7 Things I learned at the APhA Institute on Alcoholism and Drug Dependencies
1) Addiction is a Disease and Not a Choice
While many people might agree with this statement, it can still be difficult to live out this belief. If addiction is a disease, we should treat patients with addiction in the same fashion that we treat patients with diabetes or hypertension. Rather than ducking behind the counter we need to address addiction with patients. If we have a patient in our pharmacy that is struggling with addiction (ex: Their controlled medication got dropped down the toilet for the third time this month) then we need to reach out to those patients and offer them help by referring them to treatment rather than judging them for their actions.
2) Alcoholics/Narcotics Anonymous Meetings are a Great Resource for ANYONE Affected by Addiction
At the conference, we were able to sit in on Alcoholics/Narcotics Anonymous meetings and were given the opportunity to participate. It was amazing to hear the stories some of the mentors shared about their lives and their road to recovery. These meetings really allowed participants to open up about how addiction had affected their lives, whether they themselves, or a family member were addicts. These meetings because they helped me to realize that addiction is such an ugly disease and that often we are quick to judge without realizing the pain that addicts and their family members go through on a daily basis. Alcoholics/Narcotics Anonymous meetings are great for addicts, but also for family members of addicts looking for support from others who share common struggles.
3) The “Great” Salt Lake Doesn’t Smell so “Great”
The conference was much more than just sitting in sessions all day long. We did have some free time for dinner and time to explore Salt Lake City. A few of us decided to get a ride to the Great Salt Lake since we had never seen it. After all, can you really go to Salt Lake City without visiting the Salt Lake? It turns out, the lake is actually drying up so we had a nice little walk just to get to the lake. Surprisingly, the sand was so dry and salty that it actually crunched underneath our feet as we walked toward the lake. The closer we got, the worse it smelled (kind of like rotten eggs). Apparently dying algae on the lake sinks to the bottom and degrades, resulting in the release of sulfide gas, which smells pretty foul. It was worth the trip though, because we got lots of great pictures and we can all say that we saw The Great Salt Lake!
4) Addiction Can Happen to Anyone!
While at the conference we had the opportunity to listen to a lot of stories about people with addiction, and addiction as a disease… However, what really hit home was when doctors and pharmacists who are in recovery got up and shared their stories about becoming addicts. It’s probably very stereotypical of many to think that it is far less likely for a nice clean-cut doctor or pharmacist becoming an addict. Yet, we heard first- hand accounts from such individuals. These stories prove that addiction is a disease that crosses all ages, races and economic classes. Addiction can happen to ANYONE. While there are cases where genetics are involved in causing addiction, there are cases where genetics are not involved. Never believe that it cannot happen to you or someone you love. Essentially, it can! Be educated so you can help yourself and those you love.
5) Elevation of 4,000 ft. is No Joke!
As part of the conference we had the option to go on a hike, or to tour the Red Butte Gardens. I chose to go on the hike and take some pictures. What I didn’t realize is how much more difficult it is to hike at an elevation of 4,000 feet! Living within driving distance from the ocean my whole life didn’t help when it was time for my body to adjust to the elevation. Once we got about halfway up the mountain, the dizziness set in for good! Unfortunately I didn’t make it all the way to the top of the mountain, however I did make it to a spot with a nice view and a chance to take some really awesome pictures! I made some really good friends this way too. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one have trouble adjusting to the elevation. Those of us who decided to turn back were able to walk down together. We enjoyed lighthearted conversation and created lasting memories.
6) Naloxone Saves Lives
Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that can be administered in emergency situations to those who have overdosed on opioids. I knew a little about Naloxone through different activities at school, such as helping pack Naloxone kits for distribution throughout the state. One thing I didn’t know, however was how to actually administer Naloxone to a person who has overdosed. At the conference we received training on how to administer Naloxone, and were even given the opportunity to put our counseling skills to the test by counseling each other on how to administer Naloxone. Now I feel prepared to help teach others why Naloxone is so important for patients taking prescription opioids, and to help show others how to administer Naloxone.
7) GenerationRx, through APhA, is a Great Way to get Involved with Preventing the Misuse of Prescription Medications Locally.
At the conference a few schools presented their APhA chapters GenerationRx activities. APhA is one of the many organizations you can become involved in once you start pharmacy school. It is one of the largest organizations at Campbell, mainly because it encompasses a variety of topics such as operation heart, operation diabetes, GenerationRx… etc. Last semester I helped with a medication drop-off at the Harnett County Sheriff’s department through Campbell’s APhA chapter. At the conference we received a lot of great ideas from other schools to consider for implementation in our chapter next year such as: holding Naloxone training for Campbell students and faculty, sponsoring a boy/girls scouts day about medication safety, educating inmates in detention centers about medication, creating continuing education courses for healthcare providers about Naloxone, and even sharing safe disposal instructions with funeral home directors to share with the family members of those who have passed away.
These seven bullets are just a snapshot of what I learned while at the APhA Institute in Utah. I was so grateful to be able to attend this conference, and I know I would not have been able to if it were not for Campbell. Funding through the Pharmacy Student Executive Board (PSEB) helped cut down the cost so that I could afford the trip. Funding such as this is available for many conferences for students representing Campbell University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. As President Dr. J. Bradley Creed said, Campbell University is a “place of opportunities,” and I am so glad I chose to continue my education here because of the opportunities I am provided with.
-Taylor Scott (P2)