Treating the mental illness of addiction

Healthwatch

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Experts call it a health crisis, opioids, claiming lives and destroying families. What experts say all parents need to know. 

Rick Van Warner says his family never saw it coming. One day at age 16, their middle son never came home from school. Frantic, Van Warner distributed flyers with this photo of his missing son, and began to piece together a shocking story of addiction.  

He explains, “Initially we had no idea that the problem we were dealing with was so severe. That he had fallen into Oxycontin and was getting that in the school.” 

After days of searching, Van Warner found his son in an abandoned building. It was the start of a tumultuous battle. “Tommy” has been brought back from the brink of death twice and relapsed fourteen times.

Dr. Lipi Roy is a nationally recognized expert in addiction medicine from the NYU Department of Population Health.

Dr. Roy says, “Addiction is a chronic medical disease, a disease of the brain that’s relapsing and remitting, so relapse is expected. It is not a sign of moral weakness or failure.” 

Dr. Roy adds the goal in the addiction field used to be abstinence from drugs. She says now there’s a move toward what’s called harm reduction with programs like needle exchange and access to overdose reversing drugs like Naloxone.

Dr. Roy continues, “These are interventions that actually reduce harm to the drug user. It’s about respecting a person and meeting them where they’re at.” 

Van warner says he has spent more than $200,000 on his son’s recovery. His son is now 26 and has a job. Van warner says his family takes life one day at a time.

He adds, of his son, “He’s a tremendously smart, loving person, and has a heart of gold, and there’s nothing he could do that would make me give up on him.”

Van warner recently published a book about his family’s ordeal and son’s struggle with addiction called “On Pills and Needles.” 

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