Brooks Miller, a nurse who works in Kennedy Health System’s behavioral health program.

“Recovery is a lifelong commitment,” adds Miller, whose daughter, 27, has been clean and sober for three years.

The death of Hoffman, 46, on Feb. 2 has drawn attention to treatment of drug and alcohol addiction (the actor relapsed after rehab) and also to heroin’s resurgence.

Associated with renegades of jazz and literature in the ’50s and briefly made chic by seemingly anorexic fashion models in the ’90s, heroin has become a drug of choice among some suburban teens and young adults.

“We’re seeing an increase in heroin addiction among the young people who come through our doors,” says Harold Williams, director of clinical services at the Lakeside Recovery Center, an outpatient program in Sicklerville, N.J.

Like Chambers, users often start by filching prescription painkillers from home medicine cabinets. These powerful pills can cost $50 or more on the street, making heroin at $10 or less a bag an appealing option.

But opiate addiction is no bargain, and recovery is far from easy. Detox is unpleasant at best; relapse is frequent, although certainly not inevitable.

“The biggest myth of all is that people have to want treatment” in order for it to work, says Stephanie Loebs, director of medical services at Seabrook House, an inpatient program near Bridgeton, N.J. “They need treatment.”

Family members also need help, says Chambers’ mother, Barbara Amadei. She teaches English at Clearview High School, where her son recently spoke to students about addiction.

Amadei also recently established a chapter of the support group Families Anonymous. About a dozen people come to the meetings.

Parents often are ashamed that a child has become hooked on heroin — as if anyone could bear the blame for a complex disease that affects the mind as well as the body.

“People don’t choose to become addicts,” Miller says. And suggesting that addicted people should simply straighten themselves up, she adds, is akin to telling a clinically depressed person to snap out of it.

Chambers, in his sixth month of sobriety, says he relapsed several times until he finally decided to get serious. “I had never given recovery a shot,” he says. “I decided to take this opportunity and run with it.”

Treatment professionals like Williams and Loebs say the success stories help them keep the faith.

“There’s help,” Loebs says. “And there’s hope.”

Read more Health stories from the Miami Herald

  • Ask Nancy

    Ask Nancy: My mother won’t listen to her doctors

    Q. My sister and I are constantly taking my 86-year-old mother to the doctor for her real and/or imagined problems and the doctor will make suggestions or prescribe treatments. She either disagrees with what the doctor says and requests to see a different doctor, or decides that she doesn’t want to do the treatment or take the medicine. How do we get her to comply with what the doctors prescribe?

  • Skin Deep

    The connection between lymph and how you look

    You’ve surely heard the word “lymph” or are familiar with the concept of “lymphatic drainage,” but do you really know what this is and what it means for your appearance?

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">WORKING WITH WOMEN: </span>Trainer Idalis Velazquez of Coconut Creek leads a boot camp class in Coral Springs on Monday, July 14, 2014. Women’s Health magazine has named Velazquez as one of five finalists in its Next Fitness Star competition.

    Fitness

    Broward trainer focusing on women’s health — not their looks

    A Coconut Creek trainer is working with women to focus on their health, not their looks. She’s one of five finalists in a Women’s Health competition.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category