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2011 Accomplishments in Treating Addiction

At the end of 2011 a number of breakthroughs have occurred in the treatment of addiction. 

2011 saw the definition that addiction is a medical disease – a multi-decade effort made irrefutable by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) in conjunction with every other branch of medical science. There has been an emergence of research in 2011 underscoring the profound poisonous effects of ‘bath salts,’ ‘spice’, essentially 2 designer substances now illegal in all countries in Europe as well as the United States.

The most profound re-discovery is that there is no one cure for addiction – it’s clearly a very complex disease affecting the human body and brain in ways yet to be discovered.  The diverse branches of medical science will continue to discover and uncover the many ways that mood altering substances bombard the brain and body with toxicity as well as reveal a multitude of new ways we can heal from addiction.

Research was introduced confirming that children with high IQs are more likely to become addicted to illicit substances. This substantiates the belief among substance abuse specialists that addicts are typically bright, creative and exceptionally talented individuals.

The correlation between underweight and overweight teenagers and illicit drug use is confirmed.  Again, as the result of so much advertising and societal pressure we are given unhealthy messages about our body types, bizarre messages about what constitutes healthy food and very sparse information on preventing food and eating as mood altering behaviors for children, adolescents and adults.  However, there have been efforts by schools to limit – or even better eliminate – high sugar and high fat foods to students. 

Best Practices among addiction treatment programs now cite an increasing array of interventions.  While there is no one best path, there is a growing movement toward providing smaller scale treatment communities and more training and professionalism for practitioners.  2011 saw repeated research that the following therapies help addicts quit and stay quit: cognitive behavior approaches such as ‘Mentalizing’ and ‘DBT;’ holistic practices such as nutrition supplements like amino acid therapy, Yoga as virtually parallel in efficacy as SSRIs in treating depression and experiential therapy such as equine therapy and challenge courses continue to be extraordinarily insightful for people in addiction treatment.

2012 will be another year with more discoveries on treating addiction.  The breakthroughs in the neurochemistry of addiction have been exponential during the past decade and will continue as we learn more about the more subtle complexities of how our brains work.  More negative myths about addiction will be dispelled such as categorizing addiction as a moral or simply genetic dysfunction.  Strategies on healing the families and those affected by the addict will emerge as well as refining techniques already in practice.

In summation, it is clear that addiction treatment has advanced tremendously and will continue to progress through this decade.

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