Treating Substance Abuse and Addiction as Chronic Health Conditions


Addressing racism is a marathon, not a sprint. Healthcare leaders must be willing to take the first step to initiate heavy conversations that drive progress.

Nzinga A. Harrison, MD, DFAPA and Elizabeth Southerlan

1 min read

Weathering. This word means a process of wearing something down, or of being worn down because of long-term exposure to the atmosphere around you. But it also has another (medical) meaning: The various ways that marginalized people and their communities manage stressors — both big, life-defining stressors and small day-to-day events and situations.

Says Dr. Nzinga Harrison, Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of Eleanor Health, there is a direct correlation between someone experiencing weathering (a "fight or flight" physiological reaction) to them possibly developing health problems like high blood pressure, obesity, cardiovascular illness, depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, and more down the road.

To learn more about weathering, health equity, and more, Elizabeth Southerlan, Principal in Oliver Wyman's Health and Life Sciences Practice, sat down with Dr. Harrison on the Oliver Wyman Health Podcast to talk about the psychological burden of racism as an independent risk factor for health.

Listen to the Podcast:

Memorable Moments From This Episode:

  • "Being black in and of itself is an independent risk factor — separate from socioeconomic, stigma, space, marginalization, and the community-based availability of treatment providers."
  • "Black people who present to an emergency room for an opioid overdose are up to 35 times less likely to be prescribed a medication for opioid use disorder." 
  • "Overdose highs are at the all-time highest because stigma prevents people from accessing care. Because when people do access care, the chance that they find an evidence-based program that's being held accountable to outcomes is low."
  • "As many as 80 percent of people with substance use disorders have another co-occurring mental health condition."
  • "Every little small initiative matters. Every little small piece of data you look at makes a difference. ... We are all currently part of the problem. The way we become part of the solution is by being willing to have the conversation and take the first bite." 
  • Nzinga A. Harrison, MD, DFAPA and
  • Elizabeth Southerlan