Editor’s note: The following letter was written by a Chelmsford mother who requested anonymity. It is The Sun’s policy to publish signed letters but we have granted an exception in this extraordinary case.  (Lowell Sun, Massachusetts)

I am a parent of teenage children. I may be your neighbor or I may have stood near you in line at the deli. Maybe I wished you peace at Sunday morning Mass, or we passed within the halls at CHS, during open house. I am a Chelmsford resident, and proud to live in such a great community. I am not proud to tell you, however, that I am the parent of an addict.

 There is a frightening trend that has plagued our community, and many others in the Merrimack Valley. Pills, specifically prescription drugs, have gained popularity with teenagers, in their attempt to catch a “buzz” or “feel good” while “hanging out with friends.” Alcohol should be considered a “gateway drug,” this I have learned through my child’s recovery. With alcohol in our teen’s systems, their inhibitions are weakened. Reckless or indifferent behaviors that teens would commonly oppose may lack resistance. And when offered a pill at a party, with clouded judgment, your teen might just say yes. That is how my child’s story began.

 

Last November, I attended a presentation by The Chelmsford Police Department, entitled “Not me … Not my friend … Not my Child.” It was an amazing program about narcotic/opiate abuse and addiction in our society. One year and one month later, one of my children confided to me that they were addicted to Percocet 30. (That is 30 milligrams of the narcotic Oxycodone and five times stronger than a plain Percocet which is 5 milligrams of Oxycodone and 325 milligrams of Tylenol.)

The flood of emotions after learning about my child’s addiction included shock, disbelief, disappointment and despair, but perhaps the strongest emotion I felt was stupidity. How did I not know that something was so terribly wrong?  

I have learned that addicts are master manipulators, liars, con artists, and the most self-centered, selfish beings on earth. This self-inflicted disease is self-destructive, and many addicts either overdose (usually accidentally) or commit suicide due to the guilt and the wrongness of what they have done to themselves and to others. I don’t believe that any addict decided, “I think I will become a drug addict today.”  

This Percocet 30 is readily available in our community, and sells for about $20-$30 each.  

It began at a party when a “friend/acquaintance” offered my teen a pill for a “great high.” They had already had some beer. The pill was free so my teen agreed. My teen told me that nothing could ever compare to the feeling of that first high. The next night they split another pill. And the next weekend they each did one, and so the addiction is born. Without a pain in the body for the medicine to “attack,” the narcotic goes to the brain, producing a high.

 The brain dreams of the high, and the body physically needs the drug to feel normal. If the body doesn’t get the next dose of the drug, withdrawal symptoms (dope sick) occur. These include severe headaches, nausea, vomiting, body and muscle aches like the flu, irritability, skin itchiness and insomnia. The expense of Percocet 30 causes many to turn to heroin, for a fraction of the cost, a very similar high, and a “way to feel normal.”

 This nightmare has wreaked havoc on our entire family. It has strained our marriage, stressed our other children and broken our hearts to put our child into a detox program. The 30-day recovery program is not covered by health insurance, and there are no guarantees. Unfortunately, the relapse rate for opiate addiction is far greater than the success stories. The addiction demon can affect anyone, good kids, from loving families. No one is immune.