Addiction touches nearly every family. It’s time to talk about it openly and without fear.
Nothing safeguards you against addiction — not a loving family, not wealth, not faith, not age, not intelligence, wisdom nor willpower. Addiction can overcome anybody and, once it has you in its steely grip, it can cost you your health, your family, your home, your livelihood and even your life.
Jamie Daniels paid that ultimate price, dead at 23 from an opiate overdose while he was in the midst of a recovery program. His mother, Lisa Daniels of West Bloomfield, has been left “broken,” she says, “and the only thing that will partially repair me is to know that people like Jamie, young people struggling with addiction, get the help they need. They’ve got to be able to speak up and get help without being shunned, without fear of being labeled an addict for the rest of their lives.”
The alternative — silence — only exacerbates the problem. “I didn’t tell anybody,” Daniels says. “None of my friends knew what was going on. None of my family knew. We didn’t share what Jamie was going through. Now it’s time to stop that. If we had, maybe Jamie would be alive today.”
Jamie had struggled with an addiction to prescription medication. With great effort, his family worked tirelessly to get him help, but it was always “one step forward, three steps back,” Daniels says.
She and former husband, Detroit Red Wings announcer Ken Daniels, who will be speaking about Jamie at an event March 7 at Temple Israel didn’t learn about his problem with addiction until December of his senior year at Michigan State University. A friend told his sister that Jamie was getting into stronger prescription drugs.
“He didn’t want people to know what he was going through. He was afraid if people knew, they would use it against him, even his peers,” Daniels says.
Unlike the majority of families with an addict, there was no predisposition to the disease in Daniels’ family. “I didn’t know what the signs were but, in hindsight, I realized that from the time he was young, he was often alone and said he felt like he never fit in. Maybe he was depressed. I do know that he suffered from depression for a while before his death.”
She does know that at age16, Jamie gave a self-diagnosis to a therapist as having ADD and asked for Adderall. “He did not have ADD,” Daniels says. “He eventually told me he intentionally answered the questions wrong on the ADD test. It was that easy. He was struggling with something at 16, but Adderall was not the answer; it may have been the beginning of something terrible.”
Jamie continued to take Adderall through college. His family doesn’t know when he turned to opiates. “They were easily obtainable on campus and, by the time he graduated, he couldn’t stop,” she says.
She watched him try to detox himself several times. On three occasions, he was taken to the emergency room during an acute crisis, only to be discharged hours later with no long-term plan. They finally found a therapist Jamie liked, who guided him toward getting the medical help he needed.
During his most difficult crisis to date, Jamie called his therapist who recommended he go directly to the emergency room to be admitted to a 12-day detox program.
The hospital let him out two days early. “From there, they wanted Jamie to move into a sober living facility here in Michigan, but after speaking with Jamie’s therapist, we agreed to send him to a private rehab center in Florida.”
Jamie, still under his father’s health insurance, went to Palm Beach County, Fla., for treatment. He first spent a month at the Beachway Therapy Center, then moved on to a sober living house with a strong reputation in Delray.
He was sober, attended outpatient treatment meetings and eventually got a job working as a law clerk. “At work he was doing well, but, at home on his own, he was depressed,” Daniels says.
Florida has become the nation’s recovery capital with more than 400 sober living homes in Palm Beach County alone. These homes are linked with outpatient treatment programs, doctors and labs. Some owners, realizing there is more money to be made from a relapsed individual with insurance, pay “body brokers” to lure individuals in recovery into specific sober homes with offers of gifts, or in Jamie’s case, rent covered completely by insurance. Jamie had become the victim of “patient brokering.”
Nine days after transferring to this new sober home, Jamie died of a drug overdose.
The Daniels family tried to piece together the last week of Jamie’s life. They learned the doctor this home sent him to had prescribed a new medication for his anxiety, the highly addictive Xanax. “They set him up to fail,” Daniels says.
On. Dec. 7, 2016, just four days after he was prescribed the Xanax, Jamie ingested heroin laced with fentanyl (a synthetic opioid 50 times stronger than heroin). It shocked his heart and killed him. “We don’t know how or when he got the drugs,” Daniels says. “No medications or drugs were found at the scene.”
The Daniels didn’t find out about the corrupt nature of the home Jamie was in until months after his death. However, after speaking with the insurance company and the drug task force detectives, it was determined that most of the charges from two of the three sober homes Jamie lived in were fraudulent.
Daniels estimates that the fraudulent charges to the insurance company were between $55,000 and $60,000. Approximately two weeks after Jamie’s death, they learned the owner of the last house Jamie lived in had been under investigation. Eventually, he was convicted and is now serving 27 years in prison.
Daniels wants others to be aware of this danger in the billion-dollar industry of addiction and let them know it’s not just happening in Florida. “Jamie’s ability for successfully beating his addiction was taken away from him because he was manipulated,” she says.
She adds that addiction did not define the life of her son, however. “He was a beautiful soul: loving, caring and compassionate. He loved and protected his sister, Arlyn. They were the best of friends. He called his Bubbie just to chat and always ended each phone call with ‘love you.’ He would have helped anyone at any time.”
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