drug addiction

‘Beautiful Boy’ Chronicles Teen’s Descent Into Meth Addiction

Two of the selling points for living in a small, rural town, is less crime and less drug use. Life is often portrayed, especially in farming communities like mine, as more natural — even holy. But, the myth has been destroyed in recent years as news spread about the opioid epidemic ravishing small towns.

But, before heroin, we were dealing with meth.

Meth (and heroin) tends to be more devastating in towns like mine because of limited mental health services, fewer economic opportunities and our entrenched reactive belief system. And, although how we got here has been heavily documented, how we escape has fallen prey to lazy thinking and a naïve belief that if ‘they just say no,’ the problem will solve itself.

This approach minimizes human frailty and dismisses the long-term impact that childhood decisions and upbringing have on drug use. It fails to address the myriad reasons people relapse.

Meth has made a resurgence in Preble County, and in an Eaton police report, one local resident, who was arrested after police say they found meth in his vehicle, gives one indication of why we are dealing with it again. Some of the chemically-addicted are no longer able to handle ‘normal’ life stressors. The suspect named in the report said he began using meth again ‘to help him handle his long work hours.’ This is one of the tragedies of the small-town, arrest-our-way-out of the drug dilemma approach  — it seeks out the arrest (since arrest ‘prove’ we are doing something) instead of what is best for the community (treatment for individuals trying to work and overcome addiction).

One thing is certain about meth — it is highly addicted, and once entrenched in a community — it is very difficult to eradicate.

Books, like Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction by David Sheff, help explain why.

Painful Memoir

Like all parents, Sheff wants a great life for his son, instead though by his early 20s, the boy (Nic) is a hardcore meth user. The book offers a peak into the devastation that the boy’s addiction has on his parents and siblings. Since the story is told through the eyes of the father, readers get a better feel for the rollercoaster ride of hope and despair a family member endures when dealing with an addict.

Since it is a father’s story, after an opening hook of a college kid gone bad scene, Sheff quickly details his son’s childhood in the opening chapters. Included in this fairly quick sketch is the typical childhood — sports, events and outings. It is marred early on by his parents’ divorce, and the resulting long-distance parental sharing arrangement imposed by the court, but all-in-all his childhood feels very typical.

However, like many kids in the modern era (this was published in 2009), Nic was exposed to drugs at a young age. His first introduction into drugs are cigarettes, marijuana and alcohol — all before the eighth grade. What makes this more intriguing though is the author explains how he was gullible enough to believe it would not happen to his child. And, as the father learns he was too trusting. He relays an event to prove this — at a sleepover, when he thought his son and son’s friend had the flu — he later learned they were sick from being drunk.

This is one of the strengths of the book. It presents, in what feels like real time, the slow revelation of Nic’s illicit drug use, as the author realizes he’s failing to protect his son.

Understanding Addiction

Peppered throughout the book are significant sections about the drug itself. This is a testament to the father’s desire to understand why his son cannot shake the habit. Readers will walk away with a new appreciation for just how devastating the drug is to the brain — and how the drug destroys it to the point of creating a never-ending trap for users. This is one reason long-term rehab sessions are often required for meth addicts.

But, the father is not without fault –nor does he pretend to be. He openly admits to smoking marijuana with Nic when the boy was 17. Although, the father is empathetic — and open to some drug use — by the end of the book, he, like many others, reaches a point where he is no longer willing to solve Nic’s addiction.

Throughout this journey, the author does not hide his anger, fear, hate, and overwhelming love for his son. In the end, through all the drug-related disappearances and relapses, the father finally realizes he’s not the solution.

Nic must find his own way out.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5. The book effectively captures the emotional rollercoaster ride family members of addicts face. Many of us in Preble County have faced this. The book is filled with all the expected approaches to solving addiction: AA meetings, rehab, medication and therapy. But, mostly, the book is a story of hope.


Why Does Meth Appeal To Rural Counties?

This article from 2001 about Preble County gives three clues: inexpensive high, availability of raw materials, and the ability to turn a large profit from small investment. Our isolation also helps. Those wishing to learn more about the meth problem in rural towns can read Methland.

Categories: 8th congressional district, Books I have read, drug addiction, drug use, My America, Preble County | 2 Comments

‘Dying in Vein’ Another Tragic Look At The Opioid Generation

Because of the depth of the heroin epidemic in my community, I tend to watch a lot of movies on the subject. Of course most of them deal with the tragedy a family endures after a death.

Dying in Vein does have tragedy, but it also follows a lesbian couple — one from a well-to-do background and the other from poverty — as they work their way through the rehab process. The story line has the expected ups and downs, but this film offer a little more insight into what first responders deal with on a daily basis. It also brings up the issue of the country’s health care inequity and how it is complicating the recovery process.

The movie is about 90 minutes long and is available on Hulu or Amazon.

Rating 4/5.

Categories: drug addiction, movies, My America, Preble County

Heroin(e) Tells Story Of Three Outliers Making A Difference In Opioid Epidemic

If you do the same thing, you get the same results. In my part of the Greater Appalachian region this maxim applies to individuals, not systems.

In the short Netflix film Heroin(e) cameras examine the heroin epidemic ravaging Huntington, Va. — a once-proud industrial town that now has an overdose rate 10 times the national rate. The film’s website describes the documentary as follows:

Fire Chief Jan Rader spends the majority of her days reviving those who have overdosed; Judge Patricia Keller presides over drug court, handing down empathy along with orders; and Necia Freeman of Brown Bag Ministry feeds meals to the women selling their bodies for drugs.

In many ways, these women are combatting a male-centric view on how a society deals with a crisis. Rader, a firm believer in utilizing Narcan — medication that can reverse an opioid overdose, It is credited with saving 27,000 lives (2015 data) in the United States. She is met with resistance, though, with one male firefighter asking ‘but are we require to administer it.’

In Southwest Ohio we combat the same mindset.

The Butler County sheriff (directly to the south of Preble County) generated a news story in 2017 when he stated that his deputies would not administer Narcan, saying it doesn’t solve the problem — adding he was concerned for his officers’ safety. He cited the debunked theory that addicts receiving Narcan would ‘wake’ violently. The film shows several ‘coming out of their overdose.’ They are confused and docile, but the ‘violence’ myth is perpetuated by those who do not want to administer Narcan.

The dedication of the three women in the film is refreshing.

Besides the work done by Rader, the efforts by Keller and Freeman are reminders that some Americans still look out for their fellow citizens, regardless of the choices they’ve made or the situations they’re in. Films like this fill a much-needed vacuum in the ‘war on drugs’ which shows that compassion, coupled with individual responsibility, is a significantly more humane way to treat another human.

My Rating: Five out of five stars. The film is long enough to tell the story without belaboring the point. It shows the ‘good, bad and ugly’ of the epidemic without presenting the chemically-addicted in a condescending manner.

Categories: 8th congressional district, drug addiction, My America, Preble County, Understanding Trump Counties