MIDWOOD, Brooklyn (PIX11) — Karen Carlini, the associate director of Dynamic Youth Community on Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn, started working in the substance abuse field 40 years ago.
She told PIX11 News recently she was warning parents, schools, and law enforcement about the emerging heroin crisis, from the early 2000’s.
“We saw it happening every year,” Carlini told PIX11. “And we tried to tell people what we saw happening.”
An explosion of painkillers on the market in the late 1990’s left a lot of pills in mom’s and dad’s medicine cabinets. That led to experimentation—and opiate addiction.
When New York State imposed a crackdown on the over-prescribing of painkillers, many young people turned to heroin—another opiate.
A number of the young people at DYC started abusing marijuana and alcohol—gateway drugs–when they were as young as 11 or 12.
“If you’re starting with marijuana and alcohol when you’re 12, and by 14 or 15, you’re using pills, and by 18, you’re using heroin, where were the coping skills?” Carlini said.
“The pills are doing all the work.”
Many of the members at DYC finish an intensive, one year residential program in upstate Fallsburg, New York—that costs just under $30,000–before returning to the outpatient program in Brooklyn.
16 of the members pay nearly $30,000 more to live in a community residence above the outpatient center for a second year of treatment.
Most advocates say the more time a recovering addict can spend in treatment, the more time counselors and medical professionals have to help them learn the tools to deal with stress in everyday life, without turning to drugs or alcohol.
Janina, a 24-year-old woman who was a dancer and an honors student in school, started with marijuana and alcohol in her Staten Island schoolyard when she was 11 years old—and was introduced to Xanax by a neighbor, when she was a high school freshman. Later, she started on Percocets for a dance injury—and later—heroin.
She is now attending rehab all week long at DYC and returning home to her parents’ house on Staten Island every night. And even though she is poised and pretty and doing well—learning new “life skills”—she candidly admits she still remembers the high.
“On the way home, usually at night, you see all the people doing what I used to do, when copping drugs,” Janina told PIX11 News. “They’re nodding out on the train, and for a split second, I’ll say, ‘Wow! I’m jealous.’”
Jealous of the fleeting euphoria they may be feeling. Not jealous of what it does to a life.
“People deserve second chances, and I’m so grateful that I’ve got mine right now, “ Janina said.
“I can look at myself in the mirror, and I look healthy and I feel healthy. I go to bed tired at night, because I’ve done things with my day. Not because I’ve done too many drugs.”
Digital producer: Jeremy Tanner