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An Introduction: Lara’s Clinical Corner

I am humbled and honored to be part of the Zac43Foundation. My life has been profoundly impacted by the disease of addiction on both a personal and professional level. My experience growing up in the rooms of AA, as an Al-Anon member, and as someone 15 years in recovery for an eating disorder, I felt called to enter the mental health profession and specialize in the treatment of addiction as a licensed psychotherapist. I have seen firsthand, time and time again, the devastation caused to the individuals who are afflicted with this disease and the impact it has on those who love them most. Unfortunately, with the rise of the opioid crisis, this impact has become more prevalent and profound, with a record 72,000+ lives estimated to have been lost in 2017 alone, according to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sadly, as a clinician in this field, I personally knew eight of those people taken last year, including Zac. To me, these numbers are more than just statistics. They are names burned in my brain. They are faces I will never forget. They are memories of ordinary people fighting an extraordinary illness. And, lastly, they are the family members, friends, and helping professionals who are now left to grieve the unimaginable loss of a life taken too soon. They are people like Zac’s family. Like me. Like you.

Addiction is a disease that does not discriminate, as it knows no racial, socioeconomic, gender, cultural, or religious boundaries. In fact, science tells us that substance use disorder is a chronic brain disease that CAN be managed with medical treatment. So, if that is the case, why are overdose deaths on the rise? Why don’t more people seek help? Unfortunately, two major factors are contributing to this public health crisis, and that is stigma and access to adequate care. In our society, addiction is all too often stigmatized as a moral failing or character flaw, and access to quality and affordable treatment is greatly limited, so only 1 in 10 Americans with a substance use disorder receive treatment (1). This is a preventable tragedy and something must be done. This blog will tackle many addiction related issues with the aim to educate, inspire, motivate, and incite change. We will be exploring recovery related issues from a clinical perspective, such as fighting stigma, treating co- occurring disorders, evidence-based therapies, supportive resources, advocacy work, etc.

So if you are here, then like me, I am guessing you want to be part of a solution to end this epidemic. As Holocaust survivor and acclaimed psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl, teaches us, “Suffering presents us with a challenge to find our goals and purpose in our lives that make even the worst situation worth living through.” To lose a loved one to addiction is to suffer needlessly, and at the Zac43Foundation, we will aim to provide treatment and hope to reduce the suffering of even just one more person struggling with this disease. To spare even just one more family from saying goodbye too soon. This is how we will honor the lives of those we have loved and lost. This how we will forge forward. This is our cause.

References:1. CASAColumbia. Addiction medicine: closing the gap between science and practice. 2012

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