Quality & Science

Personal Stories during National Addiction Treatment Week

by | September 1, 2021

For the last four years, National Addiction Treatment Week has been a time for ASAM members to raise awareness of addiction treatment within the medical community. This year, in the midst of an ongoing pandemic during which more people are struggling with substance use disorder, the importance of the week has dramatically increased.

With that in mind, Joseph Garbely, DO, DFASAM, FAPA, an ex-officio Member of ASAM’s Board of Directors and Chair of ASAM’s Physician-In-Training Committee, said he hopes ASAM members will help this year’s National Addiction Treatment Week (October 18-24) break through the pandemic headlines and spark a renewed national conversation about how addiction is a preventable and treatable chronic disease.

“The isolation caused by the pandemic has worsened substance use disorder and it has worsened mental health,” said Dr. Garbely, Chief Medical Officer and Executive Vice President of Medical Strategy, Education and Research at Caron Treatment Centers. “This week will help put substance use disorder and the awareness of addiction treatment back in the forefront where it needs to be.”

During the week, ASAM is highlighting the critical need for more clinicians to enter the field of addiction medicine – particularly the next generation of medical professionals, as well as the gap in certified addiction medicine care and treatment.

“There are many people who have the disease of addiction who aren’t getting the treatment they need and we have to change that,” he said. “We’re moving in the right direction and we hope this week will bring more attention to that.”

ASAM members are encouraged to amplify the week’s message in their communities and personal networks. This could be done using the hashtag #TreatmentWeek when sharing the week's message on social media.

Dr. Garbely said the most powerful way ASAM members can participate in the week is simply by sharing their stories. These could include why they entered the field of addiction medicine in the first place and why they find it to be so rewarding today.

Doing so, he added, will help combat the stigma associated with addiction and addiction treatment.

“The stigma, sadly, is still alive and well,” he said. “It may have gotten worse during this pandemic and it has to go. It’s preventing us from interacting meaningfully with patients and asking the questions we need to ask to better help these folks.”

Dr. Garbely’s own story is powerful. After he started his career in internal medicine, life changes and a realization of his own unhealthy relationship with alcohol inspired him to switch his focus to addiction medicine. In June, he celebrated 23 years of sobriety.

“I personally know how addiction treatment can change your life,” he said. “It’s changed mine in ways that are hard to articulate. Everything now is defined by my recovery.”

Today, Dr. Garbely’s own personal experience with addiction treatment helps him better understand what his patients are going through in their own battle with addiction. It also helps him join in their celebrations of each success they experience during their treatment and recovery.

“I understand how my patients feel when they tell me how their lives have changed,” Dr. Garbely said. “I immediately once again have the same gratitude toward those who helped me 23 years ago.”

For more information on how you can participate in #TreatmentWeek, visit www.treataddictionsaveslives.org.