Community//

Andrew Drazan: “Things you want never happen as fast as you want them to.”

I am that individual. It’s my story. Having the firsthand experience of losing my mother to alcohol and substance use addiction so young, at the age of nine, was the driving force behind why I wanted to create Wellbridge. What’s interesting though, is that because I had pushed all those thoughts and memories deep down […]

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and though they are reviewed for adherence to our guidelines, they are submitted in their final form to our open platform. Learn more or join us as a community member!

I am that individual. It’s my story. Having the firsthand experience of losing my mother to alcohol and substance use addiction so young, at the age of nine, was the driving force behind why I wanted to create Wellbridge. What’s interesting though, is that because I had pushed all those thoughts and memories deep down from such a young age, it wasn’t until about 10 years ago, after I had a career in service retail and long after I had become a husband and father myself, that I started to think back on my childhood, what it was like, and what had happened to my family. I started wondering and questioning the help my mother had received, the medications she had been prescribed, and if she would still be alive if the situation had been handled differently. These reflections ultimately led me to co-found Wellbridge — to help people in need and their families, towards a more sustained path to recovery.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrew Drazan Co-founder and CEO of Wellbridge Addiction Treatment and Research.

As CEO, Andrew Drazan leverages his business leadership skills and personal family experience with addiction to inspire an innovative and patient-first culture at Wellbridge Addiction Treatment and Research. As co-founder, Andrew was instrumental in bringing Addiction Treatment and Addiction Research together on a single campus so that scientists and clinicians can work together to advance patient care.

The virulent problem of addiction is very personal for Andrew. He saw first-hand the tragic consequences of addiction in his own family as a young boy, and from that experience made a commitment to someday help others battle this devastating disease.

As an experienced business leader, Andrew was CEO of Seasonal Retail Service, LLC, where he was responsible for the growth and success of the 400 employee company.

Andrew is a longtime resident of Long Island. He holds a BBA in Accounting from Hofstra University and has volunteered at the Nassau University Medical Center emergency department.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit of your backstory? Is there a particular story or incident that inspired you to get involved in your work with opioid and drug addiction?

The inspiration for Wellbridge started over 50 years ago — going back to my childhood. I was the middle of three sons and grew up in Rockville Center on Long Island. My parents divorced when I was young and my mother was an alcoholic. From a young age, I lived with the chaos that was created in my own family as a result of living with someone who suffered from alcoholism, depression, mood swings, and other issues. There were nights my brothers and I would actually have to pick our mother up off the floor and put her in her bed. At the age of thirty-five, she passed away from an overdose of pills and alcohol. I was nine years old. My older brother was eleven and my younger brother was six.

Since my parents were divorced, after my mother’s death, we moved into my father’s parents’ home and my grandparents raised me alongside my dad. It was the sixties and having a mother die of an overdose and leave three young children behind was considered a sin. There was never a discussion of any sort of illness. In fact, after her passing, there was almost no communication about her, or our memory of her. I actually took all of my memories that I had as a young child and put them in a box in my closet for years — decades.

Can you explain what brought us to this place? Where did this epidemic come from?

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, pharmaceutical companies’ reassurances to the medical community that patients would not become addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers in the early 1990’s led to the category’s rapid growth. This subsequently led to widespread use and misuse before it became clear that these medications are, indeed, highly addictive. Soon, when legal access became no longer available, illegal substitutes and access points only added to the growing multitudes of people dependent upon opioid use.

Today, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals’ feelings of loneliness or isolation, job losses, and the lack of access to social groups and emotional support have only increased the challenges encountered by people with existing substance-use disorders. In some local New York markets, the number of drug- or alcohol-related overdoses is up 50% over last year at this time.

Can you describe how your work is making an impact battling this epidemic?

The answer to the question is two-fold.

The first part is Wellbridge’s Center for Addiction Science — a 6,000-square foot attached research pavilion that brings evidence-based study and unprecedented interaction between researchers, clinicians, patients, and their families. Our Center for Addiction Research is unique because it works to bridge the gap between science and clinical practice in the addiction field, to assess patients during treatment, measure their progress, and adjust their care according to quantitative and scientific measures. Also, it is the first addiction research center to be co-located on-site with the residential treatment program, as well as partnered with Northwell Health, New York State’s largest healthcare system. It is very exciting to think about — and fathom that we have created this center for the community at-large.

