Preven­tion-based pro­grams help ad­dress ad­dic­tion

The Buffalo News - - CONTINUED FROM THE COVER - By Karl Shal­lowhorn Karl Shal­lowhorn is ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram co­or­di­na­tor for the Com­mu­nity Health Cen­ter of Buf­falo. is an is­sues-ori­ented col­umn that ap­pears on the edi­to­rial page each day. Writ­ers must have some back­ground or ex­per­tise on the topic about

There is a pop­u­lar mis­con­cep­tion in our so­ci­ety that ad­dic­tion is a form of weak­ness and that stop­ping, or even cut­ting down on one’s use, is a mat­ter of “mind over mat­ter.” If this were ac­tu­ally true, then we would have far fewer peo­ple suf­fer­ing ev­ery day from a dis­ease that is chronic, pro­gres­sive and fa­tal.

In 2017, sub­stance use dis­or­ders killed nearly 200 peo­ple daily in the U.S., ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Control and Preven­tion. This uptick in deaths over the last decade can be at­trib­uted to opi­oid ad­dic­tion and the ad­di­tion of fen­tanyl into the lethal doses of heroin that are be­ing sold across the coun­try.

What is of­ten over­looked is the num­ber of deaths in Amer­ica re­lated to al­co­hol use. It too is a ma­jor con­trib­u­tor to the myr­iad of health, so­cial and eco­nomic ills fac­ing our coun­try to­day.

It goes with­out say­ing that ad­dic­tion, whether it be to a sub­stance or be­hav­ior, can be very dif­fi­cult to man­age. There has been more re­search on the brain and ad­dic­tion than ever be­fore. What it has demon­strated is that those who live with sub­stance use dis­or­ders have a brain phys­i­ol­ogy that dif­fers from those in the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion. So, can you blame some­one who is ad­dicted for some­thing that is part of their phys­i­cal makeup? Or that ad­dic­tion is a “choice.” I don’t be­lieve that any­one wants, or chooses, to be an ad­dict.

What is needed is a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the na­ture of ad­dic­tion, in­clud­ing the signs, symp­toms and risk fac­tors as­so­ci­ated with this chronic con­di­tion. There are many preven­tion-based pro­grams that can help. One such lo­cal re­source, di­rected at young peo­ple ages 13-26, is Just Tell One (just­tel­lone.org). The web­site pro­vides tools for young peo­ple to con­sider when finding a trusted adult to talk to.

An­other in­ter­na­tional pro­gram that is of­fered lo­cally is Mental Health First Aid. (MHFA) Not only does this pro­gram teach about mental health and sub­stance use dis­or­ders, it also pro­vides a five-step ac­tion plan.

One cru­cial el­e­ment in ad­dress­ing the stigma around ad­dic­tion em­pha­sized in the MHFA pro­gram is that of em­pa­thy. When we are able to em­pathize with those who are ad­dicted and try to un­der­stand the true na­ture of their dis­ease, then maybe we can help them to ad­dress their is­sue in a non­judg­men­tal way.

The re­al­ity is that “just try­ing harder” doesn’t al­ways cut it. There are so many fac­tors that con­trib­ute to ad­dic­tion (ge­net­ics, en­vi­ron­ment, trauma, etc.) that we can­not sim­ply min­i­mize what it takes to ad­dress an is­sue that of­ten has been years in the mak­ing. How­ever, with the ap­pro­pri­ate re­sponse and re­sources re­cov­ery and a bet­ter life is pos­si­ble. The ed­i­to­ri­als on this page rep­re­sent the opin­ion of The Buf­falo News edi­to­rial board. Mem­bers are Pub­lisher and Pres­i­dent War­ren T. Colville; Ed­i­tor Michael K. Con­nelly; Edi­to­rial Page Ed­i­tor Kevin S. Walter; and edi­to­rial writ­ers Dawn Marie Bracely and Greg Con­nors.

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