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Fighting the Opiate Crisis One Family at a Time

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By Karah Morrison, Managing Editor

Let’s be realistic, drug addiction is a national epidemic. Thousands of people deal with drug addiction every day, whether it is your family member, your co-worker, your neighbor, your coach, etc., drug addiction affects us all. There are an abundant amount of resources available to addicts struggling with substance abuse in order to help them get on the right track. On the other hand, there are less resources available for the families that are impacted. That is where Mary Marcuccio comes in!

Mary Marcuccio, originally of Connecticut, has spent the last 11 years as a Family Consultant. As a consultant, her work is focused around educating, supporting and finding resources for families with a loved one suffering from substance abuse. Although currently living in Florida, her work is nationwide.

Mary’s passion for helping struggling families arose through her own experience. Mary was like many of us, unaware of what was occurring in our own homes. In a recent interview, Mary shared that she had a loved one abusing drugs.  She told me that she kept having to buy new spoons every so often. She kept questioning herself as to where the spoons were going. Was she losing her mind? No. Little did she know that spoons were paraphernalia in i.v. heroin use. This is where the importance of being educated on red flags would have helped her know that there was a problem sooner.

Not only does Mary help families herself, she also connects families together. Connecting families together with either a similar history or a similar issue, creates a stronger support system for all. Mary will place who she calls “Parents of Crisis” with one another, which simply means parents/families who have a loved one dealing with a similar history of substance abuse. She will also place “Parents of Loss” together, who are mostly parents that have unfortunately lost their child to substance abuse.

There is an enormous amount of families who believe substance abuse could never affect them. Not in their community, not in their house, not in their family and definitely not their child. This is not the case, as the main opiate users of today are white males in between the ages of 18 and 25 that are in suburban or rural communities. “Your good kid can end up being involved with drugs because drug use is not about good or bad people … your good, smart kid could make a decision to try something one time and be hooked”, voiced Mary.

Countless families believe that it is their responsibility to fix their child or their loved one. “Although our job as a family is for us to change by creating a new foundation, it is the drug user’s responsibility to change themselves”, Mary stated. Mary expressed to me that one of the greatest gifts a family member could give their struggling loved one is the gift of pain, because PAIN COMES BEFORE CHANGE.  “The user needs to experience enough pain to consider making a change for themselves”, stated Mary. Many people know this as the drug user hitting “rock bottom”; however, Mary believes the drug user must hit their own “personal bottom”.  Each drug user’s “personal bottom” is different. What it will take for one person to get clean and sober is very different than another.

She explained this by using her own story as an example, “My son has been hungry, has eaten out of the garbage, has been sad, lonely, homeless, has slept on park benches, has been in and out of prison, beaten, tortured and kidnapped and has yet to hit his personal bottom.” She then gave me an example of another individual whom she worked with that went into detox and treatment once and as of today is 9 years clean and sober.

While speaking with Mary, she revealed to me that her work originally focused on opiate addiction, however over time has increased to include all substances. “Due to Florida having been the pill capital of the country, the State and Federal government started shutting down the pill mills, which led to an increase in heroin use. The majority of people who were addicted to pills have now become addicted to heroin”, noted Mary. “Heroin is the cheapest drug that your loved one can get their hands on, being $3-$7 on average for a bag, however the quality will differ by region … New England has the highest quality being 80%-90% pure”, pointed out Mary. She also proclaimed that when a drug user purchases heroin or cocaine (most opiate users will also use cocaine as a stimulate) that it is like playing Russian Roulette, you never know what is inside the bag, as Fentanyl is becoming increasingly popular to lace these drugs with.

Mary went on to explain her recommended treatment process for the drug user. Ideally one would go to detox for 5-7 days, if their substance of choice was either opiates or alcohol, as it is not considered medically necessary for most other substances. After detox comes an inpatient, residential treatment program for 28 days. This is typically followed by sober living, counseling, NA/AA meetings and sometimes medication. This will help the drug user change their environment, including the people and places around them. Professionals will also be able to assist in guiding and giving the drug user a new tool box, which will include handling stress, triggers and learning new coping skills. Mary also explained that different medications are used for opiates and alcohol. “In my private business I would suggest Vivitrol, a non-abuseable and controllable shot given once a month, acts as an opiate blocker and when taken for 12 to 18 months consecutively helps heal the brain, reduces physical cravings and has a greater success rate”, stated Mary. She mentions recovery is both physical and psychological. It is important to note that Mary is not a licensed therapist or doctor but is an experienced consultant.

On average, Mary assists 100 families a year and encourages everyone to become more educated due to drugs becoming easier and easier to find. “Heroin is only one away, your high-schooler is one phone call, one text message, one Facebook message away from getting heroin. You, the reader, are statistically one away from a drug user…could be someone in your family, it could be your co-worker, the person you sit next to at church, the employee who bags your groceries at the supermarket, everyone is one away”, voiced Mary. During the latest interview, Mary asked me two questions: “Do you know what it means when someone is nodding off, sleepy, lethargic and have pin-point pupils? Do you know what it means when someone is volatile, bouncing off the walls, is acting manic and has dilated pupils?”  Like most people, I have to admit “No.” The answer to the first question is that the person is most likely on opiates, typically prescription pain pills or heroin. The answer to the second question is that the person is most likely on cocaine or crack, stimulants. “If you can’t answer these questions, you have homework to do; start your research, go on the internet, look up red flags and research different drugs”, declared Mary. She also shared with me that finding pens that are taken apart, cut up straws, having money or personal items missing, as well as your loved one having itchy skin, wearing sunglasses inside and pawning valuables, are red flags for opiate abuse.

An in-depth look at red flags can be found on Mary’s website: www.mybottomline.info/red-flags.

Mary is available to families and facilities for consultation and education. She can be reached by phone at 860-877-8707, by email at mary@mybottomline.info and you can visit her website www.mybottomline.info for more information.

Look for RECOVERY CORNER, in our upcoming issues which will tackle substance abuse issues as well as resources.

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