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Ending stigma of addiction could boost recovery efforts

Posted December 31, 2015

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— 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.

5 Comments

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  • Greg Klayton Jan 1, 2016
    user avatar

    "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."

    Citing statistics with attribution is bad journalism. Exactly who are these experts?

    This is an example of pile on journalism and is a bad habit to break (pun intended). The consequences ultimately result in misguided or bad public health policy decisions. What about the people having surgery who actually need opiates for recovery? How does the medical system treat people with serious chronic pain?

    Sensationalizing abuse of pain medication complicates an issue that will effect all of us at one time or another.

  • Rob Creekmore Jan 1, 2016
    user avatar

    If you don't have money due to an addiction or, one of the underlying causes of addiction, poverty, how is one to afford rehab? Perhaps we should do as the rest of the modern world has, provide universal healthcare.

  • carlb202 Jan 1, 2016

    Statistics like this really are heartbreaking. I know how hard it is to struggle with addictions, I was a cocaine user for about 22 years and an alcoholic all my life. I've been to rehabs, meetings, outpatient treatment, all of it. They help, but in the end the individual has to make up their mind that they don't want to live like that anymore. Today, I'm 7 months cocaine free and 122 days sober. It can be done, and I pray for those still struggling.

  • Roscoe P Coltrane Jan 1, 2016
    user avatar

    My best friend was suffering from addiction to oxycontin several years back. It gos so bad that I finally had to axe that friendship. about 2 years later, he decided that his children were more important than the pills. He is now almost 6 years clean. I still loved him just as much, I just couldn't allow that back into my life, because I am a recovering cocaine addict, 9 years gone. It is still a struggle today. We are also each other's crutch. There is an out from the drug life, but it doesn't happen overnight and it is not just handed to you. It is very hard work.

  • Mark Fogel Dec 31, 2015
    user avatar

    so very true, some can kick their addiction on their own while a great many cant. people dont seek help through fear of how they will be judged by family, work, friends, or the media. it is truly shameful that we lose so many through fear of what people may think of us.