In this episode, I talk to Dr. Noel Vest about his journey through addiction, incarceration, and, ultimately, recovery. Dr. Vest discusses the early influences on his drug use, his first experiences with drugs and alcohol, and how his addiction landed him in prison. He goes on to describe his path to recovery through education in prison and beyond and explains how finding one’s passion and committing oneself to a cause can lead to a lifetime of fulfillment.
Dr. Noel Vest is an Instructor in the Department of Psychiatry at the Stanford School of Medicine and an advocate for social justice issues and public policy concerning prison reentry. His research focuses on the intersection of mental health, and substance use disorders. He is also involved in several initiatives, like Unlock Higher Education, that promote opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals.
One in fourteen Americans struggles with substance misuse, and over 100,000 people have died in in the past year from drug overdose. Addiction cuts across income, education, age, race, and class lines. Though science has described addiction as a complex brain disease influenced by genetic and environmental factors, it is still widely viewed as a moral failing among society at large, the media, our justice system, and even healthcare providers. Unfortunately, the stigma associated with addiction not only discourages people from getting help, but also further entrenches their substance use. In an effort to educate myself and others, I interview experts from the field of addiction medicine as well as people in recovery to hear about their unique experiences with use disorders.
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Mountain View, California