National Recovery Month 2013: Dual-Diagnosis

  • September is National Recovery Month.  This SharePost will inaugurate a two-part series continuing into Wellness Week starting next Monday, September 16.


    I offer a detour from the sunny-side up focus I espouse in my HealthCentral work.  Yet this focus is integral as the foundation to build a successful recovery on.


    To live clean and eat clean allows every one of us to achieve optimal mental, physical and emotional health.


    This first part of the series is a review of the book Clean by David Sheff.  The second part is a detailed look at resources for dual-diagnosis treatment.


    The subtitle of Clean is Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy.

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    The dual-diagnosis chapter quotes this statistic:


    Fifty-six percent of those with bipolar, 46 percent of those with schizophrenia and 32 percent of those with depression abuse drugs or are addicted.


    Often, the underlying mental illness goes undiagnosed and individuals self-medicate with the street drugs.


    One statistic claims 50 percent of people diagnosed with mental illness have drug abuse histories.  Fifty-three percent of drug users have at least one mental illness.


    I recommend that all of us read Clean.  Sheff details better treatment options than the ones currently in widespread use.  His research is rigorous.  He recounts the stories of family members whose children overdosed and died because the drug abuse treatment system failed them.


    The standard practice is to kick a person out of the rehab center if he relapses and uses again.  He’s left to his own devices and a cycle of shame and using begins again.


    The catch-22 is that relapse is part of the trajectory of the mental illness that is street drug abuse yet a relapse can be fatal.


    Sheff details the latest research and techniques on primary treatment, relapse prevention and ending the war on drugs.


    Yes: America needs to end the futile war on drugs that began in the 1980s with Nancy Reagan’s misguided Just Say No Campaign.


    The war on drugs has cost billions of dollars and criminalized individuals who are not bad people only individuals whose only fault is the genetics of their faulty brain wiring that causes them to get addicted.


    The war on drugs hasn’t stopped drug use.  The black market for street drug use has created deadly violence.


    It’s not the drug kingpins and cartel honchos that get arrested.  It’s the ordinary echelons of street drug users in cities and towns across America that get busted and serve draconian prison sentences where they don’t get treatment they turn into lifelong drug users as a result.


    Sheff understands that violence and denial (good old anosognosia here) and other behaviors are symptoms of the medical condition that is street drug addiction.


    Sheff accurately underscores that a street drug addiction is a mental illness that is a medical condition and a bona fide disease because it has its origins in the genetics of a user’s brain.  The brains of drug abusers are wired differently and predispose these individuals to getting addicted. 


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    It is possible for a person with a brain susceptible to drug abuse to get addicted on the first toke or hit or drink.


    Stigmatizing drug users has been the norm yet unfortunately stigmatizing drug users hasn’t cured them or helped them get clean and stay clean.


    Sheff writes that getting to the 2-year clean mark and going on to become 5 years clean is a good indicator of whether a person can stay clean for the long-term.


    I urge everyone to read this book.  It’s alarming and it’s hard to read in the beginning yet it offers a blueprint for building better treatment options that he outlined in the book in great detail.


    At the end, Sheff offers a 12-Step guide to getting and staying clean that could work.


    I’ve been in favor of legalizing marijuana and Sheff is a fan of legalizing marijuana with one caveat I would adhere to as well: stepping up drug awareness education at the start of the era when marijuana becomes legal.


    We could regulate and tax marijuana like cigarettes and alcohol and easily rake in billions in taxes that could fund drug use resistance campaigns that are more effective than the current DARE program type education efforts


    Legalizing marijuana will not create an increased demand.


    This is something to think about.  Our Prison Industrial Complex in America that sends individuals with medical conditions to jail instead of getting them treatment should not be allowed to continue unchecked.


    Individuals with drug addictions are not bad people or morally bankrupt.  They have the worst kind of mental illness and deserve compassion and empathy.


    I urge everyone with a loved one with an addiction, those of us struggling with an addiction, and everyone else to read Clean.

    There is a better way to live than to numb how you feel with drugs or alcohol or food or TV. 


    The second part of this series will look at treatment for individuals with a dual-diagnosis.



Published On: September 09, 2013