Actor Charlie Sheen, known for his heavy cocaine use, has been stating in interviews that he freed himself of his drug habit. How likely is that?
- By Nina Bai on March 4, 2011
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When asked recently on The Today Show how he cured himself of his addiction, Two and a Half Men sitcom star Charlie Sheen replied, “I closed my eyes and made it so with the power of my mind.”
Until last month, he was the highest paid actor on TV, despite his well-known bad-boy lifestyle and persistent problems with alcohol and cocaine. After the rest of his season’s shows were canceled by producers, Sheen has gone on an interview tear with many bizarre statements, including that he is on a “winning” streak. His claims of quitting a serious drug habit on his own, however, is perhaps one of his least eccentric statements.
A prevailing view of substance abuse, supported by both the National Institute on Drug Abuse and Alcoholics Anonymous, is the disease model of addiction. The model attributes addiction largely to changes in brain structure and function. Because these changes make it much harder for the addict to control substance use, health experts recommend professional treatment and complete abstinence.
But some in the field point out that many if not most addicts successfully recover without professional help. A survey by Gene Heyman, a research psychologist at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts, found that between 60 to 80 percent of people who were addicted in their teens and 20s were substance-free by their 30s, and they avoided addiction in subsequent decades. Other studies on Vietnam War veterans suggest that the majority of soldiers who became addicted to narcotics overseas later stopped using them without therapy.
Scientific American spoke with Sally Satel, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research and lecturer in psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine, about quitting drugs without professional treatment. Satel was formerly a staff psychiatrist at the Oasis Clinic in Washington, D.C., where she worked with substance abuse patients.
[An edited transcript of the interview follows.]
Is it possible to cure yourself of addiction without professional help? How often does that happen?
Of course it’s possible. Most people recover and most people do it on their own. That’s in no way saying that everyone should be expected to quit on their own and in no way denies that quitting is a hard thing to do. This is just an empirical fact. It is even possible that those who quit on their own could have quit earlier if they sought professional help. The implicit message isn’t that treatment isn’t important for many—in fact it should probably be made more accessible—but it is simply a fact that most people cure themselves.
How do addicts stop on their own?
They have to be motivated. It takes the realization that their family, their future, their employment—all these—are becoming severely compromised. The subtext isn’t that they just “walk away” from the addiction. But I’ve had a number of patients in the clinic whose six-year-old says, “Why don’t you ever come to my ball games?” This can prompt a crisis of identity causing the addict to ask himself, “Is this the type of father I want to be?”
If not, there are lots of recovery strategies that users figure out themselves. For example, they change whom they associate with. They can make it harder to access drugs, perhaps by never carrying cash with them. People will put obstacles in front of themselves. True, some people decide they can’t do it on their own and decide to go into treatment—that’s taking matters into one’s own hands, too.
What do professional drug addiction programs offer that is difficult to replicate on one’s own?
If you’re already in treatment, you’ve made a big step. Even for court-ordered treatment, people often internalize the decision as their own. You get a lot of support. You get instruction in formal relapse prevention therapy. You might get methadone for withdrawal and medications for an underlying psychiatric problem.
Most experts regard drug addiction as a brain disease. Do you agree?
I’m critical of the standard view promoted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse that addiction is a brain disease. Naturally, every behavior is mediated by the brain, but the language “brain disease” carries the connotation that the afflicted person is helpless before his own brain chemistry. That is too fatalistic.
It also overlooks the enormously important truth that addicts use drugs to help them cope in some manner. That, as destructive as they are, drugs also serve a purpose. This recognition is very important for designing personalized therapies.
Don’t most studies show that addicts do better with professional help?
People who come to treatment tend to have concurrent psychiatric illness, and they also tend to be less responsive to treatment. Most research is done on people in a treatment program, so by definition you’ve already got a skewed population. This is called the “clinical illusion,” and it applies to all medical conditions. It refers to a tendency to think that the patients you see in a clinical setting fully represent all people with that condition. It’s not true. You’re not seeing the full universe of people.
Based on his public interviews, does it seem likely that Charlie Sheen cured himself?
