Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Disease of Addiction

When people hear the words “drug addict” they often attach negative connotations and stigma to them.  People visualize a person who doesn’t care about work, life, or anything other than getting high.  But, this is not the case.  As research continues in the area of addiction, it is becoming more commonly understood that it is a disease and needs to be treated as one.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Center for Substance Abuse Treatment defines addiction as a chronic, metabolic disease of the brain and nervous system.  They report that as addiction progresses, changes in the brain and neurotransmitter function can be seen and recorded.  Addiction can cause permanent changes in brain structure and chemistry.  It’s a brain disorder with the characteristics of a medical illness.  The positive news is that when addiction is treated as a chronic illness, the compliance and relapse rates of substance dependence are as good as or better than other chronic illnesses.

The disease of addiction can affect anyone.  With the recent death of Whitney Houston, it shows that addiction is far reaching and doesn’t discriminate.  According to autopsy results, Houston was not only a chronic cocaine user, but toxicology results found marijuana, Xanax, the muscle relaxant Flexeril and Benadryl in her body as well.  

Addiction recovery is a lifelong process that requires ongoing, continual care similar to any chronic, medical diseases.  As with Houston’s battle, there may be many ups and downs.  The important point is that there is hope and recovery is possible.  By dedicating oneself to treatment, participating in counseling and twelve step programs, and having the willingness to be fully engaged in a treatment program – success and sobriety are reachable goals.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Brains May Be Wired for Addiction

On February 2, 21012, a BBC Report explained how abnormalities in the brain may make some people more likely to become drug addicts.  The study, conducted by the University of Cambridge, England and funded by the Medical Research Council, attempted to determine if some people’s brains are hard-wired for addiction.

The study tried to answer that question by comparing the brains of 50 cocaine or crack addicts with the brain of their brother or sister, who had always been clean.  Both the addicts and the non-addict siblings had the same abnormalities in the region of the brain which controls behavior, the fronto-striatal systems.  They found the same differences in the brains of addicts and their non-addicted brothers and sisters. 

The study, published in the journal Science, suggested addiction is in part a "disorder of the brain".  Other experts said the non-addicted siblings offered hope of new ways of teaching addicts self-control.  It has long been established that the brains of drug addicts have some differences to other people, but explaining that finding has been more difficult.  Experts were unsure whether drugs changed the wiring of the brain or if drug addicts' brains were wired differently in the first place. 
With the recent death of Whitney Houston, the dangers of prescription drug abuse - and the potential deadly effects when mixed with alcohol - are in the spotlight.  Click on the link below for more information: