As we tried to talk about creating better outcomes when it comes to addiction, it quickly became clear that “better outcomes” needed more definition. What kinds of outcomes are we talking about and for whom?
For the individual, a good outcome is any positive change as he or she defines it. For instance, determining to use a new syringe every time or resolving not to drive while drinking are both better outcomes than before.
For a community, better outcomes might mean that services are available in a timely fashion, that there are no deaths by overdose, or that people with a history of addiction are able to find stable employment. Families may define positive outcomes as the resolution of a conflict or healthier family dynamics.
However we define outcomes in the area of addiction, we can probably all agree that harm reduction and human connection are always good steps that are more apt to lead to positive outcomes for everyone.
How do we get there? Prevention is one focus. We agreed that early elementary education is helpful, but so often those messages are lost as one enters their high school years. We wondered if more education regarding the consequences of a criminal record or the risk of dying from carfentenyl (often laced with heroine) might have an impact on at risk youth.
Once someone hits rock bottom, there are resources such as sobriety court and hospitalization. But there is little in between prevention and the end of line. What can we do for people who are using and in the process of decline or who are beginning to ask questions about their own level of use and possible addiction?
· Observe and talk about what we see. Don’t be silent about your concerns.
· Offer workshops on having difficult conversations.
· Start a Parent Support Group for parents who know things are not quite right but don’t know if they are really dealing with addiction, mental illness, or typical teen behavior.
· Develop a community education series on addiction that offers people the opportunity to attend on a drop in basis to regularly scheduled classes.
If you want to be more involved in these solutions, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Barbara Lee VanHorssen,