Addicts are not the only ones who suffer from the consequences of their habits.
Their family and friends experience the heartache of watching someone they love harm their bodies and their lives.
In an effort to support those family members, the Altoona Area Christian Coalition will sponsor "Voice of the Voiceless: Understanding and caring for a loved one who is addicted."
The event will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Second Avenue United Methodist Church and will feature a discussion with a panel from Blair Drug and Alcohol Partnerships, a Christian counselor and a person who has dealt with addiction in her family.
In addition to the panelist, the coalition has invited organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon and Hope Not Dope to the session. Literature will be available, and the coalition plans to provide information sheets with a list of agencies, organizations and counselors and their contact numbers.
"We have a real need in the community to help people who have loves ones who are addicted," said the Rev. Robert Boyar, moderator for the panel discussion and pastor of Ward Avenue Presbyterian Church.
Patty Karn, drug and alcohol prevention supervisor for Blair Drug and Alcohol Partnerships, said the program will help people, who have a family member or friend who is suffering from substance abuse, to become educated as to what services and help are available.
She said they will learn what happens to the body of a person who is addicted and how to help that person in a way that is healthy.
Karn said although substance abuse has been a problem in the area for a long time, people don't really focus on it until it affects them personally.
In addition to providing education to those who have a loved one with an addiction issue, she said the program will provide information that is important to the general public.
Karn said one of the panelists will speak about what addiction does to the body and what a reaction is like.
A panelist will speak about the risk factors that lead teens to use substances and preventative factors that may keep them from going down that road. She said parents and grandparents might find that information useful.
Boyar said the churches want to help the community while learning how to address families' needs themselves.
In the past, Christians and churches have hurt the people they are trying to help despite their best intentions, he said. He gave the example of people being advised to continue in abusive relationships, which only contributed to more difficulties.
"Like everyone else, we have no pat answers to these problems," he said. "That's why we will have a panel, to get a berth of experts to speak on the issue."
Boyar said each panelist will be given 10 minutes to speak and will field questions from the audience.
Participants will also be able to get acquainted with the panelists and other families before and after the program. Refreshments will be served from 6:30 to 7 p.m. as well as when the program ends, providing an opportunity to ask questions one-on-one.
The coalition's intention is to bring out an awareness of the problems and the panel discussion is only the initial activity.
"We want to devote a year to this issue of helping people and to understand and care for those who are addicted," he said.
He said the next step will depend on the response.
"Everybody in this community knows someone who is affected by alcohol or drugs or some kind of addiction," Boyar said.