This article originally appeared on Mycentraljersey.com
I’ve been working as a drug and alcohol counselor for 15 years. Over that period of time, I’ve added other titles: social worker, university professor, special state officer, Army medical officer, board member, policy advisor and professional speaker.
But my direct work in the field of drug and alcohol treatment remains as the foundation for all the things I do. Since 2010, there has been a huge surge in both overdose deaths and media attention. While I’m saddened about the former, I’m encouraged that news organizations are covering stories about addiction and recovery on a seemingly daily basis.
The opioid overdose epidemic is awful. But alcohol abuse and dependence remains a huge societal problem, as does the misuse of prescription drugs such as Adderall, Xanax and Valium.
How to Help Someone Who is Using
I receive a few dozen calls, emails, and texts each month from friends or family members. Typically they are asking for advice on how to handle someone that is using alcohol or drugs. If you are worried about a friend or family member, here are a number of tasks that you can do in order to address the problem:
- Go to at least three Al-Anon meetings. You can find New Jersey meetings at www.nj-al-anon.org/. Al-Anon is for the friends and family members of someone that has a drug or alcohol problem. You can learn about what other people have done (or not done), and what has worked (or not worked). One strong aspect of it is that you no longer feel alone. You will find support there.
- Make a list of three behavior changes or consequences that your loved one has experienced. Let them know. Don’t embarrass them; rather, tell them that you love them and are concerned. One of the diagnostic criteria for substance misues disorder is that other people have expressed concern.
- Some people need detoxification services, while others can get by with either inpatient or outpatient treatment. If someone has insurance, they can call their insurance company and find out where they can go. If someone doesn’t have insurance or is on medicaid, they can call the NJ Addiction Services Hotline at 1-844-276 2777. Rutgers runs this hotline and it’s free. It is staffed 24/7/365 by masters and bachelor level professionals (even if they have insurance, they might want to call).
How to get Help
A few times a month, people write me and tell me that they would like to be more involved. For those of you that want to do more macro level work, here are a few tips:
- Every town and municipality that has over 10,000 people should have a prescription drug drop box. Usually they are at police stations. To learn more about them, visit www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/07/11/prescription-drug-disposal-grants/12416887/. For help getting one put in your town or county, visit http://rxdrugdropbox.org/).
- We need advocates to tell their stories to politicians, government officials, school administrators, parent groups, students and a host of professionals. In New Jersey, there is an Advocacy Leadership Program that takes a new class every year. You don’t have to be a person in recovery to have a story worth telling. You can be the parent or spouse or child or friend of someone who found the joys of recovery or died from this public health problem.
- The Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies is currently offering free trainings for police. I am delivering those trainings at any police department that requests them. We could use help in promoting the program. Contact your police department and inform them about it and encourage them to get the free training. To learn more about it, visit http://news.rutgers.edu/news/training-police-deal-addiction/20161204#.WGaWiVUrLct.