UVU annual addiction conference

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Aaron Lenkersdorfer | Staff Writer

Photo credit: Gilbert Cisneros | Photographer

The College of Humanities and Social Sciences recently hosted its annual conference on addiction.  This year’s conference took place on Friday, Feb. 27, in the Sorensen Student Center.  The conference was a valuable resource for those facing addictions.  Throughout the conference there was a positive and encouraging theme – those facing addictions are not alone.  Help is available.

The keynote speaker for the conference demonstrated this fact by detailing his own story of recovery.  Christopher Kennedy Lawford detailed his experience from the time he was 13 and was first exposed to LSD.  He developed an addiction and struggled with it for 17 years.  With determination and support programs he was able to overcome his addiction, and has now been sober for 29 years.

Many organizations and speakers, similar to those who helped Lawford, came to address the various issues facing those with addictions.  The conference was centered on substance abuse, but included other issues, such as self-destructive behaviors and addiction to pornography.

All forms of addiction are brain disorders.  Whether an addiction is to gambling, pornography, or cocaine, the addiction causes chemical reactions in the brain which leads to a strong dependence and drive for certain things.  They are not the results of weak individuals giving in to desires.  They are serious medical conditions.

This fact has been misunderstood by society and has resulted in punishing addicts the same way as criminals.  Legal repercussions for substance abuse addictions often result in jail or prison time and do nothing to combat the medical aspect of the addiction.

“Addictions need to be treated similarly to diabetes, because they are every bit as much of a disease as diabetes is,” said Lawford.

The proper treatment for those with substance addictions is complicated.  The Utah Legislature, which is in session until March 12, has presented legislation dealing with reforms to mental health, drug courts and offenders, as well as access to support and recovery programs.

One key piece of legislation which affects those who may have substance abuse disorders is the Drug Offender Reform Act (DORA).  DORA was established in order to enable drug offenders to receive increased access to support and treatment programs.  The act also encourages judges to make well-informed decisions about sentencing regarding those with drug-related offenses.  Programs that understand the true nature of addiction and are fully capable of helping on the road to recovery are available.

Millions of people have had similar experiences with addictions, and overcome them to retake control of their lives.   For more information and access to recovery programs visit http://dsamh.utah.gov/substance-use-disorders/ .