‘Different Face’ Of Addiction Has Led To ‘Long Overdue’ Shift From Criminal Justice To Public Health

When David Patterson Silver Wolf refers to the U.S. opioid epidemic as part of a “disease of despair” and “a tough disease to treat,” he’s speaking from experience both professional and personal. He experienced substance-use disorder firsthand after growing up in a troubled home that quickly led him toward drugs and alcohol.

“I was young and I was also suicidal – which, a lot of folks, when we talk about [overdosing], it’s hard to separate out what is an OD and what is just taking of your life,” the Washington University faculty member recalled on Monday’s St. Louis on the Air. “And I was also full of despair. I had no hope, I was a high school dropout … and I couldn’t see a vision forward.”

To say things have changed for Patterson Silver Wolf in the decades since is an understatement. Now he finds himself heading up the Brown School’s Community Academic Partnership on Addiction– a new effort aimed at addressing substance-use disorder among those struggling with it today.

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