Percy, Judy and Suneal Menzies photo by Sarah Crowder

One in 10 people are likely to develop addiction to drugs and alcohol and need to seek treatment, according to local experts. But many of those who seek help may not know which way to turn in order to overcome their dependency.

St. Louis-based Assisted Recovery Centers of America (ARCA) is a family-run mental health organization that specializes in treatment programs for helping patients conquer that problem. Through a unique approach that combines non-addictive medication with psychiatric and behavioral therapies, the program is changing lives at home, says ARCA’s Suneal Menzies. “Patients and families have to get well together in their natural environment where they work and live, so they can learn to deal with the stressors and struggles that lead to addiction.”

Locally and nationally, alcoholism is a major issue among professionals, while heroin addiction is a growing epidemic for young adults. ARCA specializes in the treatment of both addictions. In fact, most of the centers' outpatient population is made up of professionals. “Many professionals don’t seek treatment because of confidentiality issues. We can provide anonymous outpatient treatment for them on evenings and weekends, so there is minimal disruption to their work and family life,” Menzies explains. And for those seeking inpatient treatment, ARCA recently opened a 25-bed residential center.

Thirteen years ago, the Menzies family started ARCA, which now has four St. Louis-area clinics to help other families battling addiction. Percy, who worked for the company that developed the most effective medications to treat opiod and alcohol addiction, leads the center as president, while his wife, Judy, works as a nurse, and son, Suneal, serves as program director. “Addiction affects the whole family, so the entire family has to be involved in the recovery process,” Percy says. When people contact ARCA, the patient, as well as their family, are provided with an orientation about the science behind the disease: what addiction is, how it affects the brain and why relapses occur, he continues. Then treatment is offered on an immediate basis. “And families are closely involved with the recovery of the patients.”

ARCA’s treatment—psychiatry and counseling, along with medication—is the key to recovery, Percy says. “Addiction is a medical disease like diabetes or hypertension,” he explains. “Yet less than 10 percent of addiction patients are ever offered anti-craving medications as part of treatment.” The centers’ goal is to change the addiction treatment community’s bias against using medicine as part of the recovery process. In the program’s second component—counseling—ARCA staff strives to understand each individual’s story to uncover what led them to drug use. “Patients say: we’re treated like people here,” Suneal notes.

And the Menzies family want people to know there is treatment and hope for overcoming addiction. Suneal adds, “People really can go on to live a healthy, normal life.”

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