In a perfect world, science would provide a remedy to cure addiction outright. With millions of people suffering from a substance use disorder (SUD), and an exponentially greater number of people affected by their loved one’s condition, a cure-all would save society much heartache. Perhaps one day scientists will be able to find the missing pieces to the insidious puzzle of addiction.

If you work in the field of addiction medicine, or are yourself a recovering addict and/or alcoholic, then you know that ideas of a cure are tantamount to science fiction. Today, there are essentially two options for people with a substance use disorder. Either seek help and become committed to working a program of recovery one day at a time for the rest of one’s days, or continue down the path that ultimately ends in either jails, institutions or death.

Having read that, you may be thinking that it can’t be that cut and dry, that there must be multiple ways to beat addiction. While it is true that there is no one way to work a program within the 12-Step model or SMART Recovery, there is little evidence of alternative methods being effective (models that claim addiction is a curable disease, rather than one that can only be maintained). Everyone has the right to attempt to recover as they see fit, but those who have managed to acquire significant clean or sober time typically have followed the direction of others who had success in the aforementioned programs, 12-steps, et al.

People with the goal of abstaining from all mind-altering substances, statistically, have the best success when they check into an addiction treatment center(s) for an extended period of time. After completion, a foundation is set in place to build upon with a continued program of spiritual maintenance. It is a course that most experts will agree to be the most fruitful. Unfortunately, of the over 20 million Americans living with an active substance use disorder, only a small percentage of people in need of recovery receive treatment.

“Twenty-two million people need treatment and a large percentage of people aren’t getting treatment,” Dr. Nitin S. Damle, president of the American College of Physicians, told ABC News.


Confronting an Epidemic

At no other time in American history have we faced such a great crisis by way of substance use, as the time we find ourselves in today. For nearly two decades an opioid addiction scourge of epidemic proportions has cast a dark cloud over the nation. With over 2 million (a low estimate) people living with an opioid use disorder and roughly 100 people dying from overdoses every day, the time for action is long overdue. To be clear, we do not want to discount the efforts of lawmakers (i.e. Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, or CARA, and the 21st Century Cures Act) and medical organizations (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) opioid prescribing guidelines). Time will tell the effectiveness of such measures, but they are steps in the right direction.

The etiology of addiction is multifaceted, but recovering from the disease is relatively straightforward and it should all start with a recovery center. Expanding access to treatment is the answer, providing it has proven difficult to achieve. The American College of Physicians (ACP) published a position paper recently, a call to action of sorts. The paper offers solutions, suggests things that would likely help with the epidemic and highlights the need for ending the stigma of addiction. The ACP stated that substance use disorder is a chronic disease, one that requires ongoing treatment, ABC News reports. A mental health condition is not a “moral disorder or character defect.”


8 Recommendations On Addiction

Please take a moment to watch a short video below, which lays out the gist of actions the ACP would like to see taken:

If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

The paper is “welcome news,” says Dr. Caleb Alexander, Co-Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness. He adds, “When it comes to opioids, we should be talking about addiction, not abuse. Addiction is a disease, abuse is a behavior.”

The position paper was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

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