Dan Callahan, LMSW is a licensed social worker in the State of New York. Dan has been a human service professional since 1983 and specializes ...Read More
Alcoholism and addiction have been a continuing challenge in the United States. It is amazing when you think about it, that the people of the United States have been willing to fight for the right to consume alcoholic beverages and have done so. The latest fight is the legalization of marijuana that has gained significant strength over the past decade. Today we are in the midst of a pharmaceutical endemic that has increased the rate of accidental overdose deaths well above accidental automotive deaths. Opioid drugs utilized as painkillers have ravaged communities across the country.
Contrary to popular belief addiction statistics have remained constant over the years. The difference in perception comes primarily due to the change in the drug of choice. In the 80’s and 90’s the country was engulfed in the Crack/Cocaine epidemic, followed by the prevalence of methamphetamine across the southern and western states.
What is the answer?
In the 1960’s and 70’s that answer was to increase penalties for illegal drug possession, in the State of NY the “Rockefeller” laws increased prison terms to life imprisonment in many cases. In the 1980’s President Reagan coupled with First Lady Nancy, declared a “War on Drugs” and the “Just Say No” campaign. Both of which were ineffective to say the least. In the 1990’s a call for mandatory treatment began to emerge and an onslaught of “Drug Courts” began to mandate treatment in lieu of jail or prison sentences.
Prevention programs aimed at young adults have been met with limited and at times somewhat negative results. Many of these programs send the wrong message and quite possibly increase the likelihood of future drug use and abuse and potentially criminal activity. This is not to say that prevention programs are a failure because they are not.
Harm reduction programs are primarily geared to address individuals that have already crossed the threshold of addiction and are currently in a high-risk category. Harm reduction programs like needle exchange programs seek to reduce the risk of the spread of STD’s/HIV/AIDS or other blood borne pathogens such as the Hepatitis C Virus.
Many communities are currently utilizing emergency and medical interventions. For instance, police and other emergency medical responders for heroin and Opioid drug overdoses are using the intranasal drug “Natran”. Buprenorphine is a pharmaceutical drug that blocks the euphoric effects of opiate and opioid drugs as well as stops the withdrawal symptoms and cravings for the drug. “Vivitrol” is a monthly injection of Naltrexone, which attaches to the opioid receptors in the brain and similarly blocks the euphoria associated with heroin and other opioid drugs that the drug user seeks. Naltrexone is also utilized to stop alcohol cravings in the alcoholic.
Addiction Treatment and Recovery
“Not until the pain of the same is greater than the pain of change will you embrace change.” -Dave Ramsey
When an individual crosses the threshold from substance user to abuser they typically do not recognize the scope of the problem. It is not until there have been enough “Significant Emotional Events” and consequences begin to emerge that the individual will consider whether alcohol or other mind-altering substances are at the core of the problem. As the ramifications of these consequences continue to increase, the individual afflicted begins to consider the alternatives for their life. Depending upon the severity of these events an individual may choose addiction treatment as the beginning of overcoming these issues. Outpatient Treatment or Mutual Support Groups such as AA or NA are often the first attempt at recovery for an individual.
It is generally agreed in the addiction treatment and recovery industry that total abstinence is the goal for the individual afflicted. If they are truly an addict or alcoholic significant data indicates that attaining inner peace and joy lies within complete abstinence. Individuals that attempt to control or limit their consumption are significantly more prone to relapse and/or binge or excessive use than individuals seeking complete abstinence.
The recovery process is a personal choice to alleviate the negative outcomes and influences of alcohol and illicit drugs in an individual’s life that are caused by excessive use. In other words, the pain of continuing using becomes so great that the alternative of abstinence begins to look like an option. The recovery foundation starts with the admission that alcohol or drugs have turned into the enemy rather than the friend it once was.