“I’ve heard your daughter, Caitlin, is using synthetic heroin.”
I stopped. My heart started pounding. The woman on the phone had introduced herself as the drug and alcohol counselor at the other high school in our district. “I thought you should know,” she continued. “It is a very dangerous drug.” Heroin, I thought. That’s the stuff that you inject with dirty needles in dark alleys. Junkies, that’s what they call the people who use heroin.
“Synthetic heroin? What is that?” I asked. “This drug is a form of Oxycontin,” she answered. “It is an opiate. It is very expensive and very addictive. The next stop is heroin, which is much cheaper.” I was overwhelmed but I did say that she had been really sick the past couple of days. The counselor said it could be withdrawal.
“Thank you so much for calling. I’m very grateful,” I said, ending the conversation. I wanted to hang up before I broke down.
Caitlin’s behavior had been problematic since she was about 14. There was verbal abuse and risky behavior. She had been caught shoplifting. Recently, my husband and I had discovered she had been sneaking out the window at night. Other nights, she would come home past curfew. She’d call with excuses: “The key got locked in the car” or “Our friends ran out of gas, and we had to give them a ride home.” Sick with worry and unable to sleep, I wanted to believe her excuses. But, there were too many, and often, they didn’t make sense.
One weekend, Caitlin was in bed, sick to her stomach. She thought she had the flu, but her forehead wasn’t hot. She wouldn’t eat. Very odd, I thought. The next day, she was still in bed. That afternoon, I got the phone call.
After I hung up with the counselor, a black sinking feeling welled up inside me. I started to google,“Oxycontin withdrawal,” but the search was already in the history. Someone had done it before me.
The search returned terms like, “inpatient”and“drug treatment.” I read many articles about Oxycontin withdrawal, which included nausea, cold sweats, chills, anxiety and insomnia. This was all new to me, and I felt in over my head. “How did we get here?” I wondered. I had so many questions for Caitlin: How much did these drugs cost? Where did you get them? How long have you been doing this?
Later, I learned that my daughter cooked the Oxycontin with tinfoil and a spoon. The cooking destroyed the time release of the drug and made it much more potent. Then, she smoked it. There were many scary side effects, including mood alteration and death.
The pills cost $60-$80 each. Usually, kids would steal money from anyone to get these drugs. Eventually, the drugs got too expensive, which led them to use the cheaper option, heroin. I still had many more questions: Why were these drugs so accessible? Where were the suppliers getting them? There was so much I didn’t know.
“I’m not going to treatment unless it’s in-patient,” Caitlin told me. I was relieved with her decision. She’d be somewhere safe for 28 days, and I would be able to sleep at night. I hoped.
I contacted a treatment center recommended by parents in my parent support group, and this facility had an available bed and was covered by our insurance. The first step was to get a drug and alcohol assessment to determine the level of care she would need. We called the therapist who Caitlin had been seeing for a few months (the fourth one she’d seen in about two years). I came to learn that this woman hadn’t documented any of my daughter’s visits and was “surprised” to hear she was using Oxycontin. I wanted to scream at her, but I didn’t.
I called my insurance company in tears. The woman who answered the phone recommended a counselor, who could see Caitlin that afternoon. Caitlin went to the assessment willingly and was in treatment by the following Monday.
I will be forever grateful to this counselor. It wasn’t the end of the story for us, but it was a beginning.