Background In 2013 I authored an article, A Different Kind of Grief©, for the MCDES September newsletter. Sharon Dardis recently asked me if I would write another equating where things are now with substance use related deaths compared to where they were in 2013. As an advocate in addiction -recovery my initial jaded response to Read more about What’s Changed in 10 Years[…]
I was very uneducated about medications that are effective for substance use disorder (SUD), especially opioid use disorder when my son, Aaron, was still alive. Although he was familiar with Suboxone and methadone, now I believe both of us could have been better informed about how to use methadone along with other support tools that Read more about Medication-Assisted Treatment: a Solution to the Statistics?[…]
After watching Frontline’s Chasing Heroin last Tuesday night I am grateful to see the media finally focus on changing the conversation. Although the expose’ was very graphic about the side effects of heroin use, Frontline also gave ample time to the hope of how this epidemic can transform rather than the usual drama that is often reported on just the devastation of the disease.
They provided many authoritative perspectives on heroin addiction as a brain disease. There were several who shared that recovering from this disease is not about the person engaging enough will power, or that they lack character or intelligence because they could not find recovery. Addiction is not a personality or behavior disorder. In fact, Dr. Tom Mc Lellan, chair of the Treatment Research Institute (TRI) has been in the field for many years and has a son who died from addiction and also has another in recovery. He said the biggest obstacle in helping people with addictions disorders is the fact that for years we’ve made addiction about personality and lifestyle issues instead of recognizing it as a disease. As the disease progresses, it certainly does affect behavior and personality, but that is a symptom of the disease, not the cause. The compulsion to use and choose their drug of choice has nothing to do with how much, or rather how little, the person who is addicted loves you and trusts you. The compulsion to use is part of the disease process. Until that is interrupted in some way, the addiction will progressively worsen in spite of the consequences.
As a person personally and professionally involved in changing the conversation about substance use disorders and the opioid epidemic now taking the lives of so many, I was deeply disappointed in the HBO documentary, “Heroin: Cape Cod, USA,” which aired on December 28, 2015. Since HBO has produced many documentaries with Dr. Nora Volkow: http://www.hbo.com/addiction/understanding_addiction/12_pleasure_pathway.html educating us about addiction as a brain disease, I was shocked they would produce a portrayal that only focused on the problem and offered no solutions.
As defined, a documentary is supposed to give us the facts about a specific event or person. This documentary did point out one fact: those who suffer from the disease of opioid addiction can come from affluent homes and neighborhoods – but that’s all it did! No other facts were offered about opioid substance use disorder or the treatment of this brain disease. It was just another television expose’ focusing on the negative drama of the illness. At the end of the program it gave less than three minutes to one young woman who was experiencing a successful recovery without giving any specifics about her treatment except to say she was attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings. The remaining 60 minutes of the program focused on the devastation of the illness for the other young people. No solutions or pathways for recovery were ever offered. This kind of programming is what keeps us focused on the wreckage of the illness, and fuels the stigma, shame, and ignorance about the disease instead of focusing on the solutions and hope of recovery.