By Karla Lozano
Former Rhode Island state senator Tom Coderre had a very public downfall in 2003 as a result of an addiction to alcohol and cocaine.
He decided to be part of the recovery movement to help erase the stigma of addiction and help others gain access to substance abuse treatment. As the former chief of staff at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, Coderre led the team that produced the first Surgeon General’s report on addiction in 2016.
About 25 million Americans are in recovery, but there are still those who say people who become addicted are morally flawed, Coderre said. Most in the medical community, however, say substance addiction should treated as a disease.
Like him, many in recovery are willing to go public because they have “had enough with the insults” and want to be “treated as human beings,” said Coderre, now a senior advisor to health care consulting firm Altarum.
He’s seen how those who become addicted can be pegged for harsh treatment. For example, a town councilman in Ohio recently proposed a provision to deprive drug users access to the opioid overdose-reversal drug Naloxone when they have had to use the drug twice.
“Of course, I think it’s horrible,” Coderre said. “Everyone’s life is worth saving. One of the things we have to be is compassionate.”
Edited by Liam Zeya