Parents of Young Adults Addicted to Heroin Seek Greater Access to Health Records

The parents of two young adults who were addicted to heroin are advocating for families to have greater access to their children’s health records. They say parents’ input is needed because of the nature of addiction, and young adults’ limited decision-making capabilities.

Maureen Fitzpatrick says current health care regulations prevented her from helping her daughter, Erin, receive the treatment she needed. Erin, 21, is undergoing treatment for heroin addiction, and is waiting for a court date to face burglary charges, the Associated Press reports. Erin refused long-term addiction treatment at the age of 16. Her drug test results were not disclosed to her family, so they did not know to seek addiction treatment for her.

Fitzpatrick wants to change federal legislation requiring a minor’s written consent to disclose drug or alcohol treatment to parents. “It’s been doors closed in our face,” she said. “And I really blame some of these laws for not allowing me to get my daughter the care she needed.”

Gregg Wolfe’s son Justin died of a heroin overdose at the age of 21. Gregg is calling for a change to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, so that young adults’ mental health or addiction treatment records can be shared with their parents while they remain on the family’s health insurance. Wolfe says he did not know Justin was using heroin until after he died. Justin had told his doctors and his therapy group about his heroin use, but the information was not shared with his father because Justin was a legal adult.

Margo Kaplan of Rutgers University, who specializes in health law, said she is concerned about changing privacy laws, which are designed to protect young patients from possible abuse. “It’s important to note that weakening these protections will also affect minors with far less supportive parents — minors who want to seek help, are getting treatment, but only feel safe doing so if they can do it without their parents being notified,” she said.

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    April 23, 2013 at 6:22 PM

    My heart goes out to any parents who have lost their children to addiction. I have had several patients die over the years; it never gets easier. The human body is a finely tuned instrument; much more so than people realize. Micrograms of chemicals can totally disrupt brain and bodily function. Just so people understand the size of a micrgram: there are 28 grams to an ounce, and an ounce is not that heavy. Now, divide that into 28 equal sizes and you have 28 single grams. A milligram is 1/1000th of a gram. So for examle, if you take 2milligrams of Alprazolam, and it knocks your legs out from under you, let’s go a little farther. A microgram is 1/1000 of a milligram. Are you grasping how small that is? You could , probaby not feel 200 micrograms of anything if it were placed on your hand, yet 200 micrgrams of LSD will blow your mind. That is how finely tuned a body is. Unfortunately, due to Prohibition, no one knows what was injected into that young man’s veins. I can only imagine how he feels; I have children that have had their share of substance issues. Please consider, if there was no Prohibition, and Health Care Professionals over saw the manufacture and sale of all drugs, the term gateway drug would once and for all be dropped. People try drugs for a variety of reasons. The unfortunate ones are genetically disposed to addiction, just as some of us are disposed to hypertension, obesity, diabetes, heart disease. Ask anyone that is suffering from these chronic disorders if they are happy about them. The issue is, they are treated by health care professionals; those with the same issues, but falling under the addicton category, unfortunately are not treated by healthcare professionals. They are treated by men and women trained in law enforcement. I don’t know about you, but I would no more rather have two nurses defending me against a gang of murderers, than I would want a group of police trying to get my blood sugar stabilized.

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    April 23, 2013 at 12:07 PM

    What we need to do is figure out appropriate pharmacotherapy for minors addicted to opiates. I am not discounting parents desire to know about their kids. But youth are consanantly struggling so much harder than adults without being able to be aided by medications that aid people from using illicit drugs.

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