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As part of National Addiction Treatment Week 2023, I was invited by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) to share my story about the creation of Club HOPE in a podcast.

In this conversation, I explore many of the professional and personal experiences I have had as an addiction psychiatrist—going all the way back to medical school—not only with individuals who struggle with addiction but also with their support networks, including family members, friends, and medical professionals.

Over the years, I have witnessed how many caregivers experience trauma and secondary trauma from their efforts to help people with addiction. Some, including medical professionals, develop addictions themselves. In the podcast, I also discuss my first-hand experiences as a spouse and caregiver of a person with addiction. I hope you will join me in an ongoing dialogue about this podcast conversation, which I briefly summarize below.

National Addiction Treatment Week is an annual initiative of ASAM to raise awareness about addiction as a chronic yet treatable disease; challenge and eliminate the stigma surrounding addiction; and inspire medical professionals to treat addiction and, thus, save lives. The main messages of National Addiction Treatment Week are:

  • Addiction is a disease, not a moral failing.
  • Treatment is available.
  • Recovery is possible.

HONEST & OPEN CONVERSATIONS

During the interview, I explore my dream to bring discussions about addiction out of church basements and into the open—into daily life. It is time to transform addiction from a stigmatized and secret illness into a “casserole illness,” one that people understand and approach with uninhibited and eager displays of kindness and concern. My goal is to have medical professionals, family caregivers, and friends alike help decrease distress and increase support for those on a recovery journey.

TRANSFORMING HIGHER EDUCATION

I also share some backstory about my more recent transition from clinician to professional coach, the complexities of my work, and my advocacy for improved education about recovery from addiction for all medical students. Medical schools need to expose med students to individuals in long-term recovery early in their medical training. The earlier that med students interact with people who have lived experiences with addiction and successful recovery, the more likely the next generation of physicians will consistently assess, diagnose, and treat addiction early in the course of disease.

THE ROLE OF SPIRITUALITY

Toward the end of the podcast, I encourage listeners to stay focused on caring relationships; telling and listening to personal stories of addiction, recovery, and caregiving; and acknowledging a shared humanity among people from all walks of life. I also emphasize the importance of spirituality, and the idea of a Higher Power in addiction treatment and recovery.

 

PODCAST SUMMARY

  • Podcast title: Treat Addiction, Save Lives Podcast
  • Episode title: Dr. Christina Delos Reyes discusses spirituality in addiction medicine and the importance of storytelling
  • Podcast episode: #5 (the final podcast during National Addiction Treatment Week 2023)
  • Date published: October 2023
  • Sponsor: American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM)

ASAM AT-A-GLANCE

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) is a professional medical society representing over 6,000 physicians and other clinicians and associated professionals who practice in the field of addiction medicine. ASAM is dedicated to increasing access to and improving the quality of addiction treatment; educating physicians and the public; supporting research and prevention; and promoting the role of physicians in the care of patients with addiction. ASAM views addiction as a chronic brain disease for which effective treatments are available to help patients. ASAM’s mission is to be the physician-led professional community for those who prevent, treat, and promote remission and recovery from the disease of addiction. It provides resources for continuing education, innovation, advancement, and implementation of addiction science and evidence-based practices. Its new strategic plan recommits to and strengthens its focus upon a full spectrum of addiction care, including the following:
  • Prevention
  • Treatment
  • Remission
  • Recovery
ASAM also has impressive advocacy initiatives. One example is the “Teach it. Standardize it. Cover it.” campaign to support the Federal Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency (CARE) Act (H.R. 2569/ S. 1365) to address the addiction and opioid-overdose crisis, a national public health emergency that takes dozens of lives every day. This legislation will provide critical funding and resources over the next decade to strengthen the nation’s addiction prevention-, treatment-, and recovery-support infrastructure and expand access to evidence-based care.

RESOURCES

  • American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) | Website.

Editing by Paul M. Kubek of PMK Consulting, LLC.

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