Be Patient, Be Kind and You Can Help Someone with Substance Abuse Disorder

Last week, I had the privilege of meeting some of the finest minds in the addiction treatment and recovery world at the Appalachian Addiction and Prescription Drug Abuse Conference. This is timely, as we are in the midst of an addiction crisis. Politicians are threatening to lock up offenders and want to further regulate medication assisted treatment (MAT). This is unfortunate. Perhaps some politicians should have come to hear more about how to solve the problem.

On the AHP, I had a great time interviewing Dr. Marvin Seppala, the Medical Director at the Hazelden Betty Ford Clinic. Dr. Seppala is a brilliant man with a kind heart. He cares about the patients he’s helping. We discussed issues like Mrs. Ford coming out years ago and admitting she had a problem. That opened a door for many people that is still open today. We also talked about how to address addiction with a loved one that has a problem. (To answer the question you probably just asked yourself, you research the issue and talk to them about it. Being patient, be kind, you shouldn’t expect immediate results.)

Hazelden Betty Ford pioneered a 12-step recovery. We’ve all heard of it. Work your steps and work to stay sober in a community of your peers. Now, the group that brought you abstinence based recovery brings you MAT. What works for one person, works for one person. You can’t assume everyone will respond to treatments the same way. It’s not one size fits all. You can even take MAT while working through the 12-steps if you need to.

Since doing this, Hazelden Betty Ford has changed outcomes for the better. They are more successful which means there are more people out there under the control of substance use disorder. Patients must consider this disease all their life, but they can go on living. It was a culture change for the clinic, but one for the better.

If you know someone who you believe has a substance abuse issue, remember they are ill, not a lesser person. Research the issue and talk to them about what treatments might be available. One day we might beat addiction, until then be patient, be kind, and you might just save someone’s life.

You can hear my interview with Dr. Seppala available Monday morning on the Appalachian Health Podcast. It is available on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or at


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