This Week in Addiction & Recovery: July 14th

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Neuroscientists Study Drug Addiction Trigger

When fetuses are exposed to alcohol in the womb, their risk for future drug addiction skyrockets. According to a report at UBNow, neuroscientists at the University at Buffalo (UB) are close to unlocking the mysterious connection between prenatal alcohol exposure and addiction in adulthood. Researchers at UB’s Research Institute on Addiction have zeroed in on “endocannabinoids”—chemicals that help regulate the brain’s addiction and reward center. “After the prenatal brain is exposed to alcohol, the endocannabinoids have a different effect on certain dopamine neurons, which are involved in addicted behaviors than when brain is not exposed to alcohol,” the study’s head researcher said. Consequently, the brain’s dopamine neurons become more easily overwhelmed by drugs later in life—which means, down the road, that person won’t need nearly as much of any drug to get addicted to it. What’s worse is that prenatal alcohol exposure is “the leading preventable cause of birth defects” in the US. By studying the connection between brain chemicals and drug addiction, the study contends, researchers can better design drug therapies to fight the effects of something that’s otherwise entirely (and heartbreakingly) preventable.

Med School Launches Landmark Addiction-Treatment Program

The number of physicians specially qualified to treat patients with substance-abuse disorders is staggeringly low in the US, especially given their high demand in hospitals and healthcare facilities. According to a Providence Journal story, however, that’s all about to change. Starting next spring, medical students at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School will graduate with the ability to prescribe medications like buprenorphine (also known as Suboxone) to help combat opioid addiction. Billed as “the first of its kind in the country,” the program aims to “bring treatment of substance use disorders into mainstream medicine.” Medical students at Brown will get 23 hours of training, which is almost four times the standard eight-hour training required by the state. The article goes on to say that in Rhode Island alone, the number of patients receiving Suboxone treatment has grown 11% in just the last year. By building addiction treatment into the standard curriculum track, addiction specialists and educators agree it won’t just help people in need—it’ll help bring an end to the stigma around drug abuse.

Recovering Musicians Band Together Against Addiction

Musicians in recovery are finding harmony not only in their music, but in the lives of their fellow addicts. The Addiction and Recovery Awareness Musicfest, as featured in The Baltimore Sun, will bring together eight musical acts and several keynote speakers in Westminster, Maryland this weekend. The brainchild of two recovering addicts (Jesse Tomlin and rap artist Brian McCall), the festival is sponsored by a nonprofit dedicated to helping struggling young addicts find rehab centers. The festival also does more than just feature a wide cross-section of genres (electronic dance, rap, acoustic rock) and speakers (professional skater Brandon Novak, among others), as it aims to reach a wide cross-section of the community, too. The family-friendly event is much larger than addiction recovery, the article said, with everything from food trucks to kids’ carnival games. “[We’re] showing that people in recovery do have fun,” co-founder Tomlin says of his festival. “We’ve changed our lives and we come from every level in society.” The festival is also unique in that it doesn’t just focus on one particular recovery tradition, either. All are welcome which, as one of the community’s addiction specialists said, helps to open “everybody’s eyes that this could be my neighbor or the person I go to church with.”

Former Governors Offer Recommendations for Defeating Addiction

The Bipartisan Policy Center’s Governor’s Council—a group of former governors—has delivered its suggestions for stemming the tide of opioid addiction once and for all. The Washington Times reported that the Council sent its recommendations to the Presidential Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, a group that President Trump established this past March. While the governors applauded Trump for creating the commission, they argued that the battle against addiction can’t be a battle fought solely by individual states. As such, the commission was immediately tasked with “identifying federal funds for combating the opioid crisis, assessing the availability of drug treatment centers and evaluating the best practices for addiction prevention,” according to the story. In its letter, the Governors’ Council homed in on how to better stop over-prescription and the influx of opioids into America’s streets. “We must convince Americans that this problem is a disease and we have to treat it as such,” Steve Beshear, the former governor of Kentucky said. He also noted that while his state made successful strides against addiction, painkillers simply got stronger (he cites Fentanyl and Carfentanyl as examples). The plan calls for improved drug education and treatment, though one former governor warned that the ultimate solution can’t be political: “Addiction affects Democrats and Republicans and independents. It knows no political party.”

In-Home Rehab Program Sees Early Success

An NBC News story claims that a new addiction recovery program offers addicts effective treatment in the comfort of their own homes. Apparently, it’s more successful than most conventional drug treatment programs out there, too. Based in Connecticut, Aware Recovery Care is an in-home rehab system that “provides patients with around-the-clock treatment, including a nurse coach, addiction psychiatrist, primary care doctor, family therapist, case manager, peer support, and 12-step meetings.” The program even provides all the familiar elements of rehabs (medication-assisted treatment and urine testing), including some new twists, such as GPS tracking. According to data from Anthem Insurance, 64% of the patients who enter the Aware program complete it and, of those people, 72% have remained sober. Given that traditional outpatient treatment centers only boast a 35% success rate, Aware’s results are downright staggering. “Someone can come into the home, identify the pitfalls that are unique to your situation, and help you problem solve on a local level,” the director of Yale’s Addiction Psychiatry Residency said. For an increasing number of patients, it’s this sort of tailored, customized program that makes it as attractive as it is innovative.

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