I doubt it. Of course, I haven’t examined him, but based on what one sees, one would be concerned about ongoing drug use and underlying mental illness.
Is there brain damage from drug use? Is it possible to recover from such damage?
The only drugs that are neurotoxic are alcohol, methamphetamine, probably MDMA [ecstasy], and some inhalants.* Cocaine can lead to micro strokes. That’s brain damage. Yes, addiction changes the brain but this does not doom people to use drugs forever. The most permanent change is memories. Some people have stronger memories and they are more cue-reactive [more reactive to stimulus that triggers the reward pathway]. Nonaddicts won’t show that level of cue-reactivity.
For some people the addiction and withdrawal will be more intense through genetically mediated problems. Those people have a harder time stopping.
What else might account for Charlie Sheen’s strange behavior in those interviews?
One would want to explore the possibility of underlying psychiatric problems. The grandiosity, the loose associations, the jumbled flow suggest a thought disorder. Heavy, heavy drug use could cause that. Stimulant use can cause temporary thought disorder or intensify an underlying thought disorder or hypomanic state. To try to make a good diagnosis, whatever ongoing drug use there is would have to stop. After the withdrawal phase is resolved clinicians would then need to see if an underlying thought or mood disorder persisted. That would aid in parsing how much of a confusing clinical picture is due to drug use and how much is due to a primary mental disorder.
*Correction (3/7/11): This sentence was edited after posting. LSD and methadone were removed, whereas methamphetamine and MDMA were added to the list of neurotoxic drugs.
There are different kinds of drugs manufactured (legally or illegally) for various uses known to mankind. While legal drugs are often pharmaceutical drugs, used for the treatment of various illnesses, illegal drugs are substances which, via inhalation, absorption or taken in any form affects the nervous system of the said individual and influences the brain of the said individual. The nature of these drugs is such that they make the user addicted to them, therefore proving to be extremely harmful for people. These drugs have the capability of altering mind functions, so a person getting addicted to them completely loses control of one and gradually falls into a pit of loneliness and self destruction.
Drug addiction is a serious problem in the whole world, particularly in the third world countries. The governments of various countries and different health organizations are trying their best to treat this problem. We, at Parenting Healthy babies, would like to contribute in our own way by listing 15 home remedies for this grave problem.
1. Kutzu root powder
Kudzu root powder is a highly effective way to deal with alcoholism specifically. There is a widespread use of this concoction in Eastern cultures for many centuries, and it has been shown to curb the intake and even desire for alcohol quite significantly. Studies are now being carried out to see whether this powder is as effective in dealing with other kinds of drug addictions as well.
2. Gingko Biloba
Going back to Eastern medicine, and this time, more specifically to China, the leaves of the ginkgo biloba tree, also known as the maidenhair tree, have proven to be an exceptionally potent way of curing several kinds of disorders, including drug addiction. There are various herbal supplements of ginkgo available, of course, but the leaves themselves, in all their natural glory, are the best remedy.
While caffeine is typically seen as a harmful substance, and rightly so, yet it has to be understood that it is significantly less harmful than other drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine. Caffeine is helpful in lessening the impact of drug withdrawals from the body. It provides with an adrenaline rush and an increase in brain energy that can be identifiable with what drugs such as cocaine provide. However, caution should be exercised in its use.
4. Passion flower plant
Speaking of reducing the effects of drug withdrawals, herbs of the passionflower plant is very effective. Especially when used with clonidine, a drug used to decrease high blood pressure, ADHD, and headaches associated with withdrawals, is a great combination to mitigate the effects of drug withdrawal substantially.
5. Protein Intake
It is important to increase one’s protein intake during the period of recovery from drug addiction. As the body goes through a considerable degree of damage, the cells as well as neural transmitters in the nervous system need to be suitably repaired and restored to their original state. To accomplish this, fatty fish serves as a highly beneficial resource, as it is not just a protein-rich food item but also because it contains omega-3 fatty acids that alleviate the amount of stress on the body during the period of recovery.
