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Report Finds Wide Misuse of Prescription Painkillers by Teens

According to two recently published studies, prescription painkiller misuse by teenagers is on the rise, with as many as 13 percent of the surveyed teens reporting having used the drugs for non-medical reasons.

The studies, published last month in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine focused on the non-medicinal use of prescription painkillers, primarily opiods such as oxycontin and codeine, by teenagers.

One study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan analyzed general survey results from more than 7,000 high school seniors, encompassing data from more than 130 public and private schools between 2007 to 2009. According to researchers’ findings, about 13 percent of survey takers self-reported having used prescription painkillers without a doctor’s approval; of those that self-reported non-medical use of such drugs, a majority stated they had been legally prescribed painkillers by doctors for previous medical conditions.

Additionally, the researchers found that teenagers who had misused painkillers were much likelier to use other drugs, such as marijuana, or binge drink compared to students that had either taken opiods with a doctor’s approval or had never taken such drugs for any reason. Researchers said that, on average, teenagers began misusing prescription painkillers at either 16 or 17 - much earlier than previous research has indicated, according to the study.

An additional study, conducted by researchers at Michigan State University, indicates that prescription painkiller misuse by younger teenagers is increasing, with an estimated one out of 30 teens that had reported using prescription painkillers for non-medical reasons doing so by the time they had turned 16.

Dr. Robert Fortuna of the University of Rochester Medical Center told Reuters Health that since more doctors are prescribing opiods to teenagers as treatment for back and knee pains, there’s a greater possibility that some teenagers may misuse them.

“The non-medical use of controlled medications in [teens] has surpassed almost all illicit drugs except for marijuana,” he said. “It’s just an alarming trend.”

The Centers for Disease Control reported that almost 15,000 Americans died from opiod overdoes in 2008 alone - a rate almost three times higher than it was in 1988 .

Photo by Paladin Post

Experts Speak About Addiction Recovery for Young Adults

Michael Fishman

At the National Collegiate Recovery Conference Wednesday at Kennesaw State University, Michael Fishman, Director of the Young Adult Program at Talbott Recovery Campus in Atlanta, neatly summed up everything he had learned in 22 years of treating addiction in young adults. The recurring theme of his keynote address: It’s complicated.

“Most young adults are generally poly-substance abusers,” he said.

They aren’t just using marijuana; they’re also drinking, Fishman says. It’s not just opioids, it’s opioids and anti-depressants or any other combination. And that complicates the picture for doctors trying to get to know their patient’s true diagnosis.

“The drugs and alcohol may mask the underlying pathology,” Fishman said. Withdrawal symptoms, he added, “cloud the picture,” as do toxicity and detox.

Additionally, many young adults suffering from addiction are also suffering from mental illness of some kind, what Fishman calls “dual-diagnosis.” Depression and anxiety are common in substance abusers and the addiction may begin as an attempt to self-medicate, which Fishman says doesn’t work.

“Ask any young person who self-medicates how that’s working out for them,” he said with a laugh.

The three-day National Collegiate Recovery Conference was hosted by Kennesaw State University's Center for Young Adult Addiction and Recovery and featured addiction specialists from college campuses across the country.

At a separate address Thursday, John F. Kelly, Program Director of the Addiction Recovery Management Services at Massachusetts General Hospital, echoed Fishman’s assessment.

“Young adults,” he said, “have the highest rates of co-occurring psychiatric problems.”

According to Kelly, who is also a consultant to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, this is a serious cause for concern because of the impacts not only on the patient, but also on society.

“Drugs and alcohol account for more than $500 billion in economic impact,” he said. “It costs more than heart disease.”

In fact, he said, excessive alcohol consumption alone costs the nation $2 per drink, citing a 2011 report from the Centers for Disease Control.

Substance abuse in young adults is a systemic problem, Fishman said, leading to changes in the brain.

“Alcohol use disorder is associated with abnormalities in the pre-frontal cortex,” he said, the part of the brain responsible for decision-making and moderating social behavior.

Additionally, he said, “drinking at an early age impairs maturation.”

When asked by the audience which drugs he saw abused the most, Fishman said opioids — prescription drugs such as Oxycontin, hydrocodone, and roxicodone and illicit drugs such as heroin.

“Eighty percent of what I see is opioid dependency,” he said. “It’s rampant.”

He added that often young people become addicted to prescription opioids but when they become too expensive they seek out cheaper alternatives, such as heroin.

Abuse of prescription drugs by young adults, he added, “is an epidemic right now.”