The second part is that Wellbridge helps those who are suffering and in need of our services — both the individuals and their families. The US is suffering from a second pandemic — addiction (either opioid or alcohol) kills more than 165,000 people each year — more than car accidents. We offer a unique extensive family program that allows us to interact with, and help the families who also struggle. Addiction is a family disease because it not only affects the individual, but their loved ones and anyone who surrounds the individual.

That’s really why Wellbridge was created — the long term research that is going to create new interventions for our clinical team and clinicians around the country and world, and to personally touch and provide those who come to Wellbridge with the hope for a fruitful life ahead of their time from past addictions. We want to create an atmosphere that will remove the stigma that exists around addiction and bring addiction the respect that it deserves.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by your initiative?

I am that individual. It’s my story. Having the firsthand experience of losing my mother to alcohol and substance use addiction so young, at the age of nine, was the driving force behind why I wanted to create Wellbridge. What’s interesting though, is that because I had pushed all those thoughts and memories deep down from such a young age, it wasn’t until about 10 years ago, after I had a career in service retail and long after I had become a husband and father myself, that I started to think back on my childhood, what it was like, and what had happened to my family. I started wondering and questioning the help my mother had received, the medications she had been prescribed, and if she would still be alive if the situation had been handled differently. These reflections ultimately led me to co-found Wellbridge — to help people in need and their families, towards a more sustained path to recovery.

Can you share something about your work that makes you most proud? Is there a particular story or incident that you found most uplifting?

Since I first started developing the concept for Wellbridge to the facility opening this past May 18, 2020, it has taken nine years. My journey with Wellbridge began with learning everything I could about addiction — the causes and current treatments, policies, and the barriers that make getting help so difficult. I met with experts, clinicians, and researchers, as well as with academic institutions to learn about the latest addiction treatments. My friends, Jan Burman and Steve Krieger of Engel Burman, the NY-based real estate company, provided the ideal location close to New York City, and I finally began planning the addiction center I knew was so desperately needed.

As I am also a huge proponent of evidence-based treatment, I had a lot of questions about the best clinical approach, which ultimately led to our unique partnership with Northwell Health, New York’s largest healthcare provider, which I am incredibly proud of. Historically, the addiction field has not been evidence- or science-based. Wellbridge is unique as it is working to bridge that gap between science and clinical practice in the addiction field, to assess patients during treatment, measure their progress, adjust their care according to quantitative and scientific measures.

Can you share three things that the community and society can do to help you address the root of this problem? Can you give some examples?

A big focus at Wellbridge is to support the community at-large. Addiction affects the entire family, so we always include the family in many of our therapeutic approaches. And along with an extensive family program to help everyone affected by addiction, we will offer community education programs — targeting schools, companies, and civic organizations in an effort to reduce stigma and educate people about substance abuse, and how it impacts our society.

Education doesn’t stop at consumers and patients. Wellbridge will begin sponsoring continuing medical education programs for any healthcare professional involved in the treatment of patients with addiction.

In addition to supporting the treatment, recovery, and education of patients, our 200-seat auditorium, creative arts therapy center, and music center will be utilized for programming that supports the community at large. The public community programs are currently on hold due to COVID-19, but I am looking forward to that changing in the very near future.

If you had the power to influence legislation, which three laws would you like to see introduced that might help you in your work?

  1. Allocate significantly more funding for education about the risks and prevention of addiction.
  2. Require federal and state governments to more comprehensively survey prescriber databases to identify unusual prescribing patterns that may be contributing to substance use disorders.
  3. Eliminate the pre-authorization process for SUD treatment with managed care plans. An addiction crisis is an emergency situation that requires immediate professional care.

I know that this is not easy work. What keeps you going?

