Social workers key in ID, treatment of drug abuse

Jul 28, 2016

By Alison Laurio, News contributor

The story of Jessica Grubb’s battle with heroin addiction so touched President Obama that when he traveled to Charleston, W.Va., last fall, he invited her parents to attend his public forum on opiate addiction.


“Jessica Grubb had tried several programs, and she had been successful,” said Sam Hickman, executive director of the NASW West Virginia Chapter in Charleston. “She was doing well.”

Then she had an accident, and her physician — who did not know of her past heroin-addiction problem — prescribed an opioid painkiller, he said.

Grubbs died in Michigan in March.

“It’s really tragic,” said Hickman, who also attended Obama’s forum — along with the chapter’s president, Kimberly White. “It really brings home how sad and troublesome (addiction) is for families.”

During the community forum in October, Obama discussed his administration’s commitment to address prescription drug abuse and the heroin epidemic.

As Congress begins taking action on the opioid-addiction problem, social workers continue their decades-long battle to help patients and stem the rising tide of drug use, addiction and death.

“I’m in southwestern Virginia, and this has been the epicenter of the problem, I think more than anywhere else,” said Michael E. Hayter, whose private practice, Appalachian Clinical Services, is based in Abingdon. “Over the last 10 years, it’s exploded.”

He said when OxyContin first came out around 1999 to 2000, drug representatives were promoting the opioid drug in the area “as a non-addictive for chronic pain.”

“They really marketed that in the rural South,” said Hayter, who is on the NASW board of directors. “Within a couple of years of when that stuff came on the market, it was an explosion. It’s a 100 percent increase in the last 10 years that we’ve seen.”

Rebecca Mowen, whose private practice, Recovery 360, is in St. Louis, has seen a steady increase in addiction since about 2003.

“It’s been a big increase the last four or five years,” Mowen said. “People are dying right and left. That’s a hard conversation to have with family who come in — (to) tell them we may not win this battle.”

From the July 2016 NASW News. Read the full story here.