Treatment is imperative and should include a specific and consistent structure, Fishman said. Also important is family involvement.

“Parents are often afraid if they set boundaries they [their children] will run away,” Fishman said. Young adults “need a sense of family support,” not the “potential for sabotage.”

Photos: JJIE.org

Mom Needs Help with Troubled, Pot-Smoking Teen

Need help with my troubled teen. He is stealing from family members smoking weed very angry punching walls. I have tried everything he is only 16 years old and heading in the wrong direction reaching out for help please help me to save my child.

~Stephanie

---

Last year, my 20-year-old cousin was arrested for possession of oxycontin.  After that, we discovered he had been addicted to it for at least a couple of years.  He went into rehab, for two months and when he got out, he seemed to be fine.  He has dropped out of college, but has been working for about six months now.  Though he doesn’t earn a lot at his restaurant job, he has virtually no expenses.  But, in the last few weeks, he’s been having money problems, not paying his rent and other bills.  He says he just isn’t managing his money well.  But we’re afraid he’s using again.  He’s more distant than before, but denies he’s back on the drug.  We can’t force him back into rehab, indeed we don’t even know for sure that he’s still got a problem.  What should we do?

~“C”,  Atlanta


My name is Neil Kaltenecker and I am the executive director of the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse, a non-profit statewide organization dedicated to reducing the impact of substance abuse in Georgia’s communities through education, advocacy and training. We believe that addiction is a public health crisis that needs a strong and organized response from policy-makers, communities and individuals and we aim to give voice to recovery communities in order to highlight the reality of recovery.

I am also a person in long-term recovery from alcoholism which for me means that it has been more than 21 years since my last drink or illegal drug. And I talk about my recovery because I strongly feel that everyone should have the opportunities that I’ve had to get well, and because of my recovery I have become a better spouse, step-parent, sister, daughter, friend and co-worker.

Problems such as those described above are experienced by thousands of families and loved ones all over the country and underscore the need for education on issues related to harmful alcohol and drug use and addiction.  Substance abuse is often misunderstood and this can lead to prejudice, discrimination and stigmatization. In this space, I will be addressing these types of issues and will attempt to reframe the focus in order to help youth and families not only get the help they need to recover but also attempt to reverse policies that discriminate against people in or seeking recovery.

Both of the letters above reflect a deep concern for the behavior of a young person who is acting in ways that are out of the norm for each of them. Adolescent substance use is likely to have a long-term impact on both the individual, the family and on society.  According to Michael L. Dennis, Ph.D., Chestnut Health Systems and Kerry Anne McGeary, Ph.D., University of Miami (1999):

High rates of marijuana and alcohol use among adolescents are related to many other problems. Relative to non-users, adolescents who reported weekly marijuana and alcohol use are about four times more likely to report past year behavior problems related to attention deficit-hyperactivity disorders, conduct disorder or delinquency (57 percent vs. 4 percent), dropping out of school (25 percent vs. 6 percent), being involved in a major fight (47 percent vs. 11 percent) and being involved in one or more illegal activities during the past year (69 percent vs. 17 percent). Moreover, they were 8 to 23 times more likely during the past year to have:

  • Committed a theft (33 percent vs. 4 percent)
  • Damaged property (31 percent vs. 3 percent)
  • Shoplifted (41 percent vs. 4 percent)
  • Been on probation (16 percent vs. 1 percent)
  • Been arrested (23 percent vs. 1 percent)
  • Sold drugs (31 percent vs. 0 percent)

These, and other, risky behaviors are a cause for concern and a formal, clinical assessment may be warranted for further direction from a professional.

To Stephanie, I’ll say, your son's behavior could well be the result of chemical dependency in the form of heavy marijuana use. He is in need of an assessment from a qualified professional who will have suggestions regarding a course of treatment or intervention. His behavior should settle down enough for him to be able to start to recognize the impact drugs are having on his life. The key to this recognition is for him to be able to talk honestly about his drug and alcohol use.  Whether this happens in a safe group setting or with a caring individual that he trusts is up to him. His behavior is likely to level out once the craving for drugs are not setting his behavioral priorities. Many youngsters have experienced the same symptoms and have gone on to have healthy relationships and a positive future.

Also to “C,” in the case of your cousin who returned from rehab and who may be using again, relapse is common in young people and doesn’t mean that he can not or will not get back on the road to recovery. I urge families to approach their kids with the same concern that is conveyed so clearly in their letters -– “I am worried about you and want you to know that I’m here and available if you would like to talk” -– is a good place to start.

