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The Catalyst

Cyclist, CDAP join forces to lessen addiction stigma

By Dawn Brazell
Public Relations

Steve Pulley, shown above in San Diego at the start of his journey and at MUSC as he arrived home, chose to attend MUSC as a physical therapy student in part because of the institution’s strong reputation for addiction research. photos provided

It’s not every day that Sylvia Rivers gets the tables turned on her. What she found is she likes it.

The community outreach and education coordinator of MUSC’s Center for Drug and Alcohol Programs said she was surprised to get a call to be involved in a cross–country cycling campaign to raise awareness about addiction recovery.

The Willingway Foundation sponsored Steve Pulley’s Ride 4 Recovery, but Pulley wanted to include MUSC in celebrating the final stretch to Charleston, given the strong addiction research initiatives there. Pulley, 26, just started graduate school at the College of Health Professions to become a physical therapist.

“CDAP participated because we were thrilled to be invited to celebrate this incredible event,” she said. “Not many people are willing to ride 3,133 miles to raise funds and awareness for alcohol and drug addiction research, treatment, education and prevention.  For five years I have been the outreach coordinator for CDAP, and this is the first time someone has approached me to work with them on raising awareness, reducing stigma and encouraging philanthropic support of this seriously underfunded disease.”

Rivers said the Pulley family kindly extended an invitation to CDAP faculty and staff as well as to members of CDAP Philanthropic Advisory Board to be part of Pulley’s final four miles to see him dip his tires into the Atlantic Ocean, and then to celebrate at a luncheon afterwards. A silent auction and donations made at the luncheon helped to raise about $3,000. Pulley raised more than $15,000 for The Willingway Foundation through his journey.

Rivers said they appreciate Pulley’s willingness to speak out to local families struggling with addiction issues.  Alcohol and drug dependence affects all levels of society, genders and races and exists in 40 percent of American families.

“Yet, the public is very much unaware of the risks involved in abusing alcohol and drugs, how the disease of addiction develops, and misunderstands that addiction is not simply a lack of self-control but a disease of the brain that predominantly begins during the adolescent years.”  

One of CDAP’s goals is to do community outreach to change the culture so that addiction is seen as a disease, she said.

“What Steve is doing is so tremendous. He was extremely brave to push the stigma associated with the disease of addiction aside. He is helping families by giving them hope and a better understanding of dealing with this disease, he is building enthusiasm in recovery communities all across the nation, and he is actually helping future generations who may be spared from the devastating effects of addiction by generating greater public awareness and additional financial support for treatment and research.”

Often when people seek treatment for alcohol or other drug problems, they are demoralized and feel guilty and trapped by their addiction, she said.

“Steve and many others like him show that these are treatable conditions that can be overcome with commitment and professional help. That is why people like him find it important to give back to others so they can succeed as well.”

Raymond Anton, M.D., CDAP director and professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, said Pulley puts a personal face to the cause.

“The faculty here at CDAP are all very committed to bringing the latest advances to the treatment of alcohol use disorders and other drug addictions. In CDAP, addictions are considered an illness just like any other medical illness with specific brain mechanisms and chemistry involved in the addiction process,” he said.

The center provides treatments whereby individuals can stay in their homes, at work or in school while getting the help they need, he said. “CDAP also is also committed to educating not only the MUSC community but the entire Lowcountry about the disease of addiction and the changes that take place in the brain in those who become addicted to alcohol and other substances.”

CDAP faculty work across all medical disciplines to help educators better understand the negative health consequences of heavy drinking, the many diseases alcohol abuse causes and the importance of recognizing when someone needs help, he said.

To further all these efforts, MUSC has established the first CDAP Philanthropic Advisory Board. Rivers said the mission of the board is to reduce the stigma associated with alcohol and drug use disorders, to advance MUSC’s outreach efforts, to make CDAP their philanthropic priority and to identify potential donors. The board is expanding its membership and CDAP administrators are seeking others who feel passionate about combating alcohol and drug use disorders through research, clinical care, education and outreach.

Anyone interested in supporting CDAP programs or serving on the Philanthropic Advisory Board may contact Rivers at or Anton at or by calling 792-9531.

Visit the MUSC News Center to see a multimedia package about Pulley’s journey at:

June 27, 2014



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