For decades, we at Children’s Friend have known that families who are substance affected are struggling against a disease; one that can dismantle families and destroy lives. And the key factor that has led to our success in our work is the recognition that this is not a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” type of situation. As a result, over 20 years ago we developed, Project Connect, an evidence based model to support families that are substance affected and involved in the child welfare system. It is geared to help families stay together and receive the type of support and treatment they need to transform their lives.
Just this past week, the Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, released a comprehensive report Facing Addiction in America, confirming our understanding of individuals affected by substances. More importantly, it gathers the information together in a landmark way that brings the spotlight to the way in which we as a country need to shift how we think about addiction and what we do.
It’s time to change how we view addiction,”Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, said. “Not as a moral failing but as a chronic illness that must be treated with skill, urgency and compassion. The way we address this crisis is a test for America”. It “isn’t evidence of a character flaw,” reports Murthy, “It’s a chronic disease of the brain that deserves the same compassion that any other chronic illness does, like diabetes or heart disease”.
The report highlights that there are more people struggling with substances than there are people with cancer in the United States. And yet 90% of them do not receive treatment. Forty percent of them are additionally impacted by mental health issues such as trauma and yet only 20% receive treatment.
One of the biggest struggles is how substance affected individuals are viewed by others and subsequently view themselves. And this leads them to not seek help and to hide their battle with a very real disease.