In meth’s grip: How do you cure addicts? |

In meth’s grip: How do you cure addicts?

Editor’s Note: This is final part of a three-day look at methamphetamine’s impact on western Nevada County.

Monday: How has meth affected the county’s social fabric, what is the community’s cost, and what pains are taken to make it?

Tuesday: Meth addiction poses unique challenges to abusers and the people trying to help them. Also, three addicts share their struggles.

TODAY: What’s being done to help addicts? Also, sobriety changes a mother1s outlook while posing new challenges.

Judge Al Dover can look at the half-dozen or so young faces in his courtroom and see a common denominator.

“Boundary issues,” said the judge, who presides over Nevada County Juvenile Drug Court.

The young addicts never learned boundaries – such as who they picked for friends or when they arrived home – and the parents never set them. At some point the parents might have had their own addictions.

“If you’re an addict, and you go home, and it’s there, it’s going to be almost impossible to get clean,” said Sam Albertson, an adolescent counselor on the drug court team and also a former meth user. “It’s very difficult to get clean, especially as a teen, because if they go to school, they’re surrounded by it. There’s not a school in Nevada County where you can’t get almost anything you want.”

That’s why, beyond helping fight addiction, officials with the new court program require parental involvement. The clients attend individual, peer and family counseling. They keep journals, work to improve relationships and must follow curfews and attend school.

It’s the kind of all-encompassing treatment approach that has a chance of reaching methamphetamine addicts, experts say. And while it’s seen as cost-effective in the long run, it’s also in limited supply.

Juvenile Drug Court takes up to 10 teens.

Family therapy for young addicts is one of the most successful programs at Nevada County Substance Abuse Treatment and Recovery, according to Warren Daniels. It has 10 clients.

Hope House, a Grass Valley residential treatment center for women and their children, takes up to 10 clients.

Lovett Recovery Home has room for 19 men and women. But the waiting list is six weeks for men, four weeks for women.

“The reality of life is, if we got everybody into treatment that needs treatment, we wouldn’t have enough resources,” said Doug Bond of the Nevada County Department of Behavioral Services.

The department dispenses drug treatment and prevention funds and has a $1.4 million budget.

The money gets spread thin by methamphetamine, the county’s No. 2 drug of choice for clients who get publicly funded treatment. With alcohol the No. 1 drug, Nevada County fits a rural profile.

That presents different challenges than in urban areas, Bond said. A county task force to discuss those challenges has its first meeting today.

Albertson already has a proposal: “The county without a doubt needs adolescent inpatient treatment. If we continue to treat our kids like second-rate citizens, don’t complain about how they turn out.”

Teens can be admitted into Juvenile Drug Court if they have committed a crime, have a drug problem and are at risk of being removed from their homes.

The approach is similar to Adult Drug Court, which has been praised by addicts and court officials in its three years. Clients submit regular urine tests and face short stints in juvenile hall for dirty results.

The option would be a much longer sentence if they weren’t in the program.

“It’s about rehabilitation and crime prevention,” the judge said.

Before a court session in April, a team including Dover and a probation officer, prosecutor, public defender, case worker, counselors and others discussed each case.

Did the client test clean? Is she attending counseling? Is mom helping the recovery process?

One client, a meth addict, was showing signs of complacency, the team agreed.

“It’s time for a little boost,” Dover said.

“We’ve lost her here before,” said another.

After the clients file in with their parents, Dover coaxed one into reading an assigned essay about addiction.

He later quizzed a prospective client.

Why do you want into this program? the judge asked.

“It’ll help me stay sober,” the boy said.

Why is that important?

“So I can have a good life and do what I want.”

Dover offered another reason: “We want you to matter to you, and that’s the gist of it.”


That’s the very approach at Hope House and in NCSA’s family therapy.

“Hope House is a shining star,” said Sandy Boyd of the county Department of Child Protective Services. “To me, that’s an overall answer where people can live in a healing environment and get out of the culture.”

Beyond counseling, the women learn job and parenting skills during their 90-day stays. The children, unaccustomed to suddenly attentive parents, learn “boundaries” when it comes to homework and bedtime, program director Kristina Perales said.

Just a year old, the program so far has been successful for the women who stick with aftercare programs.

“I’ve been in the field long enough to know you don’t get overconfident,” Perales said. “You give them everything you possibly can and then you pray for the rest.”

At NCSA, counselor Warren Daniels has found family therapy among the agency’s most effective programs. The client’s support network gets educated on drug abuse, and communication improves.

“That’s the biggest success, if you can get the whole family into treatment,” he said. “I mean from the little tyke right up to the grandpa.”

Top Drugs of Choice*

Nevada County Clients Percent

1. Alcohol 145 47.7

2. Methamphetamine 99 32.5

3. Marijuana/hashish 31 10.2


1. Heroin 68,234 31.8

2. Alcohol 53,595 25.0

3. Methamphetamine 40,671 18.9

*Primary drug of abuse for clients admitted to publicly funded treatment in fiscal year 2000-01. Nevada County totaled 299 clients.

‹ Source: California Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs

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