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How a mother lost her son to heroin

Addiction is something most families never consider they will have to battle, until it happens to them. Losing that battle is even more unthinkable, as Lisa Cote Johns knows. She has channelled her loss, grief and heartbreak to help others avoid the same fate.

Community Speaks Out co-founder, Lisa Cote Johns is the driving force behind the US-based organisation that believes that families in crisis due to addiction need the support of their community and aims to provide that support. Lisa is driven by the death of her son, Christopher, who lost his battle with heroin addiction and now helps families and their loved ones who are dealing with heroin addiction. Her mission is to work towards preventing others from having to suffer a terrible loss like hers. Though her story unfolds in Connecticut, it could just as well have happened in any town or city here in the UK.

Heart-breaking story of heroin abuse

“Before my son, Christopher became addicted to heroin, I never imagined I would lose him to an overdose,” Lisa admits, writing in the Guardian. “I knew of heroin only through television and movies, and Christopher was not the same as those addicts – glassy-eyed, gaunt, desperate.”

Following several surgeries in his teens, Christopher was prescribed opiate medication to manage the pain. Since the medication is from the same family as heroin, the first prescribed doses were enough to get him hooked and he eventually started stealing from the family home to pay for his, now, full-blown addiction.

“After his first trip to rehab, he was sober for almost 10 months,” continues Lisa. “Then he overdosed. I found him in his room unresponsive and performed CPR on him myself. He went to rehab 22 times, and was brought back from overdose five times. Every time he relapsed, I watched a piece of my child die. Throughout Christopher’s 15-year addiction, I often found myself yearning for the boy he was before this disease took hold.”

Sadly, it was his sixth overdose that finally took Christopher forever on the night before he was due to start a new job. “My son did not want to die, but he knew it was coming. He told me I would outlive him. He was 33 when he had the fatal accidental overdose,” she adds.

Heroin-related deaths on the increase in UK

It has recently been reported that in 2016 149,807 individuals sought help to kick their heroin and opiate addiction. Out of this figure, 2,367 were between the ages of 18 to 24. In September 2015, drug poisoning mortality had risen to its highest level since records began in 1983. The 579 deaths recorded in 2012 involving heroin and morphine nearly doubled to 952 in 2014, their highest level since 2001.

Fatalities connected to heroin accounted for 42% of total deaths due to drug misuse in 2014. In addition, Public Health England calculated that between 2007 and 2012 it was people who had not been in treatment in the previous five years or at all who made up approximately 60% of drug-related deaths. Port of Call is here to help if you, or a loved one, are seeking heroin addiction treatment. Our expertise lies in helping you to find the relevant help for your circumstances.

Getting heroin addiction treatment

Successful treatment for addiction depends on it being tailored to the individual, as each person’s needs will be different. Therefore, there is no “one size fits all” solution. Port of Call’s advisors are on hand to guide you towards the most appropriate course of addiction treatment. Clinically managed detoxification and residential rehabilitation are both effective methods that we often recommend.

Detoxification, also known as detox, removes drug toxins from the body and is usually the initial step in treating heroin addiction. Gradual detox should always be carried out in a medically supervised environment as sudden withdrawal from the drug can be life-threatening. Withdrawal from heroin can be extremely intense and sometimes painful, which is why 24-hour attention, and access to a residential treatment plan or appropriate medication, is often the best course of action.

Rehabilitation (rehab) is also a vital part of the recovery process because abstinence from drug use cannot always be sustained through detox alone. Treatments during rehab vary and include: individual counselling, group work, cognitive behavioural therapy, education, and relapse prevention. Heroin addiction rehab is generally most successful in a residential facility, as part of an intensive, structured programme of treatment.

Make us your first Port of Call. If you, or a loved one, are dealing with heroin addiction, we can help you to access appropriate addiction help. Take the first step today by speaking to one of our advisors for free on 08000029010. Speak in confidence to our drug rehab experts by experience. We have been there and can truly empathise with what you are going through. Whether you are looking for drug or alcohol treatment in Cheshire, all the way down to London, we can support you through the process so that you can find the most appropriate treatment for you.

About the author: Martin Preston

Martin is our Founder and Chief Executive. Martin is himself in long term recovery and started Port of Call to help families navigate treatment options. In 2020 Martin will open Delamere Health Ltd, the UK’s first purpose built addiction treatment clinic.

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