FOX 47 - Health News
It's an all too familiar story -- young people hooked on substances that destroy their lives and tear apart families.
But there is hope.
In a focus on health special report, Fox 47 talked with three people who are pulling themselves from the brink.
In telling us their stories, they say recovery is long, painful, but worth every sober minute.
Every day, in our neighborhood, people are abusing drugs. And they start when they're young.
A 2008 report from the Department Of Health Services says 37% of Wisconsin teenagers
tried marijuana and 23% took prescription pain relievers for non-medical purposes
Connor, 16, started drinking at age 12 -- soon he was smoking pot and abusing prescription drugs.
"I loved it," he said." It just helped me get away from all my problems. I didn't have to worry about getting yelled at at home, school, kids making fun of me, whatever it was."
Connor's mother, Marlene, says she and her husband didn't know what to think.
"Most of the time, we walked around dazed and confused," she said. "He wasn't going to school, change of personality, change in friends, stopped playing sports he loved."
Marlene was shocked to find out the ease at which Connor and his friends could get their hands on illegal substances.
"They said we can get anything under the sun -- crack, heroin, marijuana. It's difficult to get alcohol and cigarettes. And that really did shock me."
Connor is on his way to recovery.
"If I didn't have my mom and dad helping me thru this I don't know where I'd be."
His counselor, Skye Tikkanen knows the importance surrounding yourself with the right people.
"I don't believe in the concept of peer pressure," she said. "I believe in peer selection. I was a risk-taking kid, and i chose people to hang out who were also risk-taking kids."
A recovering heroin and crystal meth addict, Skye's been mentoring teens for 7 years. She's working to steer Connor away from the wrong people.
"People that can get away with having a beer and not getting addicted -- nobody understands the difference between those people and someone who having a beer is gonna set off a relapse that could destroy their life."
And Wisconsin remains one of the worst states for alcohol abuse, according to the DHS study.
About 35% of Wisconsin high school students drink, and 25% binge drink (5 or more alcoholic beverages in one sitting).
John, 20, started drinking as a teen.
"I used the excuse for a long time that alcoholics and drug addicts are old men who lost their wives, jobs, and careers, but that's not the case," he said.
Denial is the number one symptom of addiction, according to Shelly Dutch, director of Connections Counseling in Madison.
"It's a disease. It's not a weakness," Dutch said. "It's not about being good or bad. It's something that needs help, needs treatment, and treatment works."
"You can't do it by yourself. It's impossible."
So far, he's true to his words. John's back and school, and working 20 hours a week, saying he's "busy but healthy."
More importantly, he's sober.
Said Dutch, "Young people can get help, they can embrace recovery and the can thrive, enjoy the quality of their life with other young people."
Experts at Connections Counseling say drugs and alcohol affect people of all walks of life. They say race, income level, education, ethnicity don't matter.
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