Increased awareness, early intervention and access to recovery programs will be key to dealing with the area’s opioid addiction problem. That was the conclusion Monday evening during a special community forum called “Journey to Recovery,” held at the Corbin Public Library.
Physician and Addiction Recovery Specialist Al J. Mooney, M.D., co-author of the Recovery Book, led the discussion that was attended by recovering addicts, treatment professionals, government officials and people from the general public.
“It’s really scary what we have,” said Corbin Mayor Willard McBurney to open the forum, detailing the extent of the problem. “When you go to Ft. Lauderdale and buy pills for $4 and come back here and sell them for $30 on the street. That’s really sad. They buy them in truckloads down there.”
Mooney noted during his opening remarks that, unlike treatment of other diseases, he sees little correlation between more drugs being used for treatment and positive outcomes.
“Usually, the more drugs we use, the less death we have,” Mooney noted. “For addiction, the more drugs we use, the death rates are skyrocketing. As a clinician, using those drugs to solve a problem that other solutions work for doesn’t pass my smell test.”
Mooney said traditional 12-step programs like what are used in Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous have proven effectiveness.
Chuck Spice, a retired United Methodist Pastor and recovering alcoholic who hasn’t had a drink in 42 years, said he’s worked extensively with alcohol and drug addicts over the years.
“I’ve found if you love them and accept them, no matter where they are at, they will listen,” he said.
He added that the church “has the only answer” when it comes to dealing with many of the guilt issues that go along with addiction.
Two recovering addicts, both men, spoke during the forum.
One said he found few ways to deal with his addiction until he was already serving his second stint in federal prison. The other said he now finally has hope and optimism since he’s been living in a recovery house.
“I was shown how to live that way of life,” he said. “When I got clean, I wanted to stay clean and what I wanted to do was help others.”
Nancy Hale, Director of Operation UNITE, gave powerful testimony about dealing with her son’s own addiction in the 1990s. He was a pre-med student at Georgetown College, but ended up in jail. He’s now an attorney living in Georgia after successfully beating his addiction.
Hale said to reach younger folks before they become addicted to drugs is crucial. She said UNITE has over 8,000 school-aged children involved in UNITE clubs in schools across the Fifth Congressional District.
“What we’ve got to do is explain to them why they need to say no and the other choices they can make,” she said. “These kids know what it’s like. We have to show them another path.”
Hale said that getting recovering addicts to volunteer and help out is vital to the effort.
“Those of you that are in recovery, your stories truly do give hope, but they also bring awareness.”
The event, organized by Tom McClure, Director at Support Centers International, included a video presentation and displays by area addiction recovery programs. Refreshments were also served.