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Holding Them Accountable: Find Out Where Your Candidates Stand on Addiction Treatment

[fa icon="calendar'] Oct 26, 2016 2:57:36 PM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Drug Treatment, Drug Abuse, Alcohol Treatment, Treatment, Alcoholism, Election

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As coverage of the 2016 presidential election dominates virtually every media outlet in the country, far less attention is being paid to the down-ballot races that will be decided on the same day. We’ve only recently begun to hear about the importance of these contests, and it’s been largely in relation to the race for the White House. On November 8, 2016, Americans will determine the outcome of 469 separate elections (34 Senate seats and all 435 House seats) that will arguably prove to have more impact on their everyday lives than who’s sitting in the Oval Office. This is an opportunity to affect real change in their community and let their voices be heard.

Those of us that have been impacted by drug or alcohol addiction, whether directly or indirectly, will undoubtedly want to know what our current and prospective leaders plan to do to address this public health crisis going forward. One of the best and most accurate ways to do this is by getting engaged and investigating how they’ve acted on this issue in the past. We can start the process of vetting our candidates by checking their voting records. These records are public and are a profound indicator of our leaders’ level of involvement and willingness to improve the treatment climate in their communities.

The opioid elephant in the room is getting harder and harder to ignore. While it’s now wildly popular to come down in favor of treatment reform and increased access, funding this initiative is another matter, altogether. The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act may have enjoyed a comfortable 94-1 vote in the Senate, but that’s not where the legislative battle ends. To date, the bill is nowhere near paid for. The point is that there is legislation being discussed every day to combat the rise of addiction in America; some even makes it to a vote. We can begin to turn the tide of substance abuse in this country by better understanding how the leaders we put in power plan to address it.

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Are We All Wired for Addiction?

[fa icon="calendar'] Sep 22, 2016 11:57:11 AM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Addiction, drug addiction, Treatment, Alcoholism

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Last month, researchers at Texas A&M published a white paper making a decidedly bold claim: We are all wired for addiction on some level. The paper, entitled “What is Abnormal about Addiction-Related Attentional Biases?”, poses the argument that non-addicts exhibit many of the same behavioral patterns and biases as their addicted counterparts; it was written by Texas A&M psychology professor, Brian Anderson and has been published on the National Center for Biotechnology’s website, as well as other notable outlets. The documents raises some interesting questions regarding the behavioral pathology of substance abuse, and compels us all to ask ourselves just how close we are to falling victim.

One of the highlights of the paper is Anderson’s apparent assertion that the pathological features that we routinely attribute to addiction are merely part of the normal cognitive process. He focuses strongly on what are called “attentional biases” in his explanation, claiming these biases are normal cognitive processes by which we are “wired” to automatically direct our attention to learned predictors of reward. Although they may appear abnormal, these same sorts of biases can be seen in normal, healthy people. As part of his research, Anderson had participants engage in a series of reward-based neurobiological exercises.

While recently published, Anderson’s assertion may not come as that large of a shock. Many speculate that they, along with everyone else, exhibit addictive behavior toward one thing or another, whether it’s drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, food, love, technology or even emotional validation. The concept of an addictive personality is not simply confined to drugs and alcohol. Some of the traits that comprise an addictive personality can be seen as relatively common behavioral characteristics, including impulsive and compulsive behavior, feelings of alienation, non-conformity and preoccupation with sensation. It’s estimated that 10-15 percent of the United States population has an addictive personality.

Perhaps one of the most valuable elements of Anderson’s findings is the reinforcement that we are all vulnerable to addiction. This idea has the power to drastically improve the state of addiction treatment in the country, eliminating that sense of stigma and “otherness” that for so long has precluded so many from getting quality care. It can also give us pause when we see others exhibiting potentially addiction-oriented behavior and do whatever we can to get them out of that behavioral pattern. As we’ve seen with the explosion of prescription abuse in the United States, early intervention can often make the difference between addiction and healthy consumption.

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