Three Questions on Sustainable Development: Goal 3 - Good Health and Well-Being
We spoke with Creighton Drury, Chief Executive Officer at Partnership to End Addiction, about the addiction epidemic in the United States. Since joining the organization in 2018, Creighton led the merger of two iconic nonprofits in the addiction space: Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. The organizations rebranded and changed their name to Partnership to End Addiction earlier this year.
Building upon experiences and lessons learned during the course of his 30+ years as a nonprofit executive, government official, attorney and student-athlete, Creighton Drury is focused on reaching, engaging and helping families impacted by addiction through effective teamwork and partnership.
1014: What do you at Partnership to End Addiction observe in communities in the United States with regard to drug misuse and addiction as a public health problem? Is there a need for action?
Creighton Drury: The existing addiction crisis compounded by the financial strain, loneliness, isolation and lack of treatment access related to COVID-19 led to a spike in drug overdose fatalities during the first four months of 2020. Unfortunately, we expect overdose rates will continue to rise throughout the pandemic. At Partnership to End Addiction, we’ve seen the impact on families thorough our day-to-day work. More and more caregivers are seeking support from trained specialists through our helpline.
We know how to prevent and treat addiction, and if we find the will, we can end the needless loss of life that the United States has experienced for years. Now that the world has a front row seat to the importance of public health, we have an opportunity to devote the resources required to take meaningful action.
What kind of help and services do you offer and what are some of the challenges that arise in the work at Partnership to End Addiction?
We partner with families, professionals, policymakers, researchers and other organizations to end addiction in the United States. We champion a public health approach, rooted in science and compassion.
Partnership to End Addiction provides information to more than 4 million visitors through our website and directly serves more than 10,000 families annually. We offer them personalized support through our helpline and other services, providing the answers families need – particularly in helping teenagers, the life stage most susceptible to substance use and addiction. In addition, our extensive research and communications expertise makes us uniquely qualified to drive systemic change to more effectively mitigate and diminish this disease.
Some of the biggest challenges we face relate to the pervasive stigma around addiction. The lack of understanding and compassion both in government and in our society more broadly creates hurdles that prevent people from getting the treatment and support they need. However, nothing makes us happier than seeing parents affected by addiction reject that stigma, and publicly share their stories to help others. Some share their experiences with lawmakers or in op-eds for the world to see in an effort to shift perceptions of addiction and advocate for much-needed change. Some undergo training to participate in our parent coach program so they can help other parents in need of support. These families provide hope. Hope that we can eliminate stigma. Hope that someday the culture will change, and we will end addiction.
In an ideal world, what should be done in communities in the United States to achieve the U.N. goal of “good health and well-being”?
We need to change perceptions of addiction and help people understand that it is both preventable and treatable, especially when we are proactive, address it early in life, identify early signs of risk and intervene before substance use progresses to addiction and before early signs of addiction become more severe. We need to help more people get effective treatment. As a first step, we need to make sure that people understand what quality care looks like and eliminate barriers to accessing lifesaving treatment.
We must also engage and empower more families in understanding and preventing substance use. It’s important that we help people realize the critical role they play in their loved ones’ addiction treatment. We must remind both people with addiction and their family members that they are loved, there is no place for blame, and there is help. Addiction is a disease requiring compassion, support and evidence-based solutions. The more support people have during treatment, the better the outcomes.
Finally, we must advocate for state and federal policies that treat addition as the public health crisis it is. We need sustainable, long-term funding to implement programs that prevent and treat addiction.
To read more about Partnership to End Addiction and the free services it offers, visit DrugFree.org.