Law and Order: Q&A – Emily Feinstein ‘92

John Mauro, Staff Writer

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The Record: How did you get involved with the Center on Addiction?

Emily Feinstein: I was inspired by a woman named Lynn Paltrow who said “Addiction is the only disease where we put people in prison instead of giving them health care.” After I heard her speak, I started working in this field by interning for her organization, National Advocates for Pregnant Women, during law school.

TR: How did Horace Mann prepare you for your career?

EF: Horace Mann prepared me to work hard and follow my passion.  My love of science began with Dr. Howard’s biology class in the 9th grade. I’ve followed that passion my whole life. A summer internship taught me that working in a lab was not for me, so instead I majored in bioethics, which marries science and philosophy, then worked at think tanks, then became a health care lawyer.Now I’m doing work I love.

TR: What are your views on how the US/the government deals with addiction? Have you seen any changes in its approach since you started?

EF: Our country has historically treated addiction as a moral failing, rather than the disease it is, and has punished people for having the disease. We’ve made a lot of progress in the past decade, but there is still much work to do. Our government now talks about addiction as a disease, is investing in treatment and medications to treat it, and law enforcement are increasing looking for ways to offer treatment in lieu of arresting people. However, the majority of people with addiction [80%] still are not getting treatment, and much of the treatment people get is not based on the evidence about what works.

TR: What will you be working on the future?

EF:Right now we are in the midst of an opioid epidemic – including heroin and prescription painkillers. But deaths from cocaine and methamphetamine are on the rise. Our work won’t be done until we have an effective health care system for treating people with all forms of addiction.

TR: What is the most prevalent drug currently being abused in schools? What are some ways to increase awareness or reduce abuse about the substance?

EF: The most frequently used drugs among high school students are alcohol, marijuana and nicotine (via vaping or cigarettes). One thing we’re trying to educate the public about is the link between age of first use and lifetime risk of addiction. During adolescence, the parts of the brain associated with addiction are developing. This makes the brain much more vulnerable to the harmful effects of addictive drugs.

TR: Does a student get in trouble if they ask for help for addiction? What are some ways students can get help at school?

EF: Students who ask for help or are struggling should never get in trouble!  They should be referred to a mental health professional who can help.