10 Things I Learned This Semester About Reporting on Addiction Solutions

  1. Appropriate Language

We learned about the importance of using appropriate language when reporting on addiction in the very beginning of the semester, which was helpful going forward because by the time I started writing my stories, I was so used to using the language I did not even realize I was utilizing it. Throughout the semester, I made sure to use appropriate language in the blog posts, and this practice helped me remember to use it in my reporting. I believe this language is necessary, but there can be times where it may sacrifice clarity in an article. For instance, language that would normally not be acceptable in my own writing, is acceptable when featured in pictures or quotes, especially if the quote stands better on its own, rather than paraphrased.

  1. How to write from a solutions angle

Going into this class, I knew there was a difference between solutions journalism and regular reporting, I did not know solutions journalism actually had a name and definition. Learning more about this was very interesting to me, because I’ve always valued stories that present potential solutions to issues rather than just reporting on the problem. However, a good solutions piece should not advance an agenda, introduce responses that do not exist yet, ask for donations, or suggest that the response fixes the problem entirely. When addressing the failure of a potential solution, a journalist should ask what others can learn from it and what should have been done differently to avoid it. Including data about a potential solution in an article can strengthen the articles credibility, but the data should show both the failures and successes of this solution. Solutions journalism introduces credible examples of responses to problems so people can learn how to become empowered and capable of shaping a better world.

  1. 12 Step Meetings aren’t for everyone

Learning from our guest speakers that there are other options besides 12 step meetings was interesting, and also personally reassuring. Over the summer my best friend spent a month in rehab where 12 step meetings were considered the only way to manage substance use disorders. She left the rehab feeling even worse than when she entered. As someone who does not consider themselves religious or Christian, the 12 step meetings were very problematic for her. Thankfully, there are other recovery paths like smart recovery and medicated assisted treatment. 12 step meetings should not be presented as the only solution to substance use disorders, because many people have found other paths to recovery.

  1. Anonymity contributes to Stigma, but stigma is why we need anonymity in the first place.

After watching the anonymous people, I learned that some people believe the tradition of anonymity for 12 step programs contributes to the stigma surrounding addiction, instead of protecting people from this stigma. This is because anonymity suggests a substance use disorder is something that should be hidden, or something that one should feel embarrassed about.

  1. Everyone reacts differently to medicated-assisted treatment

Just like antipsychotic medications, medicated assisted treatment for addiction can be very tricky – there is no one drug that works for all people. Treatment needs to be very individualized – some patients are helped greatly by suboxone, methadone or Vivitrol, but there are also many people these drugs do not work for, or these drugs make their condition worse. For instance, each person I interviewed about suboxone said they have heard it is harder to stop taking than opiates or heroin is, because the withdrawal is so bad. One person even experienced withdrawal from suboxone, and said it was worse than withdrawing from heroin. From my years in therapy and my experience at an inpatient facility, this is very similar to how anti-psychotics work. For example, some people with bipolar may benefit from a certain mood stabilizer, while for the others this certain mood stabilizer may make things worse. In both addiction and mental health, disorders must be treated individually, rather than assuming there is a “silver bullet solution” to the problem.

  1. Collegiate Recovery

Collegiate recovery programs (CRP) are becoming much more prevalent across the United States. Currently, there are 170 collegiate recovery programs open or in the process of opening, Robert Ashford said. Ashford is currently working towards a master’s degree in social work at the University of Pennsylvania and he also identifies as a person in long term recovery. Ashford added that 10 percent of students fall on the spectrum of substance use disorder from moderate to severe. 33 percent of students are also likely to experience a serious mental health concern during their college career, and 40 percent experience a co-occurring mental health and substance use disorder.

  1. We need more doctors like David O’Gurek

For my Suboxone article, I spoke to David O’Gurek, a doctor in Family medicine and an assistant professor at Temple. I was really impressed with his knowledge and background on addiction, and was happy to see someone so informed in his position at a Family practice. He said suboxone has helped a lot of his patients, but it is no silver bullet solution. Out of all the Family physicians in the united states, only about 4% of family physicians have their qualifications and got the certification to be able to prescribe suboxone, O’Gurek said.

“Less than half of them that have the certification actually end up using it – and there’s a number of reasons for that, so it’s sort of underutilized, it’s certainly part of a multi-faceted approach, by no means is it the fix to caring for patients,” He added.

  1. Writers can be photographers too

When I went to go take pictures of the suboxone clinic at Pathways to Housing, I really enjoyed taking photographs of the clinic. There was a lot of decal on their walls and floors, which was cool to take shots of. I used to take a lot more photos, so I am hoping to get more into this next semester. Taking pictures for your own story can help you find great shots that strongly relate to your article. This strengthens your article, and makes it all the more interesting to read.

  1. Narcan saves so many lives, but its use is still restricted in some areas unfortunately.

Eric Mille, an Ardmore police officer who has experience with Narcan, said the use of Narcan has allowed police forces everywhere to save a lot more lives, but unfortunately Narcan is not available everywhere. Narcan is currently illegal in Kansas, Missouri and Arizona, and it is strictly regulated in many other states. Miller and Stoddart made it even more clear to me that a nation-wide solution for the opiate epidemic must come from legislatures, who are unfortunately very ill-informed about the causes of the opiate epidemic and the potential solutions. Therefore, it is much easier for each state and each city to implement smaller, local programs and local laws to try and combat the opiate epidemic in smaller regions. If enough cities and states do this, it is more likely that programs and laws will become implemented at the national level, because legislatures will be able to see which solutions have worked well and why they worked for a specific region.

10. Solutions Journalism can inspire passion again for those who have lost it

This class helped me regain passion for journalism again. Writing about addiction from a solutions angle reminded me why I wanted to become a journalist in the first place. I have always been passionate about writing, but going into this semester I was feeling burned out, and even contemplated changing my major. I found myself quickly losing interest in writing about things I normally enjoyed, and my anxiety, which is always very persistent in the spring, made me so fearful I no longer wanted to pursue any projects at all. However, once we started learning from guest speakers, and reporting on our own stories, I regained some of the passion I had lost. I saw and learned that through writing and reporting, I do have the power to inspire change and help people in need, which gives me more satisfaction than any pay check ever could.

About the author

Meghan Costa

Meghan Costa studies journalism and psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She writes for the schools newspaper, The Temple News and works as an editorial intern at the office of the senior vice provost of strategic communications. After graduation, Meghan hopes to stay in Philadelphia and write for a magazine or newspaper. She would like to specialize in mental health reporting, but she is open to any and all opportunities that come her way. Meghan also has a strong passion for creative writing, and is always looking to collaborate with other creatives on projects of any kind. Some of her favorite writers include e.e Cummings, T.S. Elliot, and Kurt Vonnegut. Meghan is originally from West Chester, which is a suburb of the Philadelphia area. Contact Meghan at tuf87094@temple.edu.

Add comment