Putting a Face on Alcohol Abuse

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Putting a Face on Alcohol Abuse

We live in a country where the attitude about people who struggle with substance use issues is one of disdain, disbelief and disregard. When Jeff Foote and I opened CMC, one of our main goals was to change this. The negative stigma associated with substance use issues, the lack of information about effective treatment options, and the lack of trained professionals in those treatments is a something that we saw and continue to see as a major problem in our society. That is why we have maintained the mission of helping to change the conversation about substance use from one of stigma, defects, and shame to one of hope, understanding, and the science of change. That is also why I am proud to have been part of HBO’s documentary Risky Drinking, which is one step in helping to make that conversation change possible.

I hope that Risky Drinking will help put a relatable face to the problem.The reality is that almost everyone knows someone who has at one point, and maybe currently, struggled with their use of alcohol. And many parts of our culture support and encourage heavy alcohol use with no accountability to the devastating problems that it can cause for people. Understanding the way that alcohol use is sewn into the very fabric of our everyday lives is one way to help reduce the misunderstandings and biases around those who are struggling with their substance use. The reality is that people can cycle in and out of a problematic relationship with alcohol or the course of a lifetime.

I think the documentary provides a glimpse into how alcohol affects people’s lives while also providing good information about how alcohol affects the brain and the body. It’s a great resource for schools and parents to hopefully educate young people on the potential downside of heavy drinking and I think the people in the film provided an unbelievable public service in sharing their stories. I’m proud to have been a part of it and I encourage everyone to take some time to watch it, even with someone who is struggling themselves. Perhaps it can help provide a little empathy and understanding, and help open up the avenues to change.

About the Author:

Carrie Wilkens, PhD

Carrie Wilkens, PhD, is the Co-Founder and Clinical Director of the Center for Motivation and Change in NYC and in the Berkshires. She co-authored an award-winning book, Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change with Drs. Foote and Kosanke. Together they also contributed to a user-friendly workbook for parents: The 20 Minute Guide: A Guide for Parents about How to Help their Child Change their Substance Use. In collaboration with the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, Dr. Wilkens and the CMC team is developing a national parent training program (the Parent Support Network) to provide parent coaches to families in need of support through a free hotline. Prior to these ventures, Dr. Wilkens was the Project Director on a large federally-funded Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) grant examining the effectiveness of motivational interventions in addressing the problems associated with binge drinking among college students. She is regularly sought out by the media to discuss issues related to substance use disorders and has been on the CBS Morning Show, Katie Couric Show, and Fox News as well as a variety of radio shows including frequent NPR segments such as the People’s Pharmacy and The Diane Rehm Show.