Lisa Frederiksen is the author of nine books and a national keynote speaker with over 25 years public speaking experience. She has been consulting, researching, writing and speaking on alcohol abuse, drug addiction, secondhand drinking, treatment, mental illness, underage drinking, and help for the family since 2003. Her 40+ years experience with family and friends’ alcohol abuse and alcoholism, her own therapy and recovery work around those experiences, and her research for her blog posts and books, including her most recent – “Crossing The Line From Alcohol Use to Abuse to Dependence,” “Loved One In Treatment? Now What!” and “If You Loved Me, You’d Stop!” – frame her work with medical school students, families, individuals, students and administrators, businesses, public agencies, social workers, family law attorneys, treatment providers and the like.
1.You do a great deal of work with families – both the addict | alcoholic and the family members – how do you build their trust?
Generally, they have found me through my website or a referral from a therapist, teacher, friend or treatment center, so that’s a huge first step in building trust – they’ve had an opportunity to learn about my work and my approach. Secondly, I think my approach is a huge trust builder because it is rooted in science. And the way I frame my search questions and answers is rooted in my more than 40 years experience of coping with family / friends’ alcoholism and alcohol abuse behaviors and my own recovery work to address the emotional health consequences of those impacts. Collectively, these give me a unique experience/perspective that parallels many of their own and allows me to find and share the key research they’ve needed to better understand what they can and cannot do – for themselves and their loved one.
2. How difficult is it to actually change an addict?
No one can change the addict but anyone can change themselves by changing their brains – their own thoughts and behaviors – whether that be the addict | alcoholic or their family member or friend. Often when a family member or friend understands the disease of addiction (to drugs or alcohol) for what it is (a chronic, but treatable, brain disease), they are more open to taking the necessary steps to help themselves, which in turn can help their addict change themselves. Having said this, it’s imperative people understand an addict or alcoholic does not have to hit bottom in order to get help. Addiction is a brain disease. It is a developmental disease. So the sooner the disease progression is interrupted, the better.
3.What are your views on drug addiction in youth?
Something most people do not understand is the adolescent brain does not fully develop until about age 25. This means the adolescent brain is not the brain of an adult, and the adolescent brain interacts differently with drugs and alcohol than does the brain of an adult. In fact, most addicts / alcoholics became addicts / alcoholics (in other words, developed the brain disease of addiction) in adolescence. This is an excellent resource link (created by NIAA, NIDA, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and HBO) to explain this concept: Addiction Among Adolescents.
Something else most people do not understand is that mental illness is one of the five key risk factors contributing to a person developing a substance abuse problem and/or an addiction. So it’s important to treat a mental illness, which is often difficult for people to acknowledge because of the stigma involved. BringChange2Mind explains on their website, “The fact is, a mental illness is a disorder of the brain — your body’s most important organ — and 1 in 6 adultslives with a brain-related illness including depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD and schizophrenia.”
4.What makes you passionate about your work?
The children, the families and the addicts | alcoholics themselves. No one chooses to become an addict | alcoholic, nor does anyone choose to love someone who is an addict | alcoholic. But as a society, we don’t see addicts | alcoholics as people separate of their disease. We see them as their disease. Consider this: It is estimated that over 23 million Americans struggle with addiction, yet fewer than 10 percent are getting treatment. By comparison, cancer prevalence for all types of cancers [which is the term used by the American Cancer Society to define the number of living people who have ever had a cancer diagnosis] totals 12,549,000 – roughly half the number of people struggling with addiction. Another disease comparison is HIV. The CDC estimates more than one million people are living with HIV in the U.S.
How many of us are even aware of these numbers?
Addiction = 23.2 million
Cancer = 12.5 million
HIV = 1.1 million
Diabetes = 25.8 million
How many of us are aware that addiction is now understood to be a brain disease and that treating it requires the same treatment model used to treat other diseases, such as cancer, HIV and diabetes (let alone what is the disease treatment model)?
This is not to say that any one disease is more important than another but rather to draw attention to what secrecy and shame can do to effectively treating | preventing a disease.
My passion is to simplify this brain and addiction-related research for any number of audiences so that we can understand it for what it is and once and for all shatter the shame that keeps people from getting the help they need. I urge your readers to check out this article, “Shatter the Shame” to read more on this.
5.Tell us a little about the evolution in the field of mental wellness
In a word, “explosive!” Recent brain and addiction-related research has unleashed an explosion in advancements and discoveries about the human brain, its development, its functioning, what changes it, what can heal it, its ability to regenerate, what improves its health, and more. Many of these advancements and discoveries are nothing short of profound. Many have occurred in just the recent 10-15 years. Most of them are due in large part to improvements in imaging technologies, such as PET, SPECT, and fMRI, and the collaborative efforts and funding opportunities that were the result of the Decade of the Brain (the 1990s) and the Decade of Discovery (2000s).These technologies and opportunities make it possible for scientists and medical professionals to study the live human brain in action, over time, under the influence, after injury, during mental illness, and after treatment or medications for addiction or mental illness or engaging in brain health improvement activities (such as nutrition, aerobic exercise, adequate sleep, and/or stress-reducing activities or therapies). This research affords us opportunities to finally shatter the shame that surrounds mental illness and all things addiction.
For more about Lisa and her work, please visit her website, BreakingTheCycles.com.
You may also wish to follow her daily updates on her BreakingTheCycles.com Facebook page.