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Removing stigma to address drug epidemic

As the opioid epidemic continues to take hold of the United States, many here in the Delaware Valley are feeling the effects. Unfortunately, the crisis isn’t adequately addressed because the public fails to fully understand the signs and effects of addiction, according to an article in the June 2017 issue of South Jersey Magazine. Some families choose to ignore the issue when confronted with a loved one’s addiction.

The Malvern Institute staff knows the epidemic isn’t going away without an open discussion to remove the stigma associated with addiction. Here at Malvern, we help those with substance addiction in treatment and inspire hope for a better tomorrow.

That’s why South Jersey Magazine reached out to Dr. Michael W. Shore, Medical Director of the Malvern Institute Cherry Hill outpatient center, for the truth about the crisis.

First, Shore explained how the opioid epidemic began 15 to 20 years ago when health care providers aggressively looked for ways to treat pain:

“Back then, pain was probably undertreated,” Shore said. “Unfortunately, we weren’t taught to screen patients for risk factors that might leave them for addiction and we were also taught that it was OK to treat chronic non-malignant pain (non-cancer pain) for long-term treatment with opioids. The pharmaceutical companies within health matters were very aggressively pushing these new treatments and new medications, encouraging us to be on board.”

Shore also shared why treating addiction as a disease is an important step in combating the epidemic:

“Traditionally, it has been a bias and a stigma that it’s a self-inflicted condition, and people like Nancy Reagan used to say, ‘Just say no,’” Shore said. “Then, for a long time, a lot of this addiction was concentrated in the inner city among people of color [making it] easier for white suburbs in the middle class to see it as somebody else’s problem. What we do see, and this has been demonstrated repeatedly with brain imaging studies and other scientific inquiries and endeavors, is changes in the brain chemistry and in the brain structure with repeated use. At that point, it becomes a disease.”

Read the full story at South Jersey Magazine.

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