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    The Science of Addiction, the Art of Recovery

    The Science of Addiction, the Art of Recovery

    Welcome to the first in a series describing addiction treatment and the treatment philosophy at Georgia Detox and Recovery Centers in particular. Over this series, we will look at the landscape of treatment today, searching for treatment models that work. We will look at how we got here and what we need to do to propel addiction treatment forward. We will discuss the Georgia Detox and Recovery Centers’ treatment system, what we know today and what we hope to learn, delving into the concepts and research behind models of care.

    Addiction is a complex disease. Dr. David Gastfriend describes addiction as “the most complicated and difficult illness known to mankind.” Substance abuse (including food abuse) damages many of the body’s organ systems. Its victims suffer from gradually deteriorating health in multiple areas. Treatment must therefore address the entire body. However, the most baffling, vexing, and intractable effect of addiction is how it changes the brain. Addiction produces a wholesale rearrangement in thinking, understanding self and others, responding to goals and values and, most cruelly, self-insight. This shift in brain focus and function occurs slowly and methodically. The afflicted individual is blinded to his or her changes. Families and friends also fall into the fog of addiction, losing the ability to recognize that their friend or loved one is literally becoming someone else. For this reason, addiction treatment must cut across all disciplines. Good addiction treatment attacks the illness from every angle; complete family systems should participate in a long-term solution.

    Because addiction is complex, its treatment must be strong and multifaceted. Treatment should return the body to physical health, pull back the veil of addiction’s obfuscation, build emotional resilience, reestablish healthy habits and discipline and help the recovering individual confirm their values and life goals free from addiction. Each and all of these tasks are important along the road to recovery.

    Today in medicine, controlled studies are used to determine which interventions work under what conditions. The sad truth is that addiction medicine remains in a backwater of medical care, with very few studies that evaluate interventions or match them to differing populations. Surprisingly, addiction and the goal of treatment and recovery have not been systematically defined until recently (American Society of Addiction Medicine, 2011; Betty Ford Institute Consensus Panel, 2007; del Vecchio, 2012). Although it might be tempting to wag a disapproving finger at the treatment industry, that ignores the reality of our situation: we treat the most complex disease of man with the fewest healthcare dollars of any major illness. Addiction care workers have insufficient education. No systematic standards of care with measurable behavioral goals exist (Mee-Lee, 2013). In short, it is a wonder that treatment works at all.

    Georgia Detox and Recovery Centers is building a large system whose primary goal is refining current models of addiction treatment. Multiple levels of care are being built, designed from the ground up with the best science to date. In order to develop a substantial care system, an array of scientists, clinical researchers, and treatment experts have been pulled together. These experts cumulatively bring hundreds of years of experience and clinical research to the development of a comprehensive care model. Georgia Detox and Recovery Centers will work together with academic centers of excellence, continuously improving treatment across all its facilities.

    No one knows all of the answers, but as addiction professionals it is important to continue to seek them out, with a commitment to define the best science-based treatment, and to balance science with faith in the humanity and joy of the recovery process.

    Incubated over years, the Georgia Detox and Recovery Centers model is called RecoveryMind Training™. It is based on the concept that recovery is a set of skills that can be learned and practiced until they become automatic, slowly displacing past addictive thoughts, beliefs, and actions. Although RecoveryMind Training has behavioral elements, it is more than a behaviorist approach. Skills such as learning how to experience and express gratitude or developing healthy attachments to others create a lasting recovery, robust and resilient. Addiction affects the social, interpersonal, societal, and spiritual aspects of humankind more than any other field of medicine. In this model, bio-behavioral interventions (The Science of Addiction) are part of restoring humanity (The Art of Recovery).

    The goal of this series of articles is to spread the excitement of improved addiction treatment for all. Obviously, I want you to find this series helpful and enlightening. Please email us with your questions or comments.


    American Society of Addiction Medicine. (2011). Public policy statement: Definition of addiction. Retrieved from http://www.asam.org/docs/publicy-policy-statements/1definition_of_addiction_long_4-11.pdf?sfvrsn=2 Betty Ford Institute Consensus Panel. (2007). What is recovery? A working definition from the Betty Ford Institute. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 33, 221–228. Retrieved from http://www.naadac.org/assets/1959/ betty_ford_recovery_definition.pdf del Vecchio, P. (2012). SAMHSA’s working definition of recovery updated. Retrieved from http://blog.samhsa.gov/2012/03/23/defintion-of-recovery-updated/#.U7OEjbvLhjQ Mee-Lee, D. (Ed.). (2013). The ASAM criteria: Treatment criteria for addictive, substance-related and co-occurring conditions (3rd ed.). Carson City, NV: The Change Companies