The Reality of Youth Drug Addiction

kids-addictionWEST SENECA, N.Y. — According to Kids Escaping Drugs, there’s an epidemic in Western New York that no town, village or city is immune to.

“The face of addiction today is the average american teenager,” said Jessica Sherman, Face 2 Face Program Director for Kids Escaping Drugs.

Kids Escaping Drugs treats those as young as 12 on the Renaissance Campus in West Seneca, which Sherman said is about the average age of experimenting with drugs and alcohol in Western New York.

“Unfortunately, too many young people are trying to use prescription pain killers the same way they drink, and the same way they smoke marijuana. They want to use that drug recreationally, and the reality of prescription drugs is, you can’t,” said Sherman.

Sherman said you can wake up after the second or third time using in a state of withdrawl. Since prescription painkillers are so expensive on the street, young people often transition to heroin, which Sherman said is very easy to get throughout Western New York.

“It’s significantly cheaper, it’s available in a powder form so they can snort it they same way they’re snorting those pills, then before they know it, they’re injecting,” she said.

As for why kids even take drugs in the first place, Sherman said there’s a false perception that prescription pills are safe since they come from doctors, and some youth are simply curious.

“We also have a tremendous population of young people who have experienced trauma in their lives,” said Sherman.

They find very quickly that it numbs all of their pain, but they often don’t realize just how dangerous their decision is.

“The one part of my career that nobody warned me about was how many funerals I was going to have to go to. I can’t keep track of how many I’ve been to,” said Sherman.

Kids Escaping Drugs knows of 14 teens who’ve died from heroin or fentanyl overdoses since Christmas, so Sherman stresses the importance of educating kids about drugs.

“I don’t think it’s ever too young to start those conversations as long as they’re had in an age-appropriate way.”

Sherman said the stereotype of addiction doesn’t fit the reality, as many young people who start using drugs are involved in sports, doing well in school and come from a great family.

“No one expects to wake up one day and decides to be a heroin addict, but 70 percent of the kids who live on this campus came into treatment shooting up multiple times a day. None of them planned that for themselves. They’re all really good kids.”

She said while alcohol and marijuana are social substances, those addicted to opiates aren’t willing to share their supply with their friends, so they’ll isolate themselves. Sherman said those who were involved in sports or activities and will stop caring about those interests once they start using opiates.

She said some of the physical signs of this drug use is a sniffly, runny nose because the opiate is often snorted, and you might be able to see track marks. She suggests looking for track marks in unusual places like between their toes and fingers or on their necks. Read more…

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