The Patriot Ledger
By: Jessica Trufant
QUINCY – When they hear the word “addict,” Kristen McLaughlin said many people imagine a “homeless junkie living under a bridge” without loved ones, dreams or any sense of purpose.
But McLaughlin, a Quincy College student, knows firsthand that stereotype is the furthest thing from the truth.
“When I was 14 years old I started doing drugs, and I was in and out of detox, jail and institutions,” McLaughlin, 30, of Weymouth said Thursday. “I stand here today as a recovering addict and a woman with honor and pride.”
McLaughlin and other addicts in recovery, substance abuse experts and city leaders shared insight on addiction and the opiate crisis on Thursday during a panel discussion hosted by Quincy College’s addiction awareness club.
“It’s so important to stop the stigma around addiction,” said McLaughlin, the club’s president.
Marisa Carson, another Quincy College student in recovery, started the club last fall to create a safe space on the campus for anyone to get support or information. While sobriety isn’t always easy, Carson said it’s given her a life she couldn’t envision while in the depths of addiction.
“I never thought I’d go back to school,” Carson, 40, of Weymouth said. “Sobriety has given me back my daughter, my family and my life.”
Quincy Detective Lt. Patrick Glynn talked about how Quincy has become the model for police and fire departments across the nation that have started using naloxone, the overdose-reversing drug commonly administered through a nasal spray by first-responders.
Glynn said officers have used the drug, known by its brand name Narcan, to successfully reverse an overdose more than 500 times since the department first administered it in January 2011. The overdose victims range in age from 17 to 68, Glynn said.
“We’ve had two officers lose children to overdoses,” he said. “Choosing a drug-free path – we know it’s very difficult. But your police department, going on seven years, has been offering a layer of protection. Our focus is on helping people.”
Kevin Rosario, an outreach representative from the treatment center Gosnold on Cape Cod and an addict in recovery, talked about the neuroscience of substance use disorder, and why it’s critical for experts and the public to treat it like the disease that it is. “It’s a progression, and it’s not about a moral failure or willpower,” he said. “It’s about a reoccurring thought that has more power than reason, or love for family or fear of consequences.”
Rosario said those who find the most success in recovery often do so with a long-term, multi-pronged approach.
The college also announced it will start hosting its own Alcoholics Anonymous meeting for those following a 12-step program on Thursday evenings.