Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Parents of drug-addicted children often ask, 'Is there medication to stop the addiction?'

A 16-year-old with a weird look on her face was brought in to see me by her very distraught mother and highly supportive aunt. The child had a vacant but piercing, angry and fixed look. Her eyes were like sharp daggers about to stab their victim.

They have seen this type of patient several times before to warn me to tread cautiously and not to provoke and risk being assaulted. The child has been using cannabis for more than a year and in the past few weeks had become extremely aggressive, terrorising her elderly wheel chair-bound granny for money.

She was hearing voices and made serious threats of wanting to kill everyone in the home. The mother, though looking outwardly calm, was terrified, but at the same time wanted to save her child. They had to go about the consultation with great caution, because she seemed ready to pounce at me at any moment. The young lady had developed psychosis, which was precipitated by her use of cannabis. With very stoic permission, she allowed me to give her a tranquillising injection. They went about giving it with guarded apprehension. The mom was given a letter to take her to the hospital, urgently.

In the hospital, she had to be held down by three security guards in order to be given another injection to sedate her. It was the first night that the family rested in peace, without fearing that they were all going to be harmed or killed. They mention this case for two reasons: first to highlight the fact that cannabis is not a safe drug even though it has been decriminalised, and second, to illustrate the pain and hardships families endure when their children are on drugs. The question often asked by parents is: “Is there a medication to stop the addiction?” They feel very disappointed when told that there are no drugs or quick fixes to overcome addiction.

Once someone starts becoming addicted to substances, they take on a new identity. They lose their minds, lose all respect for themselves and their families and often end up on the streets, in jails and in psychiatric institutions. Some even become prostitutes or join gangs to support their addiction. For parents to raise a child on drugs must be one of the greatest challenges and nightmares. Some parents end up with severe depression or die from strokes or heart attacks in the process. What is the answer? Parents should attend support groups to equip themselves about addiction and how to deal with it.
Parents must always be vigilant about their children's change in behaviour or drop in their school performance and act on it before it is too late. They have written a book, Four Steps to Healing, based on over 30 years of treating patients with addiction and their families, to help addicts and their families to deal with this problem.

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