Anti-drug peer counseling program ready for launch

An anti-drug abuse program built around the strategy of addicts helping addicts to kick their habit is preparing to train its first volunteers Saturday and Sunday in Winchester.

The program launched by the Northern Virginia Substance Abuse Coalition relies on peer counselors to give addicts counseling at critical moments during the recovery process.

Winchester Police Chief Kevin Sanzenbacher said the coalition had recruited at least 25 people as of last week to serve as peer counselors, enough to fill most or all of the training slots available for two eight-hour sessions.

Sanzenbacher said recruitment focused on attracting recovering addicts.

“We are hoping to get people who are in recovery and who are willing to act in support of people who are just coming out of jail and coming into recovery,” Sanzenbacher said.

Having a supportive person an addict can contact when cravings for drugs or alcohol kick in can make the difference between a successful recovery or a relapse, Sanzenbacher said.

The cravings are typically most acute for only a period of about eight minutes. That, Sanzebacher said, is when the peer counseling can be most valuable in helping an addict control his cravings.

The trainees will learn techniques and resources that help addicts stay on track with their recovery program. The peer counseling training is supported by the McShin Foundation, a Virginia-based non-profit organization focused on drug and alcohol rehabilitation, detoxification and treatment initiatives.

Sanzenbacher said the substance abuse coalition hopes to make peer counseling a long term, integral part of its overall strategy for curbing drug abuse in the area.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or

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