News About Addiction, Recovery and Advocacy

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In our last blog, we explored five foundational ideas about addiction that demonize people with alcohol and other drug problems and diminish recovery expectations. We also identified some of the effects such low expectations exert on people seeking recovery. We continue this discussion below.

*been given the impression you have nothing to offer to your treatment other than your silent submission to professional authority,
*been subjected to humiliation and shame-inducing confrontations in the name of treatment,
*been provided information on the problems that recovery could remove from your life but not on the things recovery could add to your life,
*been given the impression that recovery is a depressingly boring life,
*been denied a job, a promotion, a loan, access to educational opportunities, access to housing, health or life insurance, a professional license, or been denied friendship because of your past history of addiction,
*been supported by family members during your addiction but refused support during and following your treatment, or
* if, as a friend, partner, or family member, you have been told there is no action you can take to support the recovery of your loved one until he/she “hits bottom” and seeks help on their own,

THEN, you have experienced the curse of low recovery expectations.

While it might seem simple to say talents can help others, actually identifying your talents and putting them to good use can be a little bit more difficult.

If you strive to live an altruistic lifestyle, there are plenty of gifts you can give your loved one on Mother’s Day that also give back to others in the community.

Inebriate, dipsomaniac, drug addict, drunkard, alcoholic, dope fiend, wino, junkie, crackhead, speed freak, dirty, strung out, blitzed, bombed, ripped, and on and on for more than two centuries. Stigmatizing words, slogans, and images of people experiencing alcohol and other drug (AOD) problems have fueled personal, public, professional, and policy pessimism—particularly pessimism about the personal resolution of AOD problems. Such iconic representations flow from ill-conceived ideas about the causes and course of severe AOD problems. Below is a small sampling of such ideas, expressed in the stigma-dripping language (note underlined words below) in which they are often conveyed.

No, I am not channeling Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins. There has been a lot of attention given to the subject of medication-assisted treatment and recovery. As we met in St. Paul in 2001, we started the session with these words: by our silence, we let others define us and finished with let’s go make some history. In between start and finish, we gained the wisdom of lived experience from our peers. My knowledge of many drugs was second hand, I personally knew only alcohol. It done for me, till it done me in—as Eliza Doolittle might have said. I was introduced to more about methadone and a term before unknown to me: medication-assisted recovery. Over time, I was exposed to the controversy that surrounded methadone maintenance. I recall statements like: a drug is a drug is a drug— well maybe except when it’s alcohol and nicotine. Attitudes, stigma, and lack of understanding were, and still are, barriers to acceptance of the many paths to recovery. Change is coming as minds are changing.

WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -May 8, 2018

"It's time we take a step away from showing the devastation of addiction, and show the promise of recovery," she said.

McCarthy Metcalf said campaigns should feature more voices of those who successfully rose out of addiction - as she did. Now an advocate, she said ads should make it clear that help is available, and recovery is possible, as is common with ads related to other medical conditions.

In the last blog, we explored why people in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for alcohol or opioid use disorders experience special obstacles to long-term recovery, why individuals using medication support may be in particular need of peer recovery support services, and why some individuals denied access to medication support could benefit from integrated models of medication and psychosocial support. In my communications with addiction treatment and recovery community organizations, I regularly urge the full integration of psychosocial and medication support options and suggest three broad strategies for increasing medication support for people in MAT within the current dichotomized context of recovery support.

How can peer addiction recovery supports, including access to medication-friendly mutual aid meetings, be increased for people in medication-assisted treatment (MAT)? That is a question of increasing import to people working in addiction treatment and recovery community organizations.

In this first of a two-part blog, we will briefly explore why people in MAT experience special obstacles to long-term recovery, why individuals using medication support may be in particular need of peer recovery support services, and why some individuals denied access to medication support could benefit from integrated models of medication and psychosocial support.

Imagine seeking assistance from a health care facility and being told that you have a progressively debilitating and potentially fatal medical disorder (one widely recognized in the research community as a brain disease), but then discovering that no physician or other medical personnel will be involved in the assessment, diagnosis, acute treatment, or continued monitoring of your condition. Imagine that the vast majority of organizations specializing in treatment of your condition have no affiliation with a hospital or other primary healthcare facility. Imagine the existence of FDA-approved medications specifically for treatment of your condition, but that you will not be informed about nor have access to these medications as part of your prescribed treatment. These are precisely the circumstances encountered today by the majority of people entering addiction treatment in the U.S.

Proverbs are the daughters of experience. (Rwandan proverb)

Knowledge that can be brought to bear on the recovery experience can be drawn from diverse cultural traditions. Such knowledge is often conveyed as metaphors, slogans, or proverbs. Below are a few examples drawn from the traditional wisdom of Africa. Where available, its origins within Africa are noted.