Should Parents Call the Police on Their Opioid-Addicted Kids?


US News writes

Terrified that her heroin addict son’s escalating drug use would soon kill him, one Maryland mother took a painful and drastic step to get him off the street: She set him up with the police.

The woman tipped authorities that she was about to go for a drive with her young adult son, who’d be in the passenger seat with drugs, says Michael Beach, the chief public defender in Charles County, Maryland. Acting on the tip, a law enforcement officer stopped the vehicle and arrested the young man for allegedly carrying drug paraphernalia with trace amounts of an illegal controlled substance.

As the opioid epidemic rages across the country, some desperate parents of addicts are taking the extreme step of turning their own adult or teenage child in to the police to prevent him or her from overdosing, perhaps fatally. For a parent, having an addict child jailed “gives you a chance to take a breath,” says Romas Buivydas, vice president of clinical services for Spectrum Health Systems Inc., a private nonprofit that provides drug treatment services to people who are incarcerated or on parole or probation in five states. “In jail, they’ll be safer than they would be on the streets.” And some addicts who have spurned treatment will change their mind after spending time locked up, Buivydas says.

Though it’s an agonizing step for parents, turning one’s own child in to law enforcement to save his or her life makes sense in the context of the deadly opioid epidemic, clinicians say. In 2015, drug overdoses driven by the opioid scourge – including heroin, which is illegal, as well as prescription pain relievers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine and fentanyl – were the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine. There were 20,101 fatal overdoses related to prescription painkillers and 12,990 stemming from heroin, according to ASAM.

Putting an addict in jail may temporarily prevent him or her from becoming a grim statistic, but it won’t guarantee immediate treatment. Throughout the U.S., there are more than 3,000 drug courts, which refer people to treatment instead of jail, according to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. Drug courts put about 150,000 people annually into treatment. Meanwhile, there are about 650,000 people incarcerated in local jails at any given time, according to the Prison Policy Initiative, a nonprofit that produces research on the criminal justice system and advocates against mass incarceration. “We realize we’re just scratching the surface of meeting the need,” says Chris Deutsch, a spokesman for the NADCP.


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