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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

Luskin: Glamorous Recovery

Last winter, Governor Shumlin took a good first step in reframing the issue of drug addiction by defining it as a public health crisis rather than simply as a problem of crime. Since illnesses can be treated, it follows that treatment should be more effective than incarceration and in the past year, Vermont has made great strides in creating a number of proactive strategies.
One example is Chittenden County’s Rapid Intervention Community Court. A collaboration between the criminal justice system, social service agencies, and the local community; it’s yielding creative, non-traditional solutions to drug-related crimes. Offering treatment instead of punishment as one of the solutions not only promotes better allocation of tax dollars and improved public safety; it also holds out the promise of saving lives.
Chittenden’s success has inspired other counties to create similar programs, but there’s still more we can do to address Vermont’s drug problem, especially at the community level.

At a Circle of Understanding I recently attended in observance of International Restorative Justice Week, I heard some extraordinary ideas from ordinary citizens about how we might prevent addiction in the first place. They ranged from fostering spiritual satisfaction through meditation to tempering the vitriol that sometimes passes for political discourse. It was generally agreed that education is a key to prevention, and support is a key to successful recovery.
The suggestion I liked best was to create an all-out public relations campaign glamorizing recovery.

Currently, drug use is glamorized, especially when a celebrity overdoses, resulting in a spectacular media event. But if recovery were given the same public visibility, it might acquire the same cachet drug culture currently holds.

We’ve seen such behavior-changing campaigns succeed in the past. Before Lady Bird Johnson made America beautiful, littering was the norm. Cigarettes were once ubiquitous – and sexy. Seat belts were once a rarity and the idea of a Designated Driver was practically unheard of.
None of these campaigns were one hundred percent successful, but they still changed behavior on a large scale.
Sure, some people will continue to self-medicate to dull unspeakable pain. But by making recovery glamorous, we’d be supporting those who are freeing themselves from addiction, which is no easy task. Perhaps by glamorizing recovery, we could create a culture of achievement rather than one of shame.