Complications of Addiction

This week I want to highlight two pieces of content about similar subjects—the complications of addiction. The first is a video describing the issue we have when trying to solve the addiction problem in America. The second is an article examining our genes and how it plays a part in addiction. Below you’ll find both this video and article and my thoughts on their implications.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed below are those of Mark Pew, Senior Vice President of Product Development and Marketing, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Preferred Medical.

Prohibition Whack-A-Mole 

This video from Dr. Howard Wetsman showcases an interesting point about how we handle addiction in America. When there is a national problem to addiction—whether a drug, sugar, or any other substance—we simply outlaw it and think the problem has been solved. If the source doesn’t exist anymore, the problem doesn’t exist anymore. In reality, addiction doesn’t just go away because the problem has been outlawed. Instead, a new substance becomes the source of addiction. It’s not drugs that are causing addiction, its addiction that goes untreated that is causing drug use.

Mark’s Thoughts:
An interesting perspective from Dr. Howard Wetsman on “prohibition whack-a-mole.” Chasing the problem of drugs by outlawing them has historically just led to different (and more potent drugs) replacing them. His key quotes—”Every time we focus on the drug, we make the problem worse…Drugs aren’t causing addiction—addiction, untreated, is causing drug use.” Howard crunched the numbers and found a prohibition/substitution pattern—from alcohol to cigarettes to high fructose corn syrup to prescription opioids to heroin to fentanyl analogues. What’s the common theme? They all do the same thing to the brain’s reward system. So his point is to focus on the root cause—addiction—rather than the drug. Of course, that’s much more difficult to do because it cannot be done via policy but through individual engagement. So until that root cause is the primary focus of the solution, we’ll probably continue to whack-a-mole.

Your genes and addiction 

It’s no secret that the opioid epidemic is in full force across America. And unfortunately, there is not a single cure that works for everyone addicted. In order to find the most appropriate treatment of addiction for an individual, it is important to understand what causes addiction and why some individuals are more susceptible than others. The short answer is genetic and environmental factors.

Mark’s Thoughts:
Great info about addiction. Including a new term that was recently introduced to me…”epigenetic.” Why do some people respond to difficult circumstances with poor behavior and others with an overcoming attitude? The answer is complex but scientists are starting to narrow it down. “We now know that the function and dysfunction of the brain’s reward system is complicated, plastic (undergoes changes based on negative and positive factors), and involves complex interactions of genetic and environmental factors.” Addiction—or not—is complicated. With multiple inputs. But even when the inputs are the same, the outputs are not. Predicting who can manage life’s difficulties and those that cannot is difficult. And for those that did not, how to help them is just as unpredictable. As one commenter summarized: “I think we have known that the brain is complex and personal for a long time. Who does not know (1) someone who quit smoking in a snap AND (2) someone that has ‘quit’ a hundred times. There is a tendency to simply label the one who cannot as weak or unmotivated, but the fact is we are all different in so many ways. Unfortunately, our own strengths and weaknesses are the easiest lens through which to view our world (easy for me why not easy for you, etc.).

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Until next week,