People in recovery learn to avoid triggers in order to stay sober. That’s because triggers will “activate” the part of the brain called the reward system on which drugs and addiction exert their influence. But a new research study has found that in people with strong addictions, it’s not just the reward system, but other areas having to do with memory, attention, and emotion that become active with exposure to triggers. The University of Texas at Dallas researchers also found that dependent users of marijuana who were exposed to a particular trigger—in this case, drug paraphernalia, or a pipe—showed much more activity in the affected brain regions than casual users, according to a ScienceDaily report.
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"There is no illness currently being treated that will be more affected by the Affordable Care Act than addiction, that's because we have a system of treatment that was built for a time when they didn't understand that addiction was an illness."
Dr. Tom McLellan, September 11, 2013
CEO, Treatment Research Institute
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In 2012, the number of adults in the United States suffering from substance abuse—more than 60 million—was greater than the number suffering from cancer and diabetes combined.
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Kentucky legislators in the House and Senate are reviving proposals to improve addiction treatment coverage and toughen criminal penalties for drug traffickers, according to a report in The Courier Journal. Similar proposals grouped under Senate Bill 5 failed to pass during the 2014 General Assembly, but several lawmakers hope that an agreeable bill can be reached in 2015, if not sooner. The goal of legislating better access to treatment appears to be even more urgent now, as treatment centers across the country are finding that a federal rule is severely limiting their ability to bill Medicaid for residential care.
Addiction researchers and substance use treatment professionals already have a fairly mature understanding of how addiction appears in the brain, knowing that it causes and is reinforced by long-term problems with the regulation of dopamine in the region of the brain known as the reward system. But scientists are still trying to understand the exact mechanism of the brain disease of addiction, so that better medication therapies—even vaccines—might be developed to reverse the condition of addiction. Recently Prof. Scott Steffensen and his colleagues at Brigham Young University published studies that may make clearer just what is going on when a brain transitions to a state of addiction.
The President’s annual update on national drug strategy, announced today by Michael Botticelli, acting director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, emphasizes support for bringing innovative online recovery tools into the mainstream of U.S. health care. This emphasis on web-based tools appears in the report’s strategy regarding the expansion of access to addiction treatment and the merging of substance use disorder treatment into general health care centers, as designated by the new health care laws and mental health parity acts.
Substance use disorders and addiction have a range of negative consequences, including problems in one’s work life. Having a hard time meeting the demands of your job, dealing with work stress, or even showing up is often a clear sign that your use of drugs or alcohol has become problematic and that you may need to seek help. But present conflicts on the job—even getting laid off as a result of your substance use—could be just the tip of the iceberg. A new research study has shown that long-term job prospects and career growth are negatively impacted by continuing problems with substance use. The challenge of finding fulfillment in work appears to be made much more difficult when you’re also suffering from an untreated substance use disorder.