6. Milk thistle
Liver is an extremely beneficial organ in our body. It filters our blood to get rid of unwanted substances. Ironically, these addictive substances travel through blood to affect our liver, which is why, any kind of drug addiction affects our liver the most. In such a case, it is important to get the liver cleansed while getting rid of this addiction. Milk thistle is an herb with hepato-protective properties, and can help the liver in fighting cirrhosis, hepatitis or any other form of liver disease resulting from drug addiction.
While going through drug withdrawal, some of the common things that patients experience are insomnia, headaches or even depression. Skullcap is an herb which can prove to be extremely handy in this case. It is a powerful nervine agent that helps in making the initial days of withdrawal less painful.
8. Vitamin C
Fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C are to be consumed more often in such cases, as they are known to reduce the craving for the drugs and enhance the immune system of the body.
9. Diet Control
It’s amazing how the food you do and do not eat can affect your health in so many different ways. Changing your diet is a great home remedy to promote healing from a drug addiction. Eat foods high in antioxidants, such as colorful fruits and vegetables like citrus fruits, berries, spinach and other leafy greens, and colorful peppers. Foods high in vitamin B6 are also beneficial, such as whole grains, beans, leafy greens, nuts and tofu.
A few reports have aid that acupuncture might be a cure for drug addiction and for reducing the symptoms of drug withdrawal. So, you can consult your physician and try this out.
Yoga has been known as an ancient cure for numerous diseases, as well as for exercises that help in soothing the mind and nervous system of the individual practicing it. It can therefore, prove to be an extremely effective and completely harmless remedy for drug addiction. Just make sure to practice yoga under the guidance of an expert.
12. Art Therapy
Many experts have suggested that art therapy could prove to be really effective while dealing with drug addiction. More often than not, individuals suffering from drug addiction suffer from low self-esteem, lack of confidence and a feeling of absolute worthlessness. Indulging in art could be a pathway of self-expression for them, and it can prove to be really cathartic, thus making them less dependent on drugs.
13. Pet Therapy
Pets can be great companions for people of all age groups. Unlike human beings, pets have a high sense of loyalty and are capable of providing unconditional love to their human companions. People suffering from drug addiction can derive great joy and comfort in the company of pets, which might reduce the number of reasons behind them being dependant on drugs.
14. Horticulture Therapy
Just like pet therapy, taking care of plants could bring significant changes in these people and decrease their levels of stress, insomnia, depression and other negative feelings.
Meditation can be the simplest, yet the most effective and powerful home remedy out of these all remedies. Practicing meditation on a daily basis can gradually cure a person out of drug addiction.
If you are suffering from drug addiction and finding ways to end it, then congratulations! You have already taken the right step towards a successful life. That being said, if the problem still persists, then it is always advisable to go to a proper rehabilitation centre, and get yourself cured. After all, it is a matter of your entire life.
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Many people consider addiction to be a problem of personal weakness, initiated for self-gratification and continued because of an unwillingness or lack of sufficient willpower to stop. However, within the medical and scientific communities, the notion that pleasure-seeking exclusively drives addiction has fallen by the wayside. Clinicians and scientists alike now think that many people engage in potentially addictive activities to escape discomfort — both physical and emotional. People typically engage in psychoactive experiences to feel good and to feel better. The roots of addiction reside in activities associated with sensation seeking and self-medication.
People allude to addiction in everyday conversation, casually referring to themselves as “chocolate addicts” or “workaholics.” However, addiction is not a term clinicians take lightly. You might be surprised to learn that until the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), the term addiction did not appear in any version of the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic manual, the reference book that physicians and psychotherapists use to identify and classify mental health disorders. In this most recent edition, addiction is included as a category and contains both substance use disorders and non-substance use disorders, such as alcohol use disorder and gambling disorder, respectively.
A revised view of addiction
It might seem strange to group gambling problems in the same category as a problem with drugs or alcohol. But addiction experts are beginning to move away from the notion that there are multiple addictions, each tied to a specific substance or activity. Rather, the Syndrome Model of Addiction suggests that there is one addiction that is associated with multiple expressions. An object of addiction can be almost anything — a drug or drug-free activity. For addiction to develop, the drug or activity must shift a person’s subjective experience in a desirable direction — feeling good or feeling better.
