Women in Addiction Treatment History

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Women in Addiction Treatment History


Women in Addiction Treatment History

Women’s History Month kicked off on March 1rst. While many publications will focus on the accomplishments of great women such as Oprah Winfrey, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Marie Curie; Seabrook would like to focus on women who have paved the way for addiction and mental health treatment. So many women have made tremendous strides in the addiction field both in and out of Seabrook. Sadly, we can only highlight a few in a weekly blog.

First Lady of A.A.

First, we will look at the two women who founded Al-Anon and Alateen. Lois W. was the wife of Alcoholics Anonymous founder Bill W. Ms. Wilson stated after her husband entered recovery “I soon had to admit I needed some therapy myself.” Lois W. enlisted the help of close friend Anne B., who also had a husband in recovery to help families suffering from addiction. Lois was an occupational therapist and turned her home into an impromptu meeting space for struggling loved ones. While Bill W. and Dr. Bob share most of the acknowledgement regarding helping those in recovery, Lois W. and Anne B. put in countless hours and dedication to help families battling addiction together.

Founder of ASAM

Furthermore, we would like to recognize Dr. Ruth Fox. Dr. Fox became the first medical director of the National Council on Alcoholism in 1959. Prior to this position, Dr. Fox was the founder and first president the American Medical Society on Alcoholism and Other Drug Dependencies, known today as ASAM. Nationally, Dr. Fox was one of the initial clinicians open to treating patients with substance use disorder. The stigma against those suffering from substance use disorder as degenerates hurt Dr. Fox deeply. She lectured and wrote many papers highlighting the great potential of those burdened with addiction. “In recovery, most prove to be gifted, generous, responsible, idealistic people, good parents and citizens.”

Next, following Dr. Fox’s desire to educate on addiction, Professor Heather Ashton published over fifty papers in professional journals regarding benzodiazepines. Ms. Ashton’s most notable publication was The Ashton Manual. This model has influenced benzodiazepine treatment across England and the world for decades now. Professor Ashton operated a benzodiazepine withdrawal clinic for twelve years before retiring. The professor’s work recommended treatment be determined by each patient with professional guidance. Gradual and regular weaning was prescribed to each patient, but the dosage and duration was decided by the patient. While most prescribers were against putting so much power in patient’s hands, Professor Ashton’s model showed great success.

Pioneering Addiction Science

Similarly, another woman studying the effects of drugs on the human body is Nora Volkow. Nora Volkow is the active director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Majority of her career has been dedicated to investigating the toxic consequences and addictive combination of drugs and their reaction on dopamine levels and the prefrontal cortex. Through her studies, she has found the intense motivational aspects of drugs and how they drag users into a “vicious cycle”. Her research has proven addiction is less of a moral failing done out of pleasure, but rather done to satisfy a craving/ need. Ms. Volkow was listed on Time Magazine’s Top 100 People Who Shape Our World.

Lobbying for Healthcare Equality

Differing from the other women listed, Carol McDaid has advanced communal knowledge regarding addiction through public policy. Carol McDaid is the policy director at Capitol Decisions, a lobbyist group specializing in addiction and mental health. Ms. McDaid had a pivotal role in the passing of the Addiction Equality Act mandating addiction be given the same coverage by insurance companies compared to any other medical issue. Carol McDaid used her experience as a Hazelton Center alumni to advocate for those suffering from addiction in ways most others cannot. Ms. McDaid cites anger as her motivator when pushing for legislation.  Her anger stems from the stigma and judgement placed on those in recovery though they look and act the same as everyone else.

Seabrook’s Own Remarkable Women

Finally, we would like to feature amazing women at Seabrook making a difference. Recently, Caroline Stork and Danielle Weiss were both nominated for South Jersey Magazine’s Women of Excellence Awards 2019 for their outstanding work in the field of addiction treatment. Each give immeasurable benefits and confidence to the patients they counsel each day. Both women institute new therapeutic ways to have emotional breakthroughs with patients previously seen as misunderstood or abandoned. Caroline was responsible for registering patients to vote during the last election. Danielle has integrated art therapy into her work, giving patients and clinicians a new way to express and understand one’s feelings.

Seabrook’s Female Founder

It is impossible to mention important women of Seabrook without remembering Ms. Peg Diehl, Seabrook’s co-founder alongside her husband Jerome. Ms. Diehl’s contributions to the addiction field foolishly go largely unrecognized. For 36 years, Peg worked feverishly behind the scenes to assure any family battling addiction would have help. In addition to her immense dedication, Ms. Diehl was among the first certified alcohol and drug counselors in New Jersey. Later, Ms. Diehl became an internationally recognized licensed clinical alcohol and drug counselor. Among many awards and recognitions, Ms. Diehl won The NJ Women’s Task Force’s Woman of the Year Award in 1997.

Today, Seabrook has an annual award in her memory to commemorate the great work still being done treating addiction here at Seabrook. Each day every employee at Seabrook, man or woman goes above and beyond to provide exceptional care to each patient and their family. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, do not hesitate to reach out. Seabrook is more than a house, it is the heart of recovery. Our admissions department is available twenty-four hours a day to help whenever you are ready.