FSDP Brings the Voice of our Families to Aspiring Medical Professionals

IMG_1960One of FSDP’s missions is to bring the family voice to the various segments of our society that directly impact our health. So I was excited to be joined by FSDP members Brooke Feldman and Kenneth Anderson, as well as Fred Goldstein, Ph.D., Professor of Clinical Pharmacology at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) to share our perspectives on a panel discussion for medical students, “The Culture and Misperceptions of Addiction”, held at PCOM on Thursday, January 5, 2017.

The panel allowed us to reach healthcare providers at the beginning of their careers with a message about harm reduction, drug policy reform, progressive treatment and recovery, and substance use as public health and human rights issues. IMG_7851The audience of medical students were actively engaged and their questions prompted discussion about the nature of addiction, co-morbidity (dual diagnosis), engaging people in treatment, stigma, policy, epidemiology of substance use, impediments to effective care, conflicts of doctors…

Ken Anderson, founder of Harm Reduction, Abstinence and Moderation Support (HAMS) shared his expertise about the epidemiology and myths of substance use, addictIMG_7845ion, and recovery. Recovery advocate Brooke Feldman shared her unique perspectives on the lived experience of substance users, stigma, and the unique paths taken by people in recovery. I addressed some of the issues around the influences of culture and policy on substance users and families, and strategies for engaging young people and families in treatment.IMG_7846

Many thanks to our gracious hosts at PCOM, especially Maggie Gergen for coordinating the event, and FSDP Harm Reduction Epidemiologist April Wilson Smith for developing this event, and Co-Founder Carol Katz Beyer for her guidance.

FSDP to Address Aspiring Medical Professionals in Philadelphia, PA

14731154_10154153120499195_2687285408442853763_n - Version 2Families for Sensible Drug Policy (FSDP) Co-Founder Barry Lessin and FSDP members Brooke Feldman and Kenneth Anderson will be on a panel to discuss “The Culture and Misperceptions of Addiction” with medical students at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine on Thursday, January 5, 2017, 5:30 to 7:30pm this Thursday.   This is an amazing opportunity to reach healthcare providers at the beginning of their careers with a message about harm reduction and compassionate, evidence-based care for substance use problems.  

Said Barry, “I spent most of my career as an abstinence-only, one-size-fits-all psychologist until I became aware of the War on Drugs five years ago and began viewing drug use and people who use them through a human rights and public health lens. I realize now that using this model was doing more harm than good by reinforcing stigma and shame by blaming my clients for the lack of success in treatment. I now embrace a harm reduction, client-centric approach and feel it’s important to share my harm reduction knowledge and experience with people who will have an important impact in providing care.”

Brooke Feldman, an outspoken recovery advocate and Huffington Post columnist [link], as well as FSDP member, said, “It is imperative that all medical professionals understand substance use and its related impact on whole health and wellness.  Only through truly understanding the delicate interplay between mental and physical health, including alcohol and other drug use, medical professionals can be best positioned to practice the holistic, integrated care that is the future of quality healthcare in this country.”

Kenneth Anderson, Executive Director and Founder of Harm Reduction, Abstinence and Moderation Support (HAMS) and long time FSDP member, broke down the myths and facts he plans to address at the session:

Myths and facts about substance use disorders

Myth: Everyone with an addiction dies from it unless they get addiction treatment.

Fact: 90% of people with alcohol dependence recover whether they get treatment or not. For drug dependence the rates are even higher; 98-99%.

Myth: Lifetime abstinence from all mood altering substances except caffeine and nicotine is necessary for recovery from addiction. 

Fact: Half of all people with alcohol dependence recover via controlled drinking. Marijuana is frequently an exit drug from more harmful substances.

Myth: Addiction treatment is effective.

Fact: Most treatment centers do not use evidence based treatment even if they claim to do so for the sake of collecting insurance payments. The odds of dying of heroin overdose after graduating from a 28 day inpatient program are 3,000% higher than if one continues to use heroin with no treatment.

Myth: Patients must be confronted and forced against their will into AA because they are in denial and only the 12 step program is effective.

Fact: The more people are confronted the more they will drink. Actually listening to what the client wants is the most effective approach here as it is everywhere else. Although some people benefit from the AA fellowship, others, including myself, are greatly harmed by it. I nearly drank myself to death before I left AA.

FSDP continues to be the voice of families affected by the cruel and ineffective drug war, everywhere from the meetings where policy is made to the institutions where new healthcare professionals are trained.  Stay tuned for an update after the event!