My goal is for Wellbridge to meet the needs of the people and families they serve. This sense of purpose keeps me focused on the mission of Wellbridge and to raise awareness that there is hope and help out there. From the front door when you walk in, Wellbridge is respectful to the patient, and to the family — it’s uplifting. It provides hope and a feeling of care that is unprecedented in the addiction community.

I started Wellbridge so that I can make sure that a 9-year old child — or any child for that matter — doesn’t have to go through the pain that my family and I experienced and endured. Addiction is a disease, just like diabetes or cancer, and needs to be treated with the same scientific rigor.

Do you have hope that one day this leading cause of death can be defeated?

Addiction, like any chronic disease, requires long-term treatment approaches and is rarely cured. But with proper treatment, people can recover and stay sober. Through their research on the science of addiction and treatment, the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Drug Abuse has yielded research-based therapies similar to those we apply at Wellbridge. These new treatments have been shown to help people to control their addiction behaviors and regain control of a healthy lifestyle.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

It was Steve Jobs who said it best: “Management is about persuading people to do things they do not want to do, while leadership is about inspiring people to do things they never thought they could.”

Vision, conviction, open-mindedness, laser-focus on the goal. A leader needs to be able to define a direction, constantly inspire people to believe in the vision, and feel rewarded as a result of taking the journey with him or her.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. “Things you want never happen as fast as you want them to. And things you don’t want to happen, happen at the speed of light.” (Refers to the 9-year journey to open Wellbridge, as shared in a previous response)
  2. “You lead people. You don’t manage people; you manage things.” (Grace Hopper, pioneering computer scientist and Rear Admiral, US Navy.) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Hopper Refers to the importance of having a vision and never letting up, as shared in a previous response; as well as the importance of surrounding yourself with smart, committed, and talented people.)
  3. “People will forget what you say, and they will forget what you do. But they never will forget how you make them feel.” (Maya Angelou, poet). (Refers to how Wellbridge was built around the patient — that every moment, from when they enter until when they are successfully discharged, is all about them and delivering a positive patient experience 24/7, as shared in a previous response.)
  4. “The task of a leader is to get his people from where they are, to where they haven’t been.” (Henry Kissinger, American statesman.) (Two years ago, Wellbridge was 96 acres of forest in the middle of an old Navy airfield. Hundreds of people — investors, architects, contractors, healthcare professionals, and others came together to build the most advanced addiction treatment and research center in the United States, where today, people can receive the latest evidence-based addiction care.)
  5. “Quit petting the mule and load the wagon.” (Simple but effective old saying that helps maintain the momentum of getting things done.)

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The power of awareness cannot be underestimated. I believe that more people need to have more conversations. If I had to start a movement, I would invite senior health and communications executives who have, or had, someone with addiction close to them join me in spreading the word. Together, we can raise awareness of this pandemic that is killing over 130,000 of our children, our loved ones, our friends — and let people know that there are new evidence-based methodologies that treat addiction as the chronic disease that it is.

Even if they just inspire their employees or their creative teams. Together, let’s let everyone know that addiction is a treatable disease from which people can achieve recovery.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”

I believe in the importance of vision and an unwavering focus on achieving it, despite any disbelievers, roadblocks, or rejections. Wellbridge is built, open, and taking in patients nine years after I was told it would take two years at most.

So, long story short: Know where you’re going and don’t stop until you’ve arrived.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Sure, there are many people I’d enjoy talking to, such as people who make their business dreams real, like Richard Branson, or someone who made the inconceivable real, like Tim BernersLee, who invented the World Wide Web in 1989, or people who make life better for each of us every day, like Bill and Melinda Gates.

But for me, I would love to have a private lunch or breakfast, or in fact, many lunches and breakfasts with anyone who has overcome an addiction, anyone who is successfully sustaining a healthy, purpose-filled recovery. I want to hear their stories, how they achieved success, and most importantly, to tell me how I can do it better — how Wellbridge can do it better — and what more needs to be done.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow Wellbridge at the following:

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

Andrew Heller: “Don’t let the bastards get you down”

by Ben Ari
Community//

The Apple Effect

by Kimberly C. Paul
Community//

Motherhood: An accelerator and not a speed breaker!

by Ritu G. Mehrish

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.