Prescription drug abuse is a devastating problem that affects millions of people every year. Possibly the most tragic example of prescription drug abuse can be found on the Cat Lake reserve in Ontario, Canada. In this one area, between 70 and 80 percent of Native American adults are addicted to painkillers like OxyContin and Percocet. Local officials hold a needle exchange program, where they regularly collect 500 needles a week among a population of 700. Not only are the adults suffering with prescription painkiller addiction, but their children are suffering because of it too.

Children Beg Parents to Get Treatment

A letter written by local 6th graders to their parents tells the whole story. In a joint class project, kids wrote, "Please go for treatment and get HEALTHY!" These children are seeing the pain caused by parents who are addicted to drugs. Not only are the parents addicts; irresponsible, neglectful and sometimes abusive, they are spending outrageous amounts of money on their pills. Adults on the reservation are so addicted to painkillers that they are willing to pay $1,000 per pill. These families are not financially able to support such an expensive addiction, and it is the children that are suffering and most able to identify the problem.

Finding Treatment Programs is Difficult

Even with the pleas of innocent children begging them to get help, treatment does not come easily to these Native Americans. There are no treatment programs in the community, and neighboring areas are only just now offering any form of rehab. Health professionals in Cat Lake are looking into the process of establishing a treatment program in the community that would serve its residents. The program would use some non-traditional methods, such as one week of Suboxone treatment followed by weeks in the bush, hunting, fishing and spending time in nature. This community and others like it are in desperate need of intervention and treatment programs that can help individuals overcome their addition. Programs must also help these individuals integrate back into the real world and provide support to children and families.
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