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

  • Skin Deep

    A Closer Look at Melasma

    Skin discoloration, or hyperpigmentation, is usually a sign of sun damage that begins to worsen as years of unprotected sun exposure rise to the surface of the skin. While typical age spots become visible around the late ‘30s and early ‘40s, a skin condition called melasma usually makes its presence known much earlier.

  • Chew on This

    Food-based therapies becoming mainstream

    Morning television can educate and infuriate.

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">Very veggie:</span> While veggie burgers are better than they used to be, condiments like a Moroccan spice paste help bring their flavor to life.

    The Edgy Veggie

    Taste-testing the new wave of veggie burgers

    The first wave of commercial veggie burgers had issues.

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