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No One Chooses to be an Addict

The A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition’s Community Forum Seeks to Reduce the Stigma of Substance Misuse

By Dan Cullinane
Freelance Writer

“Why do some people become addicted to substances, and some do not?” According to Trish Burchette, the Executive Director of Johnson County’s A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition, this was the primary focus of Dr. Brian Winbigler’s presentation, The Science of Addiction, at their community forum on August 17.

The answer to the question, while understood by people in recovery and those who work with them, remains mysterious to those who have never experienced addiction. Burchette, whose work with A.C.T.I.O.N. seeks to foster community understanding of substance misuse, said Winbigler, of the UT School of Pharmacology.

“He made the point that addiction is as much chemical and brain related as it is emotional or spiritual,” she said. “No one wakes up one morning and says I want to develop a substance use disorder that is going to take over my life, control every thought, and cause me to lose everyone and everything I care about. It is a disease, and a person can become well again.”

Burchette acknowledges that Winbigler did not touch on recovery or treatment for the drug epidemic which has ripped through Appalachia, and devastated Johnson County. She hopes to address this in future forums, but felt that Winbigler’s talk helped reduce the stigma of addiction in the minds of his audience, and that this will help those seeking treatment and long-term recovery.

While a scant 16 people were in attendance on Tuesday evening to hear Dr. Winbigler, Burchette is optimistic that in time the event will grow back to the 40-50 people who have attended the forums in the past. But she still feels that Tuesday’s event was a success, as the presence of educators and clergy in the audience reassured her that these influencers can now affect positive outcomes for those vulnerable to addiction.

More forums, as well as a Town Hall are in the works, the organization’s work continues in the form of events and training. An active board, representing the business, education, health, and faith sectors of the community, also gives Burchette confidence in the A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition as a partner in combating the drug epidemic. For more information about A.C.T.I.O.N and its future events, visit www.actioncoalition.org.