Mass. Group Helps Families Survive Heroin Epidemic

BOSTON (CBS) – It’s a devastating epidemic and the toll is growing. More than 700 people in Massachusetts died of opiate overdoses, including heroin, in 2012, the most recent full year of statistics.

And families of addicts are also victims. To find out more, WBZ-TV’s Lisa Hughes went to a support group called Learn to Cope and learned that this could happen to any family.

It was a Thursday night at Salem Hospital, and about 70 people packed the room for the meeting. Five parents and a recovering addict gave Hughes a closer look.

“I’m sure as soon as he started OxyContin, he was a goner,” Kenny said.

Kenny’s son, Casey eventually turned to heroin. He died of an overdose. At one time he had dreams of becoming a chef.

“He was scared of life; he was scared to face the world sober, so the easiest path was to keep getting high,” Kenny said.

Heroin also killed Paula’s son.

“I just don’t want John to be remembered as this addict,” she says. “He was a wonderful, kind, funny, loving person.”

“Then when we found the needles it was, like, you know,” Kevin said.

“Like your greatest fears realized?” Lisa Hughes asked.

“It was, it was,” Kevin said.

Kevin’s daughter Emily is married to a soldier and they have a little girl. Emily is in recovery.

Katelyn is a former addict who’s been clean for four years.

“It just started with the alcohol and the prescription pills like Adderall and then cocaine,” she says. “And once you find heroin or even any kind of opiate, it’s like putting on a warm blanket.”

A blanket they say will smother you.

“It’s like hell, it’s like living’ in hell day to day,” Rhonda said.

Rhonda’s son Zachary has been clean for about three months. He wants to go to college and become an audio engineer.

And Toby’s son Jacob is also in recovery.

“The odds of them going cold turkey at home and recovering are pretty slim,” Toby says.

They all turned to Learn to Cope after trying repeatedly to handle their child’s addiction on their own.

“You’re not going to be able to fix them,” Kevin says. “You got to realize that off the bat.”

Katelyn says her mother learned that tough love from Learn to Cope.

“I was embezzling thousands of dollars from my family company, and once that was done I was stealing from my mom again, I was stealing from my dad,” she says.

Katelyn’s family finally cut her off until she got treatment.

“That’s when I kind of was backed into a corner where I was like, I don’t have a job, no one would let me around, I need to get help,” Katlyn said.

“They want to stop, but they can’t,” Toby says. “That’s why they need to go into long term treatment.”

Why are so many people using opiates now?

“It’s just so available,” Kenny says.

Addiction is a disease. Even with treatment there’s no guarantee, but at least there is help and hope.

Hughes asked Rhonda if she will always worry about her son.

“Of course I will,” Rhonda said. “I still wake up in the middle of the night and check on him. He’s 22 years old.”

For more information visit: Learn2Cope.org.

There is also a support group for people who have lost a loved one from opiate addiction.  It’s called Grief Recovery After Substance Passing (GRASP), which features Massachusetts chapters.

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