Who I Am, What I Believe In,
and Other Possibly Relevant Information

Who are you? What is your connection to the drug/alcohol issue?
    My name is Brian Waterman. I have been involved in drug and alcohol prevention for several years, writing articles, speaking, and advising, and am certified as a Chemical Dependency Professional (CDP) in Washington State.

What is your educational background?
    I hold a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Master of Science in Addiction Psychology.

Are you personally in recovery?
    Does it matter?

Well, yes. I think so.
    To be honest, the more I am around this field, the more I realize it doesn't matter any more than it does for an oncologist to have personally survived cancer. I have dealt with several effective counselors who are in recovery and several who aren't. In fact, many counselors who are in recovery have a tendency to let their personal experience blur objective facts, and also damage the counseling relationship through excessive self-disclosure.

What do you mean, excessive self-disclosure?
    Self-disclosure, used correctly, can be very helpful in rapport building with a client, both in the addictions field and in any other counseling field. Some counselors use it religiously, while others don't use it at all. The important things to consider are (1) to consider what the purpose of the disclosure is, (2) to not disclose information that could come back to haunt you, (3) to not disclose issues you have not resolved [in other words, don't be a client yourself], and (4) do not rely on self-disclosure as your primary, or even secondary counseling method.
    One of my colleagues gave me a great rule of thumb that I find very useful: Limit self-disclosure to one sentence. That keeps you from dumping an overwhelming amount of personal crap on the client and also ensures that you must actually have some other skills in place to do effective counseling.

How do you feel about drug legalization?
    I oppose it strongly. I believe that the war on drugs, while it may be generally ineffective and certainly expensive, serves a great purpose in keeping law-abiding citizens off drugs and making it difficult for many curious people to obtain drugs. Yes, those who want them bad enough will get them, but at this time, that is a fairly small segment of the population.
    An argument is often made that taxes raised through the legal sale of drugs can go to healthcare, prevention, and treatment. All we need to do to see the fallacy of such an argument is to look at the costs of alcohol and tobacco addiction in our country. The tax money brought in from those sales doesn't even make a dent in the costs that alcohol and tobacco hold in our society.
    Anyway, I will go into greater detail in some of my articles.

So you support the status quo where our drug laws are concerned, or perhaps even a "get tougher" stance?
    Actually, no. I am, and always have been, a firm believer in drug treatment as the way to handle drug crime. Since drugs and alcohol are involved in most crimes, all incoming prisoners should receive a drug/alcohol evaluation and be mandated to treatment if indicated as part of their sentence. In other words, if we sentence an armed robber to seven years in prison and he or she committed the crime to support a drug habit, we could mandate a 6-month in-prison intensive drug treatment and 6-1/2 years of in-prison aftercare including mandatory support group attendance (AA and NA often bring meetings into prisons). Research has repeatedly shown that recidivism is far lower when a prisoner is exposed to drug and alcohol treatment in prison.

What about medical marijuana use?
    At this point, I am not convinced. Several of the laws passed have had gigantic loopholes in them (such as failing to define which diseases marijuana can be used for), and many of the conditions have other medications that can be safe and effective in treatment.
    Medical marijuana advocates often specifically mention AIDS and cancer as diseases that marijuana can aid in managing. But in fact, marijuana can be so damaging to an immune system that it clearly does a great deal of harm. In terminal cases, what is the advantage over an opiate?
    The only illness I would even consider marijuana for at this point is glaucoma. Marijuana is extremely effective in reducing internal eye pressure. In those cases, it doesn't need to be smoked, necessarily, and there are other medications that are also effective and are safer anyway.
    One specific issue with medical marijuana that concerns me greatly is that though we require all medications to go through a rigorous testing program to prove safety and effectiveness to gain approval from the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), we allow marijuana to become a medication through political reform. It is my belief that, even if marijuana was not a political issue, smoked marijuana would fail to pass approval. Maijuana is currently available through prescription as Marinol--however, its effectiveness has been mixed at best.

There does not seem to be much basic information on alcohol or drugs--information like what the symptoms of use, overdose, and withdrawal are. Why not?
    That information is available anywhere--on numerous websites or in any good encyclopedia. I initially planned on including it here, but I found that I was simply reinventing the wheel, spending a great deal of time and energy on information that is, to many, general knowledge.

I just read one of your commentaries and greatly disagree with you. I would like to have you consider my point of view. Are you interested?
    Absolutely. Please feel free to email me with your ideas and opinions. My ideas are not necessarily set in stone, and even where they are, I would like the opportunity to present your ideas as opposing viewpoints where appropriate.

I've been hearing a great deal of criticism about the DARE program lately. What is your opinion of it?
    I have been personally involved with DARE, having been a speaker/panelist back in the late 1980's. I firmly believe that if we present a clear, strong message of prevention, we cannot go wrong.
    What I feel needs to be changed is that the information needs to be presented earlier, more often, more consistently, and by people more closely involved with the students. In other words, by the fifth or sixth grade, when DARE is generally presented, our children have already been exposed to drug and alcohol use or messages, either personally, in their families and friends, or in the media, and their opinions may already be formed. Also, the children may be suspicious or wary of the police officers brought into the classroom to teach DARE. And finally, there is often resentment on the part of the teacher who is unable to present his or her own information because of the established DARE curriculum.
    From the early grades. teachers should be giving age-appropriate drug prevention information and drug-refusal skill-building as part of the standard curriculum. DARE officers should be involved at various parts of the game to present police in a positive light, but they should not be the primary, and certainly not the only, sources of information.

I need to get hold of good information about alcohol and drugs and don't have a great deal of money to spend. The library has a great deal of outdated material. What do I do?
    Contact your state's alcohol and drug information clearinghouse or the National Alcohol and Drug Information Clearinghouse at store.samhsa,gov. There is a great deal of information, all up to date, available at little or no cost.

How do you feel about [insert issue here]?
    Hopefully, if the issue is alcohol or drug related, I have written an article addressing it. If not, please email me and I may address it in a future commentary.

I have a question you haven't addressed.
    What is it? Please email me.

I would like to help you redesign your website/I don't like the way your website looks/Your web design skills need work.
    My interest is in drug abuse prevention, not web design, and this is a hobby for me. Please feel free to notify me of any broken links so they may be fixed, but I am not interested in redesigns, website services, or criticisms unrelated to the issue of drug abuse. If you would like to discuss drug abuse, violence prevention, and so on, please email me. If you would like to sell me something, criticize my web design skills, or spam me, please don't. It will be ignored and may be reported, as Washington state does have an anti-spam law.


All original information is Copyrighted by Brian Waterman. Permission is granted to use the information herein so long as the source is cited clearly (Brian Waterman,, or any similar citation mentioning name and website). If you wish to request to reprint any articles in printed material for sale, including books, anthologies, etc., please email me.