Dr. Lisa Schenitzki challenges addiction stereotypes during campus workshop

Saddlebacks Supervisor of Psychological Health Services Dr. Lisa Schenitzki Presents slides in the student lounge during a “Ted Talk Tuesday” event Feb. 12

Dr. Lisa Schenitzki challenged stereotypes of addiction on Feb. 12, during the event “Ted Talk Tuesday” themed “The Perceptions of an Addict” located in the Student Services building. Schenitzki, supervisor of Psychological Health Services at Saddleback College, provided possible answers for why people stay addicted and how friends and family can help.

“When you see the word addict, I wonder what kind of images, what kind of individuals sort of come into your mind, and I wonder if maybe some of them look like this,” she said, while opening an image slide with examples like a homeless man with a needle in his foot and a runaway female teen with dirt on her face and ripped clothing.”

Schenitzki sought to “challenge” common stereotypes of addicts, starting by explaining her experience as a process group facilitator in Costa Mesa. There, she met many patients beyond common stereotypes, including a “very successful” anesthesiologist, an athletic prospect on his way to the NFL and even a circuit court judge who suffered from alcoholism and was eventually disbarred.

“Accepting that it is an illness, a disease will transform our approach to public policy, research, insurance, criminality. Right?” she said. “Access to treatment, it’ll change how we feel about addicts and, equally as important, it will change how they feel about themselves.”

Before Schenitzki spoke, the event began with a TED Talk video titled “Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong” by journalist Johann Hari, who discussed actions taken during Portugal’s drug problem. He emphasized Portugal’s decision to decriminalize drug use, creating “a massive program of job creation for addicts” and making the effort to reconnect them with society.

“It’s almost been 15 years later and the stats are in: injecting drug use in Portugal is down, according to the British Journal of Criminology by 50 percent,” said Hari, the author of “Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs,” in the video.

Schinitzki also shared the current statistics on the opioid crisis in America “right now.”

“Let’s educate you on some facts, so in 2017 over 70,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States,” she said. “Opioids, mainly synthetic, are currently the main driver of overdose deaths and account for 68 percent. Overdoses have passed car crashes and gun violence to become the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 55.”

Schinitzki urged those who suffer and don’t know where to seek help to “please come to the Student Health Center.” Where they have resources to connect students with treatment providers in the community.

This Ted Talk is one of eight as part of the “One Book One College” committee. Themed off the book “Beautiful Boy” the last event will include a visit from the author on May 1, in the Mickeny Theater. Event information is available on the home page of the Saddleback College website.