Addiction treatment center director offers advice for helping addicts

by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol Reporter

It can be difficult to know whether someone is abusing drugs.

Jim Steinhagen, executive director of addiction treatment center Hazelden in Plymouth, offered advice: “Listen to the voice in your head. Trust your intuition.” Telltale signs of drug abuse include changes in personality, appearance, friends and school grades.

Teenagers are vulnerable to drugs, Steinhagen said. Because the adolescent brain isn’t fully developed, young people have a hard time assessing risk.

“Common sense is not a factor,” he said.

Moreover, young people see themselves cloaked in invulnerability.

Further complicating the drug abuse picture can be mental health issues — a high percentage of young people in Hazelden treatment programs have accompanying mental health issues, Steinhagen said.

“It’s extremely difficult, maybe impossible, for a parent to sort this all out,” Steinhagen said. He strongly encourages parents to seek help from professionals. “Things can get sorted out,” he said. “Treatment does work.”

Parents, family and friends of adult drug addicts confront different options. They can have much less leverage.

But Steinhagen urges family members and friends of adult addicts not to cover up for them. Don’t become “enablers,” he said, or  people who allow the addict to continue their addiction by loaning money, covering unpaid rent or helping with legal problems.

“Don’t protect them from consequences,” Steinhagen said. Consequences can cause change.

Steinhagen showed support for making Narcan, used to counteract the effects of narcotics, more readily available to first responders.

“We can’t help somebody that’s dead,” he said.

Hazelden, which officially opened in Center City, Minn., in 1949, has five facilities in Minnesota. Its Plymouth facility offers residential and outpatient addiction treatment and adolescent and young adult services.


Tim Budig is at [email protected].

(Editor’s note: Read about efforts at the Capitol to make a drug antidote more widely available here. Read about Sen. Chris Eaton’s  story about losing her daughter to heroin here.)

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