CASAI hosts four speaker sessions for Addictions Week

While working for Professional Treatment Services, Duane Olberding has encountered men and women who struggle with addiction due to past events and recognizes the importance of sharing these stories to encourage the use of the Serenity Model to staff and students in the CoLab on Nov. 8. Photo by Kenna Swihart, The Campus Ledger

Kim Harms

News editor

The Council Addressing Substance Abuse Issues (CASAI) hosted 4×4: Building a Deeper Understanding of Addiction at 12:30 p.m. Nov. 6 through 9 in the CoLab. The event featured four speakers with each speaker covering a different addiction.

The first presentation covered prescription drug addiction. Michelle Irwin of first call*, an alcohol and drug prevention agency, gave insight into how prescription drugs, specifically opioids, can become addictive.

“Opioids are quickest prescription drugs to become dependent on,” Irwin said. “Approximately 90 percent of individuals become dependent on opioids after first illicit use. Some of these drugs can help when used properly. It’s the misuse of opioids that causes these problems and it’s the dependence.”

Heroin-related overdoses are on the rise as well with a 100 percent increase in female users and 50 percent increase in male users. The low cost of street heroin is one of many reasons why usage and overdoses increased.

“Death by heroin can come very quickly, especially street heroin because you never know what it is mixed with,” Irwin said. “Males are two times more likely to overdose than females, however, female usage heavily increased.”

Tuesday’s presentation covered sex and pornography addictions. Chris Adams, Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT), said sex and pornography addictions are common due to the three A’s: access, availability and anonymity.

“Porn is accessible at your fingertips; anywhere there is a connection to the internet, there is an access to porn,” Adams said. “There’s anonymity with, ‘I can look at pornography without anybody seeing.’ There seemingly endless amount of content out there for free, so what this does is it provides an environment for someone to get hooked on pornography and use it in excess.”

Sex and pornography addictions influence the significant others of individuals who have those addictions. Dan Gabbert, LPC and CSAT, said partners may experience betrayal trauma or develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“There’s betrayal, trust is broken … the impact is huge,” Gabbert said. “We treat the partners from a perspective of betrayal trauma. We see a lot of PTSD symptoms in our partners and we treat it as betrayal trauma. The partner finds something on their phone, a website or something setting up a date. That discovery is trauma to that person, their whole world is devastated.”

On Wednesday, Duane Olberding, executive director of Professional Treatment Services, presented information gambling and spending addictions. Olberding also covered The Serenity Model, which he uses to evaluate his clients.

“The [Serenity Model] is a model I’ve developed over the last 15 years,” Olberding said. “The model is supposed to give an understanding of what an addiction really is. It’s a unifying model so it does incorporate 12-step stuff and psycho-analytical steps … anything that has validity.”

Addictions begin as coping mechanisms for high levels of anxiety. There are two types of addictions: chemical and behavioral. Olberding said they usually go hand-in-hand, when an individual quits a chemical addiction, they turn to a behavioral addiction and vice versa.

“The way I look at addiction, whenever we relieve anxiety, whether chemical or behavior, we reinforce a cycle,” Olberding said. “Using some of these chemicals, your brain chemistry is going to change and you’re going to have anxiety. In almost every case, [individuals] use to feel normal.”

On Thursday, Chris Brewer, recovering addict, shared his story of hope. Brewer said he was a good student and always had everything he needed, however, he had a curiosity for the bad influences in his life.

“I went to the best schools, I had the best parents, my mother worked for the government and we had everything we needed,” Brewer said. “I was curious about Pandora’s box and I never dreamed the road it would take me down.”

After becoming addicted to alcohol and cocaine, Brewer found himself living in several different shelters in the Kansas City area. During his stay at the Kansas City Rescue Mission, he found a prayer box and shortly after finding that box his life started to change.

“When you become homeless, you try to look for the big thing to save you, when it’s really about the small things,” Brewer said. “I took a piece of paper and I wrote down, ‘February 12, 1999, higher power can you help me? I want to change my life.’ It’s not the big things that saved me, it’s the small things that saved me.”

Today, Brewer is a social worker and shares his story with communities and youth. His sobriety started over a year ago and he does not plan to go back to his addictions ever again. Brewer encouraged everyone to never give up hope and continue working hard.

“Recovery, hope and a higher power can change your life,” Brewer said. “Everybody here has a destiny. I encourage you to invite me to your communities because I know when I walked into this room [the audience] had no idea about the kind of person I was. If your higher power has something for you to do, he’ll bring you to that destiny. How do I know that? I know that because I stand before you.”

Students, faculty and staff wanting to contact CASAI can e-mail Sheryl Hadley, president of CASAI and professor of Economics, at

*first call is the name of the organization, uncapitalized


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