Red Ribbon Week allows people to commit to drug prevention and education during October, National Substance Abuse Prevention Month; addiction experts Dr. Joseph Shrand and Anne Brown on how it’s up to friends, family of suspected addicts to get their loved one help.
October is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month – a time to increase awareness of the dangers of alcohol and drugs, particularly focusing on kids, and to provide a strong support system for those children so they don’t fall victim to substances.
Red Ribbon Week, the oldest and largest drug prevention campaign in the United States, began Saturday and will run through Sunday, Oct. 30. Red Ribbon Week serves as a vehicle for communities and individuals to commit to further drug prevention and education and a personal commitment to live drug free lives. The week also commemorates Drug Enforcement Agency Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, who died at the hands of drug traffickers in Mexico while fighting the battle against illegal drugs.
“The damage done by drugs is felt far beyond the millions of Americans with diagnosable substance abuse or dependence problems countless families and communities also live with the pain and heartbreak it causes,” President Obama said in announcing October National Substance Abuse Prevention Month. “Relationships are destroyed, crime and violence blight communities, and dreams are shattered. Substance abuse touches every sector of our society, straining our health care and criminal justice systems.”
Dr. Joseph Shrand, a psychiatrist who focuses on issues relating to addiction, bullying and at-risk behaviors, and who serves as the Medical Director of CASTLE (Clean and Sober Teens Living Empowered), says addiction is not a crime but can lead to them.
“When a person who is addicted to drugs or alcohol wants to get high, no person can stand in their way. Their brain is held hostage by drugs. Just as a terrorist can hijack a plane, drugs and alcohol can hijack a brain,” he says.
So how does a person stop using? With the help of all of us, Dr. Shrand says.
“Like stolen jewelry, it is the person on drugs who has been taken from us. The path to their sobriety is through us, and a deeper understanding of the brain that craves drugs and alcohol at that moment more than the companionship of another human. But only at that moment. In the vast array of time, those other thousands of moments are filled with a longing to reconnect to the people taken by the addiction. It is through the fellowship of others that true healing can begin. But to do this we must all remember that addiction itself is not a crime, not a moral issue, not a simply bad choice by a bad person who should be shown no compassion. That is the true crime, as we turn our backs on those challenged by drugs and alcohol as if they were pariahs.
“Getting sober is not just a question of willpower, but of a shared will to empower. Together we can and will change the idea that we have a war on drugs. Drugs have declared war on the brains of those we love, and we must not abandon the soldiers who fight their own battles every day. Together we can and will recover the most precious jewel of all that has been stolen: the people we love. The people we work with. The people we live with. And the people made strangers to us all through drugs and alcohol.”
Anne Brown, PhD, RNCS of Aspen Progressive Addiction Solutions and who is in private practice specializing in addictions, couples and families, agreed, stressing that it is incumbent upon family and friends to intervene with a loved one who is suspected of abusing drugs or alcohol, and to get them some help.
“The call to action really is for the loved ones, because that’s usually how someone stops,” Brown says. “For someone to stop pretending their friends, their loved ones, their parents, their husband, their wife, is not in trouble.
“Be aware of somebody that you love because it’s such a tearing thing to sit down with them and say ‘I’m really concerned, you appear to be out of control. You need to get some help.’”
Brown, the author of Developing Your Backbone: The Science of saying NO said that nine times out of 10, patients that come to her for help say no one has ever approached or confronted them about their addiction.
“If you’re not talking to that person, then you’re participating in enabling,” she says. “It really is about getting a backbone – regardless if someone yells at you.”
For related stories on genConnect:
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