nj1015.com: What happens when drug treatment ends?


In Part 4 of our week-long series on New Jersey’s heroin epidemic, we examine drug treatment programs and their effectiveness, and what happens after treatment.


Steve Drzewoszewski, Intensive Outpatient Coordinator at the Carrier Clinic. (David Matthau, Townsquare Media NJ)

As the New Jersey heroin epidemic continues, an increasing number of people in their teens and 20s are going through drug rehabilitation programs. But just because they go for treatment it doesn’t mean they will stay clean or stop taking drugs once the program is completed. In fact, it is not uncommon for many addicts to attend multiple detox programs over several years.

So what has to happen in order for treatment to be successful?

According to Vinnie S., a former North Jersey heroin addict who’s been clean for 17 months, it all comes down to one person — the addict.

“Unless people are ready to stop getting high,” he said. “Treatment won’t do a thing. I was there one time, there’s nothing you could say to me, there’s nothing you could talk me out of, If I had my mindset and I was doing it and I said look I’m going to get high, there’s really not much you can do.”

He added “you could put me in a nine-month program, when I get out I’m just gonna get high cause all I wanted to do before I got there was, you’re not going to change my mind, I have to change my mind.”

Vinnie said the program does have a lot to do with it, and the more comfortable you are, the more likely you are to succeed.

“A lot of people go into treatment, and are not really ready to change their behavior, they’re not all in it,” he said.

Dr. David Buch, chief medical officer at the Carrier Clinic said some people are able to recover from heroin addiction without medical intervention, but it doesn’t happen often.

“Certainly most people do best when they have a support group of people who really care, who are really involved, and people really let into their life to help them,” Buch said.

Steve Drzewoszewski, the Intensive Outpatient coordinator at Carrier Clinic said “unfortunately there is no quick and easy solution when someone gets hooked on heroin. We know it’s driven by a person’s reward system, the drive to use is neuro-biologically based.”

He said young people have unique issues — most don’t have enough “problems” in their life where the rebuilding process is huge, most still have a support system, a house to go to — so in other words they haven’t burned those bridges, but on the flip side, many haven’t had enough consequences to drive the recovery process.

“It’s important that clients get to a place where instead of feeling like – I need to be here – it becomes I want to be here,” he said. “Eventually that drive has to be theirs, they don’t necessarily have to come in with that all the time, it’s not what brings you into treatment that matters most to me, it’s what happens while you’re in treatment.”

He also said the right kind of family support is very important.

“What support means to me is I will be right behind you every step of the way , but that’s where I’m going to be, behind you, you’re going to make the moves,” he said. “Should you mess up you will have to take responsibility for that. If there’s no consequences, why would anybody stop? Limits must be set.”

Drzewoszewski said people frequently say they go into drug treatment because they’ve hit bottom, but he doesn’t use the term because if they continue using drugs they’ll find out what their next “bottom” will be.

“I prefers to look at it from the point where the consequences become great enough to reinforce the need to change and you develop the willingness to do something about it. That’s where things really start,” he said.


Click below to read the first in our series on NJ’s Heroin Epidemic: