Forum at Abington to explore solutions to national addiction crisis

ABINGTON, Pa. —The media documents the staggering toll of opioid addiction on a daily basis, but there has been little discussion focused on solutions, until now. Penn State Abington will host a forum, "Enhancing Addiction Recovery: Reducing the Stigma," on March 24 that will bring survivors, researchers, and thought leaders together to focus on solutions to addiction.

This program is for first responders, professionals, family, friends and advocates of people in recovery and those still struggling with addiction. The forum will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in Lubert Commons at Penn State Abington. The cost to attend is $15 and includes breakfast, lunch, and a certificate of attendance listing .5 continuing education credits. Those interested in attending can register online

Stacey Conway, an expert in biobehavioral health at Penn State Abington, agreed to answer questions about recovery and related topics ahead of the event.

Penn State Abington (PSA): What makes the 'Enhancing Addiction Recovery' forum unique?
Stacey Conway: A complex problem like addiction demands multifaceted solutions, and this forum gives people a chance to hear from those doing the work. We'll be coming at this issue from all sides — from the perspectives of people in recovery, recovery support services, advocacy initiatives, family relationships, criminal justice-related initiatives, harm reduction efforts, and research. The speakers are on the cutting edge of what is happening to address the issue, and there will be a chance to hear from them and to ask questions.

PSA: More than 23 million adults in the United States once had drug or alcohol problems, but no longer do, according to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. Tell us more about these success stories. 
Conway: Within the addiction field over the last 10 years or so, there has been a real shift to bring recovery into the light and to understand what helps people not only access recovery, but also what helps them sustain and grow their recovery over the long haul. It can be easy to think that it's hopeless. But recovery happens, and we are learning more and more about what works — and what doesn't work — to help people achieve it. 

PSA: What is the best treatment for addiction?
Conway: While we strive to research and disseminate evidence-based practices that have documented success, one of the things that has been increasingly recognized is that there is no one right way to do recovery. Recovery can involve pathways that differ from person to person. Supporting someone in entering into and sustaining recovery is about more than just helping them to stop substance use. It may be about finding a new home, cultivating a new community of support, connecting or reconnecting with purpose, repairing family relationships, gaining employment, and much more.

PSA: It can be very challenging for people to understand a brain-based disease that manifests itself behaviorally. How does the stigma of addiction affect recovery?
Conway: Stigma can lead to people not seeking help for themselves or a family member. We know living with stigma and discrimination impacts our health in a variety of ways. The experience of stigma and discrimination plus internalized stigma and shame can be triggers for relapse and can make it much more difficult for people to reach out for help after a relapse.

People recover all the time. But when all we see are the negative stories, and not the millions of recovery stories, people don't believe recovery is possible. This is very damaging — it increases the stigma, and decreases motivation for those struggling — why bother if there are no role models of hope? But there are lots of role models for hope. A growing grassroots movement of people in recovery aims to demonstrate that fact through groups such as Many Faces 1 Voice and Faces and Voices of Recovery.

About Penn State Abington

Penn State Abington offers baccalaureate degrees in 19 majors at its suburban location just north of Philadelphia. Nearly half of its 4,000 students complete all four years at Abington, with opportunities in undergraduate research, the Schreyer honors program, NCAA Division III athletics and more. Students can start the first two years of more than 160 Penn State majors at Abington and complete their degrees at University Park or another campus.