In recent years, illicit drug use and alcoholism have grown in relevance and affect a vast amount of people. However, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, only 11 percent of people struggling with substance abuse receive the help they need.
The BYU School of Social Work is hosting the 13th Annual Social Work Conference on Friday, November 2 at the Hinckley Alumni Center. The free conference will highlight issues, concerns and approaches relevant to every day relief for those who struggle with substance abuse. Professionals, students and members of the community are invited to learn more about this prevalent social problem and obtain strategies to help individuals and families affected by this issue.
In the past 15 years, deaths due to prescription drug abuse have quadrupled in the state of Utah. While the harmful effects of substance abuse are widespread, timely public information is not as far-reaching. According to Assistant Professor of Social Work Cory Dennis, “it’s important to understand that people don’t choose addiction.”
The purpose of this conference is to narrow that knowledge gap as well as inform professionals and work to make an impact in the fight against substance abuse. If people could learn only one thing at the conference, it would be “that behind the addiction is a human being,” says Dennis, noting the importance of “making compassionate and informed approaches to treatment.”
A 2013 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimated that 24.6 million Americans over 12 years of age had used illicit drugs, and more than 21 million of them were categorized as having substance abuse dependencies. That same report, though, found that only 2.5 million received treatment at a specialty facility. Over one-third of those admitted did not complete their treatment. For an April 2017 mentored research conference at BYU, sponsored by the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences,social work student Chase Morgan sought to learn what factors contributed to the length of stay a patient had in treatment. Using data provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Chase learned that more affordable treatment was a significant factor in having a longer length of stay in treatment, but having health insurance was not a significant predictor.
How to Help
He plans to further this research by: “breaking down the data into various treatment settings, mainly in-patient and out-patient to see the difference between those settings.” As a result of the research he’s done so far, he says: “we hope that we can use this information to help treatment facilities throughout Utah be more successful by helping them understand the risk factors they may see in their clients so these things can be addressed, and more clients can have successful treatment. We also hope this information can help influence policies throughout the state to help clients get into treatment without having to be put on waitlists. “
In the meantime, how can the average person help someone else struggling with substance abuse? Promises Treatment Center advises:
Getting educated about addictions
Participating in programs included in friend/family member’s treatment, if possible
taking care of one’s self
Talking about the problem: “Work on building a good relationship, without judging or accusing…You have to step back, you can’t be on top of them all the time, or they won’t trust that they can come to you.”
For those supporting friends and family currently in treatment, the National Institute on Drug Use state that “it is important to tell friends struggling with addiction that you admire their courage for tackling this medical problem directly through treatment.” They suggest:
assisting friends or family members in avoiding triggers once they leave treatment
Giving support and love
The Fulton Conference
Of his experience with the Fulton Conference, he says: “I really enjoyed my experience with the Fulton Conference. This was my first conference ever, so it was a new experience for me. I feel like I learned a lot and was happy to share my research with others.”
How would you help someone struggling with an addiction?