Phoenix House is looking forward to the debut of our brand-new website at phoenixhouse.org in 2011. Our friends at The Partnership at Drugfree.orghave recently launched their own exciting online tool, Time To Get Help, found at timetogethelp.drugfree.org. In the interview below, Steve Pasierb, President & CEO of The Partnership at Drugfree.org, discusses the importance of resources like these, and how online communities are paving the way for the future of recovery.
Phoenix House: What makes our current times particularly momentous in the history of substance abuse prevention and treatment?
Steve Pasierb: We’re at a turning point. Other than healthcare reform, we now have new insights from addiction research. We also have access to many more tools in the digital realm, and the public is using these resources to express themselves and foster conversation. The public is also frustrated by “the war on drugs” and is more open to both viewing and dealing with addiction as the chronic health issue it is.
PH: Do you think positive changes have already begun?
SP: Yes, there’s been a lot of progress in prevention and treatment over the past few decades, and the shame and stigma that surround addiction are slowly beginning to fade; people are beginning to recognize addiction as a chronic disease with a genetic basis. At this point we can either stay on the slow path of progress, or we can push much harder to help people understand that addiction can happen to anyone, that treatment can work, and that recovery is a reality.
PH: What inspired you to create Time To Get Help?
SP: At the Partnership, we do a lot of research with parents as well as the larger population, and we kept seeing people use words like “alone,” “isolated,” and “afraid” when talking about addiction in young people. Unfortunately, a lot of parents and teens feel they have no one to talk to and nowhere to turn. Not everybody is lucky enough to have a Phoenix House in his or her neighborhood, and websites are an accessible way for families to connect and learn. Time To Get Help allows you to ask questions and get answers—both from experts and from other parents. It addresses big issues like how to get an assessment for your child, how to pay for treatment, and what recovery means for your entire family.
PH: Have you noticed that parents and teens have been congregating in the online recovery community?
SP: Definitely. There’s a certain comfort in the anonymity of the web, and there’s also an unprecedented ability to connect with others who are going though what you are. I’ve heard frustrated and devastated parents who almost wish that their kids were suffering from cancer instead of addiction, because then at least the community would reach out to help them—there would be abundant healthcare, and they wouldn’t feel alone. The online recovery community is trying to chip away at that isolation.
PH: What are your hopes for the future of substance abuse treatment?
SP: For organizations like ours as well as treatment providers like Phoenix House, the primary mission is no longer just prevention, intervention and treatment, but also a much more varied, individualized and accessible treatment continuum. Today’s teens have access to more education, aftercare and support services than ever before. We are realizing that addiction treatment needs to be individualized—a family may have one kid in denial, another kid in treatment, another in long-term recovery, etc. To help that family we have to help them on their own terms, addressing their particular needs.
PH: How can new online tools advance these shared goals?
SP: I hope everyone will begin to share more success stories via the mass media and in the digital realm—not just the typical general statement that treatment works. What happens after treatment? How do individuals in recovery get their lives back? That’s what is really compelling—to watch people go through treatment and then move forward to live tremendously successful and happy lives. That’s one reason organizations like Phoenix House and The Partnership at Drugfree.org are here: to show the world that treatment works rather than simply saying it.
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