By Arturo C. Taca, Jr., MD, FABPN
Medical Director – The Institute of Neuro-Synergy (INSynergy)
Finally, developments in the field of addiction medicine has allowed clinicians to effectively treat once deadly addictions such as alcoholism, heroin and pain pill addiction, and nicotine dependence. Better understanding of the brain and its circuits help us understand that addiction is really what we have been saying for decades, “Addiction is a medical illness”. It only makes sense to offer medical options to help reduce the risk of dying from these addictions. Now, there are several medical options available to help eliminate cravings and disarm the effects of illicit drugs by blocking their euphoric effects.
Recovery is now guided by research and science.
Some persons are genetically programmed to have addiction run in families, just like diabetes or high blood pressure. That’s why not everyone who has drank alcohol or tried to smoke cigarettes become addicted to them. Some people have alcoholism run through families. This is confirmed with twin and adoption studies. We now know that our genes can determine whether using a drug will cause a very euphoric feeling that can lead to addiction. We also know that changes in the brain occur with constant exposure of an illicit drug and may need to be addressed when someone requires detox. For example, someone using heroin for several years will have more opiate receptors growing in the brain (up regulation) and will have a harder time quitting cold turkey as compared to someone who has just started using heroin.
Regardless of the drug used, the field of addiction medicine is taking a more sophisticated look at the brain and how we can re-adjust the changes through medications such as Suboxone, Vivitrol, and Chantix. All of these new molecules pay attention to the receptors of the brain and either block, stimulate, or block and stimulate at the same time. It promotes long lasting results because of decreased cravings and does not allow illicit drugs of abuse to activate certain receptors. These advances in the treatment of chemical dependency and alcoholism go beyond the traditional 12-Step, Alcoholics Anonymous approach to treatment, which has been helpful but not enough for many.
What a wonderful time to have these options available when studies report a remarkable increase of certain addictions such as heroin and pain pill dependence. I have seen in the last 5-6 years how heroin has become a middle class drug oftentimes starting in high school students from good families with good upbringing. What is equally alarming is the growing addiction to pain pills like oxycontin, Percocet, vicoden. Many are professionals like doctors, lawyer, pharmacists, nurses, businessmen and women who are offered these powerful pain meds for legitimate pain issues but quickly become addicted to them, not because they are bad people, but because changes in their brain make them crave more of the drug.
Nicotine addiction can be effectively treated with several medical options that certainly have fewer side effects that the tobacco itself. The new drug, Vivitrol (naltrexone) is non addicting, not habit forming, very well tolerated, and is the first monthly injection for the treatment of alcoholism and recently got FDA approval for opiate addiction. My clinic has several hundred experiences with these medications since the FDA approved them for these conditions and has seen lives turn around at a rate never imagined before. Many of the clients report that their “cravings just go away and don’t think about drinking as much”.
INSynergy offers a modern-day solution to drug addiction and alcoholism that combines of medical pharmaceutical therapy with counseling. My practice incorporates Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which identifies automatic negative thoughts, cognitive distortions, and combines it with anti-craving medications and treatment of any co-morbid mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and ADHD.
Dual Disorders refers to the presence of both a mood disorder and a substance abuse disorder occurring in the individual at the same time. Co-occuring mental health and substance abuse disorders are very common and oftentimes overlooked. Mental health issues often predate substance abuse problems by 4-6 years.
Often, these patients use drugs and alcohol to self-medicate, which reinforces the downward-spiral. In some cases, substance abuse precedes the development of mental health issues. For instance, anxiety and depression may be brought on as a response to stressors from broken relationships, lost employment, and other situations directly related to a drug-using lifestyle.
Often the psychiatric problem occurs first. In an attempt to feel better, the individual self-medicates with alcohol or drugs which can lead to chemical dependency. Depression, anxiety, bipolar depression, ADHD, and even schizophrenia are all implicated in increased risk to drink or use drugs to help them with their emotional tone. In other cases, the alcohol or drug dependency is the primary condition that over time can lead to depression, anxiety and more severe emotional and mental problems.
Regardless of the cause, the first step in living a more healthy life is to form healthy habits. Sleep, exercise, diet, is essential for non-medical approaches to improvement in mood. Sleep hygiene is an important, non-chemical approach to helping the brain respond in a predictable fashion. Exercise can lift and regulate mood by stimulating natural endorphin release. A good healthy diet is crucial to helping the body and brain heal itself.
Addiction does not have to be a life sentence, when treated like other chronic diseases, it can be managed successfully. Treatment enables patients to decrease relapses and regain control of their lives. Treatment, however, should be integrated. Specialists, including psychiatrists like myself, along with psychologists, therapists, social workers, physical health and fitness professionals should work in tandem to make a specific treatment plan for each person.
I advise patients to find the treatment center that is right for them. There are a variety of options available that can offer the recent advancements in the field of addiction treatment. Request your doctors to offer you medical options that were not available a generation ago. Supplement this treatment with good supportive resources such as therapy, a healthy lifestyle, and a supportive family network. Invest in your health!
INSynergy is the Premier Alcohol and Drug Rehab Treatment Center in St. Louis, MO.
We provide an alternative approach to traditional 12- step and AA treatment programs.
We are guided by evidence-based treatments and the latest advances in alcohol and drug rehab, allowing for the effective treatment of addictions to tobacco, alcohol, heroin, and opiates.
Our innovative program incorporates FDA approved anti-craving medication, counseling, psychiatric and psychological services. These latest advances in treatment help people resume their productive lives.
If you have tried other treatments that haven’t worked or you just didn’t know where to start,
INSynergy may be able to help you.