The public perception of substance abuse is changing dramatically, opening up unprecedented opportunities to treat addicts rather than just incarcerating them, says Jerry Synold on this month’s Pulse podcast, drawing on more than 40 years of specialization in drug and alcohol treatment with the U.S. Navy. “The demand [for counselors] has never been greater,” Synold says, with a 22 percent increase anticipated over the next decade. A Master Addiction Counselor who teaches and certifies counselors at UC San Diego Extension, Synold says the shift in attitudes – and an appreciation for the cost savings achieved with drug treatment – has inspired early releases from prison for drug offenders, the establishment of more recovery homes, MediCal reimbursement for treatment, and an overall increase in parity of treatment for substance abuse care with that offered for other medical conditions.
Discussing everything from Prince’s alleged demise from prescription drugs to the legalization of marijuana he says is coming, Synold shares both the enormous challenges and sources of help and hope in his specialty. He says social media and new technologies will change the “recovery of the future,” offering apps that help people connect more easily with counselors and meetings, and sensors that track drug use among parolees. The biggest help will come from effective counselors, Synold says, who are “genuine, empathetic, and have a special ability to create an alliance between themselves and the patient, as is so often true of people in recovery who serve as substance abuse counselors.”