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It’s time we treated addiction as the chronic brain disease it is

According to the American Psychiatric Association, addiction is a complex condition, a brain disease that manifests as compulsive substance use despite harmful consequence.

“People with a substance use disorder have distorted thinking, behavior and body functions. Changes in the brain’s wiring are what cause people to have intense cravings for the drug and make it hard to stop using the drug. Brain imaging studies show changes in the areas of the brain that relate to judgment, decision making, learning, memory and behavior control.”

– American Psychiatric Association

We do not expect people with other chronic diseases to “will” themselves to health, yet often, in our culture, we expect those suffering from substance use disorders to use willpower to overcome their addiction. This approach is neither rational nor effective.

The Over the Influence difference:

A complex disease requires a complex treatment approach. There are multiple components to addiction: physiologic (how the body reacts to use), psychologic (how the mind is triggered to use) and social/spiritual/community (how our environment influences our decision to use). Each component needs to be addressed during treatment and recovery to reduce risk of relapse. Frequently with addiction treatment, only one aspect is addressed, resulting in fragmented and ineffectual treatment. For instance, detox addresses physical withdrawal, but not emotional triggers. A 12-step program addresses spiritual motivation and behavioral modification, but not physiologic cravings. Over the Influence addresses each component of addiction.

Physical Dependence

Detox is simply the early first stage of addiction treatment. It can be dangerous, and is universally very uncomfortable, as the body is liberated from its physical dependence of the substance. OTI will provide a safe and comfortable detox under the care of experienced medical practitioners.

Physiological Component

For quite some time after the physical detox is complete, an individual will continue to crave the substance as a result of the way addiction has pathologically rewired their brain. This is where the naltrexone implant plays a critical role to reduce early relapse – it acts on the brain to reduce or eliminate the hyperstimulatory urges to use. Since addiction rewires the brain, effective treatment must assist in the correction of that rewiring. The complex interaction of neurotransmitters and receptors will eventually normalize over time. Once the patient is free from the intrusive, compulsive cravings to use, they can effectively engage in the counseling required to address underlying issues, modify behaviors, and maintain sobriety.

Psychosocial/Behavioral Component

Behavioral counseling is the mechanism Over the Influence employs to retrain the brain to modify dysfunctional emotions, destructive thought patterns, and self-defeating behaviors that keep many individuals tethered to substance abuse. The naltrexone implant enables the patient to participate more effectively in this treatment. We don’t live in solitude. Therefore it is unrealistic to pursue lifelong recovery in isolation. Family and community play an influential role in successful treatment. While naltrexone-assisted treatment enables those recovering from substance abuse to rebuild their internal lives, peer mentoring helps them rebuild their social lives and external relationships. This work is essential to long-term sobriety.