It’s impossible to measure the human toll and financial impact the opioid crisis is having on families across America but addressing this problem is one of America’s most critical issues. Last year, more people died from drug overdose (66,000 estimated) than American service people killed in the entire Vietnam War! The annual number for opioid emergency room visits is estimated at nearly 2.5 million. This is a crisis of epic proportions. A friend of mine with thirty-plus years in the fire department stated, “If someone takes heroin two times, the chances of rehabilitation are near zero”. The reason is that opioids and drugs like heroin, cocaine and meth actually change the chemistry of the brain to where the brain ‘demands’ drugs at any cost.
It got my attention as a financial advisor working with families who have children with drug addiction. I discovered that an inpatient 30-day treatment can vary from $6,000 to $20,000 or more. I’ve learned that success often takes a full year or more in a treatment facility. Most parents will sacrifice just about anything to rescue their child from drug addiction including invading their own retirement plans or borrowing money for treatments that very well may not end the addiction. According to one study, the relapse rate for opioid addiction is as high as 90%. This translates into multiple return visits to rehabilitation programs and tens of thousands of dollars in treatment costs. Saving enough for retirement for any individual or couple is a daunting task. It takes a lot of planning and sacrifice usually over decades and rarely allows for a disruptive event such as funding rehabilitation costs.
How to protect your child
Once a person enters the addiction zone, as indicated by the statistics above, rehabilitation is likely to be both very challenging and expensive so the very best strategy is avoiding going down that path. From a parent’s perspective this involves the twin themes of education and high-touch parenting. Education begins with the parents. Don’t assume that you have a good handle on this problem or that it can’t happen in your family. For example, early alcohol abuse and marijuana use are often gateways to future addiction.
Recently, I spoke with a number of professionals in this field and they offered this advice for protecting your children:
- Secure your prescription drugs. When you review research on children who become drug addicted, one of the often-cited causes was access to parent’s prescription drugs. Parents, lock your drugs up! An even better idea is to drop off unused prescription drugs to a secure drop-off center. Most police departments either have one or can direct you to the nearest one for you.
- Have dinner with your children. I get it. We are all busy and going in a million different directions. Find a way to have dinner with your children. Turn off all devices and turn on the conversations. If you spend quality time on a consistent basis with your children you’ll notice if something changes. Their mood changes; their friends change; their grades drop; their appearance changes. Don’t assume ‘it’s just a phase’. If you have any suspicion of drug abuse, have your child tested. Why? It’s critical to identify a problem early and get the proper treatment. By the way, this is no longer just a high school problem or junior high school problem. We are seeing problems beginning to surface in the fifth and sixth grades!
- Be supportive. Encourage good behavior such as involvement in sports or art or anything positive that your child is doing. Pay close attention to how they spend their leisure time and make sure it’s filled with appropriate activities. Use your time with your children to constantly build their self-esteem. Most drug abusers have low self-esteem.
- Get educated. To begin to solve the current crisis of drug abuse in our country and in our communities will definitely ‘take a village’…the whole village! All of us have been touched by drug abuse in some way whether it’s you personally, a family member, or someone you know. Only by working together can we begin to roll back the tide of drug abuse.
Want to learn more?
The four over-the-mountain mayors, Ashley Curry (Vestavia); Frank Brocato (Hoover); Scott McBrayer (Homewood); and myself (Mtn. Brook), formed the Freedom from Addiction Coalition (FFAC) with two primary objectives:
- We offer a free communities breakfast meeting (quarterly) that focuses on education about drug addiction. We have a speaker and, most importantly, we have representatives of numerous organizations who specialize in virtually all forms of addiction. These are experts in their field that you can have one-on-one conversations with in total privacy.
- Real-time help. Our goal is to build a single protocol…one number anyone could call twenty-four hours a day to get help for themselves or a family member or friend. Let’s call this a ‘One-Stop Help Line’.
Our next quarterly meeting will be held on Tuesday, June 12th Canterbury Hall at Canterbury United Methodist Church in Mtn. Brook from 8:00a-9:00a. (breakfast line opens at 7:30a). Our speakers will be Richard Simmons III, Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Executive Leadership and Jay Lloyd, a licensed professional counselor at the Center for Executive Leadership.
If you know someone with opioid addiction, plan to stay for a few minutes after the meeting to get a free Opioid Overdose Kit (with Narcan) along with a brief overdose response training – you could save a life!
Do you want to be a part of the solution to one of the biggest problems in America? Join us on June 12th!