Tune in to our radio show on your local public radio station, or sign up for the podcast and listen at your leisure. Here’s what it’s about:

Tens of millions of Americans abuse alcohol, tobacco or drugs. When a person becomes addicted to such a substance, or to a behavior such as gambling or compulsive sex, family members may despair. It can seem as though it is difficult to reach the loved one struggling with addiction, and people are often told to back off, practice “tough love” or let the person “hit bottom” so that recovery can begin.

Scientific evidence does not support those disengaged approaches. Instead, there are ways to help a loved one. Family members can learn skills to reinforce positive changes and to engage in an emotionally supportive way.

There are also medications that can be useful in helping people overcome addictions. The experts describe the differences between the strategies and how these medicines can be used effectively. 

Guests: Charles O’Brien, MD, PhD, is Professor and Vice-Chair of Psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He is co-founder and Director of the Center for Studies in Addiction. He is a psychiatrist and neurologist specializing in addiction psychiatry.

Carrie Wilkens, PhD, is co-founder and clinical director of the Center for Motivation and Change in New York. She is co-author of Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change. Her weblinks are: 



The photo is of Dr. Wilkens.

To give you the most information on how people can change, and how their families and friends can help them, we offer a “Listen and Read” combination of Dr. Wilkens’ book together with a CD of this broadcast.

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free for four weeks after the date of broadcast. After that time has passed, digital downloads are available for $2.99. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.



Air Date:June 21, 2014

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  1. mark searle
    Victor-Harbor South Australia Australia

    Anything that Helps!

  2. mike

    Felt connected to Dr. Charles OBrien, seemed as if we could talk. Fell into opiates for few years; have wonderful supportive wife (she maybe a bit uncertain of what we’re dealing with. Using sleep pills to go to sleep (ambien) so they don’t show up in my screens. Trying to rediscover my inner fun/peace. At 61 y/o, can it still be done? 2 great kids with one new Gson, still need something. Any input for happiness?


  3. Sandra R.

    I’ve posted in such deep gratitude, I purchased the CD and am sharing with everyone I can~~ on my FB post, my comment : { ~~~ This is so very awesome ~~ As a previous alcoholic and smoker ~~ I am so happy to hear such a positive approach to overcoming addictions, no blame, no shame, no judgement, however, the 5th of the 12 steps is the most important one for me~~ where, I went to each person that I hurt, because of my Alcoholism, and asked for their forgiveness ~~ Amen NAMASTE’~~ } http://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/en_step5.pdf

  4. las

    My son has a problem with alcohol for 20 years. He has gone through AA, rehab, there are time he admits his dilemma. Al anon helps my wife cope. Seems to me al anon is tough love. Over the years there seems to be a few alcoholics that overcome. Most seem to be from AA and a spiritual involvement with God.
    My son says he has everything under control that is not true.
    Can someone tell me about CRAFT ? For me al alon is for the family to stop enabling the abuser. Something easier said than done.

  5. LTH

    I completely agree with all of the points that were made about substance use disorders. I found myself thinking, however, about what kinds of options are available for people who have no insurance, no family, no access to adequate treatment for these disorders. I looked at the CMC website, and it looks like a wonderful program, but a program that mentions information for participants arriving by private jet is not something that is widely accessible! Most of the meds used for SUDs are new and therefore expensive and not available to many people. I hope that we don’t forget about those who literally are “laying in the gutter” and who probably need a very different kind of help.

  6. Mary S.

    Appreciated Dr. Wilkens remarks relative to addiction, however, I hesitate to call it a “problem” because if it is a “problem” people tend to think there has to be a solution.

  7. G

    Looking for advice on rehab centers in NC. What is recommendation for help for withdrawal when funds are limited?

  8. E

    I am visiting the east coast and have learned that my son (29) is again in rehab. This program, out of North Carolina, has been very helpful to me in my assessment of his ongoing struggle with a 15 year opiate addiction. It has given me a renewed support in knowing just what to do in the face of such disparagingly sparse medical information about such a debilitating disease as addiction. THANK YOU!

  9. Nina

    Why dont discussions of substance abuse in our culture address the underlying issue of why so many people are in so much pain that they are driven to self medicate?

  10. Anonymous

    Today, I celebrate 7 years of sobriety. A woman in my group died today. Same disease, different outcome. Why am I sober? I believe it is due to the grace of God and a lot of hard work.
    I wonder if Dr. Wilkens has personal experience as a recovering alcoholic/addict? I appreciate her focus on connecting to a supportive community. However, her suggestions regarding how families and friends can assist seems a bit too tidy, ie theoretical.
    Addiction is an ugly, mean and endlessly destructive disease. It does not go quietly.
    My experience with alcoholics, addicts and their families confirms that most people who suffer from alcoholism and addiction won’t get sober and stay sober unless they receive the ‘gift of desperation.’ This required ‘bottom’ is spiritual rather than emotional, financial or measurable by worldly standards.
    I have practiced the programs of recovery as laid out by the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous for 17 years – except when I became suicidal and drank again at 10 years of sobriety. Whoops – something amiss there. LOL. At that point, I needed someone to confront me. I needed someone to call me on my BS or I was going to die. I needed to see myself in the first 164 pages of the Big Book. I am very unique, just like everyone else.
    Thank God I chose a sponsor who told me what I didn’t want to hear. Thank God I was ready to listen.
    These past 7 years reflect a daily re-commitment to the 12 steps.
    For me to stay sober requires daily, relentless surrender, humility and willingness to give up old ideas. It is not neat nor tidy.
    The real Miracle Gro for my recovery at this point is 5 years of Al Anon. This is where I learn to apply the 12 steps to the problems of living, for which alcohol abuse was but a symptom. I hope families and friends of alcoholics and addicts will avail themselves of the Al Anon program. This is where each member of the family, especially the alcoholic/addict can learn to live and recover from the effects of alcoholism/addiction.
    Thanks for your focus on addiction. I’ll be looking for more features on recovery from The People’s Pharmacy.

  11. M R

    It was wonderful program very informative. I hope this info on CRAFT and Nailrxone helps a very dear friend of mine, he knows he is addicted to alcohol but never received help with how to get help. So Thank you

  12. RW

    So far, this information may be useful as well for family and friends with teens with probable internet or online gaming ‘addiction’, whose grades have dropped dramatically. Or other ‘addictions’. I’ll pass on the website info and info about CRAFT for them to consider, as one more tool in the drawer.

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