New cartoon series aims to simplify understanding of addiction


By Alison Bowen - Chicago Tribune (TNS)



CHICAGO — Addiction awareness advocates hope a new cartoon series aimed at explaining the science behind addiction — and addressing some misconceptions — leads to more understanding about the disease.

The series from the Addiction Policy Forum, a Washington, D.C.-based partnership of addiction awareness advocates, launched July 16 on YouTube https://bit.ly/2v3SucY. The first episode, “The Hijacker,” explains how using drugs can change people’s brains in a way that re-prioritizes getting drugs over other survival needs, such as eating.

The group’s president, Jessica Hulsey Nickel, who lost two parents to addiction, said she wants to address misconceptions and “elevate the science of addiction.”

“There’s so much misinformation about this disease, everything from this being a choice and not a disease, the misunderstanding about how treatment works, misunderstandings about medications, about lengths of treatment and recovery support, how you develop this disease in the first place,” she said. “We are surrounded and drowning in misinformation and myths.”

She sees the series as a way to reach a wide group of people — those struggling with addiction, their family members and anyone who could better understand the issue.

The series addresses the impact addiction has on the brain, its progression and stages.

Experts synthesized the science into bite-size pieces. The team then leaned on animator Patrick Smith, who said he hoped to create visual metaphors that captured both science and emotion.

“Most people don’t know that addiction has levels of severity, like stages of cancer,” Hulsey Nickel said. “You don’t wait for an amputation before you treat someone with diabetes. We should not be waiting for that rock bottom, the worst thing that could happen, for someone to get the treatment, the help they need, for addiction.”

The group plans to release episodes weekly. Eventually, it hopes to host screenings, including one in Illinois. The group’s Addiction Resource Center staffers are based in Arlington Heights, Ill., and can be reached at 833-301-HELP.

“That’s our real hope — it’s education,” she said. “And making sure the real science of the disease gets into every home.”

By Alison Bowen

Chicago Tribune (TNS)

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