Who Counsels the Counselors?

I guess the allure of opiods must be incredibly powerful, even for those who have committed to helping others overcome the addiction.

Such is the case of two counselors at a halfway house for recovering addicts in Chester County, a suburb of Philadelphia. The two died this past Sunday of drug overdoses. Police found used needles and heroin baggies near the bodies in the bedrooms. Both people tested positive for heroin and fentanyl, according to preliminary toxicology tests. One counselor was 33, the other was found dead on what would have been his 25th birthday.

“If anybody is wondering how bad the opioid epidemic has become, this case is a frightening example,” Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan said in a statement. “The staff members in charge of supervising recovering addicts succumbed to their own addiction and died of opioid overdoses.”

Sadly, these overdoses aren’t the first reported deaths of drug counselors trying to help others beat their addiction. Just last week, an advocate for safe injection sites for heroin addicts in Philadelphia and the co-founder of a Bucks County (another Philadelphia suburb) drug treatment program both died from overdoses.

I can’t imagine being addicted to something so badly that even when you think you have beaten it, and are helping others to do the same, there is still the possibility of being drawn back in. And I am sure these counselors all knew the dangers associated with opioid use, yet they still opted to take the drug.

One other item I hd trouble relating to is an editor’s note at the end of the story:

An earlier version of this story identified the baggies of heroin found near the bodies by symbols on the bags. At the request of Drug Enforcement Administration officials, who say addicts will actively seek out heroin that’s reportedly killed others, the photos and identifications have been removed.

Addicts will actively seek out heroin that’s reportedly killed others? I’m not sure if this is because of the allure of a potentially incredible high, or a sign that the addict has given up on life.

I am not sure what the answer might be to the opioid epidemic, but I would think that some combination of providing both education and hope to those most susceptible could do wonders.

There also seems to be a need for a strong support system that includes not only former addicts, but also people who have not suffered from a drug addiction. With such a system, counselors would then have someone to turn to in their moment of need, and perhaps we could avoid the deaths noted above.

5 thoughts on “Who Counsels the Counselors?

  1. This is an unfortunate story, and has become a major issue in our area too. In our small area we have suffered 60 overdoses and 20 of them resulted in deaths in the past month. It is true, that addicts will chase the drug that has caused a death. They want that high, and they can’t control it. The disease of addiction causes people to do things they can’t control.
    As for counselors working with any population should be seeking regular supervision for support and guidance. However, most agency’s do not support that. Most counselors are working with limited resources, high caseloads, and low pay. Self Care is a major component for professionals providing counseling or as a professional caregiver.


    1. Twenty deaths in a month in a small town! So sad, and highlights the epidemic nature of this problem. Thank you for the work that you do, and please be sure to take good care of yourself. As another commenter notes, meditation could be beneficial.


  2. This is a little know but rather significant challenge. A couple years back I was teaching Mindfulness and Meditation and Healing Techniques to the PTSD counselors of a large US Army base. Healers tend to take on way too much responsibility when faced with such an enormous task. They need to be loved and cherished too. Thank you for publishing this.


    1. Meditation seems like it could provide many benefits, both for the addicted, and for those trying to help the addicted. It must be tough working with people who are suffering on one way or the other. Thank you for your comment.


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