At this Boston Medical addiction clinic, many of the clients are teens

It’s called being “dope sick” — when someone’s tired of getting high and no longer wants to spend the day searching for drugs. Addiction medicine physician Sarah Bagley sees kids who already have reached that stage. Some of them started using opioids or heroin as young as 10 or 11 years old. By the time they’re at the CATALYST Clinic at Boston Medical Center, a program designed to treat young people struggling with substance use, their lives have started to unravel. The name stands for Center for Addiction Treatment for Adolescents/Young adults.

Bagley, 37, also is trained in pediatrics. At the hospital, She leads a team of physicians, nurses and social workers who help adolescents – and parents – who are at the breaking point. “Addiction is a public health crisis, with one in six young adults dealing with addiction, the highest rate for any age group across the country,” she says.


Bagley says the reality of a child addicted to drugs hits home when a teen talks about shooting up — but still sleeps with a teddy bear. The Globe spoke with her about adolescents and addiction.

“It’s a standard intake question: How did you feel when you took your first sip of alcohol or tried a drug? A lot of teens will say, ‘I really didn’t like the taste of alcohol, but I loved the way it made me feel.’ If they have a strong positive response that first time, they seek that sensation and feeling again. We are human beings — we do things that make us feel good. Teens might have a lot of ambivalence about giving up drinking or drugging, but at the CATALYST Clinic, our job is to help them realize that it’s the substance abuse that’s creating havoc in their lives. They’re missing milestones in their life because of addiction, whether it’s the prom or just going to a football game. And by the time they come to us, they are using to avoid withdrawal symptoms. With opioids, for example,…

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