Sometimes the "War on Drugs" isn't fought in Washington, D.C., on grimy street corners under police surveillance or in the coca fields of Colombia.
It rages inside the addict. The drug keeps probing for weaknesses. Years, decades, it'll try to wait you out.
Even a fighter like Garrett Reid — who repeatedly tried to kick opiates and underwent extensive drug rehabilitation before he blew that red light in January 2007 and wound up in jail — made it to only age 29.
Eagles coach Andy Reid confirmed Monday what many had suspected since his son was found dead Sunday in a Lehigh University dorm room. Garrett "lost the battle," he said in a statement.
"We all thought he had control of his demons. But it's a horrible, horrible, horrible disease — addiction," said Garrett Reid's attorney, Paul Rosen, who had helped get him into treatment after his arrest. "There's nothing more that could have been done than what was done for this child by his parents."
Reid had more help than the typical addict, and he seemed committed to turning his life around, but it still wasn't enough.
"I don't want to be that kid who was the son of the head coach of the Eagles, who was spoiled and on drugs and OD'd and just faded into oblivion," Reid said at his sentencing in November 2007.
Reid's death has put a spotlight on addiction treatment, a field in which specialists are using state-of-the-art weapons — opioid antagonists and cognitive behavioral therapy, for example — to fight a deadly wave of prescription-drug abuse. Reid first discovered the painkiller OxyContin as a teenager.
"We're in the middle of a prescription-opiate epidemic right now," said Kyle Kampman, medical director at the Charles O'Brien Center for Addiction Treatment, at the University of Pennsylvania Health System. Relatively new medicines, like Vivitrol — a monthly injection of naltrexone, which blocks the euphoric effects of narcotics — have shown promise.
But getting clean and staying clean require different playbooks, and recovering addicts can be vulnerable to overdoses because they lose their drug tolerance, experts say.
"It's a chronic illness, unfortunately," Kampman said. "People can go into these long remissions and still relapse down the road."
Kampman and other experts say that the proliferation of drug courts, which use a carrot-and-stick approach to reduce prison populations and help addicts, is long overdue. Through intensive supervision, support and therapy, addicts can be taught to avoid the people, places and things that trigger cravings — and how to respond to them if they can't.
"Instead of Nancy Reagan's 'Just Say No,' cognitive behavioral therapy is how to say no," said Adam Gelb, of the Pew Center on the States, which recently released a report on the ineffectiveness of imprisoning nonviolent offenders.
Linda Barbera, Delaware County's Treatment Court coordinator, said that her program has graduated 43 "clients" with drug and mental-health problems. Only four have been rearrested. Most, she believes, also have stayed off drugs. "When we have graduation, I tell them, 'This is the beginning of your recovery. This is something you have to maintain the rest of your life,'" she said.
M.J., the 46-year-old recovering addict who answered Philadelphia's Narcotics Anonymous hot line Monday, said that Garrett Reid's death hit home. He lost his own brother to drugs in 2007.
"Treatment is a short-term solution to a long-term problem," said M.J., a North Philly variety-shop owner and Narcotics Anonymous volunteer. "When you get out, it's a whole other thing."
Clean for 21 years now, M.J. offers clear-eyed advice to recovering addicts fighting the battle that Reid lost: Swallow your pride, join a support group and stick together "like a herd of antelope." Don't ever think the drug can't hurt you anymore.
"We live just for today," he said. "What might have kept me clean a week ago just might not work today. It's insidious. It comes at me in one way, but it attacks me in another way."