Philadelphia real estate investor Jon Orens visited Solutions Journalism: Covering Addiction today to share his experience as a father to a son with a substance use disorder. Jon’s son, Danny Orens, passed away on Nov. 16, 2016 after an 11-year battle with alcohol, opiates and benzodiazepines. Danny, 28, had recently celebrated two years of abstinence-based recovery.


Jon Orens discusses son’s addiction, recovery and parenting

by Emily Scott

On the whiteboard, Jon Orens had three photos of his son, Daniel. One of the photos showed him on his “death bed” while in the hospital and two others showed him while in recovery. It showed two sides: active addiction and active recovery.

Three months ago, Daniel was OK, Jon Orens said. But battling addiction is like “wrestling with the devil,” Jon Orens said, and he kept wanting to say “take me,” instead of his son.

Jon discussed how addiction is all about someone’s brain chemistry, and not their character. “You wouldn’t call someone a cancer who had cancer,” said Orens, who is on the city’s Opiate Task Force.

Ten years ago, 10 percent of people in the U.S. were living with addiction, today it is 20 percent. The mortality rate of people with addiction 10 years ago was 3 percent and today it is at an estimated 10 to 15 percent.

Orens also discussed the fact that roughly 80 percent of drugs are acquired from pharmacies themselves, and only 20 percent from “the streets.”

Daniel spent time in and out of rehab and Jon Orens can recall his son talking about how “rehab tries to brainwash you,” which Jon Orens said he agreed with, but that it is necessary because addiction has to do with the a chemical imbalance in the brain.

“No one knows where rock bottom is,” Jon Orens said. “Sobriety has to be the most important thing in your life.”