Thursday, June 21, 2018

ADDICTION EXPLAINED

Addiction, unfortunately, is sweeping the continent and destroying families, careers and lives at a record pace. It's hard to imagine any individual, or family, who isn't affected by Addiction in some form or another.

If you have a loved one, employee or friend who's battling Addiction and their actions baffle you, keep reading.

If you yourself are in the grips of Addiction and want to find a way out, then definitely keep reading.

The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation's Carrie Kappel (Associate Director, Health Care Professionals Program) gave an hour-long presentation via webinar on Wednesday entitled Addiction: Part Art, Part Science.

I was invited to participate in the event as a partner of the Betty Ford Center. The Foundation regularly sends me their research studies for use in my own presentations (teenage marijuana usage, prevalence of substance abuse among military vets, intervention techniques, etc.).

Ms. Kappel's address was clear, concise, and explained the Disease of Addiction in easy-to-understand terms. As someone who's successfully battled Addiction and is now striving to help others find the road to Recovery, I found the talk very worthwhile.

Here are some key points from the session:

- Addiction is a brain disease.

- Addiction is treatable.

- Up to 70% of Addictions patients at Betty Ford Centers have other Mental Illnesses besides Addiction but those abate over time and the patients learn coping skills in treatment to manage them.

- Addiction is not a moral or ethical problem although the behaviours of the alcoholics/addicts raise questions about morality. "Why are they drinking again?", "Why are they using again?"

- Addiction is not a personality disorder and it is not a choice. The only choice is the initial choice to drink or use. After a period of time, the body begins to drive the choices they make. The brain gets "highjacked" by the body's physical needs.

- Addiction is not the same as casual use. It's a compulsion to use the alcohol even if the brain doesn't want to. We often hear "I don't remember why I made the decision to drink".

- Intoxification is a reward circuitry disease in the central regions of the brain. It causes surges of dopamine. Dopamine is our "feel good" transmitter which drives the bus. All drugs of abuse enhance the release of dopamine.

- People know their actions are wrong but they are driven by their bodies to get the drug or alchohol. That's why they steal, continually drink and drive, or leave their children alone. It is out of their control.

- The decisions made by people with the Disease of Addiction don't make sense to other people. Once they get into treatment, they begin to see their problem from other peoples' perspective and how their disease has affected them.

- In treatment they learn coping skills and tools to continually battle the disease for years to come.

- Benzos intoxification is very similar to alchohol. Benzos are benzodiazepine medications. These drugs are referred to as benzos and are widely prescribed for a variety of medical and mental health concerns. Xanax was the mostly widely prescribed psychiatric medication from 2005 to 2013. Benzos have hypnotic, muscle-relaxant, or anticonvulsant properties. They can provide anxiety relief.

- Opioids are drugs that act on the nervous system to relieve pain. Continued use and abuse can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms. They come in tablets, capsules or liquid.

- Opioids contributed to 40,000 deaths in the USA in 2016. That led to changes in how opioids are prescribed.

- Methodone is a full opioid agonist meaning it binds to the dopamine receptors. It can reduce cravings and improve treatment retention. It can decrease criminal activity because addicts aren't stealing to fund their addiction to opiods. Methodone is taken on a long-term basis.

- Opioid withdrawal can feel terrible to the patient but rarely has serious consequences, and is rarely lethal. It can feel like having the flu times 10, but the withdrawal symptoms aren't permanent.

*Hopefully this blog post helps people understand the Disease of Addiction a little more fully!

RP
Twitter: @pedersenrecover
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