Network of Support for Opiate Abusers is Needed

This article was originally published on April 23, 2014 in the Wisconsin State Journal.

Regarding recent coverage of heroin use, as addiction medicine physicians at Meriter, we confirm the opiate crisis is not overstated. Opiate abuse is rampant in Dane County.

The cycle of use is well documented: Users begin experimenting with prescription drugs such as oxycodone or Percocet. When they experience withdrawal symptoms and can no longer afford to get prescription drugs, they may progress to using heroin, a cheaper alternative.

Some buy heroin on the streets and stay with snorting. Others start injecting, exposing themselves to diseases. Many miscalculate the amount or develop tolerance — that’s when we see overdoses.

The need for treatment is clear. It works, and real options exist. Addressing underlying mental health and social issues are part of treatment. Unfortunately, shame, stigma, finances and not knowing where to start may keep people from seeking treatment.

Our lack of a social network to care for these individuals leads to a life-long loss of potential. We, as a community, need to become engaged in this issue.

Dr. Andrew Putney, Dr. Ritu Bhatnagar and Dr. John Ewing, addiction medicine physicians at Meriter NewStart

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2 Responses to Network of Support for Opiate Abusers is Needed

  1. Cindy O. says:

    I am a mother of an opiate addict. Son is 24 year old Andrew. Has been addicted for a few years now. Surprised he is not in jail. He is so close to being there! Some say that would be the best thing for him. I too am beginning to believe this is true. The process of treatment is necessary. Seems too slow for all involved. He is currently seeking treatment from New Start. I pray this time he will follow through. This horrible disease is destroying me as well both financially and mentally. Wonder if there are any support groups for people like me?

    • Meriter says:

      On behalf of NewStart: There are several support options for family members, as this is a family disease as much as an individual’s disease. Within the AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) network there is Al-Anon, and Nar-a-non (Narcotics Anonymous), both intended for friends and family who are affected by the illness. Friends and family are welcome at the AA and NA meetings that are designated as Open meetings, and Speaker meetings are open to all as well. There is CODA, for Co-dependents Anonymous.

      The Parent Addiction Network is a growing resource, on line, as well as face to face meetings available to offer support and education. This group has also been instrumental in promoting changes in services in the community.

      For the AA resources, MAICO (Madison Area Intergroup Central Office) has a 24 hr hot line – 608-222-8989, and the website is

      The Parent Addiction Network (PAN) website launched in March 2013 (

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