‘Just say no’ isn’t enough

Modern Healthcare - - NEWS - —Steven Ross John­son

The af­flu­ence and seclu­sion of suburbia didn’t shield Todd Cran­dell from be­com­ing a drug ad­dict. “I’m not the typ­i­cal kid that grew up in the in­ner city with noth­ing,” said Todd Cran­dell, 50, now a clin­i­cal ad­dic­tion coun­selor. “I had it all, and I still lost ev­ery­thing.”

Cran­dell, who founded Rac­ing for Re­cov­ery in 2001 to pro­mote phys­i­cal fit­ness as an ad­dic­tion treat­ment path­way, lived the idyl­lic sub­ur­ban ex­is­tence. He grew up in the mid­dle-class, north­west­ern Ohio town of Syl­va­nia, about a 20-minute drive from Toledo, where he still lives.

When young, Cran­dell dreamed of be­com­ing a pro­fes­sional hockey player. Ath­let­ics had been one of the few things that pro­vided so­lace in a life up­ended when his mother com­mit­ted sui­cide af­ter her long bout with heroin ad­dic­tion.

Though he was only 3 at the time, he says his mother’s drug abuse and even­tual death even­tu­ally trig­gered his own de­scent into al­co­hol and sub­stance abuse, which be­gan when he was 13. “Here I am, this young kid in white, suburbia Amer­ica where ev­ery­thing seemed to look OK, but it was the per­fect storm just wait­ing to hap­pen,” Cran­dell said.

At 15, Cran­dell be­gan tak­ing Per­co­cet and Val­ium. He switched to co­caine by age 17. At 22, Cran­dell tried heroin for the first time. “Heroin was what my mom did, so that’s the ul­ti­mate goal for me,” Cran­dell said. “I had fi­nally made it in the drug world.”

Cran­dell said sub­ur­ban prej­u­dices about drug abusers helped him to keep his ad­dic­tion un­der wraps for years. “Just be­cause peo­ple go to good schools, have nice clothes, and are play­ing sports doesn’t mean they’re not go­ing to have emo­tional prob­lems that could lead to drug abuse,” Cran­dell said.

But ev­ery­thing be­gan to change in 1993 when Cran­dell was ar­rested for a third time for driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence. “That’s when I be­lieve I got a gift from both God and my mom that enough was enough—and that was it.” He’s been clean and sober ever since.

An avid triath­lete, Cran­dell says more needs to be done to get at the root causes of ad­dic­tion—the “why” be­hind many peo­ple us­ing drugs in the first place. “It has to be about more than just don’t do the drugs,” he said.

Dur­ing his life in Syl­va­nia, Cran­dell went from a typ­i­cal sub­ur­ban kid to a life of par­ty­ing, DUI ar­rests and ad­dic­tion. To­day af­ter his re­cov­ery, he’s an ad­dic­tion coun­selor and avid triath­lete.

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