Win­ning the bat­tle against ad­dic­tion

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND VOICES - Don Mathis, Havre de Grace The writer serves on the boards of Ad­dic­tion Con­nec­tions Re­source in Fall­ston and Doc­tors for Amer­ica.

The head­line over com­men­ta­tor Monica Scott’s in­spir­ing ac­count of her tri­umph over ad­dic­tion was ex­actly on point (“Suc­cess sto­ries help oth­ers over­come sub­stance use dis­or­ders,” Sept. 13).

As some­one in long-term re­cov­ery, I’ve been on the giv­ing and re­ceiv­ing end of such com­pelling sto­ries at 12-step meet­ings and in out­pa­tient set­tings.

These real-life sto­ries of­fer hope, of­ten in cir­cum­stances where hope seems dis­tant or im­pos­si­ble.

The value of these sto­ries ex­tends well be­yond their heal­ing im­pact on in­di­vid­u­als. Such suc­cess sto­ries also can form the ba­sis for sys­temic im­prove­ments in pub­lic pol­icy that could help mil­lions of Amer­i­cans.

Elected of­fi­cials and pol­i­cy­mak­ers can work more closely with front-line health care providers, re­searchers and other ex­perts to iden­tify what works for peo­ple in treat­ment and re­cov­ery. They also can ver­ify which pre­ven­tion pro­grams are most ef­fec­tive in teach­ing chil­dren, youth and vul­ner­a­ble adults to avoid sub­stance abuse and its dan­gers.

Much of this work al­ready is un­der­way, yet many among the pub­lic and among de­ci­sion-mak­ers are un­fa­mil­iar with sto­ries like Ms. Scott’s.

More­over, the mis­placed stigma of ad­dic­tion as a moral fail­ing or char­ac­ter weak­ness de­ters many peo­ple from un­der­stand­ing the neu­ro­log­i­cal as­pects of ad­dic­tion. These drugs hi­jack the users’ brains, first im­pair­ing and then over­whelm­ing their abil­ity to act ra­tio­nally.

Congress is on the verge of mak­ing sig­nif­i­cant ad­vances in re­duc­ing opi­oid ad­dic­tion and other sub­stance abuse dis­or­ders. Yet the re­cently en­acted Com­pre­hen­sive Ad­dic­tion and Re­cov­ery Act did not in­clude any fund­ing.

The House and Se­nate ap­pro­pri­a­tions com­mit­tees have a pend­ing pro­posal for $570 mil­lion to fund treat­ment beds, pre­ven­tion pro­grams, ser­vices for vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions like vet­er­ans and preg­nant moms and their sub­stance-ex­posed ba­bies, along with train­ing pro­grams for doc­tors and other health care providers.

For ev­ery Monica Scott who has turned her life around and is now help­ing oth­ers, there are dozens of peo­ple across Mary­land each week who are one shot, one snort, one in­ges­tion away from death. These over­dose fa­tal­i­ties de­stroy fam­i­lies. Congress must act now.

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