It must be recognized that as with other chronic health conditions, recovery from addiction is self-directed, meaning that each person is in charge of their own recovery program. Connections to positive messages, people and activities are typically an essential part of getting well, as is understanding that people can and do recover!

The views expressed herein are entirely those of Neil Kaltenecker and do not necessarily represent the views of the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, the Center for Sustainable Journalism or Kennesaw State University.

Chasing the Dragon; Finding the Exit – Heroin Stories, Part 2

Chris Blum. Photo by Ryan Schill

["Chasing the Dragon; Finding the Exit" is part two of three part series about heroin addiction. Bookmark this page for updates.]

Editor's Note: The following story contains graphic language and images. It may not be suitable for all readers.

One day, long before he found himself wanting to die in a cheap motel, Chris Blum got caught shooting up heroin at work.

Needless to say, he lost his job.

“That’s when I started going sort of full time. I was going out helping my drug dealer get money,” he said.

And then, Blum said, he had an epiphany.

“Man, I know where my drug dealers keep their money,” he said, laughing quietly. “I can jack them motherfuckers, too.” So Blum got a few of his buddies together and planned the heist.

At a table in a quiet coffee shop in suburban Atlanta, Blum mimed holding two guns with his hands, pointing his index finger at me and sticking up his thumb like a child playing cops and robbers. A bit too loudly for the coffee shop patio he said, “Freeze!”

“Then we’d kick the fucking door down, take the shit and leave. It was a good day.” Blum chuckled. A man sitting at an adjacent table looked uncomfortable.

 

*****

 

It wasn’t long before Blum woke up in his motel room, still alive despite his wish to die. He broke down.

“I heard a voice, clear as yours sitting next to me, that said, ‘Get help,’” Blum said. He opened up the phonebook and called a treatment center.

Checking into rehab, Blum was about 50 pounds lighter than when he started using, all the while thinking he “looked like Hercules.” His face was skeletal; his blood counts, liver and pancreas were “all out of whack.” The treatment center kept him on IV fluids for eight days.

And he was about to feel worse.

“Oh man, detox,” Blum said, shaking his head. He inhaled and sighed heavily. “Dude, you’re hot. You’re cold. You’re delusional. You’re hallucinating. You’re angry. You’re guilty.” He couldn’t sleep. He was miserable.

According to addiction counselor William Parrish of the Gateway Center in downtown Atlanta, this is why many addicts never come in for treatment, even if they want to. It’s the “fear of the withdrawal,” he said.

Preparing heroin. Photo by Clay Duda

“It’s hell, dude,” Blum said. “It really is hell. At that point you don’t think it’s going to end. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel.”

For many addicts, he said, getting high is the more appealing option, even if they want to get clean. But for Blum, the discomfort was worth it.

“I was scared, I was ready to quit,” Blum said. “But you get to a point where you’re hollow, you’re empty. I mean I was ready to die.”

He stayed in rehab for 74 days. He spent eight going through detox. The rest of the time Blum was in counseling. If he wanted to get clean and stay clean, he needed an attitude adjustment.

“I liked being angry,” he said. “My anger was my way of intimidating you.”  But internally, Blum was scared to death.

 

*****

 

Blum was lucky, but for those who choose to keep going, shooting heroin means risking their life every time they get high. In the life of a heroin user, “health conditions come from prolonged use,” Parrish said. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, dangers include “collapsed veins, infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses, and liver or kidney disease.” Because heroin dealers routinely cut their product with any number of toxic chemicals or additives, users are also at risk of clogged blood vessels that could lead to permanent vital organ damage.

Photo by Clay Duda

In the past, Parrish said, users progressed over a long period of time from snorting and smoking heroin to shooting up. But the majority of new heroin users — mainly white kids from the suburbs, he said — are going straight to the needle, shooting heroin intravenously, something Parrish said he had not seen before. Heroin is dangerous enough, but injecting intravenously presents its own set of unique dangers, he said.

“The primary transmission of HIV is through sharing syringes,” Parrish said. Dirty needles also expose heroin addicts to other blood-born diseases such as Hepatitis C and to physical risks such as skin abscesses from injecting under the skin rather than into a vein. But where do heroin users get clean needles?

A report in the Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association says 10 states, including Georgia, prohibit pharmacists from selling syringes for “illegal purposes.” Heroin use clearly falls into this category. This has proven to be a “significant obstacle” to the public health goal of reducing the transmission of viral and bacterial infections. Without access to clean syringes from pharmacies, intravenous drug users are forced to either share and reuse needles or find a quasi-legal needle exchange.

