Dr. Nora Volkow: What Does It Mean When We Call Addiction a Brain Disorder?

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The following blog is reprinted in part from the National Institute on Drug Abuse Informed Americans no longer view addiction as a moral failing, and more and more policymakers are recognizing that punishment is an ineffective and inappropriate tool for addressing a person’s drug problems. Treatment is what is needed. Fortunately, effective medications are available to help in the treatment of opioid use disorders. Medications cannot take the place of an individual’s willpower, but they aid addicted individuals in resisting the constant challenges to their resolve; they have been shown in study after study to reduce illicit drug use and its consequences. They save lives. Yet the medical model of addiction as a brain disorder or disease has its vocal critics. Some claim that viewing addiction this way minimizes its important social and environmental causes, as though saying addiction is a disorder of brain circuits means that social stresses like...
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Prime Time Viewing: How Today’s Top Television Shows Portray Addiction and Substance Use

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In addition to making the headlines of major newspapers from across the country, addiction is also gaining traction on the silver screen. This season, many of our favorite TV shows are addressing substance use disorders and risky drinking or drug use. However, they often sacrifice precision for plot points. Here, we’ve provided some suggested reading to accompany three of television’s most talked about shows and help set the record straight. If you’re watching THIS IS US… In season 2, episode 12, America’s favorite family sat down for a family therapy session to address character Kevin Pearson’s addiction (played by Justin Hartley). The session begins tensely as the therapist interrogates Kevin’s mother (played by Mandy Moore) and it escalates into a full-blown confrontation between brothers Kevin and Randall Pearson (played by Sterling K. Brown). While there are many flaws in how the dramatic scene portrayed family therapy, our expert, Aaron Hogue,...
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NCADD and Facing Addiction Have Merged

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Today, Facing Addiction and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) are proud to announce a definitive agreement to merge our organizations – creating a national leader in the effort to turn the tide on the addiction epidemic. Inspired by decades of advocacy, led largely by NCADD in partnership with many NCADD Affiliates from around the country, Facing Addiction formed an unparalleled, coalition that launched on October 4, 2015, with a historic concert and rally on the National Mall in Washington, DC. On that day, an unprecedented group of entertainers, politicians, advocates, and “everyday Americans” came together to tell the country that we must unify our voices to turn the tide against addiction. Since that historic event, Facing Addiction has quickly become a leading voice in the effort to turn the tide against addiction in our country. They have now forged a coalition of some 750 Action Network...
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Surgeons Try Prescribing Fewer Opioids to Combat Addiction Risks

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NPR reports that a group of surgeons at the University of Michigan has devised an approach that could lead to significant changes in how opioids are prescribed and help curb the nation’s opioid epidemic – prescribing fewer opioids after surgery. Their findings were published this week in the journal, JAMA Surgery . The group of surgeons suggests that to lower the risk of opioid addiction, surgeons should prescribe patients fewer painkillers after surgery — a critical time when many people are first introduced to what can be highly addictive opioid medications. They should also talk with patients about proper use of opioids and the associated addiction risks. The researchers identified 170 post-surgery patients and surveyed them within a year of their gallbladder operations, inquiring about how many pills they actually used. They employed the findings to create new hospital guidelines that cut back on the standard opioid prescription for gallbladder...
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Understanding the Difference between Physical Dependence and Addiction

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In a recent hearing before Congress, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb spoke about the devastating impact of the opioid epidemic and what his agency is doing to address it. While Dr. Gottlieb is not the first to note the massive scale of this crisis, he did bring up one often-overlooked component of its much-needed solution – distinguishing between an opioid addiction and a physical dependence on opioids. Although frequently conflated, differentiating between these two conditions is essential to break the stigma associated with what has proven to be the most effective form of opioid addiction treatment: medication-assisted treatment (MAT) – a treatment approach that combines the use of medications such as methadone and buprenorphine with behavioral counseling. To make progress in ending the opioid epidemic and help people with addiction, families, health professionals and policymakers must understand and appreciate the important difference between physical dependence and...
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Significant Inequalities Between Mental and Physical Health Payments Uncovered

