From the "big house" to the White House — once a homeless teenager, Christopher Poulos has completely changed his life. He's now working to change national drug policy.
Growing up in Portland, Maine, Poulos became addicted to drugs and started dealing. He spent two years in a federal prison.
Now that he has been sober for nine years, Poulos is playing a major role in drug control policy.
"It is possible to overcome this addiction, even to opioids," said Poulos. "We need funding, resources, treatment, and we need people who have recovered to be brought into the decision making process."
He recently completed an internship at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and even advised Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine.
"The first question I asked him was, 'Does treatment work?'" said King.
King said meeting with Poulos convinced him he was doing the right thing in asking for more federal funding for drug treatment.
Poulos has worked on other National Drug Control Policy projects, including efforts to change the language around addiction.
He wants people to stop using the word "abuse" when it comes to drugs.
"You wouldn't call someone with a heart disease an 'abuser.' They're a patient," he explained.
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Poulos, who is set to graduate from the University of Maine Law School this spring, said he would like to continue working on drug policy in his career.
He hopes to see more financial resources dedicated to detox, drug treatment centers, recovery "coaches" and law enforcement programs like the ANGEL program in Gloucester, Massachusetts,where police pair struggling addicts with volunteers to help guide their recovery.
One of Poulous' biggest goals is to see more people in recovery join the conversation.
"We've actually been through it directly, and now we are on the other side," said Poulos. "We can not only tell but show people how it's done."
He wants the media to portray more positive images of people undergoing recovery in order to show there are more people like him, and that there is life after drug addiction.
"Not everyone returning from prison is going to go to law school and work at the White House — but we can," said Poulos. "We can."