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Why a new player is totally disrupting the traditional addiction model. A new way to help people get better where they got sick.

DEERFIELD BEACH, FL – 23 Sep, 2016 – Any mention of addiction and drugs or alcohol in the same setting generally elicits images of sobriety, pity and helplessness – such that would need being “saved” from one’s self. For over 100 years, addiction treatment and management models have relied on the scientific notion that “Addiction is a disease of the brain”. This is propagated since we have come to understand the theory behind addictive substances and the “hook” they create. Despite years of scientific research, especially on drugs and its addictive nature, and the corresponding “war on drugs”, the number of alcohol and drug addicts is on the increase and relapse rates remain high. As a result, there is a need to improve treatment methods as well as increase access of addicts to quality care. And to do this, we have to find ways on improving current long standing traditional treatment methods on addiction.

But first, before we seek to address these challenges, we must first seek to wholly understand how these traditional methods relates with new research on addiction and possible strategies that can be adapted to current addiction treatment. Background on Addiction What is Addiction? How and why do our bodies get addicted or “hooked” to certain substances? Our normal biological processes that occur daily in our bodies are so interlinked and complicated that they can’t run efficiently if one or more steps are impaired. From our brains to various neurological /psychological processes, various signals are interpreted. As living organisms, there are certain biological mechanisms that take place in our bodies that have evolved over time to ensure the survival of our beings. And these mechanisms are linked to certain social and physical behaviors – such as eating and sex – which have ensured our survival. In order to survive, the brain needed to interpret these behaviors as pleasurable. When we engage in such activities, a neurochemical – dopamine is released to our brain’s pleasure center, and a “feel good” sensation is experienced. This is the same effect addictive substances give and is same mechanism that plunges addicts into that cycle of addiction.

According to Dr. William H. Horton, a leading expert in rapid recovery using Neuro Restructuring Techniques in his book, The Alcohol and Addiction Solution, explains that “an addict often reacts to a compulsion as if his or her life is at stake. The brain thinks it is. When the obsession seems to be a matter of survival, a person will do nearly anything to satisfy it”. Horton further explained that “when you suffer from an addiction, your brain sends out the message that you need to have this substance, or die”. Based on this, researchers concluded that this “feel good” sensation caused by the release of dopamine in our brain was mainly responsible for the addiction of these substances. And therefore, proposed and established a treatment /management model that aimed to wage “war on drugs” and other addictive substances. Other similar treatment model sought to “clamp down or disrupt the dopamine synthesis and/or release pathway”.

However, over 20 years down the line, little achievements have been recorded based on this model and relapse rates remain high. Debunking the Traditional Treatment Hypothesis: The Vietnam War as Case study If there was any doubt about the claims made by the scientific and medical community on this hypothesis and the resultant treatment model based on “war on drugs”, it was perhaps heightened by eye opening revelations made during the Vietnam war in 1971. During that war, a high percentage of the U.S soldiers in Vietnam who were reported to be addicted to Heroin – a popular addictive substance at the time “had simply stopped” after they returned to the U.S. This became confusing as only an average of 5 percent of heroin addicts in the U.S quit. If heroine was so addictive, why and how did a whopping 95 percent stop taking it? This revelation prompted more research on addiction and its treatment in the Psycho-socio-medical space. Emerging Treatment Models: The Structural – functional Link Emerging studies now show that there are some fundamental structural and functional changes that occur in the brain of people who habitually take drugs, alcohol, tobacco and other addictive substances that enable them become so obsessed with it. In effect, drugs such as cocaine or heroin affect parts of the brain related to learning, thoughts, feelings or mood and memory and which in turn affect so many other psycho-social behaviors as well.

Perhaps, it is time the traditional treatment model – that focuses on “war on drugs” is re-evaluated and focus shifted to a more modern, radical, proactive and far reaching approach. Since majority of alcoholics and addicts modern treatment models deal on the psychological and neurological aspects to addiction treatment, then it was time we looked behind traditional treatment model. According to Dr. Mark Willenbring, a director of a treatment and recovery research group, in an interview with New York Times, explained that “Most of the people who develop dependence and addiction are functional” and that “one of the shifts that’s taking place is moving away from focusing only on people in treatment programs, which are the extreme of the extreme to people out there”. Emerging trend and research indicates that the addictive tendencies of drugs and alcohol have more to do with the functional aspects especially related to psychology, as is with anxiety or depression and hence would need to be strategically managed the way these psychological conditions are. Telehealth: A Modern Approach to Addiction Treatment With improvements in treatment models focusing on the psychological/spiritual/neurological therapy, what more way can the successes attained be sustained other than devising and reinforcing them with a more radical, modern, systematic and far-reaching method – using Telehealth. It has been reported that it may be near impossible to achieve great success in the treatment of addiction using only traditional treatment options in this digital age today. Telehealth would do well to bridge this gap as it would include both preventive and promotive, as well as curative aspects to addiction treatment and management. Dr.Willenbring further emphasized that “the only way we can make treatment accessible to the vast majority of people – again, who are functional and who have health insurance – is to use the health care system”.

However, with the challenges encountered in traditional treatment – such as inaccessibility, rural settings and inadequate staff, telehealth can help minimize or even eliminate these. He further explained “At this point, in any given year, maybe 5 percent of people with alcohol dependence actually go to a rehab program. If the other 95 percent of people with alcohol dependence all showed up at the treatment center door, we wouldn’t have capacity”. Traditional treatment model may have so many bottlenecks which telehealth seeks to address. He argued that the traditional model “for most people is not a very appealing form of treatment” and that “It’s often difficult to access; it’s very inconvenient, and I think most Americans frankly don’t like therapy much, let alone group therapy”. He also explained an issue if stigmatizing saying “when you enter a treatment program, you really are labeled with a stigmatizing diagnosis in a very unspecific way. I think it’s similar to being hospitalized for treatment of depression”. However, a treatment strategy using Telehealth can include modern aspects of health communication and education by bespoke counselling, remote monitoring and supervision, reminders and meetings, follow up and advice, all remotely done. In all, whether it’s detoxification, 12 step approach, family therapy, group therapy, vocational counseling, medical treatment, spiritual or psychological advice, or a combination of these, there’s a lot to benefit using Telehealth. Dr. Horton has recently started a totally new approach using the newest delivery methods, the LiveFree Online Addiction Treatment program.

This is being touted as the major disrupter in the treatment model and will do to treatment what Uber has done to taxis. Dr. Horton can be reached at www.LiveFreeProgram.com

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