In Loving Memory of My Son Jack

In memory of my son Jack Harris

It has been several months since I posted anything to my blog. During this period I took a deep look inward at how best to use my time and energy for the remainder of my life. Self-reflection is so hard because you have to clear all of the noise and distractions in your brain to dig deep. To help me get to this point I practiced yoga, meditation, Reiki, and sound healing (aka Tibetan singing Bowls)

Simultaneously, I was watching my son slowly self-destruct from an opioid addiction. This post is in loving memory to Jack. He had been struggling to overcome it for 7 long years and it not only took a psychological and emotional toll on him but on our entire family.

Living with Addiction

The stress of keeping him alive was unrelenting. We lived in constant fear of him overdosing or possibly hurting someone else. We spent many days and nights pleading with him, bailing him out of jail, picking him up from area hospitals, sending him to inpatient recovery programs, outpatient recovery programs, therapy; and lastly methadone treatment. Methadone which is highly regulated, expensive, and not covered by medical insurance is great if you can stay on it, but eventually, he got tired of having to go every day to get his dose – it made him feel like the addiction was still winning; just in a different form.

Eight weeks ago he succumbed to his heroin addiction and overdosed at the tender age of 26.

Opioids Change Your Brain Chemistry

Unlike most other addictions, opioids change the chemistry of your brain by overloading the pleasure centers, thereby preventing your body from producing its own dopamine. Continued use of heroin makes it impossible for the neurotransmitters in your brain from firing and the addict can no longer feel happy, calm, or content without it. Without consistent use, the addict also experiences severe physical side effects like throwing up, body aches, mood swings, and diarrhea – a term known as being “dopesick.”

The prefrontal cortex is also affected creating a lack of logic, good decision-making, and being very impulsive. It is a physical addiction — not a mental one. That’s why an addict will do whatever it takes to get more of the drug.

This poisonous drug turned our sweet-hearted soul into a raving lunatic whose only goal was to score more drugs.

The Road Paved to Opioid Addiction

About 10 years ago Oxycontin, the drug manufacturers, and crooked doctors who prescribed it were the root of opioid addiction. Once they cleaned up that fiasco addicts looked for a replacement and that’s when heroin became readily available (yes especially in affluent suburbs) and less expensive than marijuana. Jack was experimenting with drugs in his late teen years and decided “I’ll try it once just to see what the hype is all about.” But the high from heroin is like nothing else. Your body gets washed over by a warm feeling and all your anxieties are gone. It’s ecstasy.

So he tried it again a few months later and that’s when the disease of addiction took over. The infinite talks, fighting, and fear consumed us. We were worried 24/7 about him staying alive, resuscitated him when he overdosed and had a seriously large abscess removed from his arm. Our parental duties became keeping Jack alive. Alive long enough that he would eventually get clean

But the heroin won and now he is a statistic. According to the CDC more than 100,000 people die each year from an opioid overdose.

Fentanyl is Killing Our Kids

The overdose numbers are so much higher than they used to be because of the influx of lab-created Fentanyl. It is very similar to heroin and morphine but is 10 times stronger and even cheaper than heroin. and the high is similar to heroin. However, it’s 10x more potent and users end up dying.

Fentanyl is being made in labs in China and Mexico and it has made the cartels richer than ever because pot prices have dropped and the consumption of cocaine has also dropped.

Addicts Deserve to be Treated with Dignity and Humanity

Addiction is a mental disorder pure and simple. Victims of this illness need to be treated with dignity and respect. They are just as upset over having an addiction as their loved ones who watch them self-destruct. It is not a lack of restraint. Like cancer and diabetes, people are born with this life-altering disease and need to take it seriously.

With all the money our government is pouring into new bills to improve infrastructure and forgive student debt – where on the list is drug addiction science? It’s never mentioned, and it’s killing more people per year than Covid.

I can’t even begin to add up the tens of thousands of dollars we spent trying to save my son’s life. Almost none of the rehab centers take Medicaid which is what most addicts have. Private medical insurance companies have high deductibles and strict limits on how long (usually 28 days) you can stay in a rehab facility, even though research shows that it takes a minimum of six months for an addict to be successful in the outside world.

In Loving Memory of Jack – or anyone else You Know Who Might be Battling This Tough Disease Help Us Fight

We all must fight harder and smarter to better manage our kids’ addictions. They are facing fatal overdoses because Fentanyl is also mixed in with so many other types of drugs – especially cocaine and Oxycontin. Here’s what we need to fight for:

  • More research and better medications to help mitigate the disease.
  • Revised laws that provide healthcare services to addicts instead of jail time.
  • Insurance companies to cover the bare minimum of in-patient care (60 days minimum).
  • Addicts need to be treated like all people with an incurable disease; with dignity and respect. The New Jersey Coalition on Harm Reduction does a lot of work advocating for addicts.

But now it’s time for me to throw my hat in the ring. In an effort to do that we have started the Jack Harris Memorial Fund through the auspices of the non-profit Prevention Links which offers a wide variety of free services to addicts and their families. Jack is gone forever and we have to live with that. But you can help us save another addict by donating to the Jack Harris Memorial Fund here.

I hope you will join us in this great cause.

Amy Sandelman Harris My Blog

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Published by Amy Sandelman Harris

Welcome to my blog. I use my voice to affect change through philanthropy, advocacy, and activism. My blog posts revel about real life experiences meant to inspire people to make a difference.

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