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Addiction Spares No One

There have been many books about addiction, but few from the father’s and family’s point of view. Renowned journalist David Sheff wrote a powerful piece about his struggle to help his son Nick overcome his methamphetamine addiction. It drew an overwhelming response from readers with a similar experience. Pat Hernandez has more.



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Before meth, Nic Sheff was an honor student, a varsity athlete, and like his father, an award-wining journalist. On meth, he was a different person — pathetic, paranoid, a pariah who stole money from his eight-year-old brother and lived on the streets.

“Meth goes right into the brain, into the nervous system, and sort of latches on this neuro-transmitter and almost instantly, and in some cases, instantly, someone can become addicted.”

David Sheff says by then you’re operating not only on an emotional and psychological deficit, but there’s actual physical brain damage that occurs.

“Initially, some of the research suggested that the damage was so severe that it would never repair itself, but the good news is that it does, but it takes a long time.”

He admits he tried crystal meth once in college. It was a horrible experience, something he would never do again, but it hooked his roommate to his death. Nic’s five year addiction almost ended tragically when he overdosed and was rushed to the hospital.

“He describes this moment when he was in the hospital and one of his friends came in and said,  ‘there are drugs in the car, come with me, let’s get out of here’. And he wanted so badly to go, but he said he looked up at his friend and realized that if he did go, he was going to die.”

David Sheff’s story about his son’s addiction is chronicled in Beautiful Boy. He calls it cathartic.

“Not only did it help me be a better father at taking care the rest of my family, but also, it ultimately helped Nic, because I think when I stopped trying to save him, he finally came around to wanting to save himself.”

Mel Taylor heads the council on alcohol and drugs in Houston. He says addiction knows no race, no age no sexual boundary or economic status. It is a human condition, universal to us all.

“I don’t think anyone sets out to become an addict. I think they find out too late that they’ve crossed the lines somewhere and the drugs or alcohol has them.”

He says admitting to addiction is half the problem. The other half is getting help.

“For some, it’s just a matter of hearing someone say, in what we call brief way, brief intervention way: it’s not good for you, and it’s creating a form of dependence, which really needs to have you cut down.”

For others who need more help, Taylor says there’s outpatient or even residential treatment. David Sheff says for some, recovery comes after a realization.

“My son and other people who are going through this are seriously ill and in many cases, they’re trying to deal with life in a way that they are incapable of, unless they get professional help.”

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