Pimping My Son

750px-Flag_of_Edward_England_svgFor those of you new to this blog, it’s not what you think. You’ll have to read my last post, and maybe a couple more before that, to truly understand.

For those of you who have been following this sad saga, I’ve totally screwed up. And if after reading this you’ve lost faith in me, I understand. I’ve lost faith in myself as well.

I held strong for three days.

Three days of him begging me to drive him to town so he could buy some Methadone on the street to hold him over until he could get a prescription for Suboxane. We’d been trying to get a referral to a specialist to help him with his heroin addiction. But he didn’t think he could hold out that long. He needed something. Now.

Three days I held out, each day listening to him plead: “Please, please, please, Mom! You don’t know how I’m hurting here. If you don’t help me I’m going to call one of my buddies to pick me up and drive me into town. If I do that, who knows if I’ll ever make it back here, where it’s safe.”

“If you don’t help me, if you make me hitch-hike into town, I’ll be shooting heroin again. You know I will. But I don’t want that. I don’t want to OD again! Just help me get some Methadone. Please, please. Help me!”

When I still refuse, he looks at me like I’m crazy:

“I don’t understand! You want me to take Suboxane, right? You say I need it to get off heroin. But you won’t take me to get some Methadone to hold me over until I can get it? It doesn’t make any sense. It’s not my fault the referral is taking so long. It’s not my fault that the system is screwed up. That I can’t get the meds I need legally. Please, please! I’m begging you! I don’t want to die.”

Three days I hold out. Each day worried sick that he would leave. That he would shoot up. That he would die. He’d already OD’ed three times in the past six months. Once on my bathroom floor. It could easily happen again.

And if it did, if he died, and I remembered how he’d begged me, how could I live with that? How could I?

All the arguments he made replayed in my mind. He had a point. If he needs medication to keep from shooting heroin, and if he can’t get it legally because the system truly is screwed up, then what’s the harm with doing what he asks? Was I being too morally pure by refusing to help him get what he needs just because it doesn’t come from a doctor, just because he doesn’t have a prescription for it?

So it came down to this: Do I stick to my principles and stay morally pure? Or do I cave to his pleas and possibly save his life?

I caved. Twice. When his referral to the doctor got delayed, and we found out we’d have to wait another week for his appointment, I caved again.

Hating myself both times for doing it, hating him for talking me into it, hating our broken healthcare system for putting us in this position

I drove my son all over the county, taking him into seedy neighborhoods while he tried to find someone to sell him Methadone so he could keep from shooting heroin.

Or so I told myself.

The crazy fact is, I had no idea if what he was actually buying was Methadone. Or even if it was, if shooting that or snorting it, or whatever it was he was doing with Methadone, was any safer or saner than heroin.

Each time I watched him disappear into someone’s house, or down an alley, I felt like a pimp. Like I was pimping my son. Driving him around town, looking for drugs, selling him out.

I was letting his addiction, the thing that is ruining his life, that is killing him, talk me into buying him drugs. And all the arguments about how I was just helping him, saving his life, seemed incredibly naive and twisted.

“We’re just buying Methadone until he gets a prescription for Suboxane!”

“We’re just plugging the holes in our broken healthcare system.”

“We’re just trying to keep him from using heroin and dying.”

But I don’t even know if it’s Methadone he’s buying! It could have been heroin all along.

I see its skull-and-cross-bone face now, grinning. “Thank you, Mama!” it tells me. “Thank you for selling me your son.”


Parity for Drug Addiction Treament – A Distant Dream

Cc photo by Bohringer Friedrich 398px-AchdammSport

Creative Commons photo by Bohringer Friedrich

Under the current healthcare system, quality affordable healthcare for addiction treatment is not a reality for most families in the United States. Only premium healthcare providers cover state-of-the-art treatment for addiction, including long-term residential programs based on the latest brain-based research.

While the Affordable Care Act is vastly superior to what we had before, it still creates a system that discriminates against low-income or no-income patients, that is 99% of people suffering from severe, long-term addiction disorders.

Expanded Medicare will pay for some treatment for the destitute, but it does not include residential programs, nor many of the state-of-the-art therapies available to the 1%.

Recently a brave but grieving family spoke at a briefing held by the House Caucus on Addiction, Treatment, and Recovery. Bill and Margot William’s full story and statement can be read on their website HERE.

They tell of how their 24-year-old son William died of “acute and chronic substance abuse” which caused “complications of acute heroin intoxication”. And how they donated his body to the Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons for research, to help others suffering from substance abuse disorders.

Bill writes:

William’s cause of death could have been listed as “Institutional Indifference”.  Failed insurance, clumsy coordination between health care providers, and antiquated treatment practices doomed him.

In another time, in a better era, William might have entered the College of Physicians and Surgeons, not as a cadaver, but as a gifted and talented young man, prepared to serve others.

He continues:

Ignorance about substance use disorder remains the order of the day. It is the plague of our time. Anything we say that is repetition bears repetition until it manifests itself as policy change and practice of substance and consequence.

Parity is about more than receiving equal health care insurance for substance use disorder and mental health issues.

Parity means an individual can say, “I have a substance use disorder,” without discrimination, judgment or censure.

Parity is when family members can stand beside the afflicted and say, “…and we are all getting counseling and support to aid in our loved one’s recovery.”

Here is his list of what parity means:

  • Parity means that substance use disorder is recognized by laymen and professionals alike as a brain disease.
  • Parity means that funding for research for substance use disorder is on the same level as that for heart disease, cancer, or diabetes.
  • Parity means that people with substance abuse disorder are treated with the same compassion and understanding, treated with the same urgency, accorded the same dignity, as any other patient with any other medical or surgical need. 
  • Parity is when physicians, not health insurers practice addiction medicine, when physicians, not actuaries determine the best course of treatment.
  • Parity is when physicians are trained to recognize and treat substance use disorder in medical school with the same rigor given to any other disease.  
  • Parity will be when physicians in any specialty can recognize, treat, or refer patients to a proper source of treatment. 
  • Parity will be when there are sufficient numbers of physicians board certified in addiction medicine.
  • Parity will become practice when more than a mere 10% of the 23 million plus Americans who suffer from substance abuse disorder are properly diagnosed and treated.
  • Parity will come about when rehabilitation facilities have medical doctors on staff, all the time.
  • Parity is when physicians, politicians, school principals, police and parents all realize that not only are they responsible for helping to treat this disease, but also that they and their families are as susceptible as anyone else to being afflicted by the disease.
  • Parity will arrive when we stop pretending will power is a cure for a neurological problem.  Will power needs to be exercised, not by the afflicted, but by policy makers who can help change the course of this epidemic.

I would add to that list:

Parity means that all who suffer from substance abuse disorders receive the same quality healthcare options for treatment, regardless of their income or ability to pay.

Thank you, Bill and Margot, for speaking out and sharing your story with us.

I hope that all of us reading this will stand with them in this fight for parity.