Experts give advice, warnings as part of outreach steps by regional task force
Friday, August 23rd, 2013
Issue 34, Volume 17.
That warning and others, as well as advice for families grappling with substance abuse or gaming addictions, were spotlighted during city sessions that attracted expert speakers and attentive listeners. The workshops were offered as part of the ongoing efforts of a regional task force.
"You spread the word, wherever you can, that there is hope," Rocky Hill, executive director of Hill Alcohol and Drug Treatment, said at the close of the Aug. 14 session.
That session, as well as two others, focused on youth substance abuse. An Aug. 19 workshop examined gaming and gambling addictions. All of those sessions were held in a conference room in Temeculaís Civic Center.
They were offered under the auspices of the Regional Family, Youth and Health Task Force. The task force, which has met several times, has involved leaders of more than a dozen western Riverside County cities and school districts. A June 20 workshop on domestic and family violence attracted about 15 elected and appointed officials and approximately 30 audience members to Murrieta City Hall.
The recent workshop series, which attracted as many as 17 audience members at a time, is expected to resume next year as the task force examines additional family and youth issues.
"We are planning to bring it back sometime next spring," said Yvette Martinez, the cityís inclusion services specialist.
Audience turnout was as low as 10 participants at one session, but that didnít deter the speakers from addressing tough issues and fielding difficult questions.
"Thatís not unusual," Hill said, noting that many people who suffer from substance abuse resist help and relatives of addicts or abusers are often reluctant to reach out on their own.
"We find that, typically, the turnout is very limited," Hill said. "But you get the information out to some people and they spread it around."
Part of the sessions focused on strategies aimed athelping parents, children and siblings cope with substance abuse in their homes, work or school. The problems are often more widespread, and more deeply ingrained than they appear on the surface, the experts said. Signs of problems often go unnoticed.
They also examined the coping mechanisms of absence, co-dependence and denial.
The speakers noted the need for family members to seek help for themselves as they attempt to heal addicted loved ones. They also explored ways that substance abusers and addicts camouflage their habits amid their everyday activities.
"About 95 percent of alcoholics and drug abusers are functional," said Debbie Hill, a program nurse at the family-owned and operated treatment program. "Externally, they are still holding it all together. That doesnít mean they arenít breaking hearts or hurting people, but just that they are still functioning."
During the question-and-answer portion of the Aug. 14 session, several audience members told of the difficulties they face on a day-to-day basis living with a substance abuser.
"Itís overwhelming some days," one mother said of her daughterís difficulties.
The Aug. 14 session ended with a grim warning by Rocky Hill, whose treatment program has been operating locally since 1986. Hill said there has been a sharp uptick in heroin use, a nationwide trend that was examined in a recent story by The Wall Street Journal.
The story, which cited federal and university sources, reported that the number of people who say they have used heroin in the past year jumped 53.5 percent between 2002 and 2011.
Furthermore, there was a 55 percent increase in overdose deaths from 2000 to 2010, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Hill and the newspaper report attributed the increase to a cheaper and more plentiful supply of the drug. They say the growing supply – along with a law enforcement crackdown on illicit use of prescription painkillers – has prompted drug dealers to saturate local markets with heroin.
"Looking into the future, weíre going to see an epidemic of heroin addiction," Hill warned.
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