Addiction everyone's problem

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A faith-based drug and alcohol addiction treatment center wants to build a residential facility on Haycraft Avenue. Potential neighbors and the community are concerned.

We can't have it both ways.

We can't reduce the societal ills (e.g., crime, unemployment, homelessness, sexual and domestic violence, STDs) which serve as both cause and effect of drug abuse unless we actively help turn addicts into healthy citizens. That means more than just AA meetings and alternative sentencing approaches like drug court for the nation's 23 million addicts. It also means options which address the whole family and the whole problem.

Addiction is a complex illness with as many varieties as there are addicts. Underlying causes may include a history of childhood abuse, untreated mental illness or medical conditions, even illiteracy.

"Therapeutic communities" such as Union Gospel Mission's approach can be very helpful to people who typically feel alone in their depressingly private hell. In a supportive environment surrounded by those who can relate from experience, along with treatment specialists, success is more probable. At this proposed center, women would be able to reside with their children, who also need specialized support.

"Treatment must address the individual's drug use and associated medical, psychological, social, vocational, and legal problems." That's one of 13 principles for effectiveness in the National Institutes of Health's Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-based Guide.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, only 10.4 percent of addicts received any treatment at a hospital or rehab center in 2007 (an earlier NIDA study reported as few as 3.5 percent). Given the statistics on post-treatment reductions of drug use and crime - 40 to 60 percent, depending upon treatment type and drug of choice - it's surprising the "it's their problem" attitude persists.

Over half of all high school seniors have abused drugs or alcohol before graduating. Addiction touches more families than we imagine; most hide it. The best way for a community to address it is openly and together. At the very least I hope we will welcome such efforts by others.

Sholeh Patrick, J.D. is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network. Sholehjo@hotmail.com

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