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Bound by the Needle, the Dealer and the Drug – Heroin Stories, Part 1

 

heroin use-25["Bound by the Needle, the Dealer and the Drug" is part one of a three part series about heroin addiction. Bookmark this page for updates.]

Editor's Note: The following story contains graphic language and images. It may not be suitable for all readers.

Chris Blum is laughing again, each breath a small wheeze followed by a noise that cuts through the surrounding sounds of the coffee shop patio. It’s full and rich, staccato and guttural; four beats long, the laugh of a man who sees the blessing in having anything to laugh about at all.

He’s a big guy, tall with a softness that comes with the newfound freedom to eat food without vomiting it back up again. Not long ago, Blum was a heroin addict. On this hot, sunny afternoon, Blum is sitting under an umbrella, dabbing perspiration away with a napkin and telling me about one of his jobs when he was an addict: a money collector for his dealer.

“I was a nice guy the first time,” he says, smiling. “The second time you didn’t see me coming.”

But then there’s the change, the dip from major to minor keys as he stops laughing. Sitting outside, I can’t see his eyes behind the dark sunglasses, but his smile quickly fades as he recounts one method of collecting a debt.

“The second time,” he continues, “you’d walk in the door and your girlfriend would be duct-taped and I’d have a gun to her head and a broomstick shoved up her ass.”

Blum pauses for a moment turning his face to mine, his last words hanging there awkwardly.

Chris Blum. Photo by Ryan Schill
Chris Blum. Photo by Ryan Schill

Heroin addicts will do anything for a fix, Blum tells me, things they never thought they were capable of. For Blum, that meant helping his dealer with the dirty work.

“You’re not a very nice guy if you’re collecting money for drug dealers,” he said.  “At that point, I did more drugs just to erase the memories of the crazy shit I was doing to people.”

“But,” Blum is quick to point out, his voice rising, “I’ve never killed anyone.”  Then he pauses, thoughtful. “At least, they never told me they were dead.” He raises his hands as if to say, "What can you do?"

And then the first quick wheeze as Blum starts laughing again.

 

“You feel me?” William Parrish asks again, arching an eyebrow as he asks the question, to emphasize the point.

Parrish, in his 50s, lean and boyish despite his salt and pepper hair and bald pate, is sitting across from me at a large, round table in a conference room in the depths of the Gateway Center. Gateway, a drab, modern building set amid the classic judicial architecture of the downtown courthouses in Atlanta, houses a homeless shelter and rehabilitation services.

Parrish has been around, watching the ups and downs of opiate use over the decades. His experience came first as a user and now as an addiction counselor, the needle scars dotting his thin arms evidence of more than two decades of injecting heroin.

Long regarded as a hardcore drug plaguing inner cities, experts such as Parrish are saying heroin has found new life as a drug of convenience for suburban teenagers addicted to opiate-based prescription painkillers such as OxyContin. For those young addicts, heroin has grown beyond merely a threat; it’s a cheap, dangerous and highly-addictive alternative.

Recent news headlines point to an increase of heroin abuse among teens in the unlikeliest parts of the nation:

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently reported how the city’s affluent northern suburbs were shocked by the death of three young men from heroin overdoses.

“The trajectory of it is eventually going to be of epidemic proportions,” Parrish said, looking at me squarely.

“You feel me?” he asks.

An intravenous drug user injecting heroin. Photo by Clay Duda.
An intravenous drug user injecting heroin. Photo by Clay Duda.

Police are seeing a different picture of heroin, however. According to Agent Daniel Dillworth of the Marietta/Cobb/Smyrna (MCS) Narcotics and Intelligence Unit in Cobb County, Ga., heroin is not a significant problem. It’s the “least likely of the whole spectrum” of drugs, Dillworth said.

“If I see more than one arrest a month [for heroin possession] it would be unusual,” he said. “It’s way down there.”

Statistics bear that out. A White House Office of National Drug Control Policy report showed heroin use among high school kids nationally drop from 3.3 percent in 2003 to 1.3 percent in 2008.

So why the discrepancy? The demographics are shifting, Parrish said. Overall the number of heroin users may have gone down, but the users have changed from inner city youths to middle class and affluent suburban kids.

And it all begins when kids start raiding their parent’s medicine cabinet, he said. They know the names of the drugs. They know what to look for: among them OxyContin, Vicodin, Loratab, dilaudid and Percocet.

