FRANKLIN LAKES, N.J. — Margaret Schneider of Franklin Lakes, a licensed clinical social worker and alcohol and drug counselor, is inviting people with addiction problems into her private practice.
Recently, she even offered a free phone consult to teens and adults who message her on Facebook.
The offer represents the tip of the iceberg of an emerging trend: as state funding for mental health services declines, patients need to find help in the private sector.
Though funding is going down, need isn’t following suit.
Last year, there were 288 overdoses, including 87 deaths in Bergen County, according to the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office.
As of Sept. 30 this year, there were 235 overdoses and 64 deaths.
Though most of the overdoses and fatalities were related to opioids, some were not.
That’s a fact not lost on Schneider, whose practice is in Ridgewood. She likes to draw attention to drugs that she says are wrongly thought of as innocuous.
“Not everybody is an inner-city, needle-using junkie,” Schneider explained. “There are people who are drinking too much and kids who have gotten DUIs for stupid reasons and can come here to learn for the future.”
Schneider frequently finds that adults tend to minimize the damage wrought by alcohol because it is legal.
But the truth, she said, is that alcohol is a dangerous drug that affects the whole body, from balance to vision. Drinking literally bathes the body in alcohol.
“People think of drinking as a little bit going in but it spreads everywhere into your organs,” she added.
Similarly, young people in middle and high school tend to minimize the effects of marijuana use because they believe it’s going to be legal.
“Teens say they drive so much better on weed — so slow,” she said. “They’re not driving better. Their reflexes are off. You have to be crystal clear when you’re driving a car.”
Both teens and adults, she said, fall prey to another deadly but prevalent trend: the normalization of taking pills, which can be a gateway into addiction.
At the end of the day, Schneider said, addiction of any kind is still a symptom of some underlying disturbance, usually depression, social anxiety, low self-esteem, lack of confidence, or unresolved trauma. In therapy, those roots of addiction can be addressed.
She likens addiction to an onion.
“You have to peel away at it,” she said.
Schneider works with families as well as individuals, dealing with such issues as boundaries, consequences, respectful conversation, and modeling behavior. She can be contacted at MJBSchneider@gmail.com.