Cynthia Persily, PhD, RN, FAAN
Dr. Persily is the CEO of Highland Hospital in Charleston, WV
This week President Obama visited Charleston to talk about the drug problem currently faced by our nation and disproportionately affecting West Virginia. We have the highest rate of overdose rates in the nation. The President called for less stigma, more education of providers who prescribe opiates, and more treatment. Parents and families affected by drug use talked about their struggles in getting their loved ones into treatment.
The narrative that seemed to be missing from all of the recent conversations relative to the drug addiction epidemic is that of the addict. Addiction is extremely powerful. In order to get help, the addicted person has to want help, and be motivated to get help and change his or her life.
Changing any habit is hard work-let alone one as powerful as drug addiction. We treat clients struggling with addiction at our Highland facilities every day. In our Highland Health Center, we provide services during the most vulnerable time in addiction treatment–during withdrawal and detox. It’s scary for our clients. It’s hard work. And, sometimes it’s too hard-the motivation isn’t strong enough, or the addiction is stronger. Our patients leave our facility frequently before they’ve completed their detox. This is the nature of addiction.
So as we have discussions about more treatment, let’s also consider the nature of this disease and the need for strong support and motivation for the addicted person to seek and stay with treatment. And let’s remember that starts and stops are reality. And before we start talking about more beds or more treatment centers, let’s be sure that’s really the problem-and that we don’t have a mismatch between what others think addicts need, and what those struggling with addiction can accept.