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Our Bodies: Deep-Sixing Drugs

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Dear Dr. Levister: I am a successful Black professional with a loving wife and children. I have hidden my drug addiction from my family for two years. My resolution for 2003 is to come clean and get help with my addiction. Where should I start?

Dear P.E.

At Home! Come clean with your family. Solicit their support. Talk about it. Black people don’t like to talk about troubling problems with family and loved ones.

But until we confide in others, it can be difficult to get proper treatment. Tell the truth. Be realistic. Examine the surprising face of drug abuse and how you got hooked.

It’s not just a problem of the poor and uneducated, and not every house with drugs is a crack house. There’s often more drug use in the suburbs than in the inner city.

There are many reasons why African-Americans turn to drugs: ranging from medicating the anger and rage of racism and poverty to poor self esteem, to innocent youthful curiosity.

Get Help. Phone the federal 24-hour confidential Drug Information Hot Line toll-free at 1-800-662-HELP.

You can talk with a counselor about your drug problem, get referrals to treatment programs in your area, and request printed material on substance abuse. It’s a free service provided by the U.S. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment.

Go For Treatment. If you have health insurance, your coverage may dictate where you go for treatment.

If your insurance is through your employer, consult with the human resource representative. He or she can help while preserving your privacy.

Choose a program using the following three elements: comprehensiveness, cultural sensitivity, and long-term focus. The most effective treatment programs address a spectrum of needs to include, physical and emotional dependency.

When you visit or phone a drug treatment center, ask if the program is sensitive to the needs of African-Americans. Choose a program that makes you feel comfortable. Treatment is only 10 percent of the process. The most difficult part comes when you leave a treatment center.

Long-term after care should include a support network, regular group meetings, non-drug using friends, and a sponsor (excluding a family member or lover) you can call for support whenever you need it.

Getting clean takes guts, perseverance and time to develop the muscle to get off and stay off drugs.

You may need to make many starts. Backsliding is to be expected, and starting again is to be applauded.

Take responsibility for your destructive behavior. Chances are family members, friends and even co-workers know more than you think. Hiding behind half-truths will only prolong your recovery.

“For where does one hide when he’s hiding from himself.” ----Oprah Winfrey.

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