Several scientific advances have shaped our contemporary understanding of this common and complex problem. For example, brain-imaging technologies have revealed that our brains respond similarly to different pleasurable experiences, whether derived from ingesting psychoactive substances, such as alcohol and other drugs, or engaging in behaviors, such as gambling, shopping, and sex. Genetic research has revealed that some people are predisposed to addiction, but not to a specific type of addiction.
These findings suggest that the object of addiction (that is, the specific substance or behavior) is less important than previously believed. Rather, the new thinking reflects the belief that addiction is functional: it serves while it destroys. Addiction is a relationship between a person and an object or activity. With addiction, the object or activity becomes increasingly more important while previously important activities become less important. Ultimately, addiction is about the complex struggle between acting on impulse and resisting that impulse. When this struggle is causing suffering related to health, family, work, and other activities of everyday life, addiction might be involved.
There are many routes for recovery, and the road may take time
Addiction is a chronic and often relapsing disorder. It is often preceded by other emotional problems. Nevertheless, people can and do recover from addiction, often on their own. If not on their own, people can recover with the help of their social network or a treatment provider. Usually, recovery from addiction requires many attempts. This can lead to feelings of frustration and helplessness. Smoking is often considered one of the most difficult expressions of addiction to change. Yet, the vast majority of smokers who stopped quit on their own! Others stopped smoking with the help of professional treatment. It is important to remember that the process of overcoming an addiction often requires many attempts. Each attempt provides an important learning opportunity that changes experience and, despite the difficulties, moves recovering people closer to their objectives. There are many pathways into addiction and many routes to recovery. Think about recovery from addiction as a five-year process that will have its ups and downs; after about five years, life can and will be very different. As life becomes more worth living, addiction loses its influence.
It’s known environmental cues can be strong triggers for those trying to kick a drug habit because those cues activate the brain’s emotional and stimulus-response systems.
A new study by University of Guelph researchers reveals for the first time that there’s more going on in the brain when someone walks past a customary lighting-up spot or sees drug-taking paraphernalia that makes quitting the habit even harder.
Besides triggering the brain’s emotional and stimulus-response systems (“see smoking area, smoke, feel good”), environmental cues activate brain areas where memories are processed.
Prompting these memory processing systems of the brain makes it extra difficult to counter addiction, said psychology professor and study co-author Francesco Leri.
Published recently in the journal Learning and Memory, the study in laboratory rats could also have implications for how we treat drug addiction in humans.
Cocaine and nicotine alone were already known to promote long-term memory storage. This study shows that environmental cues associated with the effects of these drugs also affect the formation of memories in the brain.
“Stimuli in our environment such as buildings, objects and places are normally fairly innocuous,” said Leri. Contrasting those triggers with the “viciousness of addiction,” he added: “When they’re associated with drugs of abuse, they can become modifiers of memory function.”
That creates a double whammy effect where classic stimulus-response mechanisms are reinforced by the memory effects of environmental drug cues, said co-author Boyer Winters, also a psychology professor.
Added to the conditioned response, Winters said, “that learning’s going to be stamped in better and probably be stronger and more persistent.”
The research team — including students Michael Wolter, Ethan Huff and Talia Spiegel — compared rats’ memory of objects in test chambers after being given cocaine and nicotine with how well they performed when prompted only by the environmental stimuli associated with the substance effects.
The researchers tested rats either with or without the drugs, and then tested them all drug-free. Animals in a drug-free state showed more activity in chambers where they had earlier been tested while drugged than in test environments without drugs.
That suggests environmental cues paired with cocaine and nicotine — like the drugs themselves — can help strengthen memories in the brain, said Leri. That one-two effect makes it harder to treat drug abuse, but the same finding may offer a way to use these cues to improve cognitive behavioural therapy.
“Those cues acquire powerful cognitive effects,” he said, adding that “they could be used to enhance learning of the recovery process.”
Medications offer modest help; vaccines are in development.
Illegal stimulants include cocaine, methamphetamine (also known as speed, meth, ice, or crank), and methylenedioxymethamphetamine (often called MDMA or ecstasy). These are among the most commonly abused drugs in the world — and also some of the toughest for addicts to quit.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that in 2007, about 22 million Americans 12 and older met the criteria for substance abuse or dependence as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV). Of that total, 1.6 million were dependent on cocaine, while 406,000 were dependent on other types of stimulants. High rates of stimulant abuse have also been reported in Europe.
