CONWAY, S.C. (WPDE) - Millions of Americans deal with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, and the problem isn't going away anytime soon. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2011 an estimated 22.5 million Americans had used an illicit drug or abused a psychotherapeutic medication in any given month. The group also states in 2011, 16.7 million Americans were dependent on alcohol or had problems related to their use of alcohol.
Thursday night, an addiction specialist from the hit television show "Intervention" spoke to a group at Horry Georgetown Technical College. During the A&E show, cameras follow a person battling an addiction, and it showcases what lengths a person will go to to get their fix. At the end of each episode they are confronted by their family and friends who ask them to accept the gift of treatment. Ken Seeley helps those families and said the show is important in helping educate the public.
"I just wanted to be a part of it because I knew what was happening behind those closed doors needed to reach millions of people," said Seeley. "It's not really made for entertainment. It's made for reality. This is what happens every single day. I have a private practice, and we're doing this every day out there. And a lot of my colleagues are doing this every day, and people are out there dying."
When Seeley spoke to the crowd gathered at an auditorium on Horry Georgetown Tech's Conway campus he began by detailing his past substance abuse. That included abusing alcohol and drugs as a teenager in New York and later while in the military.
"I wasn't ready to get sober, I didn't want to get sober. I was going to placate the system is why I went to treatment on my intervention. So it really does work. You've just got to figure out what the motivators are for the people," he added.
Now sober for more than two decades, Seeley helps others get clean. He said the show helps educate America to what addiction is really like and how they can help someone they know.
"They think that they have to wait until the rock bottom naturally progresses, and you don't have to wait, you can create the rock bottom," said Seeley.
The lecture series on addiction and recovery is in its sixth year at HGTC. Professor Casey King organizes the event. "I put this together for the greater good. It's a way to give something back from what was given to me."
King added addiction crosses all demographics and "no one is immune to it."
Seeley described addiction as a disease and said it needs to be monitored like diabetes or cancer. "It's not a 30 day fix. You're not going to go to treatment and you're not going to get cured from this disease. It's a process, and the longer you're engaged in that process, the better chances for the outcome."
Seeley would like to see those who are addicted follow a plan similar to what airline pilots must adhere to if they are addicted. That includes regular testing, therapy, and attending meetings for several years.
Not everyone agrees with televising the struggles of overcoming addiction. John Coffin, Executive Director of Shoreline Behavioral Health, said, "I think they're kind of a circus and exploit people rather than help them."
Coffin goes on to say there's a lot of shame associated with addiction and people need privacy. He said when their path to recovery is broadcast nationwide, they lose that.
"I don't think being made a spectacle of increases your chances of recovery," Coffin added.
Seeley also weighed in on the criticism Dr. Drew Pinsky has recently faced after the suicide of Mindy McCready. She's one of several people who appeared on the show Celebrity Rehab who have now died.
"Anything you can do to help them with treatment and recovery is positive. Anything. I don't care if it's televised, I don't care what you're doing. As long as you're able to help them dig a little bit deeper, dig into recovery, then it's the best for mankind," Seeley explained.
Two more lectures are planned at HGTC. The next one will be February 28. For more information click here.