I've spoken and written quite a lot about eradicating the stigma against drug addiction, as well as mitigating the factors that contribute to the growing Heroin / Opiate Epidemic.
I've also worked with many clinicians and doctors, patients and their families, with the goal of developing an understanding of addiction as a disease, not a behavioral failure.
All of this work has culminated in my writing Addiction on Trial, the (well-reviewed!) medical/legal thriller that "sends a powerful message of societal discrimination toward drug addicts and explores common misperceptions about what drug addiction really is—a chronic illness requiring a treatment approach similar to other chronic diseases."
Do you see a theme? It's time to end the stigma and silence around--and the causes of--drug addiction.
Over the next few weeks, I'll be asking questions of my blog, book and social media readers.
I welcome your insights into addiction as you've experienced it! Let's work together to change this paradigm!
I commend Martha Bebinger and NPR for bringing forward the latest information re: implantable buprenorphine to treat patients who are opioid dependent/addicted. The implant system has four controlled release buprenorphine rods that are placed under the skin and the effect can last up to six months. The FDA is expected to make a decision about this treatment approach within a few days.
However, just as there is no one antibiotic to treat all bacterial pneumonias, or one way to treat every person who has diabetes or depression, there also needs to be multiple approaches to treat addictive illnesses. What commonly gets overlooked is the underlying hallmark triad of addiction with its biological, psychological and sociological components. Medication may be an essential aspect of treatment for some, but addressing the behavioral/psycho-social aspects through counseling cannot be ignored or minimized. In fact, it is through the behavioral treatment approach that patients better understand the nature of the issues and cues that contribute to drug seeking patterns.
When treating a patient with oral buprenorphine (Suboxone), the patient receives a maximum of a thirty day prescription. In between the monthly medical visits and sometimes concurrently with the doctor visits, the patient may engage in group and/or individual counseling sessions. So just as we as a society want quick fixes for many things, we need also to be careful how we look at new treatments. The issue of wanting our pain totally relieved has contributed to the over prescribing of pain medication. Immediate gratification is always enticing, but not necessarily the best approach. Surely, implantable buprenorphine has great promise, especially if it is reasonably priced. While some patients may need the daily structure provided at a methadone treatment center or be better served by methadone if their tolerance is exceptionally high; other patients may be better served by a prescription for oral buprenorphine and monthly or weekly medical visits; and yet others may be better served by implantable buprenorphine; but all patients will be best served by incorporating a structured behavioral component into the treatment plan.
Implantable buprenorphine is not a cure-all for opioid addiction but it will be a welcome addition for physicians to have at their disposal.
I am writing this blog to share a very exciting adventure. The University of Amsterdam has invited me to speak to the School of Communication Research. Thank you Prof. dr. Claes de Vreese in the division of Political Communication and Journalism for the opportunity to discuss how fiction can be used as a vehicle to effect social change.
Here is the outline of my talk:
The Use of Fiction as a Vehicle to Communicate & Educate
The benefits of using a “novel” approach to communicate and educate about multifactorial societal challenges will be discussed. The obligations of physicians and the medical community will be used to illustrate how in combination with social media, fictional works can:
communicate the complexity of disease states in an understandable format;
engage and educate a wider audience in order to effect social change;
destigmatize certain diseases, and specifically the disease of addiction;
decrease bias by connecting faces and lives to illnesses; and
encourage policy makers and politicians to base decisions on evidence based science and financial considerations.
Here are a few more slides I will be using during my presentation. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words; so please enjoy the following slides and please let me know if you would be interested in having me present to your group, organization or academic institution.
ONWARD AND UPWARDS - TOGETHER WE CAN MAKE A CHANGE!!!
I recently had the opportunity to talk at the Portland Maine Chamber of Commerce monthly meeting. I hope you will listen to my presentation, and let me know if you agree or disagree. But regardless, if we do not aggressively address this scourge to society, we will continue to spend inordinate funds on treating the consequences of addiction. As they say, "You can pay now, or you can pay more later, but you are gonna pay."
Many thanks to Channel 2 WLBZ Portland for allowing me to explain some of the issues regarding the current Heroin/Opioid Epidemic - and don't think for a minute that it is only affecting Maine. In fact, it has become a worldwide issue, so maybe we should more appropriately be refer to it as a Heroin/Opioid Pandemic.