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Director’s Corner — Summer 2011

By Sharon Chambers, CEO

Happy summer to you all. The sun has finally emerged and we have begun the challenging seasonal flurry of staff vacations. We are very busy with on-going patient care as well.

Emerging epidemic?

We are seeing an emerging patient trend that is reaching almost epidemic proportions. Residence XII, as well as many other treatment programs in Washington, is being flooded with young heroin addicts in need of on-going treatment. These are not the stereotypical heroin users of the past who were often burned out and found nodding off in alleys or on the street. Those we are seeing are young, attractive and educated young women who started with an addiction to prescription opiates. Due to a change in the medical formulary, those drugs in their crushable form now cost $80 a pill and are hard to find. The cheaper, more available alternative becomes heroin. These young women are flocking to it and seem to have no fear of self-injecting or sharing needles, which puts them at even higher risk for serious health consequences. Many are also dangerously thin and even emaciated, although they of course see themselves as fat.

Res XII’s perspective

Residence XII staff is working to paint a more realistic picture for our patients of the eventual cost of heroin addiction. It takes people to a bottom more quickly, which is why we are seeing so many young people entering treatment. No matter how smart or attractive they may be now, continued use will lead to criminal activity, significant health problems, employment difficulties and relationship chaos. We’ve seen some success in this population becoming abstinent, although they require a tremendous amount of 12-step support and help in learning basic skills such cooking, managing money, pursuing employment and daily living. For others, abstinence does not seem possible without opiate substitution medications. Although Residence XII does not prescribe or allow these medications, for some opiate addicts the medications are the difference between life and death and must be considered an option. We will continue our quest to offer the best quality, affordable treatment for this group and others as they emerge.

As always I welcome your comments and feedback about the work of Residence XII. On behalf of the women and families we serve, I appreciate your ongoing

support for the power of recovery.

Sharon