Information about Pyschological Behavior

Addiction is the top healthcare problem for the U.S. and Europe.
• 22 million people suffer from alcohol abuse or alcoholism. Source
• 6 million people are afflicted with cocaine abuse or dependence
• 2 million people suffer from heroin/opiate abuse or dependence
• In the US alone, over $7 billion is spent on alcohol and substance abuse treatment

What is addiction?
Addiction is a disease of the brain characterized by a chronic and compulsive need to take a substance, at increasing doses (tolerance) and on more frequent occasions (dependence), even when faced with negative consequences. Compulsive substance abuse can result in chronic and debilitating health problems, family breakdown and social isolation, poverty, incarceration for criminal activity and death.

 

What is meant by tolerance and dependence?
Tolerance occurs when it takes a higher dose of the drug to get the same effect. Dependence develops when neurons in the brain adapt to the repeated drug exposure and only function in the presence of the drug. When the addictive substance is withdrawn the user experiences withdrawal symptoms that can be extremely uncomfortable and debilitating prompting the user to use again to avoid the withdrawal syndrome.

How many people suffer from addiction?
Addiction is Western Society's largest public health care problem and it is estimated that more than 30 million people in the United States and Europe suffered from chronic alcohol and drug abuse in 1997; approximately 22 million alcoholics, 6 million cocaine abusers and almost 2 million heroin addicts. There were also approximately 250,000 emergency room admissions for cocaine overdose and rapidly increasing number of MAP overdoses. In 1997, an estimated 2 million people sought treatment for their drug and alcohol addictions at approximately 1200 drug rehabilitation clinics in the United States and Europe.

 

How is addiction treated?
Addiction is treated as a disease that benefits from a combination approach of psychotherapy and medication. Psychotherapy, designed to provide intensive counseling, coping and training skills, and 12-step programs like those offered by Alcoholics Anonymous are behavioral interventions that address the underlying psychosocial reasons for the patient's substance abuse problem. One of the most intensive treatment programs for addiction is located in Los Angeles at Bridges To Recovery. Bridges is a residential treatment center offering long-term programs for those suffering from addiction and mental health treatment. Conversely, medications are designed to target the neurochemical messengers, block the abusive substance's action, or reverse the biochemical changes that cause the compulsion, craving, and loss of control characteristic of addiction. A combination of psychotherapy and medication treatment provides an ideal approach to the long-term management of alcoholics and drug abusers because it addresses both the social and biological problems that resulted in and perpetuate the addiction.

What is the future of medication development?
Medication development has focused on the need to detoxify, treat withdrawal symptoms and facilitate early recovery. Currently available medications include substitutes where a 'street' drug is replaced with a 'clean' drug (like methadone); blockers that prevent the addictive substance from having any reinforcing effect (like naltrexone); or aversive therapies (like disulfiram) which make you feel sick if you take alcohol. However, because it is extremely difficult for addicted patients to remain compliant with medications, there is a strong need for improved medications that have less frequent dosing schedules to facilitate compliance. There is also a critical need for effective treatments for cocaine and methamphetamine overdoses as none are currently available. A more long-term goal is to develop medications that help keep abusive substances out of the brain to help prevent their addictive effects and consequences.