“And then,” he said, “they start experimenting with it. But little do they know you can become physically or psychologically dependent on it in a number of days. When they can’t get the prescription drugs there is only one other option: [they] got to go to the streets.”

The issue is availability, said Dr. Joe Gay, an expert in opiates and executive director of Health Recovery Services in Ohio.

“[In the Midwest] we’ve seen an influx of black tar heroin from Mexico,” Gay said. “The people dealing black tar decided what they wanted to do was to make money and not have gun fights. So they made it a point of marketing to areas without an established heroin trade.” They began marketing in the suburbs, Gay said. Dealers even began delivering to the buyer much like ordering a pizza.

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Part Five: The Big Trouble With Oxy

Just joining us? This is part five of a five part series. Start from the beginning.

Scott Merritt, a certified addictions counselor and licensed therapist in metro Atlanta, estimates that about 40 percent of kids in Cobb County high schools use illegal drugs, including alcohol.

Though federal officials say the rates nationwide are lower, Merritt isn’t pulling that 40 percent out of thin air.

“It’s from talking to teachers, administrators, kids and parents,” Merritt said. “Whatever the drug of choice is in a particular school, that drug is extremely easy to get.”

And in many schools today, that drug is OxyContin.

OxyContin is the brand name of a time-release formula of oxycodone. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration found that retail sales of oxycodone increased six-fold between 1997 and 2005. In schools in suburban Atlanta, an OxyContin pill sells for about $20 per 40-mg tablet.

“It’s expensive, so you’d think it’d be harder to get,” Merritt said. “But it’s not. Whether kids are getting them from their parents’ medicine cabinet, or getting them off the Internet, they are getting them. And they are selling them and using them.”

And an OxyContin addiction is a very hard one to kick, Merritt said.

“It’s one of the hardest, because for one thing, a lot of people taking OxyContin were already addicted to something else,” he said. “And they might have no desire to get off of it. As therapists, we have to work through that resistance.”

Lynn Abney, a licensed professional counselor who works with Cobb County’s juvenile drug court program, said in suburban neighborhoods, prescription drugs don’t carry the same stigma as illicit drugs, such as heroine or methamphetamines.

“That is not necessarily a good thing,” she said. “Often, people start taking them – kids or adults – legitimately. They are prescribed them for a real injury. But then they start overusing them and developing a tolerance, so they have to take more to get that same relief. It’s prevalent in the high schools, and it’s not that rare in middle schools. And kids are mixing them with anxiety medicines or alcohol and it gets very dangerous.”

Abney’s experience tells her that people abusing prescription medicines almost always are abusing another drug as well.

“Most people who take these drugs do cross-use,” she said. “And they have no idea the potential effect of mixing these drugs.”

Part Five: A Day In Drug Court

Just joining us? This is part five of a five part series. Start from the beginning.

Cobb County, Ga’s., Juvenile Court Judge Juanita Stedman’s office overflows every Wednesday at 4 p.m. For an hour, with therapists and probation officers filling every chair and – with several sitting on the floor – Stedman and her juvenile drug court team do a rundown of every kid currently in the program.

One by one, Stedman calls out the name of each of 30 or so kids. The assigned probation officer and counselor chime in, giving her an update on how the week had gone for the juvenile.

For these kids, failing a drug test, disregarding a curfew or skipping out on house arrest, most likely means the judge isn’t going to let them go home. More often than not, someone shows up on Wednesday night with one or both of their parents, and ends up being taken to the county Youth Detention Center here in suburban Atlanta.

For the most-addicted kids, or the ones with the most rebellious attitudes, a stint in YDC is fairly common. But it doesn’t take long for kids to realize that Stedman, who can be as compassionate and loving a woman as there is, isn’t one to be tested.

"Todd, why do you think I'm so upset with you?" Stedman asked one of the teenagers in a previous class.

"Because I smoked?"

"You smoked pot three days after I released you. Did you not think I looked serious?”

"Yes ma'am, you did."

And she was. Todd went back to jail that day.

Not everyone succeeds in drug court. And almost all of them will relapse at some point along their path to recovery.

Lynn Abney, a licensed professional counselor and part of the drug court team, said watching kids relapse is one of the hardest parts of the job for her and her teammates.

“I’d say more times than not, we expect relapse,” Abney said. “It’s an unfortunate part of the illness. But I’m a firm believer that even with a slip up, the kid is further along than he or she was at the last slip up. A lot of times, it’s two steps up and one step back. If someone is truly an addict, you at least hope that the time between relapses gets wider and wider. Sometimes it’s about managing relapses.”

