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What’s the Answer to Substance Abuse?

Dan M. Asimus M.D., M.S.Ed

Alcohol and drug abuse is an international epidemic blazing out of control. Many individuals and families have been so traumatized by its effects. Often it begins innocently and then addiction gets its grip and begins to injure and destroy lives and those around them. Approximately 53% of adults in the United States have reported that one or more of their close relatives has a drinking problem. But, what are the solutions? Why is the epidemic occurring? Why is the relapse rate so high? What are we missing?

I am a psychiatrist and serve as the National Medical Director of MyLife Recovery Centers. I have been helping people with alcohol and substance abuse for over 35 years. I have recommended self-help groups, medications, inpatient treatment centers, residential programs, and other options for my patients and their families. Now, we realize that substance abuse has many possible causes including genetic, environmental, psychological/emotional, and medical.

We know that there are opiate receptors throughout our complex brains and central nervous systems. We know that activation of the opiate receptors bring us some temporary euphoria, joy, and a reduction of our physical and emotions pains. We know that each of us produces endorphins and other opiate receptors agonists which help us naturally reduce pain and suffering. We know that alcohol, narcotics, amphetamines, hallucinogens, many tranquilizers and some prescription medications also can activate our opiate receptors. But, they can frequently be abused.

We know that addiction is the habit of overusing something to the point of causing serious problems for ourselves and others. When we experience addiction we continue the habit anyway and our memories cause intense cravings for the alcohol or drugs. We become hooked. We can’t just quite. Triggers of people, places, times, and circumstances are powerful magnets which increase our unreasonable cravings. We give in to the substances and bad habits. We forget our commitments. Our lives become a mess.

We know that the best help includes involving biology, determination, coaching, education, behavioral medication, problem solving, a good support system, good health, mindfulness, and something to reduce and help us control our intense periodic cravings in the face of our triggers.

So, let’s first start with a willing patient and something to help control these cravings. What if we had a safe FDA approved medication that would occupy the opiate receptors and prevent the intensity of these cravings? Well, we do. The answer is Naltrexone. We have been using it in pill form for over 30 years. And, it works, for a while. Unfortunately, patients often stop taking it and the addictions can soon reappear with gusto.

Research has shown, over the last 20 years, that Naltrexone can help sustain sobriety and abstinence if provided as a safe implant which can last 6 to 12 months without any serious side effects or difficulties. Naltrexone implants have been tested and safely used through-out the world.

But, in addition to the biological help of Naltrexone, I have found that patients also need education, coaching, support, and many psychological and behavioral techniques to be successful for the long run. Therefore, success increases with Naltrexone implants and a superb experienced, confidential Life Coaching Program. This may also include family involvement, social 12 step groups, and additional medical and/or mental health care if necessary.

Unfortunately, alcohol and substance abuse is a very difficult disorder to conquer. The relapse rates are very high and the consequences are often devastating. Young people, age 18 to 28 are the most vulnerable to develop serious problems with alcohol and substance abuse. The heroin addiction epidemic is raging out of control in America and the world for its easy availability and low cost.

I have been a partner with my patients to help them find the path to accept their disorder, not give up, acknowledge the power and destruction that addiction has had on them. My patients and those of the MyLife Recovery Centers learn to love and value themselves, develop empowerment, and control addiction from destroying their lives.

As they say, it takes a village. Together we can make a big difference. What has been your experience in understanding and conquering addiction? What has worked and what has not? Have you heard of the Naltrexone implant?

Please email your experiences, questions, and helpful suggestions to me so I and many others may learn how to conquer these terrible disorders.

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