Today: Jun 25, 2024

‘Unmasking Stigma’ event looks to help combat crisis

Braden Saint-Val – News Writer

The university, in collaboration with Eastern, Western, and Central Connecticut State, hosted a conference in the Adanti Student Center Ballroom last Tuesday called “Unmasking Stigma: The Impact of Substance Use on Communities”, with support provided by The Connecticut Healthy Campus Initiative. 

The speakers at the conference included licensed clinical workers and alcohol and drug counselors Chris Dorval and Hope Payson, certified addictions counselor and recovery support specialist Daryl McGraw, and Marcie Johnson, a diversion investigator with the Drug Enforcement Agency. 

They addressed the negative impact of stigma, factors that increase vulnerability to developing an addictive disorder and the impact of the drug crisis on communities. 

In Dorval’s interactive presentation, “Coming to the Light: Breaking the Stigma of Substance Abuse Disorders” he explained how much of a barrier stigma can be when recovering from substance use, and cites the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s definition of addiction as chronic brain disease, which can be used for a better approach to recovery. 

“Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response,” the society says. 

Dorval then explained the need for recovery-orientated language, like instead of saying someone is crazy, they’d be sick or ill, as well as the need for environments that make people more comfortable with their recovery, such as events and support groups where people can interact and support each other. 

Dorval also cited the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s definition of recovery as a individual and unique process, in which someone improve their health, home, purpose, and community to reach their full potential. 

Throughout his presentation, Dorval shared his experience with his patients and his own recovery as examples of how effective redefining addiction and recovery can be. 

Payson and McGraw shared the floor in their presentation called “The Power of Pain, The Influence of the Brain on Trauma, Addiction and Recovery”, where they explored the social, interpersonal, and neurological factors that increase vulnerability to developing an addictive disorder, like trauma in families and communities and adverse childhood experiences. 

Adverse childhood experiences are traumatic events that occur during someone’s childhood, such as experiencing or witnessing violence and abuse or losing a parent, which can lead to chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance use problems later in life.  

Payson and McGraw then stressed the importance of resolving trauma and making healthy choices and connections to achieve a successful recovery. 

Margie Barretta, a social work supervisor for Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families, says that in her experience, people in recovery are seen as people now more than ever. And despite the 9-month time span parents have to show progress, recovery from substance use is a lifelong journey. 

Marcie Johnson taught attendees how the Drug Enforcement Agency regulate the manufacturing, distribution, and importing and exporting of substances through the Controlled Substances Act to prevent the illegal distribution, forgery, and abuse of prescription drugs. 

Attendees also learned how the Drug Enforcement Agency works with state and federal agencies, such as Connecticut’s Department of Public Health, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Connecticut’s Department of Consumer Protection. 

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