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PSU Gathering Discusses Substance Abuse

By Lindsey DeRoche; For the Clock
On April 27, 2017

PSU Gathering Discusses Substance Abuse 

Lindsey DeRoche

For The Clock 

Substance abuse is a prevalent issue in the United States, especially with the current opioid crisis.

On a college campus, one way to educate students on substance abuse and addiction is by starting, as well as continuing, vital conversations about drugs and alcohol.

Last Tuesday, April 18th, one of these very conversations took place during a discussion that was open to the public, and held in the Little Squam meeting room inside Prospect Dining Hall. Speakers included PSU alum and current program director of the Plymouth House rehab facility, Matt Howe, and PSU student Teddy McCarran.

Scott Merrill, PSU philosophy professor, campus minister, and program coordinator of C3 (Caring Campus Coalition) booked the event. He has been friends with Howe for around five years, and has known McCarran since they met at another PSU event about addiction, which took place earlier in the semester, and was entitled “Alex’s Story.”

“I think people have a lot of misconceptions about what addiction is. People tend to think of addiction as something that is related to chemicals and bad decisions that people make. And, perhaps they are bad decisions that people make. But, Matt clarifies the existential, personal nature of addiction in a way that I’ve never heard anyone do. And it’s a very powerful message,” Merrill said.

Howe began the event by telling his own story, which included his dealings with addiction as the son of an addict, as his father died of a cocaine overdose when Howe was twelve-years-old. “I made a decision, when I was a kid, to not drink or use,” Howe said.

He emphasized how growing up with a relative who is an addict was not glamorous. As the telling of his story progressed, Howe illustrated his own past battles with addiction as an alcoholic and heroin/cocaine addict.

Howe explained the inner turmoil and circumstances that sparked his substance abuse. Personal troubles of depression and anxiety during his first year of college made the escapism of using substances so appealing.

One of the main points of Howe’s talk was what he believes to be the difference between someone who is drinking or using drugs simpl y because they want to, and those who are actual addicts. According to Howe, an addict is someone who depends on a substance for an almost medicinal reason, and needs the numbness to cope with pain in life. He also expressed the importance of feeling pain to its full extent, as it aids people in learning to cope with suffering.

Howe finished his portion of the discussion by explaining how treatment at the Plymouth House, which is located at 446 Main Street in Plymouth and was the rehab facility that aided Howe in his sobriety, works. He said that the facility does not treat the substances, but rather, the person. The goal is to help patients see who they truly are, clarify their self-image, and come up with principles and values to live by.

The Plymouth House takes a more existential approach to treatment. Howe found great aid from the works of philosophers, writers, psychologists, and religious figures during his own recovery. Philosophy often deals with how to go about dealing with suffering and pain, and that sort of perspective is incorporated in the treatment there.

“It was essential for me, in recovery, to have other sources to draw on, and help me contextualize my life,” Howe said.

After Howe finished speaking, Teddy McCarran took the floor. McCarran was open with the crowd about his issues with substance abuse, and how he has been working with Howe and the rest of the Plymouth House in his pursuit of permanent sobriety. McCarran addressed the issues surrounding the stigmatization of addiction, and how it is something that people shy away from addressing.

McCarran spoke of how he “had the picture of what a junkie looked like” in his mind, and was in denial about his own addiction for a period of time. As a hockey player with a home and a significant other, he did not feel to have fallen prey to addiction.

He spoke of how addiction can affect anyone, regardless of their opportunities or luxuries.

McCarran is still in the early stages of recovery, but is proud of what he has accomplished. “I do the same thing when no one is watching,” said McCarran about his life now. He is also working to start an Alcoholics Anonymous group on campus.

“I thought it was touching and heartfelt to hear both Matt and Teddy speak tonight,” Merrill said. “I think what Teddy’s doing, as far as addressing the need for a group to meet on campus that can acknowledge and address peoples’ substance abuse issues, or any other addiction issues that they have, is an important thing.”

After the event concluded, McCarran and Howe spoke with members of the crowd. In regard to lines so easily blurring as to whether or not substance use in college is simply recreational “partying” or a real issue with addiction, Howe said, “If you’re even thinking about whether it’s a problem for you or not, you should treat it as a problem.”

He reiterated the importance of self-examination.

“Always be prepared to question things. Don’t hold onto any belief you have too tightly. Examine evidence objectively. Be brave enough to look at that evidence. And if that evidence contradicts beliefs that you currently hold, be brave enough to change,” Howe said.

If you, or someone you know, is dealing with or worried about issues surrounding substance abuse and/or addiction, do not hesitate to reach out to local resources. CADY (Communities for Alcohol and Drug-Free Youth) is located on 94 Highland Street, and the Plymouth House is located at 446 Main Street. Also, feel free to inquire about the times and location of upcoming campus AA meetings. 

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