We have an obligation to educate the public about the nature of addiction and addiction treatment, and the news media has an obligation to accurately report on it
Chevy Chase, MD (PRWEB) July 22, 2009
Media reports on the death of "The King of Pop," Michael Jackson, have included speculation about Mr. Jackson's use of prescription drugs, the potential role of health care professionals in his life and death, and the possibility that addiction may have contributed to his premature demise.
According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), the tragedy of Mr. Jackson's untimely passing, whether or not his death is ultimately attributed to drugs or addiction, may help stimulate a public dialogue about the nature of addiction, its treatment, and how those affected by this disease and their families can get the best addiction care available. ASAM is the nation's leading professional society of physicians involved in addiction prevention, treatment, research, education, and public policy.
"We have an obligation to educate the public about the nature of addiction and addiction treatment, and the news media has an obligation to accurately report on it," said Louis E. Baxter, Sr., MD, FASAM, President and Board Chair, American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) and Executive Medical Director, Professional Assistance Program of New Jersey, Inc., Princeton, NJ. "We want to help the public understand addiction, and make sure that those with addictions know how to get the most effective, evidence-based help available."
Addiction to alcohol, tobacco, prescription and other drugs, and addiction treatment, are often misunderstood or stigmatized, as are those with addictions. Research and experience have shown that addiction is a chronic disease that may run the course of a lifetime, and those with addictions may experience relapses and remissions. A disease of the brain, addiction is also influenced by genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors. Addiction is characterized by: significant time spent using or obtaining a drug that interferes with one's ability to meet obligations; continued drug use despite one's awareness that it is causing or worsening a medical or psychological condition; drug use in larger amounts or over longer periods of time than were planned by the user; and the physiological processes of tolerance and withdrawal.
"It is important to remember that the diagnosis of addiction requires an examination by a qualified addiction professional, such as a physician certified in addiction medicine," said Michael M. Miller, MD, FASAM, FAPA, Immediate Past President, ASAM and Medical Director, NewStart Program, Meriter Hospital, Madison, WI. "Once diagnosed, addiction should be treated using scientifically proven methods, with an intensity and duration of treatment sufficient to address each individual patient's condition."
"Unfortunately, not all services offered to persons with addictions are evidence-based or effective," said Dr. Miller. "But there are health care professionals, including physicians board-certified by the American Board of Addiction Medicine, and other members of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, who understand addiction, are trained to make an appropriate diagnosis, and can provide appropriate treatment."
When administered properly, addiction treatment is as effective as the treatment of many other chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and asthma. Treating addiction appropriately yields excellent outcomes with recovery rates reported as high as 70% at one year. Care should be individualized for each patient, based on the nature of his or her addictive disorder and other physical and mental health conditions.
Addiction treatment, which sometimes includes detoxification services as a first step, involves patient education about the disease and the development of techniques to avoid relapse. It also frequently includes a physician's prescription of FDA-approved medications that block craving or the drug's pleasurable effects to directly address the addiction process. Counseling and medical management continue for weeks, months, or even years to address the patient's relapse potential.
"Addiction treatment saves lives," said Dr. Baxter. "When someone loses his or her life as a result of substance use or addiction, it is a tragedy to be mourned. ASAM and its members continue to strive to reduce and eliminate such deaths through timely identification and treatment of addiction and improved education for our fellow physicians and other health professionals."
Misuse of and addiction to prescription drugs is a growing national problem. Overdoses of prescription drugs can occur accidentally or intentionally, and interaction among alcohol, other sedative agents, and various prescription drugs can contribute to catastrophic outcomes. ASAM supports additional research on the extent of prescription drug addiction and overdose deaths, the factors leading to the current epidemic of prescription drug misuse and addiction, and specific clinical and policy strategies to minimize death and illness from prescription drug misuse.
For more information on the American Society of Addiction Medicine, please visit http://www.asam.org.