- - Friday, October 2, 2015

It’s time and it’s here – a vital historic gathering will take place this Sunday, October 4th on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., as thousands of people will stand shoulder to shoulder to serve as a voice for the more than 85 million Americans impacted by addiction. We all know someone who has been or is suffering from addiction — which has even been referred to by some as our national plague and the most ignored health crisis in our country. Facing Addiction, a recently formed national non-profit organization is on a mission to change the facts and help find solutions to the addiction crisis.

Facing Addiction joins forces with more than 650 luminary organizations and supporters to serve as a driving voice with a national rally UNITE To Face Addiction, a first-of-its kind campaign to confront America’s denial about the urgent health crisis facing America today – along with a call to action to stand-up to recovery.

There are an estimated 22 million Americans who are dealing with addiction to alcohol and drugs – as well as approximately 23 million more in recovery. Facing Addiction estimates that 350 lives are lost each day from this chronic yet treatable condition. While working to prevent, much less end addiction has its challenges – so has work on reducing heart disease, managing diabetes, COPD, Alzheimer’s. It is time to reinforce our efforts to collectively to positive action to addiction in our country. United to Face Addiction underscores what many have come to understand, we cannot incarcerate our way out of this problem.

Let’s support the mission to end the silence; moving to action to help transform and maintain the work to bring together the best resources in the field in order to help reduce the human and social costs of addiction – every year, until this public health crisis is eliminated.

Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know About Alcohol and Drug Addiction

What is addiction?
A chronic, complicated brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. According to The National Institute of Drug Abuse, the initial decision to use drugs is voluntary, but over time, the brain changes. This affects the ability to think clearly, exercise good judgment, control behavior, and feel normal without using drugs. Addiction differs from habit, in that habit is something done by choice. There is control.

What is dependence?
Physical dependence on a substance, does not mean addiction, but is often accompanied by it. Physical dependence specifically refers to becoming tolerant to a substance or having withdrawal symptoms. In tolerance, the body has adapted to the drug, requiring more of it to achieve a certain effect. In withdrawal, there can be drug-specific physical or mental symptoms if the drug is abruptly stopped. An example of physical dependence without addiction— compulsive drug seeking and use—is when someone is prescribed narcotics for a chronic pain condition.

What is alcoholism?
• When we become addicted to alcohol. This can involve obsession and an inability to control how much we drink. It is a behavior where alcohol comes before our physical health and can create problems in our personal life and work. It is estimated that more than seven million children live in a household where at least one of their parents is dependent on or is abusing alcohol.

What is drug addiction?
It includes addiction to illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroine, methamphetamines, as well as prescription drugs—painkillers, sedatives, and stimulants. Prescription drug abuse has become an explosive epidemic that affects over 15 million Americans and takes nearly 22,400 lives every year!

Why do people become dependent on alcohol and drugs?
These substances increase dopamine levels—a neurotransmitter involved in the reward or pleasure center of our brain. Whether it is music, seeing someone we love, or eating our favorite food, dopamine levels in our brain increase, giving us a feeling of pleasure, or euphoria. But when alcohol or drugs are the cause of this dopamine-euphoria, this leads to dependence. Addicts continue to reach for these substances to repeat or recreate the euphoric feeling.

What can we do to prevent addiction?
Addiction begins with voluntary use of alcohol or a drug. And the key is to educate in order to prevent this first step, in particular with our youth. Research shows that the most effective method varies with age and that it takes a village—community leaders, schools, counselors, and coaches. But one thing is for certain, as parents, we must speak to our children about the facts and dispel the myths, and do it often.

How do we treat addiction?
Recovery from addiction is a complicated, multi-factorial, and long-term effort that often involves medication and behavioral treatment. Unfortunately, the cost and lack of insurance coverage are the main barriers to receiving treatment. Research indicates that of the 23.2 million Americans currently suffering from addiction, only 2.4 million — nearly 10 percent — will receive treatment at a specialty facility.

There is currently bipartisan legislation that has been introduced that would fund efforts for prevention and recovery. Known as the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act (CARA), the bill would strengthen prescription drug programs to expand monitoring and tracking prescription drug diversion; educational efforts to youth, parents and the aging population; opioid and heroin treatment programs; and community-based recovery services. It is the first bill of its kind that would address addiction.

Musical performances by Joe Walsh, Steven Tyler with his Nashville-based band, Loving Mary, Sheryl Crow, The Fray, Jason Isbell, Aloe Blacc and John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls will be featured this Sunday along with powerful, inspirational speakers from all walks of life who have been affected by addiction including remarks by celebrities, elected officials and other advocates. Further updates on the program are posted on www.facingaddiction.org as they become available. Stay tuned!

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