Prescription stimulants such as methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta) and dextroamphetamine (Adderall) are used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, but they can also be abused. Some people crush, snort, or inject these drugs, which creates a euphoric sensation. In 2007, about 1 million Americans reported using prescription stimulants for such nonmedical purposes.
Current treatment options
Addicts who want to quit using cocaine or other stimulants face a formidable task. Psychotherapy remains a foundation for treatment of addiction to cocaine or other stimulants. In addition, clinicians may prescribe medications marketed for other health problems. As yet, no medication is FDA-approved for cocaine or stimulant addiction, although new compounds are always being tested.
Behavioral therapies. Various psychosocial interventions offer techniques to help addicts “unlearn” an addiction, learn ways to resist cravings, and slowly build a drug-free life. Options include:
cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps patients to recognize and avoid drug triggers, and then learn new ways of coping without drugs
contingency management, which uses tangible rewards and incentives — such as vouchers that can be exchanged for movies or dinner — to encourage abstinence
the Matrix Model, which combines behavioral therapy, family education, individual counseling, a 12-step self-help program, and drug testing.
Disulfiram. This medication is approved for treating alcohol dependence, but six randomized clinical studies suggest that disulfiram (Antabuse) may also help reduce cocaine use. Patients who use cocaine while taking disulfiram report anxiety, paranoia, and lack of euphoria. Although some clinicians are concerned about side effects, a review concluded that disulfiram is generally safe as long as it is prescribed at doses of 250 mg or less per day. The most common side effects included headaches, fatigue, sleepiness, and anxiety. The authors recommend against using disulfiram to treat cocaine addiction in patients with serious cardiovascular or liver problems, or in those with multiple mental disorders.
Baclofen. One randomized placebo-controlled study reported that the muscle relaxant baclofen (Lioresal), combined with drug abuse counseling sessions, reduced cocaine use in patients. The most dramatic reductions were achieved in patients who had reported the highest levels of cocaine use upon entry into the study. This medication is also being investigated for treating methamphetamine addiction. Another randomized placebo-controlled study has been published, reporting that baclofen provided a slight, but not statistically significant, advantage over placebo in reducing methamphetamine use.
Topiramate. Two preliminary studies reported that the anticonvulsant topiramate (Topamax) helped patients addicted to cocaine remain abstinent or reduce cravings while participating in behavioral therapy. But a review of studies of topiramate and other anticonvulsants conducted by the Cochrane Collaboration concluded that there was not enough evidence to support the use of these medications in treating cocaine addiction.
Modafinil. Preliminary research suggested that the stimulant modafinil (Provigil), which is approved for treating narcolepsy and other sleep disorders, reduced cravings for amphetamines or cocaine. Other research suggests that the drug may help delay the type of impulsive reaction that underlies addiction. But a 2007 review of randomized studies of modafinil and other stimulants concluded modafinil had not performed better than placebo — although the authors recommended further research.
Vaccines in development
Researchers have been working on anti-addiction vaccines since 1974. Four formulations — three for nicotine addiction and one for cocaine addiction — have reached phase I and phase II clinical trials. Phase III trials are planned; other vaccines are in development.
Drug vaccines are designed to enable immune system antibodies to recognize and bind to drug molecules, so that they become too large to penetrate the blood-brain barrier. The hope is that this may help to reduce the pleasurable effects of drug use and subsequent cravings.
The cocaine vaccine, TA-CD, combines an inactivated cholera toxin B protein with an inactivated cocaine molecule, so that a patient’s antibodies learn to recognize both, but the person injected with the vaccine is not in danger of becoming ill from cholera. Although the approach holds promise, it is still unproven and the research is in the early stages.
Researchers are also investigating passive immunization by injection of drug-specific monoclonal antibodies, rather than trying to stimulate the immune system to make its own antibodies. Monoclonal antibodies to methamphetamine are being tested in laboratory cell lines and in animals.
