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Addiction Treatment: How Can We Make Things Better? A Q&A with Maia Szalavitz, Part IV

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

When it comes to addiction treatment, too often there is a disconnect between what people with an addiction need and what they get. Combine that with the stigma, desperation and fear that accompany the disease of addiction, time and again, present seemingly insurmountable odds for the addicted person to overcome. In this, the final installment in a four-part series of my Q&A with award-winning journalist Maia Szalavitz, Ms. Szalavitz weighs in on “Addiction Treatment: How Can We Make Things Better?”

JERRY OTERO: Most of the media stories about addiction are often tied to something sensational, like a celebrity death. What will motivate journalists to pay more attention to this issue and, in turn, create more awareness and education among their readers/viewers? What kinds of stories would you like to see?

MAIA SZALAVITZ: Hard to say how to get more attention to this (if I knew how, I’d do it!), but I would like to see reporters who cover this area question their own ingrained beliefs and not just assume that traditional treatment is the only way to recovery, that police are any kind of experts on the effects of drugs, that treatment providers are impartial experts (use academic sources who know the data; you wouldn’t go to a pharmaceutical company for unbiased perspective on its own products) or that current policies are the most effective way to deal with problem.

JERRY OTERO: What’s your biggest wish for change in the addictions field?

MAIA SZALAVITZ: That addiction be seen as a health problem and truly treated that way, with evidence-based treatment in which the traditional harsh approach would be as unacceptable as it would be for doctors to treat cancer patients as immoral malingerers.

JERRY OTERO: Anything parents can do to bring about this change?

MAIA SZALAVITZ: Advocate for evidence-based treatment and policy change that recognizes that addiction problems cannot be solved by the criminal justice system and treat people with addiction with compassion.

This concludes our Q&A with Maia Szalavitz. I want to thank Ms. Szalavitz for sharing her insights with our readers, and for weighing in on topics that are important for parents and other caregivers.

Are you a parent or caregiver of a teen or young adult struggling with a substance abuse problem? Please visit the online community at The Partnership at Drugfree.org’s Time To Get Help.

Maia Szalavitz is a health writer at TIME.com and writes about addiction-related issues for The Fix.com . Find her on Twitter at @maiasz. She is co-author of Born for Love: Why Empathy is Essential — and Endangered, (Morrow, 2010), The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog and Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook: What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love and Healing (Basic, 2007), and Recovery Options: The Complete Guide: How You and Your Loved Ones Can Understand and Treat Alcohol and Other Drug Problems (John S. Wiley, 2000) and the author of Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids (Riverhead, 2006).

Posted by  |  Filed under Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Drugs, Finding Treatment, Substance Abuse, Treatment, Writing About Addiction



One Comment on “Addiction Treatment: How Can We Make Things Better? A Q&A with Maia Szalavitz, Part IV”

Patti Herndon says:
April 25th, 2013 at 7:56 pm

“I would like to see reporters who cover this area question their own ingrained beliefs and not just assume that traditional treatment is the only way to recovery, that police are any kind of experts on the effects of drugs, that treatment providers are impartial experts (use academic sources who know the data; you wouldn’t go to a pharmaceutical company for unbiased perspective on its own products) or that current policies are the most effective way to deal with problem.”

….”That addiction be seen as a health problem and truly treated that way, with evidence-based treatment in which the traditional harsh approach would be as unacceptable as it would be for doctors to treat cancer patients as immoral malingerers.”

That’s another powerful dose of intervention on Intervene by Ms. Szalavitz. And, that’s powerful stuff!

FORWARD MOMENTUM IS BEAUTIFUL THANG! C’mon society.. get on board. We got lives/families/communities to improve/save.

Just say NO to stigma! Ah…But, in order to do that, we all need to arrive at consensus about what stigma looks, and sounds like.

Just think if we were in the habit, as a society, of assigning character traits, like selfishness, honesty, humility and spiritual deficit to say…heart disease? Diabetes? …or other chronic condition. Mmmmm…Yep…now we’re startin’ to ‘get it’ :-)

Addiction is the journey. Recovery is the destination.




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