The opioid abuse epidemic, while formidable, sadly lacks the power to discriminate; meaning, thousands of teenagers and young adults will be exposed to prescription drugs and/or heroin, and some will become addicted. This means that many parents will learn that their child is struggling with opioids – a terrifying realization for any parent.
Naturally, countless thoughts arise in one’s mind, including the question: What should be done next? For most parents the answer to that question involves finding a substance use disorder treatment, which usually brings up a number of other questions that must be addressed. Where do I look? What am I looking for? What will be the best fit for my child?
While there is no shortage of treatment centers available to choose from online, sometimes talking to people who have walked the path ahead of you is helpful. Throughout the United States, a number of grassroots networks have sprung up to assist addicts and their parents, The Washington Post reports. Some of the organizations were created and are run by the parents of heroin addicts who have experience working with treatment facilities and the legal system.
The New Jersey Parent to Parent Coalition is just one example; the organization was founded by four women and is available to help all day long. Three of the four founders had lost a child to heroin overdoses. Tonia Ahern reached out to the coalition; her own son had been struggling with heroin addiction for years, according to the article. The realization that she was not alone, that countless other parents were living the same reality, arguably changed Ahern’s life.
Today, Ahern provides 24 hour support for addicts and their parents. She is strong advocate for the life saving drug naloxone, which can reverse the symptoms of an opioid overdose. She lobbies legislators at the capitol, calling on them to allocate more resources for treatment.
Helping those touched by addiction has become a full time job for Ahern, the article reports.
“In the middle of the night we’re talking to people, we’re trying to help parents, we’re trying to help people get into treatment,” Ahern said. “People who understand, who are going to through it, really have compassion and empathy for other people.”
For parents who are first coming to terms with the knowledge that their child is struggling with opioid addiction knowing that there are parent coalition groups staffed and willing to listen and assist with finding treatment is comforting as the family starts the journey of recovery. These groups offer strength, hope and support.