Given the pace of drug discovery, it is unlikely any of these vaccines will reach the market soon. In the meantime, behavioral therapies combined with medication trials offer the best hope of recovery.
Orson FM, et al. “Substance Abuse Vaccines,” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (Oct. 2008): Vol. 1141, pp. 257–69.
Vocci FJ, et al. “Medication Development for Addictive Disorders: The State of the Science,” American Journal of Psychiatry (Aug. 2005): Vol. 162, No. 8, pp. 1432–40.
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Do you know how often you use your smartphone? I didn’t — until I discovered Apple’s new feature, Screen Time , which tracks usage and sets parameters for how long you use certain apps. When I checked in on myself, I was shocked. Despite regularly “ going dark ” and taking one day a week “ just to think ,” my usage was super high. It made me realize I might be an addict, too!
America’s smartphone obsession isn’t going away. Here’s how to deal.
The scariest part about smartphone addiction is that it can affect our physical and mental health, our relationships and our productivity. America’s obsession with smartphones has even been compared to the obesity epidemic. That’s because, just like drug or gambling addictions, smartphones provide an escape from reality.
Humans are, by nature, prone to distraction . With smartphones, we literally have a world of distractions at our fingertips. It’s time to acknowledge that our devices can negatively impact our lives — and we have to make a change.
Your Brain On “Smartphone”
Cell phones used to just be communication tools. Now, they’re GPS, cameras, gaming consoles, health trackers, and the list goes on. We turn to our devices for everything — from waiting in line at the grocery store or reading the news, to filing our taxes or controlling the thermostat. We don’t just use our smartphones for everything — we rely on them.
The brain on “smartphone” is the same as the brain on cocaine: we get an instant high every time our screen lights up with a new notification. It’s all thanks to dopamine , the feel-good chemical that gets released every time you do something you enjoy, like eating your favourite meal or getting a hundred likes on your latest Instagram post. Dopamine reinforces (and motivates) behaviour that makes us feel good and, in turn, can create addiction.
At the same time, having access to a constant flow of information has all but destroyed attention spans: a few years ago, a widely publicized study proved goldfish can focus longer than we can . This increase in ADD-like symptoms has been linked to the overuse of smartphones .
The effects of smartphone addiction don’t stop there; our overuse of technology has completely transformed how we communicate and interact with other people. Instead of getting real face time with the people in our lives, we often hide behind a screen. While technology can be a useful tool for keeping us connected, we have to be careful with when and how we use it.
There’s A Time And A Place
This past summer, I took nine employees on a voluntourism trip to Kenya. We were in the middle of the Maasai Mara and literally had zero access to cell service or the internet. At first, everyone felt anxious and uncomfortable about not being able to check in online. But after a few days, we all realized how rare it is to fully disconnect like that. Going without our smartphones allowed us to connect more with each other and share the experience together.
I’m not saying we should get rid of smartphones and cancel our WiFi. There’s nothing wrong with using the technology available to us. But when our smartphone usage interferes with our health and relationships with others, that’s when it becomes a problem. There’s a time and place to use devices and, more importantly, times to put them away.
Most people are aware of when it’s appropriate (or inappropriate) to use their smartphones, such as in meetings or job interviews, or on a first date. The scary thing is that the majority of those people will use them anyway ! That’s where addiction comes into play: they know it’s wrong but they can’t control the compulsion to pick up their phones.
Time For Some Smartphone Rehab
When I was in France with my family earlier this year, I was fascinated by how few cell phones we saw. People have them, of course, but they’re not constantly glued to their screens all day, every day. It’s rare to see someone walking down the street, phone in hand. Technology doesn’t control people’s lives there the same way it does in North America.
It’s been proven that smartphones interfere with productivity , and I agree this is a big issue. But the more critical problem is how they affect our mental health . We need to act now before the toll of smartphone addiction gets even worse.
France seems to be ahead of the game: last month, lawmakers enforced a ban on smartphones in schools. Last year, they gave people the legal right to disconnect from work — no checking emails or taking calls — outside of working hours.
We have a similar program at our company called “going dark.” When people go on vacation, we encourage them to have a colleague change their email password so they won’t even be tempted to check in. I do this every time I go away, too. This practice has done wonders for my mental well being and my productivity when I get back to work.
