Friday, June 14, 2002 Bucks County, Pennsylvania

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Healthy Living covers lifestyle and community awareness events and activities around Bucks County, PA, with guest columns by authors from local health, fitness and social services organizations.


Overcoming Addiction: Assessment and Treatment

by Joan Marie Brown
Libertae, Inc.

What can you do if your child, friend, co-worker, spouse or loved one is addicted to drugs or drink? Help them get treatment. Here's how:

Every day some of our neighbors, co-workers, fellow-commuters, or possibly family members put themselves and others at risk due to addictions. Although the decision to drink alcohol or use illegal drugs is a matter of choice, many who make this choice become addicted. The disease of addiction is often progressive and fatal. It is characterized by continuous or periodic impaired control over drinking and/or drug use despite the consequences, preoccupation with alcohol and drugs, and distortion in brain function and thinking.

The economic cost of addiction is staggering. The overall cost of substance abuse in the U.S. to society in 2000, for addiction-related health care, extra law enforcement, auto crashes, crime, and lost productivity is estimated at $160.7 billion, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Many states spend more on addiction/abuse annually than on their education budgets.

Addiction treatment has proven to be a cost effective remedy for individuals, communities and nationally. Treatment restores addicts to productivity, produces reductions in health care costs, reunification and preservation of family units, and safer neighborhoods. Each child removed from foster care and reunited with family saves $3,600 per year. A yearly savings of $6,000 results for each person who leaves welfare and becomes employed. A $48,000 to $150,000 savings is realized for each baby delivered uncomplicated by substance abuse.

At a time when treatment outcomes indicate huge savings over the cost of addiction, State Representative Gene DiGirolamo will be holding State Appropriation Hearings on Drug & Alcohol Funding on Friday, April 19, at the Bensalem Township Building, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The public is invited to these important hearings.

The drugs available on our streets and in the schools of American cities and towns are highly addictive, causing lifelong struggles for each addicted person and their loved ones. Others succumb to these killer drugs, sometimes on first use. N.H., a heroin addict who lost her brother to drug overdose in Philadelphia, was admitted to Libertae Halfway House for female-specific addiction treatment. After six months of intense therapy, she overcame the disease of addiction, secured a good job, custody of her child, and is once again a productive member of our community.

Marijuana, today much more addictive than in 1960, can be laced with deadly components, including embalming fluid (formaldehyde). Ecstacy, PCP and other pills can be cut with additives such as powdered bleach or rat poison to increase profitability for the drug dealers. Alcohol, heroin, cocaine, crack . . . the list of killers is all too familiar. Dealers in this deadly business care only about how quickly their customers become addicted, and come back with more cash.

Alcohol is the number one drug of choice in Bucks County across all populations according to The Bucks County Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependency. They report increased usage of heroin, marijuana, and cocaine also.

If you fear for someone whose life and health are in jeopardy because of drugs or alcohol, treatment may be needed.

Evaluation at a drug and alcohol assessment center is necessary to determine the extent of their problem, and the level of treatment needed. No one makes a decision about treating a heart problem, diabetes, or any medical condition without a comprehensive medical evaluation by a specialist. Similarly, a comprehensive assessment should be done by a drug and alcohol specialist.

Because addictions are biopsychosocial in nature (involving physical, mental, emotional, and social factors) assessment looks at the individual's status in these areas: level of intoxication/withdrawl; motivation of addicted person; biomedical conditions and complications; emotional/behavioral conditions; relapse potential; and recovery environment. The individual is then recommended for the proper level of care to address their needs.

Treatment options include: long-term residential care with intense clinical therapy, life skills and job training; comprehensive medical and psychological services (available at Libertae for women; and Good Friends for men); in and outpatient care including detoxification, physical, spiritual and emotional services (available at Livengrin, and Aldie); youth services including long and short-term inpatient treatment, out-patient re-entry/halfway house (available at Today).

Individual treatment plans include short and long-term goals for each individual, as well as relapse prevention strategies. Unfortunately, addiction is a persistent disease, and relapse is a daily threat to sobriety. Recovery is possible through proper treatment, hard work, and commitment on the part of the addict.

Living with addictions can be a demoralizing experience for the addicts, and for those who love them. It is important for those living with an addict to remember: you didn't cause the addiction; you can't control another person's addictions; and you can't cure it. The addict is responsible for working on their problem so they can become the person they were intended to be. Family members can contact AlAnon (215-222-5244) or Nar-Anon (215-446-8452) to learn how to care for themselves, and allow the addict the dignity to do for themselves what is needed to recover.

If you know someone who is experimenting with drugs, or struggling with addiction, remember that assessment is essential for proper treatment and intervention.

The first step is call the assessors (listed below.) The person at risk will meet with an Assessment Counselor. When treatment services are needed, the assessor will help locate possible funding sources. Don't hesitate: help is available. Call these assessors for information:

1. B.C. Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependency * 215-345-6644
2. Aldie Counseling Center * 215-345-8530
2. Livengrin Foundation * 800-245-4746 / 215-245-4746
3. Penn Foundation Recovery Center * 800-245-7366 / 215-257-9999
4. Family Services Association * 215-757-6916
5. Jewish Family Services * 215-934-5551
6. Northwest Human Services * 215-788-5800
7. Today, Inc. * 215 968-4713
8. Warminster Hospital Detox & Assessment * 215 441-6770

Joan Marie Brown is Resource Director at Libertae Halfway and Family House, Bensalem, PA. Libertae provides residential treatment for women, 18 and older, with up to three children; and non-parenting women recovering from chemical addiction. Its program includes clinical therapy; life skills, self-sufficiency and job skills training; and 12-Step and relapse-prevention programs to help women reclaim their lives and their families. Libertae admits pregnant women in recovery and helps grow healthy babies. Call 215-639-8681, ext. 219 or visit for more information.

This column is part of a monthly series, Help on the Way, providing information on Social Services in the Bucks County area. For more information contact the Human Services Communication Coalition at 215-579-1836.

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