Investigations

Return visit with recovering heroin addicts

Friday, May 21, 2010

For addicts, it is a constant struggle to stay straight in the middle of a heroin epidemic.

Three months ago, we were first introduced to a group of young recovering addicts on Long Island.

We decided to check back and see how the group is doing. It is a testament to long-term intensive treatment and why it is so critical if someone is going to kick heroin.

The irony is often addicts are only getting access to long-term treatment if they get arrested and a judge mandates it. Insurance companies simply won't pay.

When we reunited with the group, there were 8 instead of 10 young recovering heroin addicts. One voluntarily left the long-term residential program at Phoenix house in Suffolk County. The other ended up back behind bars.

"It's unfortunate, you know. You grow a bond with a lot of people in here and you hope they make it, you know. But sometimes it's just not in the cards right now because they're just not ready," Alex Cutrone said.

But considering the daily battle to stay off heroin, 80% is a pretty good success rate. Most of these young people, ages 18 to 23, were shooting up as many as 30 bags a day.

"Things are a lot easier then they were back when we last spoke. I used to have like cravings and stuff and to still want to get high. I really don't think about it that much anymore," Meghan Wright said.

"Now, I have like 8 months clear and I talk to my family and things are really good," Marisa Cherry said.

They are from different towns all over Long Island, but the common thread is their addictions and relapses cost them everything, including relationships with their families.

"My family didn't really trust me. So now, five months later, I've been talking to my family, able to see them and I'm starting to earn their trust back," Nick Lodato said.

"I used to not care how I treated them or anything. Now I'm grateful they are still in my life and they're giving me a second chance," Wright said.

"When I relapsed, I relapsed so bad that I got arrested and didn't make it to my only sister's wedding and now that I'm nine months clean, she just started to say I love you again," Cutrone said.

Almost all of them ended up getting arrested for crimes related to heroin. The majority are mandated to treatment here by the court-the program lasting anywhere from 6 to 12 months Private insurance usually only pays for 28 days.

"I've been in drug addiction since I was 13 years old. I mean it took me that long to get to where I was at my worst point, so it's not going to take me 28 days to fix everything," Ryan Hublitz said.

"It's been maybe five or six years since I've been clean for six months and it feels good," Joey Mattia said.

"I don't miss the high because along with the high comes all the negative things that I had to go through and I'm definitely much happier being sober and doing the right thing now," Cherry said.

What's sad is that to get that kind of sober help, you usually have to pay out of pocket or commit a crime. One drug abuse expert told us he's actually heard of cases where relatives are so desperate to get a family member into treatment, they'll tell them to get themselves arrested so the state will pay.

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heroin, investigations, sarah wallace
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