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Home » Opinion: A letter to Cape kids and their parents. Please share this widely. – Cape Cod Times

Opinion: A letter to Cape kids and their parents. Please share this widely. – Cape Cod Times

I didn’t especially enjoy growing up. Had anyone introduced me early on to the street drugs available today, likely I’d have been dead since the ’60s.
During my first eight years of teaching, I was a dorm master in boarding schools. Kids in my building used drugs. They faced instant expulsion if caught. One year, I drove half my dorm to counseling off-campus. I learned a lot.
Parents, you need to hear this. Most kids don’t seek painkillers unless they’re in mental or physical pain. You can’t get them off the painkillers unless you can help them with their pain. Yes, some thrill-seekers can stumble into addiction by accident, but for most people, pain is the driver.  We have to face that.
That’s a hard thing for parents to hear. Rather than ask your child where you went wrong, ask how they feel. Mental illness, depression and/or anxiety may be behind what’s going on with them and you need to be their ally, not their inquisitor. Punishment usually adds to the pain that fuels the problem. Addiction is its own punishment.
I just spent several hours at the Duffy Health Center in Hyannis with two amazing guys whose job includes supporting teens on their pathway to recovery.
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In 2017, the kids at Cape Cod Academy raised money to start an adolescent substance use program at Duffy.  In 2018, Stephanie Briody, co-founder of Behavioral Health Innovators, partnered with Duffy to launch the Alternative Peer Group (APG) — and that’s been their model since. Grant funding supports a full-time program manager, therapist, a full-time recovery coach, a peer mentor and a part-time family therapist.
APG is cost-free and they want you to know they’re there. Participants meet twice a week for two hours each. As isolated as they may have felt, they have a lot in common and bond quickly.
For adults as well as kids, no one escapes from addiction without support. The kids go rock climbing and have fun together. And they talk. They get help; they help each other.  If you’re young and somebody’s given you this to read, there are programs. There are places to go. Duffy’s APG sounds like a particularly good one — and it’s free.
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What’s at stake? In 2020, overdose fatalities went up 30%. More than 93,000 Americans died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Another 95,000 Americans died alcohol-related deaths, some 261 each day, half due to medical consequences, half from the consequences of intoxication.
If you’re young, please understand that lots of people can have a drink or a toke once in a while and nothing goes wrong. You probably know kids in the Honor Society who indulge and their brain cells don’t rot. Some people try booze or drugs and don’t like it.  But some try once and they can’t stop. Their body chemistries are different, making them vulnerable for the rest of their lives. It’s just not fair. Problem is, you can’t know which group you’re in.
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Adolescence is all about taking risks. Without bravado, you wouldn’t have the courage to start your own life. But with drugs, you just have to be careful. You wouldn’t pour just anything into your gas tank just to see what happens, would you? Well then.
Booze has its own deadly trajectory. Street drugs have theirs. Dealers like fentanyl because it takes so little to make a powerful effect. The fellows at Duffy gave me some facts. It takes about 30 milligrams of heroin to kill you. (Less if you’re small.) But it only takes 2 mg of fentanyl. It’s 100 times more potent than morphine.
So dealers can offer you cheap filler with just a few grains of fentanyl to give it a kick. Boy, do they make money! Drugstore drugs cost more, so as people get addicted, they look for cheaper — and they die.
At Duffy, Daniel Rodrigues and Jeremy Wurzburg explained all this. One way of recovery is abstinence … maybe a rehab center, maybe a 12-Step program. But abstinence isn’t the only option. The other approach is “harm reduction treatment.” You try to reduce use, change peer groups or take medications, reducing the risk of overdose and improving your quality of life.
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Success might be seeking help when needed. Success might be regaining employment, being able to sustain loving relationships … or living in a support house and being off the streets or having a life worth living.
“Keeping people alive is the main goal,” said Jeremy.
Those are the stakes.
Duffy has comprehensive programming for everybody, especially those with socioeconomic stressors. Human service takes special dedication. 
“We’re graced to do the work,” said Daniel. “We celebrate the small gains. I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else.”
Find more information about Duffy Health Center at www.duffyhealthcenter.org.
Lawrence Brown is a columnist for the Cape Cod Times. Email him at [email protected]

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