Addiction: The 3rd Leading Cause Of Death In The U.S.
The Washington Post recently reported that the mortality rate for white men and women ages 45-54 with less than a college education increased markedly between 1999 and 2013. That marks a sharp, and shocking, reversal in decades of progress toward longer lives.
The culprit cited by the originating study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences was drugs, alcohol and suicide.
Even as the death rate for all causes of death has declined 43% between 1969 and 2013 – including strokes, heart disease and cancer – addiction has gained the dubious honor of third leading cause of death in the United States. This is a disease that modern medical science has proven to be a chronic brain disease. However, decades of stigma have forced our treatments to fail based on moral precedent.
3 Major Discoveries About The Brain And Addiction
Scientific research has validated three (3) major discoveries in the field of addiction treatment:
1. Addiction is a chronic, medical disease affecting the brain;
2. 50% of those addicted to alcohol or drugs also suffer from co-occurring psychiatric disorders, i.e. a mental illness such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder; and
3. Science has developed medications to help control cravings and address the healing of brain injury that can transform the alcoholic’s chances for successful sobriety from 20% to upwards of 75-80% long-term.
A great deal of alcohol and drug-induced brain damage takes place in the prefrontal cortex where abuse forces deep emotional connections between using and pleasure that the brain “remembers.” These connections make it difficult for those with addiction to resist using based on very real and powerful primal urges that can take more than a year to reset.
We often ask the addict, “Why?” when it seems so obvious how damaging their behavior is. The simple answer is that their brains are broken – injured, impaired, malfunctioning.
Addiction Treatment Models Should Reflect The Science!
Could the ever growing rate of our loved ones afflicted with this increasingly fatal disease be caused by an outdated model that limits real treatment to the acute level, instead of striving for the most effective medical results? Would we abide such complacency for victims of other debilitating brain diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s? Substance abusers may have made a bad choice, but should we not seize the surest opportunity for success when they make the right choice to seek treatment?
Once we begin treating addiction as a chronic brain disease, we’ll see a meaningful rise in our treatment success (and survival) rate that will help stave the fatality and economic consequences of this epidemic. Better outcomes are a result of the right environment, caring employees trained in the latest science, doctors with enough time to provide proven medical treatment, and skilled therapists proficient in dealing with the highly complex brain disease caused by addiction, and often compounded by other behavioral disorders.
Isn’t it better we get there before another half a million people fall victim? Science has shown us the way to successfully treat this illness. The medications and treatments are safe and available. The handful of treatment centers that actually put the latest scientific research findings into practice are achieving that 75-85% long term success rate for alcoholism, heroin and even methamphetamine addiction.
Red Rock Recovery Center is a Colorado state licensed substance abuse extended care treatment program designed to help you or your loved one recover from the struggles associated with alcoholism and drug addiction. Located in Denver, Colorado we offer a safe haven for those afflicted by the ravages of untreated addiction. Our program is based on a compassionate 12-step model that applies behavioral as well as life skill therapies, which will enable our clients to heal and recover.
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