Getting it right on addiction
Amy Winehouse, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears. It's all very fashionable, isn't it, this business of addiction? "Rehab" is not only a place...
Seattle Times staff columnist
Amy Winehouse, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears.
It's all very fashionable, isn't it, this business of addiction? "Rehab" is not only a place, it's a destination! It's Song of the Year! It's young faces heading into five-star last resorts, cradling cellphones and cigarettes and best wishes from the blogosphere.
It was hardly a flashy scene Thursday in a ballroom at the Seattle Sheraton Hotel and Towers, where Annalee Peck of Seattle stood before a gathering of the Science and Management of Addictions Foundation (SAMA) and described what addiction did to her family and, more importantly, to her brother, Jonathan.
It killed him. Last March 28, Jono Peck, 19, took his own life after a romantic breakup derailed his recovery.
"Life is hollow without him," Annalee Peck, 18, said as she stood between portraits of the two of them together. "The face of addiction is also hollow."
Her mother, Susan Peck, put it to me this way: "Jono died of adolescence. Everything hurt. He was a sponge for sadness, and nobody saw it."
In the time since Jono's death, the Peck family has become closely involved with Seattle-based SAMA, which offers information and support services for families struggling with a child's addiction to drugs or alcohol.
The organization was founded by Dr. Robert Day, the president and director emeritus of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and his wife, Cynthia J. Taylor, the founding executive director of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation's Puget Sound Affiliate.
I mention their accomplishments because they meant nothing in the face of their daughter's addiction to drugs. Their struggle — and her recovery — led them to form SAMA three years ago.
"I want this region to have a first-class treatment program for young people with addictions," Day said Thursday.
We all should want that. Consider: More than 95 percent of those dependent on alcohol or drugs started using before they were 20, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Substance abuse is responsible for 31 percent of deaths of those age 15 to 20 every year.
The American Medical Association first recognized addiction as a disease in 1956. But the medical community has only recently seen it as a "chronic, relapsing brain disorder," according to this week's Newsweek magazine, which put addiction on the cover.
Among the findings: The addict's brain is malfunctioning, like the pancreas of someone with diabetes.
At the SAMA luncheon, keynote speaker Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, compared a drug relapse to type 1 diabetes, hypertension or asthma. It simply must be treated like the illness that it is.
"Once it settles in," Volkow said of addiction, "the consequences can be long-lasting."
The brain images that accompanied Volkow's talk were replaced by photos of those loved and lost by SAMA members.
None of them famous. No one you would recognize.
But all of them ours.
Nicole Brodeur's column appears Tuesday and Friday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or email@example.com.
She is proud of you, Ma Joad.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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