Meet The Man Working to End The Opioid Epidemic


Experience and compassion drive CNN Hero, Crisis Coach and Family Navigator Scott Silverman to help others

When you meet crisis coach Scott H. Silverman, it’s easy to believe superheroes walk among us.

Every day, his first and last thoughts are focused on how he can help others overcome drug and alcohol addiction, a struggle that took him to the brink of suicide as a young man. Since entering recovery more than three decades ago, he has used his innate compassion and unique perspective to engage and support people in need.

“The three hardest words in the English language are, ‘I need help,’” says Silverman. “When someone is ready to articulate that, then we’re halfway there.”

Based in San Diego, Silverman has been a vocal advocate for ensuring that people across the United States who are ready to change have the tools they need to do so. He has been named a CNN Hero for his work spotlighting the opioid epidemic and helping individuals escape the downward spiral of addiction.


He is the CEO of Confidential Recovery, an intensive outpatient substance abuse recovery program in San Diego, and works every day as a crisis coach, family navigator and behavioral health expert to help people take that next step to recovery.

Today in the U.S., the Covid-19 crisis has made that recovery even more difficult for people while elevating the number of individuals falling into addiction. The pandemic isolated vulnerable people from work, school and from the support systems they knew.

“People who lost jobs, homes and loved ones over the last year have been self-medicating to anesthetize themselves,” he says. “People are accessing more drugs because they have more time on their hands and are having more psychological difficulties.”

In fact, in 2020, alcohol consumption rose 70 percent as did the consumption of nearly every other mood-altering substance including opioids.

“The morbidity rate is the highest it’s ever been in the opioid crisis and all indicators show that it’s going to get worse,” Silverman says. “Each day, 240 people are dying from opioid overdoses – not meth, not other prescriptions, just opioids and no one is talking about it!”

With the publication of his new book, The Opioid Epidemic: What You Don’t Know Will Destroy Your Family and Your Life, Silverman seeks to refocus attention on opioids and what they are doing to communities throughout the nation.

For Silverman, the book is a way to reach more people and put the tools they need in their hands to survive. That includes guidance on how to reach out and get the help they need. “Once you remove that anesthesia (of self-medication), you have to work on the other things that have helped cause it – depression, anxiety and more,” he says.

Silverman also includes stories from recovering addicts and their families to remind readers the value of loved ones in helping addicts find the right path forward. That starts with parents working to halt drug use before it starts and giving children the information they need to make smart decisions.

“You need to intervene in their thinking and try to inform them,” he says. “Try to engage and get them to understand. Talking to your children is important but listening is even more important.”

As a family navigator, Silverman works with parents, spouses, siblings and children to help remove stigma and underscore that addiction is nobody’s fault and that there are solutions, starting with treatment programs and support throughout recovery.

“Treatment is different from recovery,” Silverman says, equating it to recovery from a chronic disease. “If you’re diagnosed with diabetes, you go to the hospital and learn how to change your lifestyle, how to take your insulin – that’s treatment. Once you understand that you have the disease and you have the tools, you’ve got a way to live your life in a healthy way. That’s recovery.”

Recovery is the key to long-term – and lifelong – success. “People need to understand this is a lifetime commitment,” Silverman says. “If all you do is 28 days of treatment and nothing else, you have a 95 percent chance of failure. People will get the tools that they need but they need ongoing support to be successful.”

Silverman hopes that the new book will prove valuable for everyone affected by addiction. “I believe this book will save lives,” says Silverman. “I want people to know that this isn’t their fault, and I want them to know that there are resources out there that can help them.”

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