Ending stigma of addiction could boost recovery efforts
Posted December 31, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — About 1,000 people die each year in North Carolina from prescription drug overdoses, but addiction experts say less than 10 percent of the people who need help get it.
Raleigh City Councilman Dickie Thompson knows firsthand that many people who recognize they have an addiction problem either are too ashamed to seek assistance or don't know where to turn. His 29-year-old daughter, Lauren, died of a heroin overdose three years ago after a 10-year struggle with addiction.
"It's hard, it's hard. There's not one hour of any day that I don't think about my daughter," Thompson said. "It's said that nothing's harder than losing a child, and I believe that's true."
Dennis Parnell, president and chief executive of Healing Transitions, a nonprofit substance abuse treatment program in Raleigh, said interest in getting help increases around the holidays.
"Once the holidays end, people start coming out and saying, 'We really have a problem here, and we really need to do something about it,'" Parnell said.
Healing Transitions is treating more young addicts and more overdose deaths than in years past, he said.
"(It's) because of the heroin epidemic, which started with kids finding pills in their parents' medicine cabinets," he said.
Heroin use has quadrupled in the U.S. since 2002, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many addicts turn from prescription drugs to heroin because it's cheaper.
"We need to let (people) know what's available and make it easier for them to get help instead of feeling like they're out there on their own and they can't talk about it," Thompson said. "Until you really understand that it's a disease, then it's hard to truly understand it."
Healing Transitions is expanding its campus and will have close to more than 500 in-patient treatment beds within two years, as well as an outpatient family counseling center that will focus on helping adolescents.
"Recovery has afforded me the opportunity to go back to school, to get an education, to enter the helping profession," said Chris Budnick, vice president of programs for Healing Transitions, who has been in recovery for 25 years.
Three of every four people who go through the nonprofit's program are in stable recovery a year after graduating.