Abney, and a handful of other counselors working the Cobb County juvenile drug court, make in-home family counseling visits with the kids – maybe weekly at first, then less often. But it’s a way for this to be more than just a justice or law enforcement program.

“To me, the No. 1 reason it is as effective as it is, is the accountability of the legal system and the clinical treatment of therapy,” she said. “It’s like treating someone with a major depressive episode – medicine is OK and therapy is OK. But medicine and therapy is the best, together. Our program is more successful than just incarcerating or just doing therapy.”

Not everyone who goes through the drug court will succeed. The grip of drugs and alcohol can sometimes prove to be too much.

“It’s tough,” Abney said. “Sometimes what you can do is not going to be enough. I think sometimes, we try too long with some families. We’ve seen tragedies where someone did not have long-term success. Still though, we believe that something that was done or said was helpful. It might not have saved them or prevented relapse, but we were planting a seed. If it didn’t help that kid, maybe it helped his brother, or his friend. Those are things we have to hang on to when we see things go bad.”

Continue reading: The Big Trouble with Oxys

Part Four: Redemption and Temptation

Just joining us? This is part four of a five part series. Start from the beginning.

Kyle Boyer

Kyle is now only a little more than four and a half months clean.

His last relapse came during the Thanksgiving break of 2010.

John, his father, had just had shoulder surgery. He’d been diligent in having his prescribed Vicodin on his person at all times, just to help ease the temptation.

Kyle once stumbled across it when his dad left them on the counter.

“I just grabbed the bottle and tossed it at him, like, ‘Really?’”

The second time he wasn’t thinking as clearly.

“I went into his briefcase to get an adapter and they were there,” Kyle said. “It surprised me and I just poured some in my hand and took them without even thinking about it. I immediately told my parents and I felt so rotten with shame and guilt.”

Kyle knows that he is a different young man now that he has a relationship with Jesus. But Jesus never promised Kyle he wouldn’t be tempted.

“Some days are easier than others,” he said. “A friend in recovery compared what we are training for to a pro fighter. The boxer trains for a specific day to fight. We train for sobriety and to stay clean and we don’t know when we’ll step into the ring and have to fight the temptation. When I start thinking about drugs, I try to stay occupied. When I’m bored, it’s the worst.”

On March 4, Kyle received his 90-day chip at Celebrate Recovery, a Christian-based 12-step program that meets at Vineyard Church in Kennesaw on Friday night.

Each week, a group ranging from 30 to 60 addicts, gather for dinner, a lesson, some praise music, then small group discussions. The leader is Mark Collini, Chris’s dad.

Being at Vineyard Church every time the doors open is one of the ways Kyle keeps from being bored. He’s there on Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. He does youth group and drama as well as the recovery class there.

The other thing keeping Kyle’s hands from being idle is his art. Since he was first on house arrest, Kyle has been using spray paint to craft dozens of pieces of art on poster board, masonite, glass and hardwood. He’s participated in several local art shows and has sold several pieces though his website, kyleboyerart.com.

One of those paintings hangs in Stedman’s office.

“He gives us part of the proceeds for our non-profit Reconnecting Families program,” she said. “We obviously didn’t ask for that, but it’s a nice thing for him to do.”

The rest of the money is for a mission trip he plans to take after graduating this spring.

*****

Like thousands of other recovering addicts, every morning, Kyle has to make a decision not to use drugs.

“It can be frustrating at school, because in many ways, it’s Temptation Island for me,” he said. “There are so many people that are stoned every morning. That used to be me.”

And at night, his rest is often robbed by dreams of relapsing.

“I’ve been having a lot of ‘using’ dreams lately,” Kyle said. “It puts me on edge. The worry comes and goes, but there’s a part of me that is always afraid I’ll relapse. I know the guilt and the shame I’ll have, and the hurt that I’ll cause others.

“But I also know I’m not alone in this battle. I’m not the same person I once was. I wouldn’t have the power and strength to do this alone. And I don’t have to do it alone.”

Bill Sanders has written and reported stories out of metro-Atlanta for 15 years.
Multimedia credits: Clay Duda

OxyContin Abuse Plagues Ohio

Ohio is struggling with a severe prescription drug abuse epidemic, according to a story in The New York Times. In the last decade, fatal overdoses surpassed car crashes as the leading cause of accidental death in the state.

Most popular among drug addicts is the painkiller OxyContin.  Read more about the devastating effects of prescription drugs and OxyContin abuse in Prescribed Addiction, the first in our ongoing series, Journeys.