Where Do We Go From Here?
In North America, there’s constant pressure to be plugged in 24/7 and it’s causing serious health problems. I’m glad to see that companies in the smartphone industry are taking strides to combat problems. But giving people the ability to limit their own usage with programs like Screen Time isn’t enough. It’s the equivalent of telling an alcoholic to lock their liquor cabinet but letting them keep the key.
Dealing with smartphone addiction starts by hacking our internal operating systems. Ask a trusted friend to change your email password over the weekend, or your social media passwords during the work day. Use a website blocker app on your browser to prevent you from using distracting sites when you need to be productive.
It’s truly incredible how much smartphones today can do. We all have the choice whether to use that power to our detriment or to our advantage.
Can addiction be treated successfully?
Yes, addiction is a treatable disorder. Research on the science of addiction and the treatment of substance use disorders has led to the development of research-based methods that help people to stop using drugs and resume productive lives, also known as being in recovery.
Can addiction be cured?
Like other chronic diseases such as heart disease or asthma, treatment for drug addiction usually isn’t a cure. But addiction can be managed successfully. Treatment enables people to counteract addiction’s disruptive effects on their brain and behavior and regain control of their lives.
Does relapse to drug use mean treatment has failed?
No. The chronic nature of addiction means that for some people relapse, or a return to drug use after an attempt to stop, can be part of the process, but newer treatments are designed to help with relapse prevention. Relapse rates for drug use are similar to rates for other chronic medical illnesses. If people stop following their medical treatment plan, they are likely to relapse.
Treatment of chronic diseases involves changing deeply rooted behaviors, and relapse doesn’t mean treatment has failed. When a person recovering from an addiction relapses, it indicates that the person needs to speak with their doctor to resume treatment, modify it, or try another treatment. 52
While relapse is a normal part of recovery, for some drugs, it can be very dangerous—even deadly. If a person uses as much of the drug as they did before quitting, they can easily overdose because their bodies are no longer adapted to their previous level of drug exposure. An overdose happens when the person uses enough of a drug to produce uncomfortable feelings, life-threatening symptoms, or death.
What are the principles of effective treatment?
Research shows that when treating addictions to opioids (prescription pain relievers or drugs like heroin or fentanyl), medication should be the first line of treatment, usually combined with some form of behavioral therapy or counseling. Medications are also available to help treat addiction to alcohol and nicotine.
Additionally, medications are used to help people detoxify from drugs, although detoxification is not the same as treatment and is not sufficient to help a person recover. Detoxification alone without subsequent treatment generally leads to resumption of drug use.
For people with addictions to drugs like stimulants or cannabis, no medications are currently available to assist in treatment, so treatment consists of behavioral therapies. Treatment should be tailored to address each patient’s drug use patterns and drug-related medical, mental, and social problems.
What medications and devices help treat drug addiction?
Different types of medications may be useful at different stages of treatment to help a patient stop abusing drugs, stay in treatment, and avoid relapse.
- Treating withdrawal. When patients first stop using drugs, they can experience various physical and emotional symptoms, including restlessness or sleeplessness, as well as depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. Certain treatment medications and devices reduce these symptoms, which makes it easier to stop the drug use.
- Staying in treatment. Some treatment medications and mobile applications are used to help the brain adapt gradually to the absence of the drug. These treatments act slowly to help prevent drug cravings and have a calming effect on body systems. They can help patients focus on counseling and other psychotherapies related to their drug treatment.
- Preventing relapse. Science has taught us that stress cues linked to the drug use (such as people, places, things, and moods), and contact with drugs are the most common triggers for relapse. Scientists have been developing therapies to interfere with these triggers to help patients stay in recovery.
Common medications used to treat drug addiction and withdrawal
- Extended-release naltrexone
- Nicotine replacement therapies (available as a patch, inhaler, or gum)
How do behavioral therapies treat drug addiction?
Behavioral therapies help people in drug addiction treatment modify their attitudes and behaviors related to drug use. As a result, patients are able to handle stressful situations and various triggers that might cause another relapse. Behavioral therapies can also enhance the effectiveness of medications and help people remain in treatment longer.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy seeks to help patients recognize, avoid, and cope with the situations in which they’re most likely to use drugs.
