Op-Ed: Treating addiction like a disease – medically assisted treatment (En)
The debate over whether addiction and alcohol dependence is hereditary or a choice has widened the gap between those who advocate for the use of medication to treat addiction and those who rely primarily on therapy. Public figures in the media will say it is a disease; just consider the two most recent cases with Toronto mayor Rob Ford and Republican Henry ‘Trey’ Radel who are both suffering through cocaine addictions. The answer may be that it is a combination of both genetic predisposition as well as poor coping skills. Numerous studies have confirmed this mix of factors, and one study in particular found that 50 to 60 percent of addiction is due to genetic factors. This particular study looked at 861 identical twin pairs and 653 fraternal pairs and found that when one identical twin had an addiction, the other twin had a high probability of also being addicted. But with the fraternal twins, there was no real increase in the probability of addiction for the other twin. Additional studies have also looked at the children of addicts who are 8 times more likely to suffer from addiction. The genetic predisposition appears to be undeniable.
But to return to the debate of whether or not addiction is a disease, by definition addiction can be classified as a disease. Just like other major diseases, such as heart disease, it is partly a result of genes and partly a result of poor lifestyle choices. For many, looking at addiction as a disease helps them because it is not necessarily seen as a “weakness” in the person but rather something they cannot fight alone. This acceptance has lead many addicts to seek help, but as a first step, it is helpful to find a program that will treat the addiction like a disease with a combination of treatments that include medication, just like you would take for any other disease.
The term “pharmacotherapy” is a broad term that refers to the treatment of a disease through the use of drugs, and many think this is the solution for many addicts. But what’s the risk and what’s the long-term result? Science Daily reports a recent study where alcohol dependent patients were given a combination treatment aproach with first medication, then additional psychotherapy. The study found that “patients who are willing to attend psychotherapy in addition to pharmacotherapy benefit from a reduced or delayed relapse to heavy drinking.” However, the use of medication in the US when it comes to addiction treatment is low. The prevalence of 12 step programs have helped millions of Americans through addiction and rehab but this approach does not work for everyone. Recently, there have been other options on the rise, such as non 12 step drug rehab programs that include a combination of both medication, or pharmacotherapy, with either rational behavior therapy or cognitive behavior therapy. These programs veer away from the traditional group therapy structure to get to the root of addiction to be able to cure the addiction. This is not to say that 12 step programs like AA do not work, they have helped millions and millions of people, but for those who have not been successful in the program or for those who are not comfortable with group therapy, these other options may be the key to helping them out of their addiction.
Assisted Recovery Centers of America has conducted and presented research on the science and evidence behind non 12 step treatment. As the first treatment program nationwide to adopt the scientific research on naltrexone, a medication used for the management of alcohol and opioid dependence, Assisted Recovery has gathered key data supporting the use of non 12 step treatment programs with the use of pharmocotherapy in combination with therapy. In 2011, The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) launched COMBINE, a program to identify the most effective treatments and treatment combinations for alcohol dependence. This was the largest clinical trial to look at pharmacologic and behavior treatments and in 16 weeks they found that “patients who received medical management plus either naltrexone or specialized counseling” showed an 80.6 percent of abstinent days from drugs or alcohol. Patients who received naltrexone also reported less cravings for alcohol.
The bottom line is that everyone is different and there is no right or wrong way to seek help but knowing your options and approaching addiction as a disease can lead to a faster, more permanent recovery.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com