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Changing the National Conversation Around Addiction

Douglas Tieman | March 15, 2018

Changing the national conversation around addiction

Welcome to our new blog – The Medicine, Science & Art Behind Addiction Recovery. If you learn nothing else from reading our blog, know this: Addiction is a treatable, chronic disease -- like diabetes or heart disease. Addiction requires a lifetime of management to treat effectively and can be fatal when left untreated or poorly treated.

One in three households in the U.S. are touched by addiction, known clinically as substance use disorder (SUD). Yet, fewer than 11 percent of the nearly 22 million Americans who meet the criteria for SUD receive the specialized treatment they need to live in recovery. In large part, this is because addiction is misunderstood, misdiagnosed and mistreated. It is also because of the enormous amount of stigma surrounding this disease. Shame is the enemy of recovery. A cancer patient would not be judged for needing chemotherapy, nor a diabetic for insulin. But an individual with SUD is often judged – which prevents many from seeking treatment.

To achieve meaningful change, we need to transform the dialogue surrounding addiction treatment and recovery. That is why we are launching our new blog, The Medicine, Science & Art Behind Addiction Recovery. We envision this blog as a central forum for all of us touched by addiction and those interested in learning more. This blog is our effort to change the national conversation around addiction, to end the stigma, to champion the use of evidence-based treatment programs, to advance research and to empower and provide hope to individuals and families in need of help.

Why Medicine, Science and Art?

We focus on medicine because addiction is a chronic disease that must be treated as such. Addiction cannot be “cured,” nor is “detox” treatment. As a chronic disease, similar to heart disease or diabetes, addiction must be managed for a lifetime. This means getting the proper diagnosis and treatment, which may include Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT), and a long-term disease management and continuing care plan. It means access to licensed and certified professionals who understand the disease of addiction and how to treat it.

We focus on science because, every day, medical science is advancing our understanding of addiction and how it can be treated most effectively. Addiction is not a character flaw or a moral failing – research proves that it is a chronic brain disease. There are indeed treatment modalities that work and evidence-based practices that help patients and families struggling with substance use disorder to achieve lifelong wellness. We hope this blog will challenge the healthcare industry to adopt best practices and standards that embody these proven treatments and advance promising research into practice.

Yet, there is also an “art” to treating addiction. Every patient is different. Successful disease management requires an individualized approach that addresses the unique needs of each person. Many in the addiction treatment sector and the insurance world would have us believe that addiction can be addressed in a one-size-fits-all approach with a set amount of time to “get clean.” Nothing could be further from the truth. It takes time for the mind, body and personal relationships to heal and requires a holistic approach. Science is advancing our understanding of addiction and how to treat it, but true recovery moves beyond the realm of pure science.

The Medicine, Science & Art Behind Addiction Recovery blog will incorporate posts that educate, share information, introduce new ideas, or provide expert commentary on policy and issues of importance. It will feature Caron experts and other voices throughout this space who want to help move the conversation forward.

  • The Disease of Addiction -- This section covers addiction as a chronic disease. Understand what drives addictive behavior and how addiction affects the body. Learn the impact it has on families, employers, the economy and society.
  • Treatment -- Here we will explore best practices in addiction treatment, driving the whole sector to adopt outcomes and evidence-based standards and practices that improve outcomes. We will also educate patients and their loved ones on picking the best treatment, what to expect, and how to recognize they need help.
  • Recovery -- Recovery is a lifelong commitment to managing the illness of addiction. This section embodies the transformative power of recovery with inspiring stories, encouragement, and tips.
  • Prevention -- The nation is in an addiction crisis. This section explores what can be done, proactively, to stem the tide of alcohol, opioid and other substance use addictions – including improving funding for accessing care.
  • News & Views -- Changes in policy, medicine, science and society all affect our daily lives. This section will keep on top of news and trends, as we share our views on issues that matter.

We can create meaningful change if we join in this critical dialogue about addiction as a chronic disease. Patients suffering from substance use disorder have the same right to quality, compassionate medical care as someone with cancer. It is time for all physicians, providers and payers to step up to the challenge for quality care. My vision is for a future where we can significantly reduce the prevalence of addiction and treat it in a way that will not only transform lives, but also break the cycle for future generations.


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