- Contingency management uses positive reinforcement such as providing rewards or privileges for remaining drugfree, for attending and participating in counseling sessions, or for taking treatment medications as prescribed.
- Motivational enhancement therapy uses strategies to make the most of people’s readiness to change their behavior and enter treatment.
- Family therapy helps people (especially young people) with drug use problems, as well as their families, address influences on drug use patterns and improve overall family functioning.
- Twelve-step facilitation (TSF) is an individual therapy typically delivered in 12 weekly session to prepare people to become engaged in 12-step mutual support programs. 12-step programs, like Alcoholic Anonymous, are not medical treatments, but provide social and complementary support to those treatments. TSF follows the 12-step themes of acceptance, surrender, and active involvement in recovery.
How do the best treatment programs help patients recover from addiction?
Stopping drug use is just one part of a long and complex recovery process. When people enter treatment, addiction has often caused serious consequences in their lives, possibly disrupting their health and how they function in their family lives, at work, and in the community.
Because addiction can affect so many aspects of a person’s life, treatment should address the needs of the whole person to be successful. Counselors may select from a menu of services that meet the specific medical, mental, social, occupational, family, and legal needs of their patients to help in their recovery.
Articles On Marijuana Use
- Marijuana Abuse
- Marijuana Effects
- Recreational Marijuana
Marijuana abuse can have dire consequencesВ if left untreated. Changes in state laws mean marijuana is available to more people, for both medical and recreational use. But whether you use it legally or illegally, itвЂ™s possible to abuse it and get addicted to it. This is known as marijuana use disorder.
Marijuana has a chemical in it called THC. ItвЂ™s a lot like one your brain makes (anandamide) that sends messages between nerve cells throughout your body. If you use marijuana regularly, your brain can stop making its own version and start to depend on THC instead.
About 30% of people who use marijuana may have some level of marijuana use disorder. Those who started using it before age 18 are 4 to 7 times more likely to than people who started later.
Signs of Marijuana Abuse and Addiction
Marijuana abuse is when you feel like you need it and you have withdrawal symptoms when you donвЂ™t use it. If you stop, you might:
- Not be hungry
- Feel especially irritable or moody
- Feel more anxious or restless than usual
- Not be able to sleep
Marijuana abuse turns into addiction when you canвЂ™t stop using the drug even though itвЂ™s affecting things like your job or your relationships. Almost 10% of people who use marijuana regularly will become addicted to it at some point.
Treatment for Marijuana Abuse and Addiction
This usually focuses on changing your behavior. Options include:
Talk therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy works well for a lot of people. It helps you understand the thoughts and behaviors that lead to your drug use and replace them with healthier ones.
Motivational incentives: Sometimes called вЂњcontingency management,вЂќ this is when you give yourself a reward for staying drug-free. YouвЂ™ll work with a mental health therapist or addiction specialist to set your goals and rewards.
Motivational enhancement therapy (MET): This is designed to help you commit to changing your behavior. It usually involves only two to four sessions, and your counselor will work with you more like a partner than an expert. ItвЂ™s often used along with the other types of therapy.
Medication: The FDA hasnвЂ™t approved any medicines to treat marijuana abuse, but studies are being done to see if ones used for sleep, anxiety, and other issues may help. If you have a psychological condition like anxiety or depression, treating it with medication may help you stop abusing marijuana.
Your doctor can help you decide which treatments would be best for you.В Learn about more treatment options for marijuana addiction.
The Earlier You Get Help, the Better.
If you or a loved one are struggling with marijuana abuse, WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help.
American Counseling Association: вЂњMotivational Enhancement Therapy: An Effective Approach for Counseling Unmotivated Adolescents.вЂќ
National Institute on Drug Abuse: “What is Marijuana,” “What to Do If You Have a Problem with Drugs: For Adults,” вЂњHow Does Marijuana Produce Its Effects?” “Available Treatments for Marijuana Use Disorders,” “Is Marijuana Addictive?”
National Conference of State Legislatures: “State Medical Marijuana Laws.”