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Medical and surgical healthcare providers are receiving significantly higher payments from insurers than addiction and mental health practitioners for the same types of services, finds a groundbreaking, independent report published by Milliman, Inc. and released by a coalition of America’s leading mental health and addiction advocacy organizations including the Legal Action Center. In the Milliman report, commissioned by the Bowman Family Foundation, researchers found that along with payment disparities, which occur in 46 out of 50 states, “out-of-network” use of addiction and mental health treatment providers by consumers is extremely high when compared to medical and surgical providers. This perfect storm of factors reveals that patients are being forced into more costly out-of-network care, and can mean that treatment is abandoned altogether. When taken together, the analysis paints a stark picture of restricted access to affordable and much-needed addiction and mental health care in an era of escalating suicide rates...
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Drug Use Disorder vs. Drug Misuse - What is the Difference?

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In 2016, approximately 2.1 million Americans over the age of 11 suffered from addiction to opioids such as the prescription pain medications OxyContin and Vicodin or the illegal drug heroin. Yet, 11.8 million people – nearly six times as many – reported misusing opioids, primarily prescription medications. Although it does not receive the same media attention as addiction – clinically known as opioid use disorder - this startling figure highlights a serious yet often overlooked problem within our society: the issue of opioid misuse. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN “DRUG USE DISORDER” AND “DRUG MISUSE”? As the clinical term for drug addiction, drug use disorder (DUD) describes a complex disease that affects both the brain and the body. DUD, characterized by the compulsive use of one or more drugs, such as opioids, despite serious health and social consequences, typically develops during an individual’s adolescence and may affect him/her for an...
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Statement from The NIH Director on Combating the Opioid Crisis with Scientific Solutions

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Opioid misuse and addiction is an urgent and rapidly evolving public health crisis. An estimated 2 million Americans are addicted to opioids, and approximately 25 million suffer daily from chronic pain. The urgency and scale of this crisis calls for innovative scientific solutions, from prevention to intervention and treatment. Today, the President declared America's opioid crisis a public health emergency. The National Institutes of Health is committed to bringing the full power of the biomedical research enterprise to bear on this crisis. That effort ranges from basic science of the complex neurological pathways involved in pain and addiction, to services and implementation science to develop and test treatment models, to integrating behavioral interventions with medication-assisted therapy, to forging strategic partnerships to advance safer, non-addictive treatments for pain. In 2016, NIH spent $483 million on pain research ranging from cell and molecular mechanisms of acute and chronic pain, to safe, effective...
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New York and New Jersey Governors Launch Efforts to Combat Addiction

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Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a series of aggressive new actions to combat the fentanyl crisis in communities across New York State. In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie Allocated $200 million to fight opioid crisis in the state Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to add 11 fentanyl analogs to the state controlled substances schedule, giving law enforcement the ability to go after the dealers who manufacture and sell. To further protect New Yorkers, the Governor is also directing the New York State Department of Financial Services to take immediate action to advise insurers against placing arbitrary limits on the number of naloxone doses covered by an insurance plan. As fentanyl can be up to 50 times more powerful than heroin and it can take multiple doses of naloxone to reverse a fentanyl overdose, this new measure will ensure access to adequate doses of overdose reversal medication and save lives. In...
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Why You Shouldn't Use the Word "Addict"

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Addiction is a disease. It's important that we use language that frames it as a health issue and shows respect to people with an addiction and to their families who are impacted. Just like we would with any other disease, like diabetes or asthma. A person shouldn’t be defined or labeled by his or her disease or illness, it is something they have. For example: Instead of calling someone a “diabetic,” it’s preferable to use person-first language and say “someone with diabetes.” The same goes with the word “addict.” We have a choice when we communicate. We can use words that perpetuate the negative stigma around substance use – words that label people with an addiction in a negative, shameful and judgmental way. Or we can use words that are compassionate, supportive and respectful – words that helps others understand substance use disorder as the health issue that it is....
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Facing Addiction and The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) are proud to announce the merger of our organizations – creating a national leader in turning the tide on the addiction epidemic.
The merged organization will be called:

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